Tag Archives: Prophecy

Parting Challenge: Choose Whom You Will Serve! (Joshua 24)

Scripture reading – Joshua 24

Our study of the Book of Joshua concludes with today’s Scripture reading. We have journeyed with Israel through forty years of wanderings in the wilderness, and followed that nation’s battles with the inhabitants of the land the LORD had promised Abraham for an inheritance (Genesis 12:1).

With the land conquered, and divided among the tribes, Joshua gathered the children of Israel at Shechem (24:1) for a final challenge. Why Shechem? Shechem was the place Abraham had received the LORD’S promise that his lineage would inherit the land (Genesis 12:6-7).

Joshua rehearsed with the people how the LORD had chosen Abraham (24:2-4), delivered Israel out of Egypt (24:5-7), and guided them through the wilderness (24:7-10).  He reminded them that God had given them the land, as He had promised (24:11-13), and challenged them to revere and serve the LORD (24:14-28).

Showing his passion for serving the LORD had not waned in his old age, and thus, Joshua exhorted the nation: “If it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (24:15).

With one voice, the nation renewed its covenant with the LORD, saying, “We will serve the LORD… The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey.” (24:21, 24).

Joshua then memorialized the nation’s covenant with the LORD, “and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, [and said to the people]…Behold, this stone shall be a witness [a memorial; a testament] unto us; for it hath heard all the words of the Lord which he spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God” (24:26-27).

Three burials conclude our study of the Book of Joshua.

The first, with the vow of the people etched in stone, the people departed, and soon after “Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old. 30And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnath-serah, which is in mount Ephraim” (24:29-30). He was the last of his generation to go up out of Egypt.

Fulfilling Joseph’s dying request (Genesis 50:25), his bones were buried on the land purchased by his father Jacob (24:32).  Lastly, Eleazar the high priest, the son of Aaron, died and was buried (24:33).

A closing exhortation: Don’t take lightly an opportunity of a spiritual decision when the Holy Spirit stirs your heart to submit your will, or bow your knee to the LORD. As it was with Joshua and his house, so it is with you and me:

We must individually decide whether or not we will serve the LORD with our whole heart (24:14-24). Choose you this day whom you will serve.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Moses, the Man Whom the Lord Knew Face to Face, is Dead (Deuteronomy 34; Psalm 91)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 34; Psalm 91

The psalmist writes in Psalm 116, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (116:15), and certainly the death of Moses would be numbered among the most splendid of believers. Having finished his parting blessing to the congregation of Israel, Moses “went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo” (34:1a). From Pisgah, one of the peaks of Mount Nebo, “the Lord shewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan” (34:1). Gilead encompassed the land on the east side of Jordan, which Moses had promised the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, would be their inheritance (the “Dan” that is mentioned is not the Dan that was located on the west side of the Jordan River).

Standing on the peak of Pisgah, Moses beheld all the land the LORD had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as their inheritance (34:2-4). There was the land of Naphtali in the north, and “the land of Ephraim, and Manasseh” in the central region of Canaan (34:2a). To the west, he could see “all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea [the Mediterranean Sea],” and to the south, the Jordan Valley, that reached “the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar” (34:3), the region that laid near to Sodom and Gomorrah.

How might Moses have scanned so great a vista from Mount Nebo? The LORD revealed that miracle in these words: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes” (34:4). Additionally, the LORD had preserved Moses’ eyesight, for though he was one hundred and twenty years old, “his eye was not dim” (34:7).

“Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the Land of Moab.” (34:5)

Moses had been described as, “the man of God” (33:1) in the preceding devotional. In this final devotional, this giant of the faith is lovingly remembered as, “the servant of the LORD” (34:5). Moses died, but not because he was old, frail, or suffering failing health. He died “in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord” (34:5). He was “an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated” (34:7). Moses was dead, because it was “according to the word [and the will] of the LORD” (34:5).

The LORD had permitted Moses to see the land, but he was not allowed to “go over thither” (34:4). With humility and meekness “the servant of the LORD,” accepted the consequences of his failure to obey the LORD at Meribah-Kadesh (32:51-52; Numbers 20). He died, and the LORD “buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day” (34:6).

Israel mourned the death of Moses, “in the plains of Moab thirty days” (34:8). When the days of mourning were past, Joshua, “full [filled] of the spirit of wisdom” (34:9), became the man whom “the children of Israel hearkened” (34:9).

Now, there was no man like Moses, “whom the LORD knew face to face” (34:10-12), and Joshua did not need to be like his predecessor. He was the man for the hour, and the one whom God had chosen to lead Israel, and claim the Promised Land.

Psalm 91

Ancient scholars attribute Psalm 91 to Moses, and I believe there is much about the psalm that would arguably be the work of Moses; for his fellowship with the LORD was intimate, and he was one “whom the LORD knew face to face” (Deuteronomy 34:10).

Simple, beautiful, and inspiring; rather than give commentary, I encourage you to read Psalm 91, and meditate on its promises, and truths.

* Thank you for following me on this journey through the Scriptures, Today’s devotional marks the completion of my study of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. I invite you to become a subscriber to www.HeartofAShepehrd.com, by entering your email address in the right column of this website.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

www.HeartofAShepherd.com
https://tv.gab.com/channel/HeartofAShepherd1
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Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Curse of a Dying Nation: Feminine Men, and Rebellious Women (Deuteronomy 28)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 28

The sum of today’s Scripture reading is essentially two words: Blessings and Cursings. Deuteronomy 27concluded with the people affirming their understanding of God’s Covenant, and agreeing to both its blessings and penalties (27:15-26). Deuteronomy 28 continues the same proclamation, detailing the LORD’S promise of His blessings if the people would obey His Laws and Commandments (28:1-14), and curses should they disobey (28:15-68).

The Rewards and Blessings of Faithfulness (28:1-14)

The promise of blessings was conditional, and would be fulfilled, but only if the people would “observe and to do all His commandments.” If the people would “hearken…observe…and do all His commandments,” the LORD promised He would “set [Israel] on high above all nations of the earth” (28:1). All would be blessed, both city and field (28:3), and would be fruitful and increase. Children would be born; cattle would calve, and the flocks of sheep would increase. The fields would give forth a great harvest (28:4-6).

Israel’s enemies would fall before them, and be scattered (28:7). Her storehouses, and treasuries would overflow (28:8-14).  The LORD promised He would open the treasury of heaven, send rain upon the land, and the nations of the world would become debtors to Israel (28:12). All this was promised, if Israel obeyed the LORD’s Law, and His Commandments (28:13-14).

The Penalties of God’s Judgment for Disobedience (28:15-68)

The balance of Deuteronomy 28 predicts the punishments that would befall Israel as a nation, should the people turn from the LORD, and disobey His Law, and Commandments (28:15-68). In the same way the LORD promised to bless the nation if the people obeyed Him, the opposite was true should they disobey Him. The curses are far too extensive for me to address individually; however, we should notice the sum of them in our Scripture reading.

Should Israel reject Him, the LORD warned He would abandon them to their enemies (28:45-47), and the people would become slaves to their enemies (this would come to pass during the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, and be repeated in the Roman era). The fruitfulness of their lands, trees, and storehouses would be eaten by their enemies. Their cattle, and flocks would be destroyed (28:48-51).

When the cities would be besieged, the starving people would turn to cannibalism, and eat “the flesh of [their]sons and of [their] daughters (28:52-53). Their men would become effeminate, “tender among you, and very delicate” (28:54), and their women would no longer be “tender and delicate” (28:56). The eyes of a wife would “be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter” (28:56). Leaving her natural affection, Moses warned a mother “shall eat [her children] for want of all things secretly in the siege” (28:57).

Because the people had rejected the LORD, and disobeyed His Law, the LORD promised to bring upon the nation “great plagues…and sore sicknesses” (28:59). Israel would be overcome with plagues (28:58-60), and the births of the children would be few (28:62-63). The nation would be conquered, the people scattered, oppressed, and enslaved (28:64-65).

Fear, dread, and depression would haunt the nation, and the people would dread the night, and the dawn (28:66-67). Eventually, they would be taken from their land, “see it no more again…[and] be sold unto [their enemies]” as slaves (28:68). All of this did come to pass in AD 70 when Titus, the Roman General, destroyed Jerusalem, and the Jews were scattered throughout the nations.

I close, being reminded, the pattern of decline seen in today’s Scripture is a foretelling of judgment upon all nations that reject God. History records the rise and fall of nations, and no nation can long reject God without experiencing moral decay, and the judgment of God.

My own country, is following the path God promised to curse.

Everywhere I look, I see the evidences of a nation whom God has turned over to its enemies. We are enslaved, and become a debtor nation to our enemies. The women of our nation, take the lives of their unborn in grotesque abortions, as surely as if they cannibalize them from the womb (28:52-53). Effeminate men, “tender [and]delicate” (28:54) are celebrated, and rebellious women blight our society, and with an “evil eye,” look upon their husbands and children (28:56-57). We are experiencing epidemics, a failing birthrate, and a fear, and dread of the future such as I have not witnessed in my lifetime.

If America does not repent of her sins, and turn to God, she is doomed.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Look, and Live! (Numbers 21-22) (part 1 of 2)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 21-22

Numbers 21 finds Israel near the end of that nation’s forty-year sojourn in the wilderness. The vastness of Israel’s population was such that neighboring nations feared the congregation. One king, Arad the Canaanite, fought against Israel, taking some of the people as prisoners. The people called on the LORD, and vowed, “If thou wilt indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities” (21:2). The LORD heard Israel’s promise, and gave them a great victory over the Canaanites, and the people “utterly destroyed them and their cities” (21:3).

In spite of their great victory over the Canaanites, Edom’s refusal to allow Israel to pass through their land soon found the people discouraged (21:4). Like their parents before them, they began speaking against God, and Moses, saying, “Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread” (21:5).

The LORD’S judgment was swift, and “fiery [poisonous] serpents” bit the people, and many died (21:6). Moses, evidencing the humility and meekness of a leader who had borne much, prayed for the people when they confessed, “we have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee” (21:7). The LORD heard Moses’ prayer, and commanded him, “Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live” (21:8).

Moses obeyed the LORD, and fashioned “a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived” (21:9). The significance of this event was identified by Jesus in His conversation with Nicodemus (John 3). The LORD revealed the “brass serpent” was a type, a pre-incarnate symbol, of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. Jesus revealed to Nicodemus, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: [15] That whosoever believeth in Him [Jesus Christ] should not perish, but have eternal life.  [16] For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:14-16).

The brass serpent, suspended on a pole, was the object God provided for Israel to look to and live. Some 2,000 years later, Christ would be suspended on the Cross, and all who look to Him find healing – the answer for the “wages of sin” (Romans 6:23). The invitation to Israel to look, and live, is an invitation for all sinners: Look to the Cross, and with eyes of faith, believe Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and raised from the dead. Look, and Live!

1 John 5:11-13 – “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12  He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13  These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”

LOOK and LIVE!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Sacrifices for Sins of Ignorance (Leviticus 4)

Sacrifices for Sins of Ignorance (Leviticus 4)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 4

Our study of sacrifices continues today with the sacrifices that were to be offered for a “sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the LORD” (4:1). Such a sin was not a willful violation of the Law and ordinances, but an oversight, unintentional defilement that was nevertheless a sin.

Leviticus 4:1-12 examines the sacrifices a priest was instructed to offer when he was guilty of sinning through ignorance. Leviticus 4:13-21 addresses the sacrifices that were to be offered for the sins of the whole nation. The “elders of the congregation,” acting on behalf of the people, would “lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before the Lord: and the bullock [would] be killed before the Lord” (4:15), thus identifying with the animal that was slain, and its sacrifice for their sins.

Should a leader of the people sin, Leviticus 4:22-26 details the ceremony and sacrifice that was to be offered to atone for his sin.

Not to be overlooked were the “common people,” ordinary citizens of Israel who, like the priests and leaders, would find themselves guilty of “sin through ignorance” (4:27). When such a sin would come to one’s knowledge, the “common people” were instructed to “bring his offering, a kid of the goats (or a lamb, 4:32), a female without blemish, for his sin which he hath sinned” (4:28). As with other sacrifices in which the sinner was instructed to identify with the animal that was to be slain for one’s sin, the penitent sinner would “lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay the sin offering in the place of the burnt offering” (4:29).

The priest, acting as the mediator, would take the blood of the sacrifice, put the blood on the “horns” or the corners of the altar, and then “pour out all the blood thereof at the bottom of the altar” (4:30). Taking the fat of the sacrifice and burning it upon the altar, it was declared a “peace offering…and atonement” for the sinner, whose sin was forgiven (4:31).

I close today’s brief reading, reminding believers we no longer offer sacrifices for sins, because Jesus Christ is not only our high priest (Hebrews 9:11), but He is also our “once and for all,” substitutionary sacrifice (Hebrews 9:12, 14). While His death on the cross, and shedding of blood, fulfilled the demands of the law for a perfect, sinless sacrifice, yet we are responsible to confess our sins one to another and to a Holy God.

Christ offered Himself as our Mediator, “that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15).

Hebrews 9:2828So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

Copyright 2021– Travis D. Smith

Grace, and More Grace (Exodus 34-35)

Scripture reading – Exodus 34-35

The judgment had passed (32:25-32), and the LORD had granted a reprieve to the people in response to the intercessory prayer of Moses. Moses returned to the mount, and entered into the presence of the LORD (33:1), where He repeated His promise of the land He had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. No longer, however, would the people be comforted by the LORD leading them; instead, His Angel would go before them (33:2-3).

Moses was commanded to take “the tabernacle,” and pitch it outside the camp (33:7). Because the “Tabernacle” the LORD had commanded Moses to make was not yet constructed. I believe this “tabernacle” was Moses’ personal tent. Moving his “tabernacle” would have meant that the nation’s leader was outside the encampment (33:7-8). It was outside the camp, where the people witnessed the LORD’s presence descending as a cloudy pillar, and knew He “talked with Moses…face to face as a man speaketh unto his friend” (33:9-11a).

Moses beseeched the LORD to restore His favor to Israel, and the LORD promised, “I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name” (33:17).

Moses also requested the LORD show him His glory. In response, the LORD promised, “I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee” (33:19-20).

Exodus 34 – The Glory of the LORD, and Its Reflection on the Face of Moses

The LORD reviewed His covenant with Israel, and summoned Moses to cut out two tables of stone upon which He engraved His Commandments (34:1-4). Moses ascended Mount Sinai, as “the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there” (34:5).

Keeping His promise to give Moses a glimpse of His glory (33:21-23), “the Lord passed by before him, and introduced Himself to Moses by name: “The LORD [YAHWEH; Jehovah], The LORD [YAHWEH] God [El],” the Eternal, Self-existent God (34:6).

Revealing His nature to Moses, the LORD named seven attributes (34:6-7). He is “merciful,” meaning compassionate. He is “gracious,” kind, good, showing favor without merit. He is “longsuffering,” slow to anger. He is rich in “goodness and truth,” faithful and true. He keeps “mercy for thousands,” and His mercy is sufficient for all. He is forgiving, “forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” He is just, and “by no means [clearing] the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation” (34:7).

Finding himself in the presence of the LORD in all His majesty, Moses hastily “bowed his head…and worshipped” the LORD (34:8), and interceded for Israel (34:9-10). For “forty days and forty nights” (34:28) he went without food or water, as the LORD instructed him, and renewed His covenant with Israel (34:10-28).

Moses was commanded to, “Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel” (34:27). Moses did as he was commanded, and “wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments” (34:28). Taking up the stone tables of the Law, Moses descended the mount and “when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw [him], behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him” (34:30).

Although Moses had only been exposed to the back of the LORD (33:22-23), the glory of the LORD so reflected on him that he veiled his face when he stood before the people (34:32-33). However, when he was in the presence of the LORD, he removed the veil (34:34).

Exodus 35 – Giving for God’s Work

Exodus 35 reviews in detail the instructions Moses was given for fabricating the Tabernacle and altars, creating the Ark of the Covenant and its Mercy Seat, and preparing the garments of the high priest. As the LORD had commanded him, Moses called for the people to bring “an offering unto the LORD: whosoever is of a willing heart” (35:4-5). The response of the people was universal, and “every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work” (35:29).

We are once again introduced to Bezaleel and Aholiab. They were artisans, chosen by God not only for their workmanship, but also because of their godly character (35:30-35).

I close today’s devotional, reflecting on God’s forgiving grace. Though He judged Israel guilty for that nation’s sins, the LORD heard the intercessory prayer of His servant, and showed mercy. It is the same mercy and grace by which we who believe are saved.

Ephesians 2:8–108For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Holy Place, and the Holy One (Exodus 26)

Scripture reading – Exodus 26

The LORD had given Moses instructions to speak to “every man” to “bring an offering…willingly with his heart” (25:1-2). Leaving no detail unstated, God required specific materials for the Tabernacle and Ark (25:3-7), and gave the pattern and design for their construction (25:8-28). The Scriptures also provide for us a description of the instruments that were to be fashioned (25:29), and the furniture that would be required for the interior of the Tabernacle, including “a candlestick of pure gold” (25:30-40).

Exodus 26 – The Tabernacle’s Design (26:1-30)

There were four coverings for the Tabernacle.  The first covering was made with ten curtains “of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubims of cunning work” (26:1) woven into the fabric. This beautiful fabric served as the ceiling inside the Tabernacle (Exodus 26:1-6).

Eleven curtains of goats’ hair (26:7-14) were to be made, and used as a covering of the boards used in constructing the Tabernacle. Over the boards was to be placed a “covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red, and a covering above of badgers’ skins” (26:14). A description was given for the boards that would form the Tabernacle, and the riggings that would adhere them (26:15-30).

The Interior Design of the Tabernacle (26:31-34)

A beautiful veil served as the interior covering for the walls of the Tabernacle: “a vail of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work: with cherubims shall it be made” (26:31). The veil would divide the interior of the Tabernacle, and provide a space called the “the holy place and the most holy” (26:33), and therein would be placed the Ark, described as, “the mercy seat upon the ark of the testimony in the most holy place” (26:34).

Without the “holy place” would be set a table, and the candlestick. A curtain served as “the door of the tent, [made] of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, wrought with needlework” (26:36). The curtain would be hung upon “five pillars of shittim wood,” overlaid with gold (26:37).

Consider with me the innermost room of the Tabernacle, the holy place that laid beyond the veil where the Ark of the Covenant was placed. This room, described as “the holy place and the most holy” (26:33), represented heaven, and God’s presence in the midst of His people. The Mercy Seat of the Ark, represented God’s throne, and the veil that separated the outer room of the Tabernacle from the holy place, was a reminder of the great divide between sinners and the LORD who is holy (26:34). No man, but the high priest, dared enter or look into the holy place, and he would only do so once a year. As the mediator of Israel, the high priest would bear the blood of a lamb that had been sacrificed for the sins of the people, and He would sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat.

There no Tabernacle, no Holy Place, no Ark today.

The Tabernacle, the Holy Place, and the Ark were temporary symbols, testimonies for their day (Hebrews 9:8-9). They were reminders of the sinner’s need of a mediator between himself and God, who is holy and cannot tolerate sin in His presence.

Christ’s death on the Cross, His atoning blood, and resurrection from the dead removed the need of those temporary symbols. When Christ died on the Cross, the veil of the temple was rent in two (Matthew 27:51). The need of atoning blood was fulfilled by Christ shedding His blood. His death, burial, and resurrection is a lasting testimony of the sufficiency of His sacrifice for our sins (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Jesus Christ became the believer’s “High Priest” (Hebrews 9:11), his Mediator, and “[Christ has] entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12). “He is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that…[we] might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15).

Is Jesus Christ your Savior, Redeemer, and High Priest? His death, burial, and resurrection provided all that is needed for your salvation. Will you turn from your sin, and trust Him as Savior?

Hebrews 9:2828So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Justice for All, and A Whole Lot of Separation (Exodus 23)

Scripture reading – Exodus 23

The instructions that gave practical applications of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) to Israel’s daily life continues in Exodus 23.

Exodus 23:1-9 addressed the demand for Judicial integrity – Justice for All.  The ninth commandment stated, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (20:16).

Exodus 23:1-9 emphasized God’s mandate for Israel’s judges to be above reproach, and intolerant of any who might pervert justice. A witness must not bring a false accusation against an innocent man in a judicial matter, nor lie to spare the guilty their due punishment (23:1-2). There was one law, and one standard, and not even the poor were granted a charitable judgment nor spared the weight of the law (23:3).

There are some 21st century leaders in the broader latitude of “American Christianity” that are guilty of teaching that the Old Testament is all Law, and no grace. Those who express such a sentiment are either ignorant of the Word of God, or purposefully, and intentionally misleading believers. For example, Exodus 23:4-5 commanded Israel to be ready to show kindness to an enemy should he suffer harm (23:4; Proverbs 25:21-22), and be ready to express sympathy and assistance to even one who hates you (23:5).

Exodus 23:6-9 returns to judicial matters, and the demand for impartial judgment in legal matters. Under God’s Law, the poor were not to be denied representation or justice (23:6), and judges were to see that righteous judgment prevailed for all (23:7). Judges were not to be bribed (23:8), and non-Hebrews (“strangers”), were to be judged fairly (23:9).

The Sabbath Year (23:10-12)

Emphasizing the significance of “Sabbath Rest” (20:8-11), Israel was commanded to observe a “Sabbath Year.” The land would not be plowed, and crops would not be planted (23:10). The land was to rest, and if seeds volunteered and grew to bear fruit, the poor and the “beast of the field” were given liberty to eat (23:11).

Three Festivals to be Observed by Israel (23:14-19)

The men of Israel were commanded to observe three annual festivals (23:14-19). There was the “feast of unleavened bread” and the Passover (23:15, 18), that commemorated the Passover in Egypt when the LORD spared the firstborn of Israel. The “feast of the harvest,” known as the Firstfruits, and later celebrated as Pentecost, was observed at the beginning of harvest (23:16a). The first fruits of the harvest were to be offered to the LORD (23:19a). There was also the “feast of the ingathering,” observed at the end of the harvest season (23:16b), and was a time of thanksgiving.

Three Promises (23:20-28)

The LORD made three promises to Israel, whose fulfillment was conditioned upon the people hearing and obeying His Law and Commandments (23:20-28).

He promised to “send an Angel” before the nation. The LORD’S Angel was sent to “keep” Israel in the way, and bring them into the Promised Land (23:20), if the people obeyed the “voice” of the Angel (23:22; I am of the opinion this “Angel” was a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ).

The LORD also  His “Angel” would “go before” the nation, and cut off those nations that occupied the land of Canaan (23:23). The Angel would give Israel protection (23:23), provisions (23:25), and posterity (i.e. future generations; 23:26).  Unlike other nations that adopted and sacrificed to the gods of the land they conquered; Israel was to destroy the idols of the people (23:24).

God promised to set the boundaries of the land He had covenanted with Abraham (23:31), and He warned that His people were not to befriend or make any covenant with the people they conquered, nor worship their gods. God warned Israel that, the conquered people “shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee (23:33).

This principle of radical separation is found throughout the Scriptures, though it is rarely preached in the pulpit, nor practiced the pew.

Israel was admonished: Fail to drive the ungodly out of the land, and the people would invariably adopt the sins of the heathen (23:33). That same principle is true for today’s believers. We are commanded, 17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17a).

1 Corinthians 15:33 warns, “33Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” We are commanded, “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

As Israel was called to separate from the wicked nations they conquered, and to destroy their gods, believers are to separate, and put a distance between themselves and the ungodly, lest we become like them!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Display of God’s Majesty on Sinai, Part 1 (Exodus 19-20)

Scripture reading: Exodus 19-20

Timeline – Three Months Out of Egypt (19:1)

Much had happened since Moses shepherded Israel out Egypt. The challenge of leading a people who had suffered the oppression of slavery for four centuries was daunting, as well as, exhausting.  Three months had passed (19:1), and the tribes of Israel had experienced both the joys of victories, and the despair of hardships that included thirst, and hunger. However, above and beyond the physical distresses of the journey, Moses faced the threat of an insurrection, to the point that he feared the people were “almost ready to stone” him (17:4).

Following the suggestion of his father-in-law, Moses had chosen, taught, and delegated to capable men the task of judging the people in “small matters” (18:20-25), and freeing him to judge “the hard causes” (18:26).

Exodus 19

1In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai…[and] were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount [Mount Sinai]” (19:1-2). Mount Sinai (also known as Mount Horeb) had been the place God first spoke to Moses out of the burning bush (3:1-6). Here the LORD promised Moses, “When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain” (3:12).

Israel would encamp at Mount Sinai for eleven months, during which time they would be given the Law and Commandments, and be transformed from twelve tribes of slaves, to a mighty nation with one God, and one Law.

While the people pitched their tents at the base of Sinai, “Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain” (19:3). Acting as Israel’s mediator, the LORD charged Moses with the task of reminding the people all that the He had done for them, and how He had thrust the people out of Egypt, and carried them with tenderness, and the speed of an eagle that shadows her eaglets (19:4).

Moses was to remind the people, that if they would obey God’s voice, and keep His covenant, the LORD would “treasure” the people “above all people” (19:5), and they would be as a nation, “a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (19:5-6). God would later ordain Aaron, and his sons to serve Israel as His priests; however, it was the LORD’s desire that Israel would be a holy nation to serve humanity as His priests, and “a light of the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42:6).

As the mediator, Moses was to call “the elders of the people” together, and present the LORD’s proposition (19:7). With one voice, “all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord” (19:8).

To fulfill the institution of the covenant, Moses commanded the people to personally, and ceremonially “sanctify” themselves, and “wash their clothes” (19:10). On the third day God would descend upon Mount Sinai, and make His voice and presence known to the nation (19:11). Warning any who approached the mount while the LORD was present would be put to death, Moses was commanded to set a boundary around the base of the mountain (19:12-3).

On the third day, the presence of God was seen in the “thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled” (19:16). Moses led the nation to the base of Mount Sinai (19:17), and the whole mount was engulfed in smoke, as “the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly” (19:18). The sound of a trumpet, a shofar, grew louder and louder, and “Moses spake [in the hearing of the people], and “God answered him by a voice” (19:19).

Imagine the visual presence of Mount Sinai engulfed in fire and smoke, the piercing sound of a trumpet, and the voice of God shaking the very foundation of the mountain. What a dreadful, frightening display of God’s power and presence!

God’s covenant with Israel required that the people were to be sanctified, holy, and set apart unto Him (19:10). The LORD required of His people, what was true of Himself – “Ye shall be holy; for I am holy” (19:10; Leviticus 11:44-45). What was true of Israel, is true for all believers:

“But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Family Reunion, and Essential Qualities of a Spiritual Leader (Exodus 18)

Scripture reading: Exodus 18

With the defeat of the Amalekites (17:13-16), the LORD magnified the standing of Moses and Joshua, and news reached the nations of “all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel his people, and [how] the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt” (18:1). Soon after, Jethro, “the priest of Midian,” and the father-in-law of Moses, journeyed to Israel’s encampment (18:1), reuniting him with his wife and sons (18:1-5).

Although he had proved himself to be a great leader, when Moses learned his father-in-law had come, he honored him and “went out to meet [him]… and did obeisance [bowed before him], and kissed him” (18:7a).

What a great reunion, as Jethro and Moses “asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent” of Moses (18:7b). We do not know the number of hours that passed as Moses rehearsed “all that the Lord had done unto Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake” (18:8a). Remembering the timidity of Moses when the LORD had first called to him from the midst of the burning bush, I am sure Jethro took pride in the man who was his son by marriage.

Moses shared not only the victories, but the trials “that had come upon them by the way, and how the Lorddelivered them” (18:8) from thirst, and hunger, and given Israel success over the Amalekites (17:8-16).

Jethro rejoiced in the LORD’S goodness, and how He had delivered the nation out of slavery (18:9-10). He testified, “11Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them” (18:11). Though he was a Midianite, and not numbered among the children of Israel, he was a man of faith in the God of Israel, and “took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God” (18:12), and invited Moses, his brother Aaron, “and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread…before God” (18:12).

The celebration was short lived, for the next day Moses did what he did every day, with the exception of the Sabbath: He “sat to judge the people” (18:13). Jethro looked on, as the people gathered “from the morning unto the evening” (18:13), waiting for Moses to weigh their concerns, and pass judgment. He enquired of Moses, “What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even?” (18:14)

Moses explained that his role was not to make laws, but to make “the statutes of God, and His laws” known (18:15-16).

Jethro suggested there was a better way to judge the people, and that was to “teach [the people] ordinances and laws, and [show] them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do” (18:20). He suggested that Moses should choose “able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them…22And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee” (18:21-22).

I close inviting you to notice how Moses heeded his father-in-law’s counsel (18:21-22), and “chose able [capable] men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people…and they judged the people at all seasons [as the need arose]: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves (18:25-26). They were men who feared God; pious, godly men (18:21). “Men of truth,” who were worthy of trust, and did “hate covetousness;” they were men of integrity and were above reproach (18:21).

What about you? Would you have the spiritual qualities God seeks in a man or woman who serves Him?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith