Tag Archives: Separation

“The end never justifies the means.”

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 1 Chronicles 10-14

I stated in an earlier commentary that the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles was largely devoted to the genealogical record of Israel and Judah.  1 Chronicles 9 concluded with a brief summary of the lineage of king Saul and his sons (9:35-44).

We noted the reign and death of Saul, Israel’s first king in an earlier commentary in 1 Samuel 31:1-10.  1 Chronicles 10 gives us another perspective of Israel’s defeat at the hands of the Philistines and the tragic deaths of Saul and his sons on the battlefield (10:1-6) and their humiliation that followed (10:7-10).

1 Chronicles 11 gives us a record of the coronation and reign of Israel’s beloved king, David.  Although a brilliant strategist in war and surrounded by mighty men (11:10-47) and loyal servants (12:1-40), the secret to David’s success was found in neither.  David was a great king for only one reason… “the LORD of hosts was with him” (11:9).

Unlike leaders of our day who strive to unite a people around the strength of their personality and ideas, David sought the unity of Israel, not around himself, but around the LORD.   Heralding a call for revival, David commanded the “Ark of God” [also known as the Ark of the Covenant] be brought to Jerusalem, noting the nation had “enquired not at it in the days of Saul” (13:2-3).   The celebration of the Ark’s journey to Jerusalem was cut short when a man named Uzza “put forth his hand to hold (or steady) the ark” that was being carried on a cart pulled by oxen (13:7-10).

“WHY?” becomes a question we should address.  Why would God punish Uzza whose actions were not only instinctive, but arguably innocent?   After all, was it not a good thing that the desire of David and the elders of Israel was to have the Ark, the symbol of God’s presence in Jerusalem the capital city?

An insightful quote of the late evangelist Dr. Bob Jones Sr. comes to mind when addressing the tragic death of Uzza:  “It is never right to do wrong to get a chance to do right.”   Uzza was not struck down because he was insincere or impassionate in his desire to see the Ark moved to Jerusalem.   Uzza died because the manner in which the Ark was transported was a violation of God’s instructions to the Levites (Numbers 4) and touching the sacred Ark to steady it defiled that which God had declared holy and sanctified for Himself (Numbers 1:51; 4:15, 20).

I close this devotional with a personal observation:  

I am observing a steady, progressive departure from institutional convictions and principles that were the foundation of vibrant churches, schools, Bible colleges and Christian universities in the 20th century.

Well-meaning, zealous men are stepping into the pulpits of fundamental churches and Bible colleges who, driven by a passion to see their institutions successful, adopt a pragmatic approach to ministry that is a departure from their institution’s guiding principles and core convictions.   Suggesting “times have changed” and believing their sincerity is enough, good men are leading our churches and schools down a path that inevitably sacrifices Christian disciplines and Bible convictions that are at the core of spiritual distinctives.

Like Uzza, our dying churches and Bible colleges are a sad testimony that, “The end never justifies the means.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“The LORD Bless You and Keep You”

Monday, August 21, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 5-8

Our “Read-Thru the Bible” plan brings us today to Numbers 5-8.  As noted in an earlier commentary, the early chapters of Numbers are for the purpose of organizing hundreds of thousands of men and women who for 400 years knew only the burdens of slavery.   God tasked Moses with the responsibility of bringing discipline to the Twelve Tribes of Israel and organizing them into a body that will become a nation.

Numbers 1:2-54 recorded a census of able-bodied males, 20 years and older, who were able to go to war (Numbers 1:2-54).   Numbers 2 provided an organizational map of Israel’s encampment with the Tabernacle representing the presence of God being the central focus of the tribes.   Numbers 3 records a census of the Levites, the priestly tribe and their responsibility for the Tabernacle is found in Numbers 4.

While the Commandments of the LORD are recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, the specifics for addressing disease and sin in the midst of the people is given in Numbers 5.  God desired that His people be a clean and holy people and the people were to be intolerant of sin in their midst.  Contagious diseases like leprosy were not trifled with and sin was confessed and restitution made where another had been injured (5:1-10).

Because marriage is a holy covenant between a man and woman instituted by God, the nation was intolerant of adultery and an adulterous man and woman would be put to death (5:11-31).

The law of the Nazarites is instituted in Numbers 6.  A man or woman taking the vow of a Nazarite was voluntarily setting themselves apart from lawful liberties and dedicating themselves to the LORD (6:1-8).  Because a Nazarite dedicated themselves to the LORD, they denied themselves the pleasures of “wine and strong drink…vinegar…[and] grapes” (6:3).   As an outward sign of his devotion to God, a Nazarite male did not cut his hair (6:5) and were forbidden to touch dead bodies (6:6-8).

Numbers 7 records the dedication of the Tabernacle, the altar, instruments and vessels employed in offering sacrifices and the sacrifices brought by the tribal leaders of Israel (Numbers 7:1-89).

Numbers 8:1-4 takes us into the inter-sanctum of the Tabernacle and the area that was veiled from all but the high priest and known as the “holy of holies”.  Within this sacred place there was a golden altar, a table, and a golden lampstand with seven candles.

While Aaron and his sons served God as priests, the tribe of Levi was consecrated to assist the priests and serve the people when they came to worship and offer sacrifices (Numbers 8:5-26).  The leaders of the tribes put their hands on the Levites identifying them as the substitute who would serve the LORD on their behalf (8:9-11).   Rather than the eldest son of each tribal family being set apart to serve as priest for the family, God chose the Levites to serve on their behalf (8:14-18).

I close this devotional acknowledging much of what you read might leave you at a loss for a personal application.  Consider the following lessons:

1) The LORD wants those who minister before His people to be a holy, consecrated people.  Although none are perfect or sinless, the church should hold its ministers, pastors and teachers to the highest standard knowing God would not require less.

2) Whether a Nazarite or a Levite, the privilege of serving the LORD required consecration and sacrifice.  I remind you God requires the same of us all when Paul writes:

Romans 12:1-2 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2  And 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.”

I close today’s commentary with a prayer for God to bless you, a prayer know as the Aaronic Blessing:

Numbers 6:24-26 – “The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: 25  The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: 26  The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Another Reminder: Character Does Matter!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Kings 21-25

Today’s devotional reading brings us to the final years before the destruction of Judah and the city of Jerusalem, and the people taken away captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar.  In a testimony of His love and longsuffering, the LORD sent His prophets to prophecy God’s judgment if the people continued in their wicked ways.  Rather than heed the words of the LORD and turn from their sins, the people waxed worse and worse.

As a reminder that character in leadership does matter, the opening verses of 2 Kings 21 give testimony of the ungodly influence of Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, who succeeded his father after he died.  While Hezekiah led Judah in revival (2 Kings 18:1-6), Manasseh did “evil in the sight of the LORD” (2 Kings 21:2), reviving the worship of idols, witchcraft, and sacrificing his own son (21:3-6).

The LORD sent His prophets to call the nation to repent of their sins and obey His commandments; however, the people “hearkened not: and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than did the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the children of Israel” (21:9).

Notice the phrase, “Manasseh seduced them to do more evil” (21:9). The wicked character of the king so influenced the people their wickedness exceeded the heathen who had not known the LORD or His commandments.

Friend, character does matter and the disciplines and character of a leader will inevitably influence a home, church, community, state and nation. The ungodly character of leaders in our churches, city and county councils, state and nation in the past fifty years has eroded the core values of our homes, churches, schools and nation. Like none other in my opinion, former President Barack Obama and his administration conducted a systematic warfare on spiritual and traditional family values from which, without a nationwide revival, our schools, communities and nation may never recover.

Returning to our study of 2 Kings 21, the LORD sent His prophets to warn the nation God had determined to deliver Judah to “become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies” (21:10-14).   Amon, a son of Manasseh, continued in his father’s wicked ways and was assassinated by his servants (21:20-23).

Proving every generation bears its individual responsibility before the LORD, Josiah, son of Amon and grandson of Manasseh, succeeded his father; however, he did not follow in his wicked ways. We read, Josiah “did that which was right in the sight of the LORD” (22:2).

Josiah’s reign offered a temporary reprieve from God’s judgment and the young king directed the repairing and spiritual and physical cleansing of the Temple (22:2-6).   A testimony of Josiah’s influence on the nation is the testimony of those repairing the Temple: “there was no reckoning made with them of the money that was delivered into their hand, because they dealt faithfully” (22:7).  You see, a leader’s character does matter!

Revealing how far the nation strayed from the LORD, workers discovered the Law of the LORD as they cleansed and repaired the Temple (22:8-10).  When the Law was read before Josiah, the king responded in an act of humility renting his clothes and commanding the priest and scribes to seek the will of the LORD concerning the nation (22:11-14).

Because he had humbled himself, God promised Josiah he would not see God’s judgment on Judah in his lifetime (22:15-20). Moved by God’s grace, Josiah commanded the reading of God’s Law before the nation’s leaders, made a covenant between himself and the LORD (23:1-3), and directed the destruction of idols and places of idolatry throughout the land (23:4-24).

Following Josiah’s death, the consequences of Judah’s sins fell upon the nation as God promised and a rapid succession of kings followed (23:31—37; 24:1-1-16) with Nebuchadnezzar decimating the nation removing not only its treasures, but also its leaders.

2 Kings 25 records the siege and destruction of Jerusalem and the final days of the nation.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

God’s Call to Holiness

Monday, July 17, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 16-18

After addressing the issue of leprosy (Leviticus 13-14), the opening verse of Leviticus 16 reminds us of a tragedy that occurred in the priesthood when two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, “offered strange [foreign] fire before the LORD, which He commanded [charged] them not” (Leviticus 10:1) and were slain for their sin against the LORD (Leviticus 10:2).

Reminding us the office of high priest was a holy office and Aaron’s ministry before the LORD on behalf of the people was a sacred duty; the LORD instructs Moses the high priest was only to enter the holy place, the “holy of holies”, once a year (16:2) on “the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month” (16:29).   The Day of Atonement, known as “Yom Kippur” and the “Sabbath of Sabbaths”, is the most holy day on the Jewish calendar and was the day the high priest offered sacrifices for nation’s sins against God.

The pattern of blood sacrifices was necessary to remind all sinners the penalty of sin is death and there is no forgiveness of sins apart from the shedding of blood, for “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).

Once a year and every year, the high priest offered sacrifices for the sins of the people.  Under the new covenant, this annual ritual is no longer needed following Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross for sin, His burial and resurrection from the dead. We read in the Book of Hebrews,

Hebrews 9:24-28 – “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
25  Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
26  For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
27  And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
28  So 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.”

Leviticus 17 continues the LORD’s instructions to Moses concerning sacrifices the priests were to offer for the people before the door of the tabernacle.   Thirteen times in chapter 17 the centrality of blood sacrifices for sin is mentioned and explicit instructions are given regarding the offerings to the LORD, including the prohibition regarding the consumption of blood (17:10-14).   For those curious regarding the meaning of “Kosher” meats; they are meats derived from animals slaughtered and the blood drained according to Biblical guidelines.

Morality and the sanctity of marriage is the subject of Leviticus 18:1-30 and one that should be a subject of teaching in the 21st century church.   Several moral issues are addressed including the prohibition of incest (18:6-19), adultery (18:20; Exodus 20:14), homosexuality (18:22), and bestiality (18:23).

The wicked immoral practices the people might remember from Egypt and the immorality that might observe in the new land were prohibited.  In other words, the world was not to be the standard of God’s people in conduct and lifestyle.  Israel was to not follow in the ways of Egypt and Canaan (Leviticus 18:3; 24-29).  The LORD commanded His people, “Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God” (18:4).  Excommunication from fellowship and living among the people was the judgment against any who chose to walk contrary to the law and commandments (18:29).

Friend, there was a time the church and God’s people set the moral standard for these United States and defined a godly lifestyle according God’s Word, law and commandments.   It troubles me to observe the average Christian home in America has an appetite for the world and looks to society, politicians, judges, and liberal media for their moral judgments.  Our homes, churches and schools will not be blessed until we allow our consciences to be disciplined by God’s Word, law and commandments (18:30).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The Commonality of Leprosy and Sin

Monday, July 10, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 13-15

The ancient scourge of leprosy is the subject of Leviticus 13-14.  Leprosy known today as “Hansen’s Disease” (HD); is a bacterial, infectious disease.  Leprosy is treatable, even curable in the 21st century; however, in ancient times it was a dreaded disease not only feared, but also inevitably leading to its victims separation from society and assignment to leper colonies.

In Leviticus 13, the LORD directs Moses and Aaron in the steps He required to address leprosy in Israel including diagnosing the disease and the exclusion of lepers from the tribes of Israel (Leviticus 13:1-59).   Lepers were required to cry out, “Unclean, unclean” (13:45), warning any who approached they were carriers of the disease.

Should the leper be deemed healed of the disease, steps and sacrifices are prescribed in Leviticus 14 to insure the legitimacy of the healing and the purification of the leper.  After following the prescribed rituals for purification, the leper was deemed clean and restored to the fellowship of his family and nation (14:9-32).

As a point of application, leprosy is the physical disease God chose to illustrate the infectious danger of sin among his people.  Notice in chapter 13 the number of times leprosy is described as “unclean” (13:3, 8, 11, 14, 15, 20, 22, 25, 27, 30, 36, 44, 45, 46, 51, 55, 59).  Leprosy is more than a surface issue of the skin and the outward man; leprosy inevitably effects the tissues, nerves and eventually causes the extremities to rot and decay.  In a real sense, it so scarred the body it was well-nigh an unbearable ugliness.

Such is the way of sin.  Liberals would have us believe man is born innocent and it is man’s environment (i.e. home, society, religion) that is the cause of man’s societal deprivations.  Rather than innocence, God’s Word declares, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).  The apostle Paul, likening sin to a physical ailment writes, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18).

At the heart of problems in our society is the problem of sinful hearts.  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: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man” (Matthew 15:19-20).

Without a human cure for leprosy, lepers hoped for a miraculous healing, a divine intervention that would be verified by examination and sacrificial offerings (Leviticus 14).

In the same way, mankind has no cure for sin.  Twenty-first century society, doctors and judges prescribe counseling, psychiatry and drug-therapy for lawbreakers and prisoners deemed to have “mental-disorders”; however, these all fall short of addressing the heart of the issue, which is the issue of the heart.

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 placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.  It is for this reason Jesus Christ bore the penalty of our sins on the cross. In the words of the prophet Isaiah,

Isaiah 53:4-5 – “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5  But he 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.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

An imbalanced emphasis on “Grace” and “Liberty” has encouraged a culture of carnality and produced lawless believers.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezekiel 19-24

Dear “From the Heart of a Shepherd” readers,

Today’s devotional reading is Ezekiel 19-24. I may have opportunity to post a devotional commentary before this day passes; however, in the absence of one I encourage you to read my past posts on the Book of Ezekiel as an introduction to today’s scripture reading.

On a personal note, I am preparing to preach both Hillsdale’s 10:30 AM and 6:00 PM worship services this Sunday and need to devote my thoughts and energies to preparation.  I am continuing my series on “Lessons of Faith from the Life of Abraham” in Hillsdale’s 6:00 PM services; however, I am beginning an entirely new series in Hillsdale’s 10:30 AM services.

The topic of my new Sunday morning series is “The Commandments of the LORD”.   The impetus for the series is a brief command, the third part of the Great Commission recorded in Matthew 28:20– Teaching [i.e. to learn; instruct] them to observe [hold; keep; preserve; watch; guard] all things [everything; all manner] whatsoever [all; as many as] I have commanded [charged; give commandment] you…”

Two questions have haunted me for the past two weeks.  The first, What “all things” were the disciples to teach (Matthew 28:20)?   The second, What had the LORD commanded His disciples that they were to be “teaching” believers in “all nations” to “observe” (Matthew 28:19)?

The answer to those questions is essential to the mission of the church and the individual responsibility we share as members of the body of Christ.  I have heard hundreds of messages on Matthew 28:19-20 and referred to them myself hundreds of times; however, I cannot recall anyone systematically addressing the commandments the LORD’s disciples were to teach others to observe (Matthew 28:20).

I propose an imbalanced emphasis on “Grace” and “Liberty” in Bible fundamental churches has encouraged a culture of carnality and produced lawless believers.  It is my observation the carnal condition of today’s fundamental churches, Bible colleges, Universities, and Christian institutions is directly related to the failure of pastors, preachers, evangelists and Bible teachers to do exactly what the LORD commanded: Teach the commandments of the LORD and teach believers to “observe” them (Matthew 28:20a).

Thus, I have begun an in depth study of the commandments of the LORD and am compiling what the disciples were to teach believers to observe, keep and guard.  Some will attack me and my premise that we are failing to fulfill the Great Commission if we are not teaching our churches the commandments of the LORD, exhorting and admonishing believers to observe them.

I answer that criticism with the words of our LORD:  “If ye love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15).

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“If it ain’t holy, don’t do it!”

Monday, July 03, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 10-12

In our last reading in Leviticus, Aaron and his sons were ceremoniously consecrated to the priesthood (Leviticus 8-9).  What a glorious day it was for all Israel when Aaron blessed the people, offered sacrifices and “the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people” (Leviticus 9:23)!  The LORD displayed His presence and approval when “there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat” (Leviticus 9:24) and “all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces” (9:24b).

One would hope that blessed display of God’s favor might continue with all Israel maintaining a perpetual spirit of humility and obedience before the LORD; however, such was not the case.  Tragedy soon fell upon the tribes of Israel when “Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange [foreign] fire before the LORD, which He commanded [charged] them not” (Leviticus 10:1).

What great sorrow that priests would sin against the LORD.  We are not told the motive or reason the eldest sons of Aaron offered “strange fire”; however, we read it was not “commanded” by the LORD.  My own speculation is, given the infancy of the priestly office and the privilege of the priesthood; pride moved the sons of Aaron to exalt themselves before the people.  Whatever the motive, the LORD was swift to judge these earthly representatives of His heavenly throne and “there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD” (10:2).

Aaron, the father of Nadab and Abihu, was no doubt devastated by the sinful actions of his sons and their deaths.  Moses reminded Aaron the LORD sanctified the priesthood and demanded He alone be glorified before the people.  Of Aaron we read, he “held his peace” (10:3), meaning he was silent.

The LORD commanded the bodies of Nadab and Abihu be taken outside the camp for burial (10:4-5); and, lest the people be tempted to sorrow and grieve over the deaths of those who sinned against the LORD, God warned Aaron, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s surviving sons, to not make a public display of their sorrow before the people (10:6-7) and to remain at the “door of the tabernacle” (10:7).

Priests were not to drink wine or strong drink when they ministered before the LORD (10:8-10).  Of the sacrifices offered before the LORD, a portion was to serve as meat for Aaron and his sons (10:12-15).

God instructed Moses and Aaron regarding meat the children of Israel could eat and the meat they were forbidden to eat (Leviticus 11).   Large beasts that are “clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud” (11:3) were acceptable; however, beasts that are not were forbidden.  Examples of forbidden beasts are the camel (11:4), “the coney…the hare” (11:5-6) and “the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you” (11:7).

Leviticus 11:9-23 lists other meats acceptable and forbidden, including fish (11:9-12), birds (11:13-20) and insects (11:21-23). Leviticus 12 instructs women regarding ceremonial purification following childbirth (12:1-8).

I close today’s devotional commentary pondering what “strange fire” (10:1-7) is present in American churches today under the pretense of worship.  When the goal of worship services is excitement and entertainment as opposed to hallowed and holy, I suggest what many call worship is nothing less than “strange fire”.

If pride motivated Aaron’s sons to offer incense without the LORD’s command (and I believe it was); then what must the LORD see when “worship” leaders and music groups lead an audience with music that has an overriding rock beat moving the audience to cavort about under the guise of worship?

Friend, God commands His people to be holy, because He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16) and we are to be imitators of Christ and not imitators of the world (1 Peter 1:14; Romans 12:2).  If what we call worship looks like the world and acts like the world, it is not holy!

In other words, “If it ain’t holy, don’t do it!”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith