Tag Archives: Tongue

An Opportunity Lost Might Never Be Reclaimed (Numbers 14-15; Psalm 90)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 14-15; Psalm 90

Caleb had urged the people to “go up…we are well able” (13:30); however, the bad report of the ten spies prevailed (13:31), and the people began to murmur against the LORD, Moses, and Aaron (14:1-2).

A spirit of insurrection broke out among the people, and they accused the LORD of bringing them into the wilderness to die (14:3). As Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before the people, Joshua exhorted them to trust the LORD (14:5-9).  As the people threatened to stone Moses and Aaron, the LORD suddenly appeared in a display of His heavenly glory and majesty (14:10b).

Moses pled for the LORD to spare Israel for His own testimony among the heathen (14:11-16).

Modeling a believer’s prayer of faith, Moses rehearsed the character and divine attributes of the LORD, praying, “The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression…Pardon…the iniquity of this people” (14:18-19; note Psalm 90).

The LORD spared the people from immediate judgment; however, the consequences of their faithlessness would be borne by the people as they were commanded to turn from the Promised Land and go into the wilderness (14:20-23).  Condemned to wander aimlessly in the wilderness for forty years, only two men of that generation older than twenty years of age would enter the land, Caleb and Joshua (14:24-35).

The ten spies who brought the faithless report were immediately slain (14:36-37). The next morning, a remorseful company of Israelites endeavored to enter the Promised Land without the LORD and were slain (14:40-45).

Numbers 15 rehearses the matter of the Law and sacrifices.

Whether one was a native-born Israelite (15:13) or a “stranger” not of Abraham’s lineage (15:14), there was “one law and one manner” when it came to the law and sacrifices (15:13-16).  A distinction is also given differentiating between unintentional sins (“sins of ignorance”) (15:24-29) and intentional sins (15:30-31). An example of the LORD’S justice and the law’s demand is given when one man was guilty of breaking the Sabbath and was stoned (15:32-36).

Psalm 90 is a prayer of intercession and song of praise authored by Moses and is the oldest of the psalms. For the sake of brevity, we will focus on one verse.

Psalm 90:12 – “So teach [help us to know and understand] us to number [make them count] our days [time], that we may apply [give; attain] our hearts [understanding; i.e. thoughts] unto wisdom [discernment; i.e. wise in decisions and choices].”

How different would your life be if you knew the number of your days before you die?

I fear there are many things we allow to consume us that are trivial at best.  The same is true of moments and opportunities we should treasure, but we treat as trivial.  Whether young or old, every day is a gift of God’s loving grace and should be numbered and treasured.

Won’t you set aside pettiness and treasure the life and opportunities God gives you today?  Love the LORD and love your neighbor (Luke 10:27).  Express in your words and actions:

“This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The Character of a Holy People” (Leviticus 19-21)

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 19-21

* This is the first of two devotionals for today’s scripture reading.

Leviticus 19 introduces a detail review of the commandments of the LORD beginning with the sum of all the commandments: Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2).

From that command flows a series of laws that define the essence of what it means to be a holy, sanctified, people. For brevity, I will offer a summary of three series of commandments (19:9-37).

Leviticus 19:9-18 – Moral Guidelines Concerning One’s Neighbor

A holy people will:

19:3 – Fear and revere father and mother and keep the Sabbath holy.

19:4 – Not worship idols

19:9-10 – Be compassionate to the poor

19:13 – Pay day laborers their earned wages at the close of a work day

19:14 – Show kindness to the disadvantaged (deaf and blind)

19:15 – Be impartial in judgment

19:16-17 – Not gossip, slander, or hate another

19:18 – “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Leviticus 19:19-32 – Natural Laws

A holy people will:

19:20-22 – Not disgrace a slave

19:29 – Shelter and protect a daughter’s virtue

19:32 – Stand in reverence and honor the elderly

Leviticus 19:33-37 – Judicial Matters

A holy people will:

19:33-34 – Be compassionate and loving to a stranger and a foreigner

19:35-36 – Be fair and just in business and commercial matters

God’s command for His people to be holy is practical, instructive, and clearly stated. 

21st century believers would do well to recognize the LORD’S command for His people to be holy touches every area of life…marriage, family, neighbor, employee\employer, even business principles of just and fairness.

How do you measure up to God’s holy standard?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Sinning against another is a sin against God! (Leviticus 5-7)

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 5-7

Today’s study in the book of Leviticus continues its exposition and explanation of the sacrifices required for sin; each reminding us sin is an offense against the LORD and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

Various sins are identified in Leviticus 5 and the prerequisite sacrifice for each sin. Leviticus 5:1 speaks to the sin of failing to speak truth and thus concealing the sin and crime of another (perhaps in a judicial sense where one is called to testify as a witness).  Similar to our own court system where one is asked to swear to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

Cleanliness is urged and contact with the carcass of a dead beast was forbidden under the Law. Unlike ancient Israel, today we understand the health risks of being defiled (infected) by a dead animal and why the LORD forbade it (5:2-3).

Inconsiderate, thoughtless words and conversation is also condemned and sacrifices were required of all who swore and spoke with haste (5:4-13).

The Trespass Offerings is the subject of Leviticus 5:14-6:7. You will notice a principle of “restitution plus one-fifth.” Why?

Saying “I’m sorry” is not enough in God’s perfect justice system.

The first sin demanding a trespass offering plus “one-fifth” is spiritual misappropriation: A sinner taking that which another dedicated to the Lord.

For instance: A priest might fall prey to embezzling…taking for himself what another had offered as a sacrifice.  Such a sin demanded not only restitution, but also giving one-fifth more above what was taken (5:14-16).

Other sins demanding sacrifice and restitution were lying and dishonesty (6:1-2), finding another’s property, but concealing the fact (6:3), and violently cheating one of his property.  All sins committed with foreknowledge required not only sacrifice, but also restitution above what was pilfered (6:4). Similar to an assessment of loss and damages in the American Judicial System.

Laws concerning burnt offerings are expressed in Leviticus 6:8-13.  Reminding us the believer is to be ever in a spirit of prayer, we read: “The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out” (6:13)

Leviticus 7 – The “trespass offering” and the “peace offering”

The “peace offering” served as a sacrifice of thanksgiving for God’s grace and provision (Leviticus 7:11-21).  The sacrifice of oxen or cattle is prescribed accompanied by offerings of “unleavened cakes…unleavened wafers…and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fired” (Leviticus 7:12).  The portions of the “peace offering” not consumed by the fire were given to the priests for their consumption.

Remembering the blood was a testament to the punishment of sin, the “fat of the beast” and “blood” portions of the offerings were not to be eaten (Leviticus 7:22-27). Blood was not to be consumed because it was the means and object of atonement (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22).

Consuming the “fat of the beast” or the “blood” necessitated a sinner “be cut off from his people” (7:25, 27); a punishment that could extend so far as death.

What have we learned?

Sinning against someone requires not only sincere confession, but “restitution plus” may be necessary to make them whole and restore fellowship.

Have you sinned against someone and not sought forgiveness?  Without confession and restitution for the harm you have caused, your broken fellowship may follow you to your grave.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Two Things God Hates: A Covetous Heart and Lying Lips

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Kings 1-5

Today’s scripture reading contains stories that have enriched the hearts, lives and imagination of children in Sunday School for centuries.  The book of 2 Kings picks up where 1 Kings finished with no introduction.  The old prophet Elijah is in the last days of his earthly ministry and his protégé Elisha is prepared to take up the “mantle” of Elijah, literally and figuratively (2 Kings 2:13).

Due to the length of today’s reading, I will content myself with a few highlights.  Ahaziah, king of Israel, became deathly ill after falling through the lattice-work of his upper chamber.  Wondering if he would recover from his fall, the wicked king sent servants to enquire of the pagan god Baalzebub (2 Kings 1:2).  God, however, intervened and sent Elijah to send word to the king that his decision to enquire of Baalzebub would result in his death (1:3-4).  The king’s messengers described Elijah as the bearer of the news concerning the king’s death (1:5-8).

Three occasions the king sent a captain and fifty soldiers demanding Elijah come to the king.  The first two times the captain and the soldiers arrogantly demanded the prophet come to the king, and each time the captain and soldiers were slain (1:9-12).  The third captain and his soldiers humbled themselves before God’s prophet and requested their lives be spared (1:13-14).

2 Kings 2 records the momentous occasion God sent a fiery chariot to take Elijah to heaven.  Elijah promised Elisha he would receive a double portion of the old prophets spirit if he saw him taken up (2:9-11).  A “double portion” was that amount of inheritance that would be allotted to a firstborn son.  In that sense, it was Elisha’s longing that he would be the inheritor of Elijah’s ministry, and indeed he was!

God promotes the ministry of Elisha as God’s prophet before three kings in 2 Kings 3.  The king of Israel, Judah, and Edom all learned God had a prophet in the land and that prophet was Elisha.

Elisha performed four miracles in 2 Kings 4.  The first, multiplying a widow’s oil to pay her debts and save her sons from becoming bond slaves (4:1-7).  The second miracle, blessing a childless, elderly woman and her husband with a son as a reward for serving as Elisha’s benefactors (4:8-17).  The third miracle was raising that same elderly couples’ son from the dead (4:18-37).  The fourth miracle was turning a poison pottage into one that nourished the “sons of the prophets” (4:38-44).

I close with Elisha directing the healing of a leper named “Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria” (2 Kings 5:1).   The description of Naaman’s character aids us in understanding why his welfare was so important to his king.  We read, he “was a great man [noble; but perhaps great is size as well] with his master, and honourable [exalted; respected]…a mighty [heroic; valiant; champion] man in valour [virtuous; strong], but he was a leper” (5:1).

Every man has his flaws and challenges; however, for Naaman his was an illness…leprosy.  There was no cure for leprosy and a leper would eventually face exclusion from the living as the disease slowly took hold on the face, limbs and extremities of the body.

Providentially for Naaman, a slave girl from Israel waited upon his wife and shared with her there was a great prophet in Samaria who could heal her husband (5:2-3).  When the king of Syria heard there was hope for Naaman’s healing in Israel, he sent a letter with Naaman and gifts requesting his captain would be healed of leprosy (5:4-6).  Knowing the request was impossible for him to fulfill, the king of Israel “rent his clothes” fearing the king of Syria was provoking a conflict with Israel (5:7).  At his request, the king sent Naaman to Elisha (5:8).

Naaman, feeling slighted by Elisha’s refusal to greet him and perhaps expecting some great, ceremonial act of healing, was instead directed by Elisha’s servant to wash himself in the Jordan River seven times (5:9-10).  The thought of the great warrior of Syria humbling himself to wash in Israel’s small river infuriated Naaman who at first refused (5:11-12).  Fortunately, his servants prevailed upon him and persuaded him to obey the prophet.  When Naaman came forth from the Jordan “his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (5:13-14).

Following his healing, Naaman offered to reward Elisha for his service; however, the prophet refused his gifts (5:15-16).  Naaman responded to the prophet and his miraculous healing with a moving statement of his faith that his sacrifices would forever be only unto the LORD, Jehovah, the Self-existent, Eternal God of Israel (5:17-18).

Reminding us a spirit of covetous (Exodus 20:17) might take root in the hearts of those who serve the LORD, “Gehazi, the servant of Elisah” set his heart on a portion of the reward Naaman offered to Elisha (5:20-22).

With a greeting of shalom, “Is all well?” (5:21) and Gehazi responding with shalom, “All is well” (5:22), Gehazi lied suggesting Elisha had sent him for a portion of the reward.  When Naaman granted his request, Gehazi hid the gifts (5:23-24) and took his place before Elisha (5:25).

When Elisha asked Gehazi where he had gone, he lied (5:25); whereupon, Elisha cursed his covetous heart and his unfaithful servant was smitten with the leprosy that had plagued Naaman (5:26-27).  Leprosy marked the end of his ministry to Elisha and became Gehazi’s lifelong reminder God hates covetousness and lying lips.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Lies, Innuendoes, and Questions on One’s Character is God’s Business

walk-in-my-shoesThursday, February 23, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Job 15-16

One of my joys as Hillsdale’s pastor is hearing the voices of children in our building throughout the year.  I try to visit the hallways of our Christian school at least one or two times a day and, reminiscent of classes when I was young, a teacher will sometimes have a classroom door open and I am able to hear the lesson being taught.

Passing a Pre-K class on Tuesday, the 3-year-olds were sitting at the feet of their teacher, captivated by a Bible lesson on poor Job and wondering, “Why God would let Satan be so mean to Job?”  I doubt I am alone when I express the intimidating thought of explaining to 3-year-olds the Sovereignty of God! [P.S. I have asked the teacher for a tape when she explains the Trinity!]

We continue today’s devotional commentary with Job 15-16 as our scripture reading assignment.jobs-friends

Although they purported to come and comfort him, Job’s friends have served as his prosecutors, judges, and jury…condemning the man though he was already stricken by his losses and wretchedness.  One of Job’s three “friends”, Eliphaz the Temanite, takes up his dispute with Job accusing him of pride (Job 15:5-6) and hypocrisy (15:34-35) and warning Job all he had suffered was a consequence of sin (15:17-35).

Job’s response to Eliphaz is recorded in three pleas in chapters 16-17.  The first plea is for mercy, rather than comfort; Job’s friends were unsympathetic to his plight and their words only added to his misery (16:1-14). Reproving them, Job suggested if his friends had suffered the losses he had their words would be softened with understanding and sympathy (16:4-5).walk-in-my-shoes

There is an old adage that states, “Before you criticize a man, you should walk a mile in his shoes.”  The point of the quote is it is easy to be an unsympathetic, heartless critic until you have borne the pain, sorrows and disappointments of another.  For example, how many are experts at parenting and passing judgment on the perceived failures and heartaches of others, until they have children of their own?  How many are harsh critics, until they have suffered the blows of pain and disappointment?  How easy is it to give little thought to our harsh words, until we fall victim of the same?

Superior to the proverb to “walk in another man’s shoes before criticizing him” is the principle taught by Christ in His Sermon on the Mount:  “Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:1-2).judgment

The knowledge we will face the judgment of a just God should incite caution when we judge others.  How much better to heed Paul’s exhortation and, Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 16  Be of the same mind one toward another…” (Romans 12:15-16a).

The closing verses of Job 16 are a picture of sorrow and humiliation (16:15-22).  In addition to his plea for mercy, Job pleas for justice and vindication before he dies (16:16-19).

Friend, I have learned to accept that some accusations and personal attacks on my integrity will not be answered until God’s judgment.  Lies, innuendoes, and questions on one’s character is God’s business; indeed, I have known too many professing Christians who are quick judges, unrepentant gossips, and “hit and run” deceivers.

In the words of Job, “my witness [recorded testimony] is in heaven, and my record [Advocate; i.e. Jesus Christ] is on high” (Job 16:19b; 1 John 2:1-2).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Road Rage: Beware the Bear behind the wheel!

Angry bearProverbs 17:12 “Let a bear robbed [bereaved] of her whelps [cubs] meet [come in contact with] a man, rather than a fool [stupid; silly] in [in the midst of] his folly [silliness].”

Anger has been the malady of sinful man since Cain rose up and slew his brother Abel in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 4:5-8).  Anger, however, is a natural emotion that is not always sinful.  For instance, the Bible describes the wrath of God and His fury against sin in over 500 instances [Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary].  Anger can also describe the “righteous indignation” of the saints towards sin.  Paul commands believers in Antioch to, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26).  In other words, righteous anger is slow to wrath and seeks resolution as soon as possible (Proverbs 14:29; James 1:19).  The apostle challenged Angry couplethose same Christians in Ephesus to, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31).

Let’s be honest; explosive, self-centered anger has become an emotion that characterizes the fabric of our marriages, homes, churches, communities and nation.  Anger is the sin behind senseless acts of abuse, slander, outbursts of violence, and a newer phenomenon known as “Road Rage”—an outburst of anger and violence against a total stranger who may have inadvertently “cut you off”…but who becomes the victim of your pent-up anger, bitterness and lack of restraint.

In today’s proverb (17:12), Solomon warns it is better to cross paths with an angry she-bear seeking her cubs than be a companion or friend of a fool in the midst of his folly.roadrage  Such is the case when you cross paths with an habitually angry man or woman.  He is a danger to himself, his family, friends and acquaintances.

Beware the fool!

Copyright 2016 – Travis D. Smith

Psalm 7:1-9 – Slander, Libel, Disloyalty and Lies are the Haunt of God’s Servants

pastor in pulpitOn a personal note, having just celebrated 30 years of ministry in one church, I will make today’s devotional more personal than is my custom and practice.

The average tenure of a pastor in a Bible-preaching church is said to be between three and four years, prompting the question: “Why? Why do pastors move to a new ministry after serving only a brief time in a local church ministry?”

There are many reasons that might be given, but it is my observation that the central one is the reality that all honeymoons end and the toll of ministry among a people who can be fickle, disloyal and sometimes the source of grievous attacks that are deeply personal in nature. Having served as a staff member for 17 years and a senior pastor for 20, I can attest to the sorrows that often arise from the attacks of those closest to the pulpit…a pastor’s own staff [by the way, I am thankful God has blessed me today with a faithful staff who lift the burdens of ministry rather than add to them].tenure

Scholars believe Psalm 7, titled by one writer the “Song of the Slandered Saint”, was written at a time David was the object of slander and lies from Cush the Benjamite.  King Saul was already envious of David’s popularity and Cush the Benjamite used that sin of jealousy as an opportunity to accuse David of treason.  It was Cush’s proximity to the throne that gave credence to this slanderer who subtly undermined David’s strained relationship with the king.  Already mistrusted by the king, David turned his appeal for justice and vindication to God.

Psalm 7:1-2 – “O LORD my God, in thee do I put my trust [my refuge and hope]: save [deliver; help; preserve] me from all them that persecute [pursue; chase] me, and deliver [recover; defend; save] me: 2  Lest he tear [tear in pieces] my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces [break; tear apart], while there is none to deliver [recover; save].

Slander, gossip, lies and disloyalty are often the sorrows borne by God’s servants who are devoted to serve the Lord with integrity.  Ours is not to be popular, but faithful.  We do not aspire to earthly applause, but to the heavenly commendation, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21, 23).

lion's roarIt was not his body, but his soul that was to endure the attacks of those who would tear and shred his reputation (7:2).  Because the attacks of an enemy are often deep and personal, leaders often feel alone as they bear the sorrow of those who align against them.  David turned to the Lord in the midst of his sorrow and confessed, “O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust” (7:1).

David’s cry for justice and vindication is Psalm 7:3-5.

Psalm 7:3-5 – “O LORD my God, if I have done [make; wrought] this; if there be iniquity [wickedness; unrighteousness; injustice] in my hands; 4  If I have rewarded [treat; recompense; compensated] evil [sin; wickedness] unto him that was at peace with me; (yea, I have delivered [take off; plundered] him that without cause [empty; vain] is mine enemy [adversary]🙂 5  Let the enemy persecute [pursue; chase] my soul [life; person], and take [overtake; hold] it; yea, let him tread down [oppress; trample upon] my life upon the earth, and lay [settle] mine honour [glory; reputation] in the dust. Selah.”

I have learned that vindication of one’s life and testimony is often a process of years, not days or months.  Protestations of innocence are usually to no avail when some are more willing to believe slander than they are to weigh a life and ministry of years.  Accusers attack character and assault one’s testimony, but the righteous must determine to trust the Lord for vindication.slander

Psalm 7:6-8 – “Arise, O LORD, in thine anger, lift up [remove; depart; carry away] thyself because of the rage of mine enemies: and awake [stir up; raise up; incite] for me to the judgment [sentence; justice] that thou hast commanded [charged; appointed]. 7  So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about: for their sakes therefore return [return again] thou on high [exalted; above; dignity]. 8  The LORD shall judge [plead the cause; execute judgment] the people: judge [plead; avenge; vindicate] me, O LORD, according to my righteousness [justice; rightness before the law], and according to mine integrity [completeness; innocence; blameless] that is in me.”

With humility and confidence in God’s justice, David appealed to God to judge his enemies and vindicate his rightness and integrity.

Psalm 7:9 – “Oh let the wickedness [sin; evil] of the wicked [ungodly; immoral; guilty] come to an end [cease; fail]; but establish [prepare; ready; set up; confirm] the just: for the righteous [just; lawful] God trieth [prove; test; examine] the hearts and reins [i.e. mind; inward parts].”

do not fearDavid makes two requests in verse 9:  1) That the wicked would fail in their designs to destroy him;  2) That God, knowing the heart of David, would affirm his integrity and establish his testimony.

Someone reading today’s devotional may be on the verge of quitting.  You have suffered personal attacks.  You are carrying the sorrow of disloyalty from the very ones you trusted.  You feel abandoned and alone.  I challenge to you to cry out to God as David did in Psalm 7 and know He is a God of justice and will vindicate His servant in due time.  Trust the Lord!

Copyright 2015 – Travis D. Smith