Tag Archives: Separation

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)

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

Commandments Written in Stone, And a Place of Worship (Exodus 24-25)

Scripture reading – Exodus 24-25

Exodus 24 – The Covenant was Established, and Sealed with the Blood of Sacrifices

The LORD, having given His Law and Commandments (Exodus 20-23), summoned Moses, Aaron his brother, Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, and “seventy of the elders of Israel…to worship” (24:1). Moses was invited to come near the LORD; however, the others were instructed to “not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him” (24:2).

Moses told the people all the LORD had set forth in his covenant, “and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the Lord hath said will we do” (24:3).

After writing, and memorializing “all the words of the LORD,” Moses built an altar, with twelve pillars representing the “twelve tribes of Israel” (24:4).  Upon the altar he “offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the Lord” (24:5), sealing the Covenant with a testimony of blood (24:6-9).

God then gave “Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel,” a marvelous vision of Himself, and “they saw God, and did eat and drink” (24:10-11) that which had been sacrificed unto the LORD upon the altar.

The LORD then commanded Moses, “Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them” (24:12). Moses, with Joshua accompanying him as his servant, “went up into the mount of God” (24:13). Departing, Moses instructed the elders of the people to bring to Aaron and Hur, any matters that might arise in his absence (24:14)

Ascending the mount, Moses and Joshua disappeared into the cloud that covered it. Six days passed, as the “glory of the Lord abode upon mount Sinai” (24:16a), but on the seventh day, the LORD “called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud” (24:16b). Imagine the wonder of the “children of Israel,” as they gazed toward the mount, and saw “the glory of the Lord…like [a] devouring fire on the top of the mount” (24:17). Moses was “in the mount forty days and forty nights” (24:18).

Exodus 25 – Instructions Concerning the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant

With the Covenant established, and sealed with sacrificial offerings, the Lord instructed Moses: “2Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering” (25:2). Gold, silver, and bronze were necessary for decorating the tabernacle, and fashioning instruments that would be used in worship and offering sacrifices.

The tabernacle was to be constructed with materials that were freely given by the people: “6Oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense were required, as were “onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate” for the high priest (25:4-7).

One might ask, when did former slaves of Egypt acquire gold, silver, and precious stones? The answer to that question is found in Exodus 12:35-36, where we read: “35And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed [requested; demanded] of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: 36And the Lord gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians” (12:35-36).

Why were the Tabernacle and Ark important? They would serve Israel as an outward symbol of God’s presence in the midst of His people (Exodus 25:8). The construction and appearance of the Ark, including its precise dimensions are recorded (25:10-11), as well as the means by which it would be transported–rings and “staves” or rods (25:12-15). The Ark was to be overlaid with gold, and upon its top, described as the Mercy Seat, were placed two cherubim facing one another. The space between the cherubim represented the presence, and throne of God (25:17-22). In the Scriptures, the “Ark” is designated with various names, among them The Ark of the Covenant, The Ark of the LORD, The Ark of God, and The Ark of the Testimony.

To be fashioned and placed within the Tabernacle was a table, implements of gold (25:23-30), and a golden lampstand with seven lamps (25:31-40).

I conclude asking you to notice the spirit of giving God required of His people: “2Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering” (25:2). Every man (every head of a home and family), was commanded to give an offering to the LORD, not out of coercion, or strong arm demands, but “willingly with his heart” (25:2).

Did you know that same spirit of giving is commanded of 21st century believers, and comes with a promise?

2 Corinthians 9:6–7 – “6But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”

Copyright 2020 – 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

Sometimes Saying, “I’m sorry,” is Not Enough! (Exodus 21-22)

Scripture reading: Exodus 21-22

Moving forward with the Ten Commandments as the basis of God’s Law for Israel, believers should identify the Commandments, and the precepts that follow in today’s Scripture reading, as the foundation of democratic law, and our sense of justice and fairness.

Exodus 21 – Precepts for Slavery, Manslaughter, Rebellion, and Injury

In ancient times, there was the practice of slavery, and indentured servitude (21:1-11). Some might object to the inclusion of this institution in the Bible; however, it was a common, and accepted practice and the LORD instituted principles that were prudent, forbidding the injustices that have been a shameful practice of slavery down through the centuries.

For example, a Hebrew man reduced to slavery, was only to serve seven years; after the seventh year was accomplished, he would be freed from his indebtedness (21:1-2). Should a man become a slave, and was married at that time he was enslaved, he, his wife, and children would be freed after the seventh year.

Should a man marry during his servitude, only he would be set at liberty after the seventh year (21:3-4). Though freed from obligation, should he love his wife, children, and master, and not want to depart alone, a Hebrew was permitted to choose to continue voluntarily as a slave (21:5). Such a man would have his ear bored through (21:6), and would serve either till the death of his master, or be set free with his family in the year of jubilee (every 50 years).

Parents who found themselves in poverty, and lacked the means to provide for a daughter, might sell her as a young maiden (21:7), hoping the man who purchased her might take her as his wife when she was of age. Should the man or his son refuse to marry her, they were under obligation to provide food, and clothing for her (21:8-11).

The sixth commandment stated, “Thou shalt not kill” (20:13); however, the law recognized a difference between murder and manslaughter (taking a life without intent, 21:12-14).

The fifth commandment demanded, “Honour thy father and thy mother” (20:12). Cursing one’s parents was a capital offense and death was mandated (21:17).

In the matter of accidental injuries that did not result in death, but left the victim unable to provide for himself or his family, the innocent victim was to be fairly, and properly compensated (21:18-32). The law demanded, “24Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (21:24). Losses that were caused by one’s negligence, were to be compensated (21:28-36).

Exodus 22 – Theft, and endangerment of one’s likelihood, were not tolerated.

In an agricultural society where a man’s livelihood, and his family’s well-being, were dependent on farming and husbandry, the theft of ox, or sheep was a serious offense (22:1-4), as was the damage to a man’s crops (22:5-6). Personal responsibility and liability were important issues among God’s people, and fair compensation for losses, whether by theft or neglect, was mandated (22:7-15).

Exodus 22:14-15 stated the obligation a borrower assumed when borrowing another man’s property.  For the sake of illustration, if a farmer borrowed another man’s ox to plow his field, and the ox was injured or died, the borrower was under obligation to “make it good” (22:14); in other words, repay or replace the ox.  The exception was when the owner of the ox was plowing another man’s field “for his hire” (22:15).

Exodus 22 concludes with various laws that address moral and societal issues (22:16-23:19), including rape (22:16-17), witchcraft (22:18), bestiality (22:19), and idolatry (22:20).  The matter of borrowing, and indebtedness were addressed, and charging excessive interest that imposed an unnecessary hardship on the poor was condemned (22:25-27).

The Law, and its application to daily life, demanded honesty and integrity.

A borrower was under obligation to make right any damage, and loss. We need to restore this principle of justice, and fairness. If we want our children to have integrity, then we need to teach them to be responsible, and make another whole when their actions have cause loss or injury.

Lesson – Saying, “I’m sorry,” is just not enough!

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

Scandalous Grace and Divine Providence (Genesis 38-39)

Scripture reading – Genesis 38-39

Genesis 37 concluded with Joseph’s brothers returning to Canaan with his bloodied tunic. Deceiving their father, and breaking his heart, they led him to believe Joseph was dead (37:29-35). Meanwhile, Joseph had been transported to Egypt, and there he was sold to an Egyptian named “Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard” (37:36).

Genesis 38 – Judah, an Inauspicious Beginning of a Royal Lineage

The study of Joseph’s life was intersected briefly as the focus shifted to Judah (29:35), the fourth born son of Jacob (38:1). Although his lineage will be a royal one of whom King David, and Jesus Christ will be born (Mary and Joseph were both descendants of Judah), our introduction to Judah in Genesis 38 is an ignoble one.

Failing to evidence the character of a righteous man, we find Judah had a close friendship with “a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah” (38:1). Adullam was located in the pastoral lands of southern Judah, and it was probably while shepherding his father’s flocks that he became an acquaintance of Hirah. Judah’s questionable friendship led to an interest in a woman named Shuah, a Canaanite, and not one God or his father would have approved (38:2).

Judah took Shuah as his wife, and she conceived three sons (38:3). The firstborn was named Er (38:3), the second son was Onan, (38:4), and the third born son was Shelah (38:5). Er, Judah’s firstborn, took a wife named Tamar; however, before she conceived, the LORD slew him because he was “wicked in the sight of the LORD” (38:6-7). Following the custom of a man marrying his brother’s widow to perpetuate his lineage, Onan, Judah’s second son, rejected Tamar and the LORD “slew him also” (38:10). Twice a widow, Judah then sent Tamar to her father’s home, vowing she would be given opportunity to marry his youngest son, a promise he had no intent to keep (38:11).

Learning Judah was a widower (38:12), and realizing she had been deceived by him, Tamar set on a course to ensnare her father-in-law. Concealing her identity, and posing as a prostitute (38:14), she tempted Judah. He foolishly turned aside, and negotiated a price for her favors (38:15-17). Tamar, however, was a shrewd woman, and until Judah could fulfill her fee, she demanded a pledge, a deposit, that would serve as her security. Judah then presented her with personal items that would be easily identifiable: a “signet” that would be used to seal documents, his bracelets, and his staff (38:18).

Genesis 38:18-30 – “She conceived by him.” (38:18b)

Although a simple, four-worded phrase, it serves as a reminder that actions have consequences. Three months after she conceived, Judah learned that Tamar was with child, and he was told that “she [was] with child by whoredom” (38:24).

Hypocritically, Judah condemned Tamar to “be burnt” (38:24b); however, she produced the personal items, he had left with her: “the signet, and bracelets, and staff” (38:25). Acknowledging they were his, he confessed, “She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more” (38:26).

Tamar conceived twin sons by Judah, and Pharez, the oldest son, and Zarah, became his heirs. He evidenced sincere repentance when he confessed his sin, which was seen in his withdrawal from her (38:26b).

The story of Judah and Tamar is a testimony of God’s grace and forgiveness, for they and their sons are named in the lineage of kings and Christ (Matthew 1:3). Pharez, the firstborn son is in the direct line of the Messiah.

Genesis 39 – The Providence of God: The LORD is with us!

Following the life of Joseph is akin to a spiritual rollercoaster with wonderful highs, followed by events that would threaten to plunge most men into a slough of despair.

Rather than give in to despondency and bitterness, Joseph’s faith in the LORD remained unshaken, and he rose from slave to steward over Potiphar’s household (37:36). Even when his master’s wife endeavored to entrap him in her lusts (39:7), Joseph refused her advances, and reasoned “how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (39:9)

Though a young man, Joseph did not rationalize sin, but resisted it (39:9-11). When Potiphar’s wife thrust herself upon him, he ran from her embrace, leaving behind the garment she had seized from him (39:12-13). When she falsely accused him of indiscretion, Joseph held his peace, and was sentenced to prison (39:19-23). When he was a prisoner, and wrongfully accused, Joseph prospered, “because the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper” (39:23).

I look forward to sharing the rest of the story, and the testimony of God’s providences in Joseph’s life, and how God made him prosper even in the darkest times!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Home, Not So Sweet Home (Genesis 33-34)

Scripture reading – Genesis 33-34

Jacob was glad to be free from servitude to his father-in-law, and after he made his peace with him (31:53-55), he departed from Mount Gilead, and journeyed west to the border of  “Edom,” the land where his brother Esau had made his home (32:3).

Fearing his brother’s approach, Jacob had prepared his family for the confrontation he believed was inevitable. By trickery and deceit, he taken his brother’s birthright, and stolen his father’s blessing. Although twenty years had passed, the memory of his deception was fresh in his heart, as was the memory of his brother’s threat to kill him (27:41).

Jacob and Esau meet Genesis 33:4

The news that Esau was coming with four hundred men had filled Jacob’s heart with dread (32:6-7). Knowing he would face his brother the next day, Jacob had spent the night at Peniel, and there the LORD had met him “face to face” (32:30) and promised to preserve him, and his household.

Genesis 33 – Jacob and Esau’s Reunion

As the sun began to rise the next day, Jacob, bearing a limp he would carry the rest of his days (32:31), “lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men” (33:1a). Jacob divided his family in preparation for the meeting with his brother, not knowing if Esau’s coming was for good or for revenge (33:2). Seven times he bowed himself to Esau, “until he came near to his brother” (33:3).

In an instance, the bitterness and hardness that had separated them for twenty years, was dissolved, and “Esau ran to meet [Jacob], and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept” (33:4). The years, and God’s blessings on the two men, had given neither cause for continuing their hostility (33:10-11).

Esau offered to accompany his brother as he continued his journey; however, Jacob declined, giving the cause was to give his children, flocks, and herds a time of rest from the arduous journey (33:12-14). Bidding his brother go on without him, and promising to join him later, Jacob remained behind, a fateful decision that would cause him and his household much sorrow.

Jacob stopped at Succoth, where he built an house, and sheltered his cattle. He “bought a parcel of a field,” from a man identified as “Hamor, Shechem’s father” (33:17-19). Failing to go on to Bethel, he erected an altar in Shalem (33:18-20).

Genesis 34 – “To See and To Be Seen: A Tragic Story of Love and Murder”

Jacob’s failure to go to Bethel took a tragic turn when his daughter Dinah, born to Leah, “went out to see the daughters of the land” (34:1). Her father had made the decision to settle his family among the heathen, idol worshipers of that day, and his children were not insulated from the fatal attraction of the world. The influence of the “daughters of the land,” inevitably brought Dinah into the company of Shechem, the son of a wealthy, powerful man of Shalem, named Hamor.

When Shechem looked upon Dinah, he seized her forcefully and “took her, and lay with her, and defiled her” (34:2). Though he had raped her violently, Hamor’s “soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved [sexually desired] the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel [speaking to her heart and emotions]” (34:3), and desired to take her as his wife (34:4).

News of Dinah’s rape reached Jacob, but he “held his peace” (34:5) until his sons came home. Hamor, Shechem’s father, came to arrange his son’s marriage to Dinah (34:6); however, her brothers were furious that their sister had been shamed, and mistreated (34:7). Hamor suggested a compromise, but such an agreement would have been a breach of Jacob’s covenant with the LORD, and would have put the promises of God in jeopardy (34:8-10). Shechem pled for forgiveness, and offered to pay whatever dowry was required (34:11-13). Plotting revenge (34:13), Jacob’s sons agreed to accept Shechem as Dinah’s husband, but only if all the men of the city agreed to be circumcised (34:14-24).

Unbeknownst to Jacob, on the third day after the men of the city were circumcised, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, drew their swords and slew all the men of the city (34:25-26). With the men of the city dead, Jacob’s other sons joined Simeon and Levi, raided the livestock, and took their children and wives captive. (34:27-29).

Jacob protested the actions of Simeon and Levi, and expressed his fear that their act of revenge would have dire consequences for his household (34:30). Dinah’s brothers, however, evidenced no remorse, and challenged their father, asking, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?” (34:31)

The heartache, and division that was within Jacob’s household is often mirrored in today’s homes. No home is exempt from the sorrows and violence of yesteryear. Fathers  should be attentive, and ever mindful to look ahead and see the evil., remembering, “that the friendship of the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith