Tag Archives: Stewardship

You Think You Own It? Think Again! (Leviticus 25)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 25

Leviticus 25 is the close of the Lord giving Moses His Law and Commandments on Mount Sinai (25:1). This chapter is a fascinating study in God requiring Israel to obey His Law, have faith in His promises, and His promise to bless His people, conditioned upon their obedience.

The Sabbath Year (25:1-7)

We have considered the commandment to keep the Sabbath in earlier devotionals (Exodus 20:8-10; Leviticus 23:3). The Sabbath of the LORD being a day of rest, and worship that would follow six days of labor. Leviticus 25 introduces the “Sabbath Year,” which was to be observed every seventh year (25:2-7).

The Sabbath Year was to be a year of rest, not only for the farmers, but also their lands. The people were instructed to labor in the fields six years, and on the seventh year they were not to sow seed, prune their vineyards, or harvest any fruits or vegetables that volunteered, and “groweth of its own accord” (25:3-7). The farmer was forbidden to harvest the fruit that volunteered the seventh year; however, the poor, servants, laborers, and strangers were allowed to harvest that which grew “of its own accord” (25:5).

The Jubilee Year (25:8-17) occurred on the Hebraic calendar every fifty years, and followed “seven sabbaths of years” or forty-nine years (25:8). It was to the people a year of “Jubilee” (25:8-13), a year of freedom, and an additional Sabbath. The effect was that the lands and vineyards remained idle for two years, the forty-ninth and fiftieth years (25:11).

The Year of Jubilee began on the Day of Atonement (25:9) and its beginning was marked by the sound of the trumpet. The Year of Jubilee signaled the redemption of a man’s debts, especially for those who may have owed monies for the sake of providing for their families. Every man’s possession was restored to his family in the Year of Jubilee (25:10).

To ensure justice was satisfied, and neither insurer or the debtor was “oppressed,” the value of a man’s land was determined by the balance of years before the next jubilee, when the lands would be returned to the debtor (25:13-16). To ensure justice and fairness in transactions, the LORD commanded, “17Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the Lord your God” (25:17).

The failure to sow seed on the Sabbath Year meant there would be no harvest at the end of the seventh year, and no harvest the eighth year until seed was planted, and there was fruit from their labor (25:18-22). The Jubilee Year, which followed a Sabbath Year, meant that Israelites would not plant or harvest crops the forty-ninth, and the fiftieth year.

What was the LORD’S answer for this dilemma? He promised the Sabbath Year, and the Jubilee Year would be abundantly blessed, if the people would “do [His] statutes, and keep [His] judgments…[they would] dwell in the land in safety. 19And the land [would] yield [its] fruit” and they would be filled, “and dwell therein in safety” (25:18-19).

Laws Concerning Real Estate (25:23-34)

Poverty or illness would sometimes force a family to sell their lands. God, however, made provision to recover the lands that were sold in three ways:

A brother or next of kin could buy back the land that had been sold (25:25). The original owner could redeem his land (25:26-27). The land would be restored to the original owner in the Year of Jubilee (25:28).

There was provision for selling a house, and stipulations if the house was located in a walled city, or in a village where the lands were also considered part of the house (25:29-31). The Levites, because they were the priestly tribe, had protections from the loss of lands, for their lands were not to be sold (25:32-35).

Laws Against Usury (25:35-38)

The poor were to be helped, and God prohibited charging them interest (some will argue high interest). God demanded that the poor be treated fairly. As He had extended grace to Israel, and delivered them out of slavery, the LORD commanded His people extend grace to one another.

Laws Concerning Servitude (25:39-55)

An Israelite might fall on hard times, and to pay his debt, become a bondslave (25:39). No Israelite, however, was to be left without hope. On the Year of Jubilee, all debtors, and Israelite slaves were set free (25:39-43). Strangers (non-Israelites); however, would not be released from their debts (25:44-46). Furthermore, an Israelite could be redeemed from slavery at any time (25:48-49). Once again, insuring justice and fairness, the “price of a [man’s] redemption was based upon the number of years to the Year of Jubilee (25:50-55).

The Sabbath and Jubilee years are foreign to our culture; however, there are principles found in Leviticus 25 that should not be ignored.

The Sabbath year was “a Sabbath unto the LORD” (25:2) and an acknowledgement that the LORD blesses and prospers His people. The Sabbath year served as an opportunity to reflect on the LORD’S goodness and provision for His people. We are reminded that we are sojourners in this world, and temporal owners of the things we possess. The LORD instructed His people, The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me” (25:23).

We are sojourners in the world, and the wise keep their affections focused on the eternal, and not the temporal.

Matthew 6:20-21  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Old Testament Sacrifices, and What They Teach Us About God’s Character (Leviticus 2-3)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 2-3

Having introduced the Book of Leviticus in an earlier post, we turn our attention to today’s Scripture reading, Leviticus 2-3. The first sacrificial offering described in Leviticus was the “burnt offering” (1:1-17). It consisted of an animal that was sacrificed for sin, “a male without blemish,” and either a bull (1:5), sheep or goat (1:10), or a fowl, either a turtledove or young pigeon” (1:14).

Leviticus 2 – The Law of the Meat Offering

Leviticus 2 introduces the second sacrifice, the “meat offering,” but a better translation would be “meal” or grain offering. “The “meat offering” was a non-blood sacrifice, and consisted of raw grain (“fine flour”), oil, and frankincense (2:1). Also known as an oblation (meaning “gift” or present), it was a voluntary offering of which the priests would take a portion for their families, and the rest was offered as a burnt offering (2:2-3).

There was also a “meat offering” that consisted of bread baked in an oven (2:4), cooked in a pan (2:5-6), or made in a frying pan (2:7). A portion of those offerings were also to be used by the priests for their households (2:8-10).

The meat or meal offerings were never to be offered with leaven (which is a symbol of sin in the Scriptures), or honey, perhaps because flour baked with honey will spoil and sour (2:11).

There was also the “oblation of the firstfruits” (2:12), which was a voluntary offering of faith. Sacrificed to the LORD, the first-fruits of the harvest was a testimony of faith in His continued provision (2:12-16).

Leviticus 3 – The Law of the Peace Offering

The third offering was a “sacrifice of peace offering” and was a blood offering.  Unlike the “burnt offerings,” the “peace offerings” could be male or female; however, the standard, “without blemish,” applied and the priests would have inspected the offerings to insure they were acceptable sacrifices (3:1, 12).

There was the offering of the herd, either a bull or heifer, or the offering of the flock, a lamb (3:6-7), or a goat (3:12). As with the “burnt offering,” the worshipper would “lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle” (3:2, 8, 13).  The priests would then sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the altar, and burn it on the altar (3:5, 11, 16).

In conclusion, consider the LORD’S standard for sacrifices: “without blemish” (3:1, 6).

Sacrificial offerings were to be of the highest quality.  I am sure the temptation for some was as it is today, to give the LORD something, but not necessarily the best.  The apostle Paul had the same “without blemish” standard in mind when he wrote:

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.”

The LORD required the best in sacrifices, and He requires no less of believers today.  Our lives are to be “holy, acceptable unto God” (Romans 12:1). Holy, sanctified, set apart and dedicated to the LORD.  Acceptable, pleasing and conforming to the will of God.

Anything less is unacceptable!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

An Introduction to Leviticus (Leviticus 1)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 1

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Our chronological Scripture reading schedule brings us to the Book of Leviticus, the third book of the five books of the Old Testament known as the Pentateuch. Leviticus is as its name implies, a book that directed the Levites in their priestly duties. Worship, offering of sacrifices, festivals, and matters of the Law are all addressed in Leviticus.

The following is a brief outline of the Book of Leviticus: 1) Leviticus 1-7 presents the laws that were to be followed in sacrificial offerings. 2) The consecration, and ministry of the Aaronic priesthood is the topic of Leviticus 8-10. 3) The distinction between animals deemed clean and unclean is the subject of Leviticus 11-15. 4) Leviticus 17-25 serves as a reminder that the holiness of God demanded the same of His people when they approached Him in worship and offering sacrifices. Remember, the sacrifices specified in Leviticus were a prefigure of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. He was the perfect, complete, “once, and for all” sacrifice for our sins (Hebrews 10:10).

The LORD Ordered the Starts and Stops of Israel. (Exodus 40)

The LORD’S glory, whose presence was signified in a cloud that descended, and “covered the tent of the congregation,” had “filled the Tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34). The cloud was a visible testament to the LORD’S presence in Israel. In the day, the cloud rested upon the Tabernacle. At night, God’s presence was seen as “fire…in the sight of all the house of Israel” (Exodus 40:38). Reminded that the LORD, not man, dictated the starts and stops of His people, “when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: 37But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up” (Exodus 40:36-37).

Leviticus 1 – The Laws and Ordinances for Burnt Offerings

The LORD, having filled the Tabernacle with His glory (Exodus 40:34), “called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, 2Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock” (Leviticus 1:1-2).

Guidelines Concerning Burnt Offerings (1:1-17)

The first offering required in Leviticus was the “burnt offering,” and it was to be “a male without blemish,” and either a bull (1:5), sheep or goat (1:10), or a fowl, either a turtledove or young pigeon” (1:14). These, the children of Israel were to bring to the courtyard of the Tabernacle. Placing their “hand upon the head” of the sacrifice, the worshipper identified that animal’s death as the substitutionary sacrifice for his sin (1:4-5, 10, 14-15).

The sacrifice was then killed, and processed as described by the law. The priest would then take the blood of the sacrifice, and sprinkle it on the altar (1:5, 11). Flaying, and cutting the animal, the priest would lay the pieces on the fire of the altar (1:12-13).

I conclude today’s study with a word of exhortation.

Many 21st century believers dismiss an Old Testament book like Leviticus, supposing it has no application to their lives. Don’t make that mistake. If believers examined their worship in light of the precepts, and principles derived from the Commandments, Laws, and Ordinances, much of today’s carnality would be eradicated.

Leviticus 26:3-4, 12 – “3If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; 4Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit…12And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Half-hearted Worship is Unacceptable to the LORD! (Exodus 39-40)

Scripture reading – Exodus 39-40

As we conclude our study of the Book of Exodus, one fact on which we should reflect is the LORD’s detailed descriptions that were part of planning a place for worship and sacrifice to Israel’s God.

Several recent chapters in our study (Exodus 25-40) were almost entirely devoted to the features of the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant and its Mercy Seat, the Lampstand, the Altar of Incense, the Table for the bread, and various implements within and without the Tabernacle. The LORD also provided Moses specific details for the Courtyard, its Brazen Altar, and the fount that would serve the priests as a washing station for their hands and feet.

Exodus 39 – The “Holy Garments” of the High Priest

An earlier chapter (Exodus 28) gave us the design of the “holy garments” that were to be made, and worn by Aaron, the brother of Moses, and the man whom God had chosen as His high priest. Exodus 39 records the design of the priests’ garments becoming a reality when we read, “1And of the blue, and purple, and scarlet, they made cloths of service, to do service in the holy place, and made the holy garments for Aaron; as the Lord commanded Moses” (39:1).

The stunning colors of the high priest’s “holy garments” are given (39:1-2), as well as the breastplate embedded with twelve precious jewels, each engraved with the names of one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (39:8-14).  A description of the bindings of the breastplate is given, as well as, other articles of clothing that were worn by the high priest (39:15-31).  Fastened to his turban was a plate of gold engraved with the words, “Holiness to the LORD” (39:30-31).

Exodus 40 – “The End,” is Only The Beginning!

The LORD commanded, “2On the first day of the first month shalt thou set up the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation” (40:1). Moses was to oversee the assembly of the Tabernacle, its implements, and to dedicate the high priest, his sons, and the garments they were to wear in the priests’ office.

After insuring all was done “as the LORD had commanded” (39:43), Moses dedicated the work (40:33), and the outward manifestation of God’s approval was “a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (40:34)!

I conclude inviting you to consider not only was the place of worship important in every detail, but so was the preparation, and dedication of those who served as the LORD’s ministers. Moses, Aaron, and his sons were commanded to ceremonially wash their hands and feet “when they came near unto the altar,” and served as the intercessors for God’s people (40:30-32).

Thirteen times we read the phrase, “as the LORD commanded Moses” in Exodus 39 and Exodus 40.

That phrase reminds me that half-hearted preparation for worship is unacceptable to the LORD. Our God is holy, and those who serve Him should reflect His character in their lives, service, and worship.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which isin you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD Accounts for the Gifts, the Givers and the Builders (Exodus 37-38)

Scripture reading – Exodus 37-38

To Israel, the visible presence of the Tabernacle became a constant reminder of God’s presence in the midst of His people. Because it was His sanctuary, the LORD named not only the principal builder, Bezaleel (37:1), but also gave precise details for its design and furnishings. There was no room left for uncertainty.

Exodus 37 – The design of the Tabernacle, and its furnishings

The construction and dimensions of the Ark of the Covenant are chronicled (37:1-4), and it served as the figure of God’s heavenly throne in the midst of His people (Psalm 80:1; 99:1). The Ark was designed to be portable, and was transported by means of staves (wooden rods overlaid with gold), and was carried by priests during Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness (37:3-5).  Gold overlaid the Ark, including the “mercy seat,” upon which two cherubim faced one another with outstretched wings (37:7-9). The gold reminds us of the purity, and holiness of God’s throne of judgment.

Other furnishings crafted and employed in the tabernacle are itemized (37:10-28), including a table, dishes, bowls, spoons, an elaborate candlestick, and an “altar of incense” (37:25-29), all overlaid with pure gold.

“Holy anointing oil” (37:29a) was made, and was used to anoint the tabernacle, all of its furnishings, and the priests when they were sanctified to serve the LORD before the people. Incense was made, and was dedicated and used in the Tabernacle (37:29b).

Exodus 38 – Preparation for the Tabernacle Courtyard

Though not named, the personal pronoun “he,” is a reference to Bezaleel who was  the LORD’s chosen builder (Exodus 31:1-5, 35:30-33; 37:1; 38:1).

Bezaleel “made the altar of burnt offering” (38:1), the “laver of brass” (38:8, a large bowl or fount used by priests for washing their hands and feet), and had the oversight of assembling the curtains that enclosed the exterior court around the Tabernacle and the brass altar (38:9-20).

Reminding us that nothing was left to chance, we are given an accounting of the gold, silver, and brass that was used in the preparation of the sanctuary and its furnishings (38:21-31).

Exodus 38:21-31 might appear as unimportant details to some; however, it reminds me that our tithes and offerings are accounted for by God, and should not be taken lightly. We also find the names of the men who used their talents and skills for the LORD; “Bezaleel the son of Uri” a carpenter (38:22) and Aholiab, son of Ahisamach” an “engraver…and an embroiderer” (38:23).

The tally of the gold, silver, and brass revealed the enormous sacrifice of the people, as they gave for the construction, and furnishings of the Tabernacle, the Sanctuary of the LORD on earth.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Stirred Up Workers, and People with a Heart to Give (Exodus 36)

Scripture reading – Exodus 36

Exodus 36 records the start of work on the Tabernacle. Two familiar names arise, Bezaleel and Aholiab, whom the LORD had chosen (31:2-6; 35:30-35) to lead the labor on His sanctuary. We are reminded once again that they were chosen, because they were “wise-hearted.” (36:1a). It is not surprising that Bezaleel and Aholiab worked with other men like themselves; men “in whom the Lord put wisdom and understanding to know how to work all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary, according to all that the Lord had commanded” (36:1b).

Moses summoned the most gifted men in Israel to work on the LORD’s sanctuary, and one trait was most prominent. Each man’s heart had “stirred him up to come unto the work to do it” (36:2). God chooses not only talented workers, but He desires that their hearts are stirred up to labor in the ministry.

Another lesson regards how the people gave for the work on the Tabernacle. Moses received “free offerings every morning” from the children of Israel who were giving “for the work of the service of the sanctuary” (36:3). So much was given, the workers encouraged Moses to command the people to bring no more offerings! (36:4-7)

Exodus 36 gives us a record of the process, and materials used in constructing the Tabernacle (36:8-38). It had a wood frame (36:20-34). The boards of the interior were overlaid with gold, and beautiful, embroidered curtains with taches of gold covered the interior walls (36:8-13).

The exterior of the Tabernacle was covered with “curtains of goats hair” (36:14-18), and over them were laid “a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red, and a covering of badgers’ skins above that” (36:19).

The interior of the Tabernacle was divided by “a vail [veil] of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen: with cherubims,” forming the “most holy place” where the Ark of the Covenant and its Mercy Seat would be located (36:35-36). The door to the entrance of the Tabernacle was a curtain “of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen, of needlework” (36:37).

I conclude today’s devotional inviting you to consider the veil that partitioned the outer court of the Tabernacle where only priests served, from the inner court into which the high priest could enter only once a year, and then to sprinkle blood on the Mercy Seat as a sacrifice to God for his sins, and the sin of the nation (Hebrews 9:7).

Why the partition? Because it reminds us that sin separates man from God who is holy, and without sin. Believers have access to God, not through any merit of their own, but through the blood of Jesus Christ who is our High Priest.

Hebrews 9:2222And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

Hebrews 9:27–2827And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28So 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

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

Scripture reading – Exodus 26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Exodus 23

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

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

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

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

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

The Sabbath Year (23:10-12)

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

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

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

Three Promises (23:20-28)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading: Exodus 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Humility: The Forgotten Principle When Choosing Leaders (Exodus 11-12, part 1)

Scripture reading: Exodus 11-12

Exodus 11 – The Man (or Woman) God Calls

Before the LORD sent the tenth, and final plague, He instructed Moses to communicate to the people that they would “borrow [to request or demand] of his neighbour, and every woman of her neighbour, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold” (11:2).

This seems a strange request for a people preparing to sojourn in the desert; however, I suggest two motives for the demand. The first, God’s people had served the Egyptians as slaves for four centuries, and the value of what they demanded in precious metals would scarcely be regarded as full payment for their toil. A second purpose, the “jewels of silver, and jewels of gold” would be required to decorate the tabernacle, and fabricate vessels that would be used in worship and offering sacrifices.

Before we address the tenth plague, consider what the LORD had done in this contest between Pharaoh and His servant Moses.

The LORD had magnified Moses in Egypt, and the fears he had entertained in returning to Egypt were overcome by God giving him “favour in the sight of the Egyptians” (11:3a). Forty years of herding his father-in-law’s sheep had humbled this once proud prince of Egypt, and the LORD had so magnified him that he had become “very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants, and in the sight of the people” (11:3).

Author and leadership guru, John Maxwell has observed, “A leader must give up to go up,” and that principle is seen clearly in the life of Moses. He had given up everything that gave him rank and privilege as a prince in Egypt. He had left behind the pastoral life of a shepherd. For all that, God blessed him, and he was elevated above the king of Egypt in the eyes of the people.

It is rare to find a man or woman of great talents and abilities who is humble enough to serve the LORD!

Our era of “selfies” and self-promotion is the antithesis of humility. The men whom God calls and promotes are as rare today as they have ever been: “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty…29  That no flesh should glory in his presence.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

The tenth and final plague would be a blow to the proud, obstinate king of Egypt, and that nation’s dedication of its firstborn to a god.

Moses prophesied to the children of Israel, “Thus saith the Lord, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: 5And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die6And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more” (11:4-6).

The LORD would spare Israel’s firstborn, and would “put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel” (11:7), only if Israel would follow the Word of the LORD as Moses gave instruction. If they did not obey His Word, they would be no different than Egypt. Israel, however, was spared God’s judgment because of the blood of the Passover (12:13). Our next devotional (Exodus 12) will establish the central meaning of the Passover, and its significance.

As we conclude, I invite you to reflect on the attribute of humility, a quality that should be required of all leaders. There is a desperate need for men who are humble enough for God to use (1 Corinthians 1:26-29), and bold enough to unapologetically declare the Word of the LORD!

* A part 2 of today’s devotional will focus on Exodus 12.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith