Tag Archives: Separation

“Lawlessness Breeds Moral Degeneracy” (Judges 19-20)

Scripture reading – Judges 19-20

A familiar refrain in the latter chapters of the Book of Judges is: “It came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel” (19:1).

Consider the question, “When was there no king [literally, no ruler or judge] in Israel?” The answer gives us a different perspective for the events recorded in today’s Scripture reading. I believe Judges 17-21 falls chronologically between the death of Joshua (Joshua 24:29-33, Judges 1:1-2:15), and the beginning of the era of the judges (Judges 2:16), when “the Spirit of the LORD came upon [Othniel], and he judged Israel” (3:8-10).

A contemporary application: The tragic events that occur in today’s Scripture reading, Judges 19-20, are a reflection of the lawlessness, and moral degeneracy of a society when men reject the Law of the LORD, and His Commandments.

Lesson: When spiritual leaders fail to preach, and teach the Word of God, they not only fail the LORD, they fail their families, community, and nation. Consider with me a time of lawlessness, much like our day, “when there was no king [no judge, no ruler] in Israel” (19:1).

Judges 19 – The Levite, and His Unfaithful Concubine

A man of the priestly tribe of Levi, passed through Mount Ephraim (near the place where the Tabernacle was located), and took to wife “a concubine out of Beth-lehem-judah [Bethlehem of Judah]” (19:1). The woman was most likely a concubine, because she had come to the marriage without a dowry. She would have been considered a lesser wife, and her children would have had no right of inheritance.

Tragically, the Levite’s concubine played the harlot, and left the Levite and returned to her father’s house (19:2). Four months passed, and the Levite and his servant, determined to travel to Bethlehem, and with kind words, endeavor to “bring her again” to his home (19:3). The concubine’s father rejoiced when the Levite came to claim his daughter (19:3). The man pressed upon his son-in-law to accept his invitation to continue in his home, and “he abode with him three days: so they did eat and drink, and lodged there” (19:4).

For four days, the Levite, his concubine, and servant continued with his father-in-law, and on the fifth day, though the father protested, the Levite set out on his journey to Shiloh (where the Tabernacle was located, 19:18). Because the hour was late, the servant pressed the Levite to stay the night near “Jebus” (ancient Jerusalem, 19:10-11). The Levite, however, refused to spend the night in Jerusalem, for it was occupied by Jebusites, and not the children of Israel. Instead, they made their way to Gibeah, a city occupied by the tribe of Benjamin, and arrived in the city as “the sun went down upon them” (19:14).

The Tragedy of Depravity in Gibeah

Contrary to the Law’s injunction to show compassion to the sojourner, no man of Gibeah offered the Levite, and his concubine provision or lodging for the night, and he settled to spend the night in the city street (19:15). An old man, however, whose birthplace was Mount Ephraim, resided in Gibeah, and spied the Levite and his company. The old man offered them lodging for the night (19:16-20), and though the Levite resisted his invitation, he pressed upon him, saying, “lodge not in the street” (19:20).

The old man was entertaining his guests, when “the men of the city, certain sons of Belial [wicked, immoral men], beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him” (19:22).

Like Lot, who found his household beset by the wicked men of Sodom (Genesis 19:4-9), the old man’s endeavor to reason with the sodomites of Gibeah proved futile (19:23). Though he defined their passions as wickedness, and folly (19:23), their immoral desire, and lust would not be assuaged. Following the manner of Lot, and to save the Levite from the violence of the mob, the old man offered his virgin daughter, and the Levite’s concubine to “do with them what seemeth good unto you” (19:24). Even that shameless attempt to pacify the lusts of the sodomites failed, and did not deter them from their debased objective (19:24).

Tragically, choosing to save himself, and his host from the degenerate mob, the Levite thrust his concubine out of the house. The men of Gibeah raped, and “abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go” (19:25), and retreated to their households (19:26).

What a hideous thought, that a man would give his wife to a mob to be abused, while he sheltered in the security of a household! Nevertheless, we read, the Levite “rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold” (19:25).

Can you picture this tragic moment? With a callousness that defies love, the Levite opened the door, not to search for his wife, but to go on his journey (19:27). He knew the violence of the Sodomite culture, and what she would have suffered, and no doubt believed she would be dead. Instead, she had made her way to the threshold of the house; battered, bruised, bleeding, and demeaned, she found the door closed to her cries, and died (19:27).

What manner of man would give his beloved to suffer, and himself be spared? The same who would fail to stoop, and caress her, and say, “Up, and let us be going” (19:28). The abused woman did not stir, and she did not answer. Her life was gone, her soul departed. She had died from the violence of the mob that had made her the object of their lusts. Taking up her lifeless body from the threshold, the Levite placed her upon his donkey, and went to his house (19:28).

Remembering there was no king, judge, or ruler in Israel, the Levite had no place to appeal for justice.

The city of Gibeah, and the tribe of Benjamin had sheltered, and tolerated a great evil in their land, and the Levite determined to appeal to all Israel for justice. He “took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her [body parts] into all the coasts [boundaries, tribes] of Israel” (19:29). The Levite’s deed left Israel shaken, and the children of Israel gathered to weigh the spiritual state of their nation, and what must be done (19:30, 20:1).

Author’s note: In a later devotional, I hope to consider the events that follow in Judges 20, and their application to our own society, and world.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Samson: The Legend, and the Man (Judges 13)

Scripture reading – Judges 13

Today’s Scripture brings us again to the cycle we have observed throughout our study in the Book of Judges: Sin, leading to Servitude, leading to Sorrow, and leading to Salvation (Repentance). Judges 13 begins with a sad, and all too familiar condition: for “the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord” (13:1).

Faithful to His promise, “the Lord delivered [Israel] into the hand of the Philistines forty years” (13:1). The LORD, merciful, and forgiving, had not forgotten Israel, and we find Him sending a man who would be the judge, and deliverer of His people.

The focus of Judges 13 is the angelic announcement of Samson’s conception, and his unique dedication in his mother’s womb. His father’s name was Manoah, of the tribe of Dan, and one whose wife was barren. Though barren, Manoah’s wife gives evidence that she was a woman of faith.

The LORD sent one described as “the angel of the LORD” to Manoah’s wife (13:3), and she received the news, “thou shalt conceive, and bear a son” (13:3). Because her son was chosen of the LORD, she would live under special prohibitions, and was to drink no wine, strong drink, nor eat anything unclean (13:4). The son she would bear would be “a Nazarite unto God from the womb,” and his hair was never to be cut (13:5; Numbers 6:1-8). He was destined to be the champion of Israel, and would “begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines” (13:5).

Manoah’s wife came to him with the news that “a man of God” had appeared to her, whose “countenance was like the countenance of an angel of God, very terrible: but I asked him not whence he was, neither told he me his name” (13:6). She told her husband what had been prophesied to her, and that her son was to be “a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death” (13:7).

Manoah did not discount his wife’s tale of her visitor, nor of his prophecy; however, he longed for the “man of God” to appear to him, and he asked the LORD to send the messenger again. He prayed, “teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born” (13:8). What a wonderful request, and prayer for every parent. “Lord, ‘teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born!’”

The LORD heeded Manoah’s prayer, and “the angel of God came again unto the woman as she sat in the field: but Manoah her husband was not with her” (13:9). It was in her solitude, that the heavenly messenger returned, and she ran to her husband and said, “Behold, the man hath appeared unto me, that came unto me the other day” (13:10). Manoah, assured this was the “man of God” who had announced his wife would bear a special son (13:11), asked, “How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?” (13:12)

The “angel of the LORD” repeated those things that were prohibited of his wife (13:14). Desiring to be a gracious host, Manoah asked the man to stay for a meal, not realizing “he was an angel of the Lord” (13:16). His guest declined, but urged Manoah to “offer a burnt offering…unto the LORD” (3:16). Manoah asked for the name of his guest, that he might honor him when his son was born (13:17), but the “angel of the LORD said unto him…it is secret [literally, “It is Wonderful]” (13:18; Isaiah 9:6).

Manoah then prepared, and offered a young goat to the LORD (13:19), and suddenly a “flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, [and] the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground” (13:20). In that moment, Manoah and his wife realized their guest had been more than “a man of God,” and Manoah confessed, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God” (13:22). He feared they would die, but his wife expressed her faith, and said, “If the Lord were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands, neither would he have shewed us all these things, nor would as at this time have told us such things as these” (13:23).

True to God’s promises, Manoah’s wife conceived “a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him” (13:24). “25And the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times in the camp [tribe] of Dan” (13:25).

If you are a father or mother, I urge you to follow the example of Samson’s parents, and pray daily to the LORD…

“Teach us what we shall do unto the child” (13:8).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Third Generation: A Tragic Rejection of Spiritual Leadership (Judges 3)

Scripture reading – Judges 3

Today’s Scripture introduces the beginning of a new era in Israel’s history, as the LORD began to raise up judges to rule the nation. Why judges, and not a king? Because the LORD Himself was to be the Sovereign Ruler of His people, and Israel, was bound by covenant to the LORD, and the people were to be ruled by His Law and Commandments.

After Joshua died, and the generation that followed had passed (2:6-10a), Israel turned from the LORD, and “knew not the Lord…[and] did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2:10-11). In His mercy, “the Lord raised up judges, which delivered [the children of Israel] out of the hand of those that spoiled [made spoil, or plundered]them” (2:16); however, when the judge died, the people “corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them” (2:19a).

Judges 3 – The LORD Raised Up Judges

Because Israel had broken covenant with Him, the LORD determined He would not drive out the enemies of His people, and left them in their midst to “prove [test; try] Israel by them” (3:1).

To what end was this testing? It was to test, and prove a generation that did not know the hardships, and trials of war as had their fathers before them. Longing for Israel to turn to Him, and obey His commandments, the LORD did not drive out those enemies with whom His people had compromised (3:2-7).

How far, and how wretched had the third generation become?

They allowed their sons and daughters to intermarry with idolaters, until they “served their gods…and forgat the LORD their God,” and committed whoredom in their groves (3:6-7). Thus, the sins of Israel provoked “the anger of the LORD” (3:8), and “He sold “them into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushan-rishathaim eight years” (3:8).

Othniel, the First Judge in Israel (3:9-11)

When the people began to cry to the LORD, He heard their cry, and raised up “Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother” (3:9) who served as Israel’s first judge, and delivered the nation from their enemy (3:10). God blessed Othniel’s rule as judge, and Israel was at peace forty years (3:11).

Ehud, the Second Judge in Israel (3:12-30)

Judges 3:12-30 records a fascinating series of events. “The children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord: and the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they [Israel] had done evil in the sight of the Lord” (3:12). Israel had strayed far from the law and commandments, and found themselves humbled, and enslaved by an enemy (3:12-13). For eighteen years, “the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab…15But when [they] cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded” (3:14-15). (The men of Benjamin were known as an ambidextrous people, and skilled marksmen, Judges 20:16; 1 Chronicles 12:2).

It was Ehud’s skill with his left hand, that gave him an advantage when he plotted, and carried out his attack on Eglon, the king of Moab (3:16-22). Thrusting the dagger into the obese king, the blade went so deep that Ehud left the knife in the king’s intestines, when he fled the palace (3:21-22). Returning to mount Ephraim, Ehud blew the trumpet, and rallied Israel to go to battle against Moab, and they slew “about ten thousand men” (3:27-29).

Shamgar, the Champion of Israel (3:31)

Judges 3 concludes with the heroism of a man named Shamgar (3:31). He is not identified as a judge; however, he is noted for slaying six hundred Philistines “with an ox goad [a sharp metal point on the end of a pole]” (3:31).

An Invitation

You will observe the emerging of a spiritual cycle as you study the Book of Judges. A cycle that was not only true of Israel, but is also true of believers through the ages: Sin leads to Servitude [enslavement], that leads to Sorrow, and moves the hearts of men to turn to the LORD for Salvation (3:11-19).

Sin…Servitude…Sorrow…Salvation: We are, as the songwriter penned, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; Prone to leave the God I love.”

Where are you in that spiritual cycle?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Evil Companions Corrupt Good Morals (Numbers 25)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 25

“Times have changed,” is an oft repeated adage; however, read the Scriptures and you will be reminded mankind has not changed! The sinful depravity of our world today is not to be outdone by ancient civilizations. When a people, and a nation reject God’s Law and Commandments, they inevitably unleash the abhorrent lusts of the flesh, and a precipitous moral decline follows. Few nations turn back from the brink of destruction, and escape the suffering and humiliation of God’s judgment.

Numbers 25 brings us to Shittim, the staging ground for Israel to cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land (25:1).

Shittim became the setting of a tragic event, for it was here that “the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab” (25:1). After the suffering, and toil of wandering in the wilderness for forty years, how could Israel, break her covenant with the LORD, and not only commit adultery with the heathen, but also worship and offer sacrifices to their gods? (25:1-3)

We read, “3And Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel” (25:3). Baal-peor was the place where Baal, the Canaanite god of fertility was worshipped. The Moabites, Midianites, and Ammonites all worshipped Baal (closely identified with Moloch). Portrayed as a bull, the Canaanites sacrificed their sons and daughters to Baal, and committed all manner of sexual deviancy in worshipping the idol.

God’s wrath was “kindled against Israel” (25:3), and He commanded Moses, “Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel” (25:4).

The sins of the people was egregious, and God’s judgment was swift (25:4-5) as He placed the responsibility of the sins upon the “heads [leaders] of the people,” and demanded they be slain, and their bodies hanged in the sun as a warning to the people (25:5).

One Israelite was so brazen, that he “brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman (the daughter of a Midianite tribal chief) in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel” (25:6).  Phinehas, the son of the high priest Eleazar, rose up and slew the man, and the Midianite woman, thrusting them both through with a javelin (25:6-8). God’s judgment fell upon Israel, and 24,000 perished (25:9).

Reminded that nothing escapes the notice of God, the LORD acknowledged Phinehas’ zeal for righteousness, and established a perpetual, binding covenant of the priesthood with him and his lineage (25:10-13).

So tragic was the sin committed at Shittim, that the names of the couple slain by Phinehas were recorded (25:14-15), and the LORD commanded Moses, “Vex the Midianites, and smite them” (25:17).

A closing thought: I could draw out several spiritual lessons from today’s Scripture reading; however, I limit myself to one: Be not deceived [led astray; drawn away]: evil communications [companions; associations] corrupt [ruins; destroys] good manners [morals] (1 Corinthians 15:33).

The Scriptures do not reveal how the men of Israel came to worship the god of Baal, and to commit whoredom. We can be certain, however, that the proximity of the “daughters of Moab” (25:1), provided the Israelites not only a familiarity with them, but also a tolerance of their wicked ways (25:1-3).

Today’s church is in desperate need for young men like Phinehas; men who have a love for God, and a zeal for godliness.

Will you commit yourself, and be a 21st century Phinehas?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Lord Heard It! (Numbers 11-12)

The Lord Heard It! (Numbers 11-12)

Scripture reading – Numbers 11-12

Israel’s journey to the Promised Land began, and the people “departed from the mount of the Lord [Mount Sinai where they had received the Law and Commandments] three days’ journey: and the ark of the covenant of the Lord [a symbol of God’s throne] went before them in the three days’ journey, to search out a resting place for them. 34 And the cloud of the Lord was upon them by day, when they went out of the camp.” (10:33-34)

Numbers 11 – The Complainers, and God’s Judgment

Israel, having accepted the terms of their covenant with God, had observed the Passover, and set out on their journey in the manner the LORD had ordained. After only three days, the people began to complain, and “it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts [outskirts] of the camp” (11:1).

How swift the judgment of the LORD fell upon the people! Why? What did their complaints reveal that the LORD’S “anger was kindled?” (11:1) Their complaints revealed their disloyalty to the LORD, and ingratitude for all He had provided (Psalm 106:6-14). The people cried out to Moses, and he “prayed unto the Lord, [and] the fire was quenched” (11:2).

Notice where the fire of God’s judgment began: “in the uttermost parts [outskirts] of the camp” (11:1). Those people were as far away from the Tabernacle, and the Ark as possible. Numbers 11:4 reveals the nature and character of those upon whom the fire fell: “And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?” (11:4)

This “mixt multitude” were those who left Egypt with Israel, but they were not numbered or named among the Hebrews (11:4). They had taken opportunity to escape Egypt, but they had no inheritance with God’s people.

They had introduced a contentious spirit in the camp. They asked, “Who shall give us flesh to eat?” (11:4), and lusted for the foods of Egypt (11:5). They had come to despise the manna God provided, and in so doing rejected not only the provision, but the provider Himself (11:7-9, 20).

Hearing the complaints, and the people weeping (11:10), Moses moaned to the LORD in a series of self-focused questions (11:11-13). Exasperated, overwhelmed, and despairing, he cried to the LORD, 14I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me” (11:14).

With loving compassion, the LORD directed Moses to choose seventy leaders from among the Twelve Tribes who would share his burdens (11:16). The LORD “came down in a cloud, and spake unto [Moses], and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders” (11:25a).

Provoked by bitter complaints, the LORD determined to give the people the meat they demanded (11:18-23). On the next day, He took away the manna, and for thirty days they had nothing but meat to eat (11:18-21). In their lust for meat, they gorged themselves and became sick, and “the LORD smote [them] with a very great plague” (11:31-33).

Numbers 12A Leader’s Response to Criticism

While the complaints in Numbers 11 caused Moses to despair of life (11:11-15), the criticism in Numbers 12was the most grievous of all. Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ own sister and brother, spoke against their brother (12:1). Miriam was the eldest, and she appeared to be the principal antagonist, since she bore the consequences of murmuring against God’s leader (12:10).

I have learned that minor disputes are often the cover for deeper sins, and this was especially true with Miriam and Aaron. The initial challenge was concerning an Ethiopian woman whom Moses married (12:1). We do not know why they objected to the Ethiopian woman [although it was a violation of the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, Genesis 2:24].

In the next verse we discover the core issue of their reproach of Moses when they ask, “Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the Lord heard it.” (12:2). They were jealous of their brother’s position, and challenged his authority, but “the Lord heard it” (12:2c).

Moses was “very meek [not weak, but a strength under control], above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (12:3); however, the LORD did not allow their complaint to go unchecked. Suddenly the LORD spoke “unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation” (12:4).

Imagine that moment! Summoned by the voice of the LORD who “came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth” (12:5). Leaving no doubt who His prophet was, the LORD fortified Moses (12:7), and His anger “was kindled against them” (12:9). As the LORD departed, He struck Miriam with leprosy (12:10) as a visible sign of His displeasure, and she “became leprous, white as snow” (12:10). Aaron cried out to Moses for his sister (12:11), and Moses “cried unto the Lord, saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee” (12:13).

The LORD heard Moses’ plea, but He reasoned that Miriam’s sin was a cause for shame, and she would bear the reproach of leprosy for seven days, outside the camp (12:14). Seven days passed, “and the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again” and was restored to the fellowship (12:15).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“The LORD Bless Thee, and Keep Thee” (Numbers 6-7)

“May the LORD Bless You, and Keep You” (Numbers 6-7)

Scripture reading – Numbers 6-7

Numbers 6 – The Nazarite Vow, and the Aaronic Priestly Blessing

The law of the Nazarite, a voluntary vow, was instituted in Numbers 6. Considered a vow of consecration, a man or woman could “vow a vow of a Nazarite” (6:2), and it was a vow of abstinence, and separation unto the LORD.

A Nazarite vow consisted of three personal disavowals. Abstaining from wine and strong drink (6:3-4) was the first. The second, as an outward sign of devotion, a Nazarite was not to cut his or her hair for the time of the vow (6:5). Thirdly, Nazarites were forbidden to touch a dead body, even that of a loved one (6:6-7). Should one fail to keep the Nazarite vow, and become unclean, there were prescribed steps for remediation and purification, including sacrifices that were to be offered to the LORD (6:9-12).

When the days of the Nazarite were fulfilled, he or she was to bring offerings to the Tabernacle before the LORD as a release from their vows (6:13). A burnt offering, sin offering, peace offering, meat or meal offering, and a drink offering were required (6:13-17). After offering sacrifices to be released from the vow, the head was to be shaven (6:19), a wave offering of thanksgiving given (6:20), and the Nazarite was then allowed to drink wine (6:20). (The matter of drinking wine is one I will take up in the future; however, be assured the wine mentioned here was not the distilled, strong drink of our day.)

Numbers 7 – The Dedication of the Tabernacle, the Altar, the Vessels, and Instruments Used in the Offerings

After much planning, and following the detail guidelines set forth by the LORD in preparing a sanctuary, the Tabernacle was set up, anointed, and sanctified (7:1). The altar, vessels, and instruments that would be used for offerings were consecrated to the LORD.

The princes of the Twelve Tribes, and the heads of households, “brought their offering before the Lord, six covered wagons, and twelve oxen; a wagon for two of the princes, and for each one an ox: and they brought them before the tabernacle” (7:3).

What was the purpose of the wagons, and the oxen? They were presented for the “service” (7:5), or ministry of the Tabernacle, and employed by the Levites when transporting the Tabernacle during Israel’s sojourn (7:4-10). The Gershonites, were allotted two wagons, and four oxen, “according to their service” (7:7). The ministry of the Gershonites was the care of the draperies, curtains, and coverings of the Tabernacle (4:24-28).

The Merarites were assigned four wagons, and eight oxen, “according unto their service” (7:8). They required more wagons and oxen because they were charged with the greater weight (i.e. the boards, and pillars that made up the frame of the Tabernacle, 4:31-32).

The Kohathites were not given wagons or oxen “because the service of the sanctuary belonging unto them was that they should bear upon their shoulders” (7:9). The Kohathites were responsible for transporting the Ark, the table, the lampstand, and the altar (4:5-20). Those objects, central to Israel’s worship and sacrifices, were to be carried upon the shoulders of the Kohathites with staves or rods.

The balance of Numbers 7 records the offerings, and sacrifices brought by each tribe on its assigned day, for the purpose of dedicating the Tabernacle, and its vessels (7:10-88). You will notice the offerings brought by each of the tribes were identical.

Why the repetition? I believe the twelve days of dedication, and the naming of the sacrifices that were brought, added to the solemnity of the dedication, and gave each tribe its own sense of standing with the LORD.

Numbers 7 concludes with the sum of the offerings being accounted (7:84-88), and Moses, though not a priest, given a special audience with the LORD in His sanctuary (7:89).

I conclude today’s devotion with the beautiful prayer, the priestly blessing, that was spoken by Aaron and his priestly sons to bless the children of Israel (6:24-26).

Numbers 6:24-26 – “The LORD bless thee, and keep [watch, guard] thee: 25  The LORD make his face shine [illuminate] upon thee, and be gracious [grant favor] unto thee: 26  The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace [shalom].”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Leper, and the Portrait of Sin (Leviticus 13-14)

The Leper, and the Portrait of Sin (Leviticus 13-14)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 13-14

Our study of that which the LORD declared as “unclean” continues with the focus upon poor souls who were afflicted with leprosy. The ancient scourge of leprosy is the subject of Leviticus 13-14.

Known today as “Hansen’s Disease” (HD), leprosy is a bacterial, infectious disease, and is treatable, even curable in the 21st century. In ancient times, it was a dreaded disease, that inevitably led its victims to isolation from society, and assigned to leper colonies where they would eventually die.

Leviticus 13 – Laws and Regulations for Leprosy (A symbol of sin in the Scriptures.)

Since ancient times, Egypt has been infested with leprosy, and its traces followed the children of Israel out of that country. The LORD, continuing His commands regarding the “unclean,” required Moses and Aaron to address, diagnose, and exclude lepers from the tribes of Israel (Leviticus 13:1-59).

The LORD directed Moses and Aaron in the steps required to protect the people from the spread of leprosy. It was essential that the disease be properly diagnosed.

Often beginning as no more than a rash, or boil, the disease could eventually produce dreadful, open sores, and decaying flesh. The advanced stages of the disease would find the leper with rotting limbs, clothes soiled and rent as an outward sign of mourning. Lepers were to wear a napkin over their mouths, and to cry out, “Unclean, unclean” (13:45), to any who approached, warning others they were carriers of the disease.

Leviticus 14 – Guidelines for Ceremonial Cleansing of the Leper

Should the leper be miraculously healed of the disease, there were ceremonial steps, and sacrifices prescribed to insure the legitimacy of the healing and the purification of the leper.  After following the prescribed rites for purification, the leper was deemed clean by the high priest, and restored to the fellowship of his family and nation (14:9-32).

Spiritual Application – Leprosy was the physical disease God chose to illustrate the infectious nature of sin among his people.

Consider the number of times leprosy was described as “unclean” in Leviticus 13 (13:3, 8, 11, 14, 15, 20, 22, 25, 27, 30, 36, 44, 45, 46, 51, 55, 59).  Leprosy was more than a skin issue of the outward man. Leprosy would inevitably affect the tissues, nerves, and body extremities would rot and decay.  Leprosy could so scar the body that it was an unbearable ugliness.

Leprosy’s effect on the body, served as a spiritual portrait of sin’s effect on a man’s soul.

Modernists would have us believe man is born innocent, and his environment (i.e. home, society, religion) is the cause of his societal deprivations.  The Scriptures, however, declare “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). Paul likened sin to a physical ailment and wrote, For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18).

Jesus taught His disciples, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: 20  These are the things which defile a man”  (Matthew 15:19-20).

The ancients had no cure for leprosy. The leper in Israel prayed for a miraculous healing, a divine intervention, one that would be verified by the examination of the high priest, and followed by sacrificial offerings (Leviticus 14).

The same is diagnosis is true for man’s plague of sin and wickedness. Humanity has no cure for sin and depravity. In the same way there was no cure for leprosy without the LORD, there is no cure for a sinful soul without turning from sin, and accepting Jesus Christ as Savior. In the words of the prophet Isaiah,

Isaiah 53:4-5 – “Surely he [the Messiah, Christ] hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5  But he [the Messiah, Christ] was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

I invite you to confess that you are a sinner, a spiritual leper in the eyes of God. Believe in your heart that Jesus is the Christ, the perfect, sinless Son of God; and that He died on the Cross for your sins, was buried, and raised from the dead.

1 John 5:1313These 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.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Distinction Between the Clean and Unclean (Leviticus 11-12)

The Distinction Between the Clean and Unclean (Leviticus 11-12)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 11-12

* The Scripture reading prior to today’s devotional was Leviticus 10-11. I limited the focus of the previous devotional to Leviticus 10. This devotional commentary will cover Leviticus 11 and Leviticus 12.

Distinction Between Clean and Unclean Meats (Leviticus 11)

Leviticus 11 delineates for us the distinction between the meats the LORD deemed clean and unclean for His people to consume. God instructed Moses and Aaron regarding the beasts the children of Israel could eat, and those they were forbidden to eat (Leviticus 11).

Israel was to be distinct from the other nations. While the heathen would eat all manner of flesh, the children of Israel were to limit their diet to what the LORD deemed clean: Large beasts that were “clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud” (11:3) included ox (i.e. beef), sheep, goat, and deer (Deuteronomy 14:4,5).

There were beasts the LORD classified as unclean, that did not “chew the cud,” and others did not “divide the hoof (11:4-8). Examples of beasts that were forbidden, included the camel (11:4), “the coney” (believed to be a rock badger, 11:5), “the hare” (similar to the rabbit, 11:6) and “the swine (pig or boar), though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you” (11:7).

Fish with fins and scales were permitted (11:9); however, any creature of the water that lacked fish and scales were considered “an abomination” and not allowed (11:11-12).

The Hebrew word, “fowl” (11:13, 20) describes anything that is winged and flies. We notice there were numerous predatory fowl, and scavengers of carrion (vultures), that were labeled unclean, and forbidden for consumption (11:13-19). Leviticus 11:20 describes “fowls that creep, going upon all four,” believe to be a reference to winged insects (flies, wasps, and bees).

Some swarming winged insects were permitted in the Hebrew diet, and they are described as “every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth” (11:21). These insects have jointed legs, and their larger hind legs allow them to leap. Among those that may be eaten were locusts, beetles, and grasshoppers (11:22-24).

All beasts, clean or unclean, that died as the course of nature, or by violence, were not to be eaten (11:24-25). Horses, asses, dogs, and all other beasts with paws (lions, tigers) were deemed unclean and were not to be consumed. In fact, touching them would make one ceremonially unclean (11:26-28).

Other animals labeled as “creeping things that creep upon the earth,” and were forbidden for human consumption: “the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind, 30And the ferret, and the chameleon, and the lizard, and the snail, and the mole” (11:29-30).

Kitchen vessels (pots, and pans) that came in contact with unclean animals were declared unclean (11:32-36). Vessels of wood, raiment, or skin that came in contact with unclean animals were to be cleaned in water, and not used until even (11:32). Vessels of clay that came in contact with unclean beasts, were to be broken and discarded (11:35). Snakes that slithered on their belly were unclean (11:41-43).

Why such attention to dietary restrictions?

There are several reasons that could be cited for the LORD’S declaration, and distinction between clean and unclean beasts. Long before man could peer through microscopes, and see the prevalence of dangerous bacterium in meats, the Creator knew those meats that are harmful to man. To prevent the consumption of meats that would cause illness, disease, and death, the LORD declared them unclean.

The LORD, who is Himself holy, commanded His people: “sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 45For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (11:44-45).

Leviticus 12 – The Purification of Women

Leviticus 12 moves the focus from unclean beasts, to unclean persons, and instructs women regarding ceremonial purification following childbirth (12:1-8).

A woman who had given birth was considered ceremonially unclean, and was to be separated from the sanctuary until her days of purification had past (12:1-2). A woman who had given birth to a son, was deemed ceremonially “unclean” for seven days, during which time she and her son would be separated from the family (12:2c). On the eight day, she would take her son to the priest to be circumcised (12:3). Her days of purification were numbered thirty-three days, during which time she would remain at home (12:4).

A woman who gave birth to a daughter (12:5), was separated from her family, and considered unclean for two weeks. She would remain at home for sixty-six days for her purification.

When a mother’s days of purification, and isolation were fulfilled, she would come to the sanctuary, and depending upon her means, bring either “a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest” (12:6).

The sin offering was a confession of her unworthiness, the burnt offering her sacrifice of gratitude and thanksgiving, acknowledging God’s mercies in bringing her through the pangs of childbirth (12:7-8).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

When Holiness Contends with Wickedness (Exodus 32-33)

Scripture reading– Exodus 32-33

For “forty days and forty nights” (24:18), Moses and Joshua had been on Mount Sinai, with the LORD. Their appointment with the LORD being ended, the LORD had given to Moses “two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God” (31:18).

Moses was unaware of events that were transpiring in Israel’s camp, but the LORD knew. He had heard the wicked demands of the people (32:1), and observed Aaron’s failure to hold the people to the covenant Israel had vowed to the LORD (32:2-3).

Aaron had cast in gold “a molten calf” for the people to worship (32:4), and the people blasphemed the LORD, saying, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (32:4). Aaron accommodated their wickedness, and “built an altar before [the calf]; and [proclaimed]… To morrow is a feast to the Lord” (32:5).

Disavowing their covenant with the LORD, the people gave themselves to a worship that was like the idolatry they had witnessed in Egypt, and “offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play” (32:6). The implication is that their conduct was not only idolatrous, but morally depraved.

Angered by the sins of the people, God vowed to judge them in His wrath (32:7-10), to cut off the nation, and covenant with Moses to “make of [him] a great nation” (32:10). Moses, however, humbly interceded for the people, and was jealous for the LORD’s testimony with Egypt, and other nations. He implored the LORD to remember His covenant with “Abraham, Isaac, and Israel” (32:13).

The LORD heard the prayer of Moses, and He “repented [lit. had a change of mind or heart] of the evil [judgment; destruction] which he thought to do unto his people” (32:14).

Moses descended the mount, and the “two tables of the testimony were in [his] hand: the tables [The Ten Commandments] were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written. 16And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables” (32:15-16).

When Joshua heard the clammer of voices in the camp, he wondered if it was the “noise of war” (32:17). Moses, however, knew it was the sound of frolicsome singing, and when “he saw the calf, and the dancing…[his] anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount” (32:19).

Words fail to describe this tragic moment in Israel’s history. How soon the nation had turned from their covenant with the LORD, and had given themselves to wickedness and idolatry!

Incensed by their wickedness, Moses “took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it” (32:19b-20).

Turning to Aaron, Moses rebuked him, and questioned, “What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?” (32:21)

Aaron’s retort was sadly, much like many in spiritual leadership; he put on the people the responsibility for his own failure and said, “thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief” (32:22).

The full conversation that passed between those brothers is not recorded, but the Scriptures indicate that Aaron not only failed to resist the people, but implicated him as a willing participant, for we read: “Aaron had made [the people] naked unto their shame among their enemies” (32:25).

The time to stand for the LORD had come, and “Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi [the priestly tribe; the tribe of Moses and Aaron]gathered themselves together unto him” (32:26). Three thousand men were slain for their wickedness (32:28), and Moses rebuked the people saying, “Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin” (32:30).

The LORD, in answer to the intercessory prayer of Moses (32:31-32), and in act of mercy and grace, gave Israel a reprieve from utter destruction. Tragic consequences owing to the sins of the people followed; however, the Lord did not destroy the nation altogether (32:12-35).

I will review some of the effects of Israel’s sin in a later devotional (Exodus 33).

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