Tag Archives: Stewardship

Imagine: The People Gave Too Much! (Exodus 36-38)

Daily reading assignment – Exodus 36-38

Imagine being a part of a congregation in which the hearts of the people are so stirred to give and serve the LORD that the pastor must demand, “Please, stop giving! You have given too much already!”

Such is the spirit of a people when they are “wise hearted…stirred…willing…and willing hearted” (Exodus 35:10-29). The offerings given by the people for the Tabernacle and its furnishings exceeded the need, and Moses “restrained” them from giving any more (36:5-6) for they gave “too much” (36:7).

Because the Tabernacle would serve as a constant reminder of the LORD’S presence in the midst of Israel, God gave Moses precise details for its design and furnishings (review Exodus 26).

Beautiful curtains embroidered with cherubims are described for the interior of the Tabernacle (36:8-13).  “Curtains of goats’ hair” were to be spun and overlay the boards of the Tabernacle’s exterior (36:14-34).

The veil that would serve as a divider between the outer Holy Place and the sacred inner Holy of Holies is also defined (36:25-38). The construction and dimensions of the Ark of the Covenant (37:1-9), representing God’s heavenly throne in the midst of His people, is stated (note – Psalm 80:1; 99:1).

The Ark was to be transported by means of “staves” (i.e. rods) slid into rings when Israel moved during her sojourn in the wilderness (37:3-5).  Gold overlaid the whole of the Ark, including the “mercy seat” upon which two cherubims faced one another with wings outstretched (37:7-9). The angels reflected the purity and holiness of God’s throne of judgment.

Exodus 37:10-29 itemizes other furnishings employed in the Tabernacle, including a table overlaid with gold and gold dishes, bowls, spoons, an elaborate candlestick, and an “altar of incense”.

Exodus 38:1-20 gives the design of an “altar of burnt offering” and the vessels of brass to be used in offering sacrifices (38:1-8).  The arrangement of the outer court of the Tabernacle (including its construction, curtains, and rings on which they hung) is given in exacting detail (38:9-20).

Exodus 38:21-31 might appear as minor, inconsequential information on first reading; however, the names of men recorded here serve as a lasting memorial and reminder:

The LORD honors those who faithfully employ their talents and skills to serve Him (38:22-23).

Are you using your time and talents to serve the LORD?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Lesson in LAW and GRACE (Genesis 22-24)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 22-24

Genesis 22 puts the faith of Abraham to the test as God proves his faith by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac, the son of God’s covenant promise.  Isaac’s question, “Where is the Lamb?” (22:7) is answered 2,000 years later when John the Baptist says concerning Jesus, “Behold the Lamb” (John 1:29, 36).

Reminding us God’s people are sojourners in this world of sin, we read, “Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2  And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her” (Genesis 23:1-2).

I close this historical crossroads in Abraham’s life inviting you to consider spiritual lessons concerning Law and Grace illustrated in the births of Ishmael and Isaac (Galatians 4:21-31). 

Ishmael, born a slave of a slave woman, was the fruit of Abraham’s effort to have a son and heir apart from God (Galatians 4:22a, 23a).   Isaac, born a free man of a free woman, was the son of promise whose birth was miraculous and the work of God (Galatians 4:22b, 23b).

The mothers, Hagar and Sarah, represent two covenants: Hagar, the LAW, the covenant between God and man (Galatians 4:24-25) reminding us the impossibility of man fulfilling the demands of the Law (Romans 3:19-20).  Sarah, represents God’s covenant of GRACE, His provision and unmerited favor (Galatians 4:26-27) extended to man.

Ishmael’s birth is a tragic reminder of man attempting in his own efforts to do and fulfill what only God can do.  Isaac’s birth, fulfilling God’s covenant promise to Abraham and Sarah, is a portrait of GRACE, God doing what only He could do.

My friend, that is why salvation is not by works that merit God’s favor, but is an act of God’s grace alone.

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

My theme for Genesis 24 is “Here Comes the Bride”.   Following the death of his beloved Sarah (23:1-2), Abraham was burdened that Isaac, his son and heir of God’s covenant promises, should have a fitting wife.

Fearing Isaac might be tempted to take a wife of the heathen tribes that dwelled in Canaan, Abraham determined to send his “eldest servant”  (24:2-4) to his kindred residing in “Ur of the Chaldees” (11:27-31).  Reflecting the faith of his master, Abraham’s servant prayed for the LORD to make His will clear in choosing the young woman who would become Isaac’s wife  (24:12-14).

God heard and answered the servant’s prayer even as he was praying (24:15-26).  In a prayer of praise that should comfort all who call upon and desire the will of the LORD, the servant prayed, I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren” (24:27).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“When You Know Your Time is Up” (Numbers 27-28)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 27-28, Psalm 53, and Luke 9. Our devotional is from Numbers 27.

Numbers 27 marks the end of an era and inevitably, a changing of the guard for Israel.

Numbers 27 opens with Moses bringing a problem before the LORD (27:1-5), seeking His wisdom, and returning to the people to state God’s will in a matter (Numbers 27:6-11).

Knowing Moses was nigh 120 years old, the immediacy of his death was a given; however, such is rare in the human spirit that is deeply invested in this world.  With what seems a unceremonial abruptness, the LORD reveals to Moses his death is imminent and commands him saying,“Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel. 13 And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered” (Numbers 27:12-13).

With meekness that has characterized his life (Numbers 12:3), Moses accepted the consequence of his sin without protest” (27:14; 20:7-13) and wisely requested the LORD “set a man over the congregation before his death (27:15-16).

Evidencing his love for the people in his charge, Moses desired to prepare the nation to move forward in his absence.  He did not want his successor to be a man chosen by a popular vote of the people; he wanted the man of God’s choosing.  A man who would “go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd”(27:17).

Israel needed a leader with a shepherd’s heart and God chose “Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit” (27:18).

Moses confirmed Joshua before “all the congregation” (27:19) and challenged the people to honor and obey him (27:20).  Making certain “Eleazar the priest…and all the children of Israel” (27:21) understood Joshua was God’s man, Moses “laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the LORD commanded” (27:23).

Moses was one of the greatest men to ever walk the earth; however, his death was inevitable (Numbers 27:13).   Miriam, Moses’ sister was dead.  Aaron his brother was dead.  Because he had sinned before all the people, Moses would die short of the Promise Land (27:14).

My friend, I close reminding you, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).   This earthly life is temporal, like “a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14b).   The author of Hebrews writes, “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

In our youth we dream and plan for careers, marriage and family.  We make vocational choices and set goals.  Too many of us are guilty of failing to plan for the inevitability of our own death.  What about you?  Is your household in order?

Wise men and women plan for the future.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Muzzle the Ox to Your Own Detriment (Numbers 18; 1 Timothy 5:17-18)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 17-18, Psalm 50, and Luke 6. Our devotional is from Numbers 18.

The challenge to Moses and Aaron’s authority led by Korah, the son of Koath of the tribe of Levi, had tragic consequences (Numbers 16:1).  While the earth opened up and carried to their deaths the small circle of rebels who followed Korah (16:31-33), another “two hundred and fifty princes…men of renown” lost their lives for participating in the uprising (Numbers 16:1-2, 35).

When the congregation of Israel gathered and “murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the LORD” (16:41-49), the LORD descended visibly in a cloud upon the tabernacle and urged Moses and Aaron to depart from the congregation. The LORD sent a plague among the people and, in spite of Moses and Aaron’s intervention, another 14,700 lives were lost before the plague was stayed (16:41-49).

In Numbers 17 the LORD determined to leave no doubt the priesthood would descend from Aaron’s lineage and no other.  The LORD then commanded Moses to instruct the heads of each tribe to bring a wooden rod, a symbol of authority, to the tabernacle with the names of the elders of the tribes inscribed on them (17:2).  Aaron’s name was inscribed upon the rod for the tribe of Levi (17:3).  A visible testimony of God’s favor was the rod of the man whom God had chosen would blossom (17:5-7).

On the next day, of the twelve rods representing the twelve tribes, the rod of Aaron alone miraculously budded and “bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds” (17:8-9).  Moses displayed Aaron’s rod to the children of Israel as a sign his lineage alone would lead the priesthood (17:10-13).

Numbers 18 records the charge and ordination of Aaron’s household, including the responsibility of the tribe of Levi over the tabernacle, vessels, and sacrifices (Numbers 18:1-7).  Unlike the other tribes whose labor and the fruit of their labors would sustain them, the tribe of Levi would derive a portion of the sacrifices brought to the LORD by the people as the means of providing for their households (Numbers 18:8-19).

Because the provision for the households of the tribe of Levi was a portion of the sacrifices brought to the tabernacle, the tribe of Levi would “have no inheritance in their land” (18:20-24).  The Levites were in turn to give a tithe (literally a “tenth part”) of the portion that fell to them as an inheritance (18:25-26).

I close with a reminder the principle of providing for the priesthood found in today’s scripture does follow over into caring and providing for those who minister in the church. The apostle Paul writes,

1 Timothy 5:17-18– “17  Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. 18  For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer isworthy of his reward.”

While all who minister to the church are to be well cared for, those whose lives are especially dedicated to laboring in, preaching and teaching “in the word and doctrine” are to be particularly honored (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; Hebrews 13:7, 17).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

You Can’t Take It With You! (Leviticus 25)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 25-26, Psalm 42, and Mark 14. Our devotional is from Leviticus 25.

Leviticus 25 instructs the children of Israel in matters concerning the land the LORD promised would be a perpetual inheritance for Abraham’s lineage (Genesis 12:1; 13:14-15; 17:8).  Two occasions are discussed in this chapter, the seventh year Sabbath and the fiftieth year of “Jubilee” (25:2 -4, 8-13).

The “Sabbath year” occurred every seven years and was, as its name implies, a year of ceasing from labor for the farmers and their lands.  The people were instructed to labor in their fields for six years, but on the seventh year they were not to sow seed, prune their vineyards, or harvest any fruits or vegetables that “groweth of its own accord” (25:3-7).

Seven “Sabbath years” were to pass (numbering forty-nine years) and the fiftieth year would be to the people a year of “Jubilee” (25:8-13).  The year of Jubilee was an additional Sabbath, meaning the lands and vineyards were idle for two years, the forty-ninth and fiftieth years (25:11) [although some scholars argue the “Jubilee” was actually the 49th year].   The year of Jubilee was also a year of celebration and restoration. Families who, due to poverty, sold their plots of land had them restored to their original owners (25:23-28).

The year of Jubilee was also a year of liberty for those who, because of poverty, had become indentured servants (25:39-43).  The children of Israel were not to enslave their brethren, but treat them as hired servants; however, all indentured servants were set at liberty and restored to their families in the year of Jubilee.

The Sabbath years and years of Jubilee are foreign concepts to us in our 21st century economy; however, there are some principles in Leviticus 25 we should not pass by lightly.

The Sabbath year (25:2) was more than a year of rest from labor in the fields; it was also an acknowledgement that blessings and prosperity come from the LORD.  The Sabbath year served as an opportunity for the people to reflect on the goodness and provision of the LORD (25:20-22).

Reminding us we are temporal owners of the things we possess, the LORD instructed the people, “The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me” (Leviticus 25:23).  While we do not follow the pattern of Sabbath years or the year of Jubilee, the principle found in Leviticus 25:23 is nonetheless true!

Whether you live in a mansion or a shanty, count your millions or your pennies; you are at best a temporal owner of your possessions.   Estate sales and auctions are perpetual reminders…You cannot take it with you!  After all, you will go to your grave and others will eventually claim your possessions.  As someone has observed, you never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer to the cemetery.

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.

* A fitting reminder given this devotional is my 2,000th blog post to www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Who Is Really #1? (Mark 9)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 11-12, Psalm 37, and Mark 9. Our devotional is from Mark 9.

Mark 9:1-13 records the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ; an event when Jesus permits His inner circle, Peter, James, and John, to witness the unveiled brilliance of His heavenly glory.  Luke writes the disciples fell asleep after ascending the mountain with Jesus (Luke 9:32), but were suddenly awakened and witnessed Jesus, “His raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller [launderer] on earth can white them (Mark 9:3).

Two heavenly visitors, Moses and Elias (Mark 9:4), visited Jesus and Peter suggested the event be memorialized with three “tabernacles” (temporal earthly structures) dedicated to Jesus, Moses and Elias (Mark 9:5).  Peter was, in effect, giving no more honor to Jesus than he was His heavenly visitors. From a cloud that overshadowed the scene, the disciples heard the voice of God saying, “This is my beloved Son, hear him” (Mark 9:7).

Descending the mount, Jesus commanded the three to “tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead” (Mark 9:9).  Arriving at the base of the mount, Jesus was immersed in a great crowd gathered to witness the disciples’ failed attempt to cast a demon out of a man’s son (Mark 9:14-18).

Imparting a lesson on the power of faith and prayer, Jesus said, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23).  Embarrassed by their failure, the disciples questioned Jesus privately, “Why could we not cast [the demon] out?” (Mark 9:28).  Jesus’ answered, “…This kind [i.e. of spirit] can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

Passing through Galilee, Jesus prophesied His arrest, death, and resurrection a second time in the chapter (Mark 9:31); however, the disciples “understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him” (Mark 9:32).

A spiritual lesson on servant leadership (Mark 9:33-35) emerges as we learn along the way the disciples “disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest”(Mark 9:34).

The words “servant” and “humility” are foreign to our American ideas of success.  Striving for #1, climbing the “ladder of success”, counting the number of people who serve your beckoning call has become the essence of success. Such is not the case in our LORD’s definition of success Who taught His disciples, “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mark 9:35).

Two lessons we take from that principle

The first, self-centered ambition blinds one to spiritual truth.  Jesus spoke plainly of His death, but the disciples’ ambition for thrones in Christ’s kingdom blinded them (Matthew 20:21, 24).  So it is, a heart with the wrong focus is blind to spiritual truths and struggles with fear and anxieties (Mark 9:32; 1 John 4:18).

A second lesson: Greatness in God’s kingdom is defined, not by how many serve you, but by how many you serve (Mark 9:35).  

Someone has observed, “the mark of spiritual maturity is when a believer takes off a bib and dons a servant’s apron.”

Friend, who and how many are you serving?

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

The Providence of God: The Hand Behind the Headlines

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Esther 1-5

“Divine providence” is one of the overriding themes of the Book of Esther.

Many great minds have attempted to define providence.  The 19th century clergyman T. Dewitt Talmage said: “Despots may plan and armies may march, and the congresses of nations may seem to think they are adjusting all the affairs of the world, but the mighty men of the earth are only the dust of the chariot wheels of God’s providence.”

American patriot Benjamin Franklin observed, “The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of man.”

Author and theologian J.I. Packer says of God’s providence, “He [God] knows, and foreknows, all things, and His foreknowledge is foreordination; He, therefore, will have the last word, both in world history and in the destiny of every man.”

What is divine providence?

I suggest, Providence is God’s sustaining oversight of creation and His direction of all things to His appointed end and purpose. The apostle Paul suggested the same in Romans 8:28-29, writing,

Romans 8:28-29 – “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

In summary, the providence of God is practical (“all things work together”), personal (to them that love God), and cannot be divorced from God’s divine purpose (“to them who are the called according to His purpose”)

The Book of Esther is best known as the only book in the Bible that never mentions God by name; however, the events recorded in the book make it clear Esther is a testimony of God’s providence in the life of a young Jewish maiden and His preservation of His chosen people by sovereignly guiding the affairs of mankind to fulfill His divine purpose and end.  Chronologically, the events recorded in the Book of Esther fall in the midst of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

Esther was a Jewish maiden living in Persia, today’s modern Iraq, around 480 B.C.  She was a descendant of the Jews taken captive to Babylon during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.  After conquering Babylon, the Persians gave the Jews liberty to return to Israel and rebuild the Temple and Jerusalem; however, many remained in Babylon; among them a Jewish man named Mordecai (2:5-7), the uncle of Esther who took her into his home after the deaths of her parents.

Esther 1 introduces us to Ahasuerus, the Persian king who was presiding over an empire at its peak, but facing the growing military presence of the Greek Empire.  Some scholars suggest Esther 1 follows Ahasuerus’ first defeat against the Greeks.  His impetuous demotion of Vashti, his beautiful queen, when she failed to obey his command to come to his drunken feast, sets in motion a series of events that will ultimately propel Esther from anonymity to the throne as the wife and queen of Ahasuerus.

Some seven years passed from Vashti’s expulsion as queen to the events occurring in Esther 2.  Historians believe Ahasuerus had suffered another defeat against a confederacy of Greek city-states and, returning to his palace, remembered “Vashti…what she had done” (Esther 2:1).  Knowing the loneliness of the king, his servants suggested he add to his harem, “fair young virgins” (2:3) and among them seek his queen (2:4).

It was the king’s decree that set in motion a series of events that providentially promoted Esther, who was “fair and beautiful” (2:7), to be named among the maidens “gathered together unto Shushan the palace” (2:8).  Following the advice of her uncle, Mordecai, Esther did not reveal she was Jewish (2:10).

A parade of young women entered the king’s bedchamber; however, none pleased the king until we read, “the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight…so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen” (2:17). Still, “Esther had not yet shewed her kindred nor her people” (2:20).

Esther 3 introduces us to Haman, a man promoted by king Ahasuerus “above all the princes” (3:1).  Haman hated the Jews and especially despised Mordecai (3:2).  Mordecai’s refusal to bow to Haman so infuriated the man he determined to use his position to exact revenge on all the Jews (3:1-6).  Pretending a concern for what was in the best interest of the king, Haman brought an evil report against all the Jews and influenced the king to give an edict to annihilate all Jews (3:7-15).

The Jews, receiving news of the edict, began mourning, “fasting, and weeping, and wailing” (4:1-3).  Queen Esther, sheltered in the royal palace, sought to comfort her uncle Mordecai who had “rent his clothes” (4:1); however, he refused her offer of new clothing (4:4).  When she sought to know the cause of the great mourning among the Jews, she learned of the king’s edict (4:5-11).

Mordecai warned Esther her office as queen would not spare her life when her Jewish lineage was divulged (4:12-14).  Giving testimony to divine providence, Mordecai appealed to Esther, “who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:14).

Putting her life at risk, for no one, not even the queen was allowed to enter the king’s court without his invitation; Esther came before the king.  Seeing his queen, Ahasuerus invited her to approach and offered to grant her whatever she requested (5:1-3).  Setting her plan in motion to save her people, Esther requested Haman be summoned for dinner with she and the king (5:4-8).   Receiving the invitation, Haman boasted he was given a private invitation to dinner with the king and queen (5:9-13).

I close today’s devotional commentary with this thought:

God could have chosen any means to save His people, however, Mordecai believed God chose Esther to be instrumental in that task (“for such a time as this” – 4:14).  Mordecai was confident in the sovereignty of God and had faith in God’s providential care of His people (4:13-14).

Friend, God will hold you accountable for your influence and opportunities of service. Bury your talents, refuse to employ your gifts, and the day will come when you give account to the LORD.  Fail to serve Him and the LORD will raise up another to serve in your place (Esther 4:14).

Luke 12:48“…For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith