Tag Archives: Stewardship

The Levites: The Ministers and Musicians of the LORD (1 Chronicles 6)

Daily reading assignment – 1 Chronicles 6

1 Chronicles 6 – The Priestly Tribe of Levi and Their Cities

Our chronological reading of the Scriptures brings us today to 1 Chronicles 6.  A reminder: the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles is largely dedicated to the genealogical record of the sons of Jacob (i.e. Israel) and the Twelve Tribes of their lineage.

1 Chronicles 6 gives us the lineage of the priestly tribe of Levi that included Aaron, Moses, and Miriam (6:1-53).  The cities assigned to the Levites in the midst of the tribal lands belonging to the Twelve Tribes are also noted (6:54-81).

The Levite family of Aaron (and his sons) who would serve as high priest is listed (1 Chronicles 6:1-15).

To Levi, the third-born son of Jacob, were born three sons: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari (6:1). Of Kohath, the second-born son of Levi, are named three in his lineage: Aaron, Moses, and Miriam(6:3a). Aaron, of course, is the bloodline for all legitimate heirs to serve the LORD and Israel as high priest.

Aaron was father of four sons: Nadab and Abihu were slain when they offered “strange fire” before the LORD (Leviticus 10:1). Aaron had two other sons, Eleazar and Ithamar (6:3). When Aaron died, his eldest son Eleazar was chosen to become high priest, and the high-priestly line passed through his lineage (6:4-15; Exodus 6:25; Judges 20:28).

A Record of Names and Cities Registered to the Levites (1 Chronicles 6:16-81)

Unlike the other tribes that were assigned their inheritance of land in Canaan with detailed boundaries, the tribe of Levi’s inheritance was not land but their privilege of serving the LORD and the nation as His priests.  Every tribe was to allot cities to the tribe of Levi for the Levites to live in the midst of the nation.

Some might be interested in the genealogies of three Levite musicians: Heman (6:33), Asaph (6:39), the author of Psalm 50, 73-83), and Ethan (6:42-44). They and their sons were ministering in the Tabernacle during David’s era and in the Temple during Solomon’s reign.

1 Chronicles 6:31-3231 And these are they whom David set over the service of song in the house of the LORD, after that the ark had rest. 32  And they ministered before the dwelling place of the tabernacle of the congregation with singing, until Solomon had built the house of the LORD in Jerusalem: and then they waited on their office according to their order.”

I invite you to notice that dedicated musicians and choirs were an important part of worship from the time of the Tabernacle and through the Temple-age.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Ever Feel Like Complaining, “Life’s Not Fair”? (Psalms 73, 77-78)

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 73, 77-78

Today’s Scripture reading consists of three chapters in the Book of Psalms, however, our devotional commentary will focus on only Psalm 73.

Psalm 73 – “A Psalm of Asaph”

Asaph was a priest and musician in King David’s court (1 Chronicles 6:39; 15:19; 16:7) and the author of Psalm 50 and Psalms 73-83. Psalm 73 is a psalm of praise to the LORD and a testimony of Asaph’s journey of faith. Asaph opens the psalm with an affirmation of God’s goodness asserting:

Psalm 73:1 – “Truly [i.e. Only; Certainly] God is good [lit. only good] to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.”

Unlike sinful men of whom it is said, “there is none that doeth good” (Psalm 14:1; Romans 3:12), God is wholly, absolutely good, and there is no evil or sin present in Him.  The first verse of Asaph’s song declares an immutable truth: God is only good to Israel and to all who are of “a clean heart” (meaning pure, innocent and sincere heart).

Psalm 73:2 commences a series of candid observations and humble confessions on Asaph’s part. Describing his spiritual struggles, Asaph confessed he was on the brink of backsliding (73:2) when he observed how the wicked seem to prosper in their sin (73:3). While the righteous struggled, it seemed to Asaph that the wicked were not “plagued (troubled) like other men” (73:5).

In spite of God’s promises and goodness (73:1), Asaph wondered how the wicked could oppress others, speak against heaven, and “increase in riches” (73:8-12). In other words, while Asaph’s heart told him to “trust the LORD,” his feelings cried, “It’s not fair!” Asaph appeared to be on the crisp of quitting when he decried, “the ungodly…prosper…[and] I have cleansed my heart in vain” (73:12-13).

Have you ever felt life is not fair? Ever wish you could quit?  If not yet, you will certainly wrestle with that temptation one day.  Unfortunately, there are many who have done that very thing. They quit and walked away from marriage, family, friends, church, and ministry. For a season they may appear relieved and happy, until the ripple effect of their decision invariably catches up with them and their loved ones.

Asaph, wrestling with his conflicting thoughts and emotions, appeared ready to turn from the LORD, until he weighed the consequences of his decision and the offense it might be to the next generation (73:15-16). The pain and sorrow his abandonment would inflict on others motivated Asap to go to and enter the “the sanctuary of God” (at this time, the tabernacle).

It was in the LORD’s presence that his perspective on the wicked and their end changed (73:17-20). Asaph confessed, “my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins (i.e. pierced within his soul)” (73:21).

With his heart renewed and his eyes fixed on eternity, Asaph remembered the prosperity of the wicked was temporal (73:27). With his faith in the LORD restored and his desire to serve Him renewed (73:28), Asaph concluded his song with what should be the aspiration of every believer:

 

Psalm 73:28 – “But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the LORD GOD that I may declare all thy works.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Three Affirmations Concerning the Faithfulness of God (Joshua 19-21)

Daily reading assignment: Joshua 19-21

Joshua 19 – A selfless, godly leader

The business of dividing the Promised Land and assigning portions to the seven tribes (18:2-3) that had not yet taken possession of their inheritance continues in Joshua 19.

After dividing the land according to tribe, Joshua was the last to receive his inheritance. Honoring him for his years of faithful service, the “children of Israel gave an inheritance to Joshua… [and]they gave him the city which he asked, even Timnathserah in mount Ephraim: and he built the city, and dwelt therein” (19:49-50).

A word of caution: Don’t make the mistake of glibly passing over the names of cities and territories listed in Joshua 19 and miss an important lesson. Although the names of the cities may be foreign and difficult to pronounce, they remind us of an important truth: God fulfilled His promise, and Israel was settled in her land.

Joshua 20 – Cities of Refuge for the Innocent Accused of Murder

The LORD commanded Joshua to establish six “cities of refuge” in the land (20:1-2). Moses had already assigned three cities on the east side of the Jordan River (20:8; Deuteronomy 4:41-43). To those three remaining Joshua designated three cities west of the Jordan (20:7).

Reflecting the sanctity of human life and the principle of capital punishment established by God (Genesis 9:5-6; Exodus 20), the cities of refuge afforded a safe place for those who had unintentionally taken the life of another man (20:3-4).  Because there was no law enforcement, the cities of refuge provided a place where a man’s case could be judged by the elders of the city and his life protected from those who felt compelled to avenge the death of a loved one (20:5).

Two regulations governed who might find refuge from an avenger (20:6). The first was the responsibility of the inhabitants of the city to determine if a man was guilty or innocent of murder. If guilty, the accused would be turned over to the avenger. If innocent of murder, but guilty of manslaughter, the accused must remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest.

Joshua 21 – Cities Assigned to the Tribe of Levi

We have been reminded on several occasions that the priestly tribe of Levi would not receive its own land.  Serving the LORD and the congregation, the Levites’ physical needs were to be met by the sacrificial gifts of God’s people.

The tribe of Levi requested the cities they had been promised for their inheritance in the land (Joshua 21:1-3) and were assigned forty-eight cities, by family, and scattered throughout the tribal lands (21:4-42).  It was the ministry of the Levites to minister to the people and teach them the Word and Law of God (2 Chronicles 17:9).

I invite you to consider three affirmations concerning the faithfulness of God as we close today’s commentary.

1) The LORD gave Israel “all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers” (21:43).

2) He gave the nation victory over her enemies and “gave them rest” (21:44).

3) Not one “good thing” the LORD had promised failed (21:45).

What a great and faithful God we serve!

2 Corinthians 1:2020  For all [every one of] the promises of God in him [Christ] are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.

Copyright 2020– Travis D. Smith

Slackers Stumble, but the Faithful Claim God’s Promises (Joshua 16-18)

Scripture Reading – Joshua 16-18

Today’s devotional reading does not have the drama of battle or the clash of personalities we have observed in earlier chapters. For the Twelve Tribes of Israel, this begins the division of the Promised Land after the heathen, idolatrous people were driven out of Canaan.

We have considered the land assigned to the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and the half-tribe of Manasseh on the east side of the Jordan River (Joshua 12:6, 13:8, 15, 23-32). Of course, the Levites would receive no land for an inheritance, but the tribes would allot them cities and land in their midst for their service to the LORD (13:33; 14:3-5). The tribe of Judah was assigned its land (14:6; 15:1-63).

Joseph, the eleventh born son of Jacob, was abundantly blessed for his faithfulness to the LORD in Egypt, and his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, born in Egypt, were each given their own inheritance in the land (Joshua 16:1-4). The inheritance of the tribe of Ephraim, Joseph’s younger son, is outlined (16:1-10) as well as the failure of the tribe to drive out “the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer” (16:10).

Joshua 17

The tribe of Manasseh, Joseph’s eldest son, received a double portion, not only a portion of the land on the east side of Jordan, but also on the west side of Jordan (17:1-18). Two daughters, born to a father who had no sons and therefore no male heir, had petitioned Moses, and Joseph was reminded they ought to receive an inheritance in the absence of a male heir (17:3-4). Like Ephraim, we notice the failure of Manasseh to “drive out the inhabitants” of the land (17:12-13).

A humorous exchange takes place between Joshua and Ephraim and Manasseh when those tribes complained they were not receiving a rightful portion of land based on the size of their tribes (17:14-18). Joshua challenged them to go to war against the “Perizzites” and the “giants” in the land and claim the land for their children (17:15). Joshua refused to accept their protests and challenged them a second time, “Thou art a great people, and hast power” (17:17-18).

Joshua 18

The LORD commanded the Tabernacle to be erected in Shiloh where it would remain throughout the era of the Judges (18:1). The narrative concerning the dividing of the land among the twelve tribes continues in Joshua 18.  Seven tribes had failed to claim their land and Joshua confronted them saying, “How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which the LORD God of your fathers hath given you?” (18:3)

Joshua then set forth a plan for dividing up the remaining territories among the seven remaining tribes (18:4-28).  He challenged them to survey the land and come back with a description of the towns and the land to be divided up at the Tabernacle in Shiloh (18:10).  The tribe of Benjamin was also assigned its land with its boundaries stated (18:11-28).

Half-hearted (18:2-3), what a tragic flaw of humanity we see in the seven tribes that we too often see in ourselves! The land was at peace and theirs to claim and settle, and yet they were slackers. They failed to take and possess what the LORD had given them!

Let us not be numbered among the spiritually half-hearted slackers.  May we, like Joshua, be diligent in following the LORD’s commands, claim the blessings that come from faithfulness, and rest in His love, promises, and bountiful care.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

An Obituary: “The Greatest of Men Have Their Appointment with Death” (Deuteronomy 32-34; Psalm 91)

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 32-34; Psalm 91

Deuteronomy 32 – The Elegy of Moses

The Lord commanded Moses to write and teach the nation of Israel a song (Deuteronomy 31:19-22); the purpose of the song was to memorialize the LORD’S covenant with the people, and remind them of His promises. As a song, the words would serve as “a witness for [the LORD] against the children of Israel” (31:19). While some foolishly dismiss the law and commandments today and contend they are irrelevant; the fact is they serve for us as a reminder that God is holy and requires the same of His people.

Deuteronomy 32:1-43 records the words and message of the song Moses was to teach to the people before his death. Verses 1-2 serve as the introduction to the song and admonishes the people to “give ear,” listen up, open your ears.

Notice a contrast is drawn between the character of the LORD and the character of the people He had chosen (32:5-6).

The LORD is described as the “Rock,” and compared to the vastness of a great boulder, a mountain, a place of refuge. He is perfect in His work. His judgment is truth, without sin or prejudice. He is a just, righteous God (32:5).

The people, however, were “corrupted,” decaying, dirty, wasting, and perverse (32:5-6). The LORD had blessed them with His loving favor; however, Israel was a rebellious nation (32:6).

Moses invited the children of Israel to remember the LORD had preserved them from generations past, and even before they existed as a nation, He counted them as His people (32:7-9). Like an eagle stirs up her nest and protects her young with her wings, the LORD had watched over, loved, disciplined, and provided for Israel as a father (32:10-14).

Yet for all the good the LORD had done for them, the nation had rebelled and turned from Him to worship idols (32:15-18), and provoked the LORD to jealousy (32:19-43). When Moses’ song was finished, He challenged the people to “observe to do, all the words of this law” (32:44-47).

The LORD then commanded Moses to go up into the mountain where he would see the “land of Canaan” as God had promised and there he would die and “be gathered unto thy [his] people” (32:48-50). Moses was reminded he had sinned against the LORD and would not be allowed to accompany Israel into the Promised Land (32:51-52).

Deuteronomy 33 – The Blessing of Moses

Before Moses went up into the mountain he graced the people with words of blessing and affirmation (33:1-3) and reminded them how the LORD had been with them and established His covenant with the nation.

The Twelve Tribes of Israel are individually named and each received its own blessing from Moses (33:6-25). His blessings being ended, Moses rejoiced in the LORD’s care of His people and reminded them God was their refuge, their fortress, their security (33:26-27). He promised them the land would be fruitful because the LORD had chosen to bless them and He alone could preserve them (33:28-29).

Deuteronomy 34 – The Death of Moses

What an incredible, intimate moment we are permitted to share when the LORD takes Moses up mount Nebo (34:1), and the faithful old servant is shown by God the land He had promised Israel for an inheritance. We read,

Deuteronomy 34:44  And the LORD said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.

Moses died that day and the LORD buried him “in a valley in the land of Moab…but no man knoweth of his sepulchre” (34:6). Some suggest the LORD, not man, burying the body of Moses was intended to preserve it from decay. I believe the place Moses was buried was never revealed lest some in Israel be tempted to memorialize the man, and not the God he served.

Though old in years, the scriptures indicate God had preserved Moses from some of the ravages of old age; “his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated” (34:7).

Moses never came down from the mount and for thirty days (34:8) the people mourned His death. There was never again a prophet-leader like Moses “whom the LORD knew face to face” (34:10-12). His passing was not only the passing of a man, it was also the passing of an era. God had already chosen and prepared Joshua, a man “full of the spirit of wisdom” (34:9), to lead Israel into the Promised Land

When the days of mourning were past, the LORD gave Joshua the command, “arise, go over this Jordan” (Joshua 1:2).

Psalm 91 – Providentially, my scripture text for this Sunday morning’s message to the Hillsdale church family is Psalm 91.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Whole Duty of Man (Deuteronomy 8-10)

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 8-10

Remembering Israel is at the entrance to the Promised Land, and knowing he will not accompany them when they invade, one senses an urgency in Moses’ challenge to the people.

It was important for those who stood before Moses to remember how the LORD had sustained them as a nation. Remember His commandments and providential care. Remember He had preserved them, even down to their raiment and sandals (8:4). Remember, as a father chastens the son he loves, the LORD had chastened and tried them (8:5) that they might fear and revere Him as their God (8:6).

Knowing the land was all the Lord promised (8:7-9); Moses warned that some would forget the LORD and boast in their hearts, “My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth” (8:14-17).

Is that not like you and me? When we are in trouble, facing trials and have needs, we earnestly call out to the LORD. However, when we have no needs and there is no crisis, we are tempted to be proud and self-sufficient.

Moses reminded the people the land the LORD promised to give them was occupied by nations “greater and mightier” (9:1-2) than Israel.  The LORD promised to give Israel victory, not because they were more righteous or powerful than their enemies, but because the LORD was with them (9:3-5).

Moses reviewed several historical examples of how difficult and proud the people had been during their forty-year journey in the wilderness. He rehearsed how their wickedness had provoked him to wrath and he had cast the LORD’s Commandments to the ground (9:17). When the LORD threatened to destroy the nation in his wrath, Moses had interceded and God answered His prayer and spared the nation (9:7-29).

Deuteronomy 10 continues Moses’ account of the LORD’S mercy and Him renewing His covenant and inscribing His Commandments on stone a second time (10:1-5). Moses challenged the people to obey the LORD with five imperatives:

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 – “And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fearthe LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, 13  To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?”

Who is the God of Israel (10:14-22)?

He is the Creator (10:14).  He is “God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible [i.e. to be feared]”.  He is Just (10:15-18).

The LORD could have chosen any nation; however, He chose Abraham and his lineage.  He chose Israel, not because they were greater (for the LORD “regardeth not persons”), but in an act of grace He chose to “love them” (10:15, 17).

What was Israel’s duty in light of God’s grace and love? (10:20)

Solomon summed up a believer’s duty in this:

Ecclesiastes 12:13 – “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Charge to Joshua and a Challenge to Israel (Deuteronomy 3-4)

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 3-4

Moses rehearsed with Israel the LORD’S faithfulness in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 2-3:17).  He reminded Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh (the tribes that had chosen the land on the east side of the Jordan) of their covenant with the nation to go to war with their brethren (3:18-20).

Yearning for the LORD to grant him a reprieve, Moses prayed he might be permitted an opportunity to enter the Promised Land (3:23-25). The LORD, however, denied Moses his request and commanded him to “speak no more” of it (3:26).  True to God’s nature, in an act of grace Moses was promised an opportunity to see the land (3:27).  Sin had cut short Moses’ leadership and the consequences were a lesson for all Israel to heed (4:21-22).

Joshua, Moses’ successor, must now take up his mantle and lead Israel into the Promised Land. As a final act of leadership before he is taken, the LORD commanded Moses to “charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see” (3:28).

Accepting the LORD’s prohibition on entering the Promised Land, Moses challenged the people to hear and obey the statutes and judgments of the LORD (4:1).  Unlike any other nation, Israel was chosen by the LORD and were custodians of His Laws and Commandments (4:2-20).

All that the LORD had promised, He wished to fulfill; however, the covenant He had established was conditioned on the nation’s heeding and keeping the vows they had made.

Lest the people be disheartened, Moses acknowledged he would not accompany them into their inheritance for, “I must die in this land, I must not go over Jordan” (4:21-22).

Who is Israel’s God? 

He is a “consuming fire, even a jealous God” (4:24). He is merciful, longsuffering, and forgiving (4:29-31). He is man’s Creator and the God of heaven (4:32).  He is God alone, and “there is none else beside Him” (4:35).  He is Sovereign of heaven and earth (4:39). He is just and ready to pour out His blessings on those who obey His law and commandments (4:40).

Moses was aware his days on the earth were ending and he would soon perish. Choosing not to wallow in self-pity, he challenged and encouraged the people to remember the LORD’s providences and claim His promises.

Words and example matter, and some of the most powerful words you will ever speak are parting words.

May your words be Truth and seasoned with grace.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith