A History Lesson from Deuteronomy for Bible Fundamental Churches, Colleges, and Their Leaders

Monday, October 16, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 1-3

To those who faithfully follow this pastor’s daily meanderings through the scriptures, thank you for your patience.  Ministry demands, sermon preparation and travels often interrupt my capacity to write daily commentary.  I am sure many find the demands of life crowding out your readings of the same.  If my count is accurate, we are beginning our forty-first week of devotions with eleven weeks to go before the end of this year.  Let us persevere and complete this expedition through the scriptures!

Our journey through the Bible in one-year continues today with the book of Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the first five books of the Bible known as the Pentateuch.  Whereas Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers chronicled Israel’s journey in the wilderness giving us a record of God’s Law, the book of Deuteronomy begins at the journey’s end at the threshold of the Promise Land.  With the exception of Moses, Joshua and Caleb, the generation that was twenty years old and older and followed Moses out of Egypt was dead.

Deuteronomy is a record of Moses’ final words and exhortations to the people he had shepherd for forty years.  We read:

Deuteronomy 1:3 – And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them;”

It was important for Moses to rehearse with that generation who they were, from whence they came, and God’s plan for the nation (Deuteronomy 1:8).  Much like you might search your ancestral family tree to know your physical lineage, Moses recognized his days were numbered among the people and he wanted them to know not only their physical lineage, but more importantly, their spiritual lineage as God’s chosen people.

The people who were 19 years old and younger when Israel refused to cross into the Promise Land, were now in their late fifties and Moses feared their children and grandchildren would be tempted to turn back from the challenges of the new land.   Knowing many were either too young to remember or not yet born when the people rebelled against God, Moses rehearsed the failure of their forefathers to trust God and cross the Jordan River into the Promise Land (Deuteronomy 1-2).  Concerned they lacked an understanding of what faithlessness cost their parents and grandparents, Moses made certain the people appreciated the tragic consequences of disobedience and understood the challenges before them (Deuteronomy 2).

Twentieth century philosopher George Santayana observed, Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  I fear that truth has befallen many Gospel preaching churches, Bible colleges, and fundamental Christian institutions in recent years.

I am old enough to remember well the reminisces and exhortations of Dr. Gilbert Stenholm, Dr. Richard Rupp and Dr. Bob Jones Jr. in “Preacher Boys” during my Bible college years at Bob Jones University.   Those men had fought spiritual ecumenical battles, sometimes open warfare, against the progressives of their day who compromised their ministries fellowshipping with men and institutions that denied the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.

Thirty, forty, even fifty years passed since those men waged war for the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith; however, their passion had not abated, nor their determination to pass on to the men of my generation not only knowledge of the past, but a warning and exhortation.   I graduated Bob Jones University knowing compromise with those who trifle with the doctrine of sanctification and personal holiness or reject the fundamentals of the Christian faith would eventually be a cancer destroying ministries, churches, Bible colleges, and mission boards.

Sadly, I have lived to witness the failures of venerable Bible fundamental churches, Bible colleges, and Christian institutions led by men either ignorant of the lessons of the past or dismissive of the fundamental spiritual heritage of those institutions.

The result of ignorance or leadership contemptuous of the past is the same; those institutions either close their doors or become a shadow of what they were in their golden years.

Warning: When the leadership of a Bible fundamental church, Bible college, or ministry distances itself from its heritage, it will invariably sacrifice its identity and forget God’s providences.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Today’s Scripture Reading and this Sunday at Hillsdale – October 15, 2017

Dear Hillsdale Family and Heart of a Shepherd followers,

I am looking forward to being back in the pulpit at Hillsdale Baptist Church this Sunday morning for our Missions Emphasis month.

October is dedicated to setting forth Hillsdale’s vision for world evangelism; however, this Sunday morning I am concluding my series on “The Lord’s Commandments” in the 10:30 AM service.  Our study this morning will center on the 10th commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Covet” (Exodus 20:17).

As part of our monthlong Missions emphasis, Hillsdale is welcoming a different missionary each Sunday throughout October.  Last Sunday, our missionary to Lebanon, Fady Maalouf reported on his ministry and outreach in the Middle East.

Today we welcome missionary pilot and Bible teacher, Dave Spangler to our Sunday services.

In addition to his ministry training national pastors in the Caribbean, Bro. Spangler is an active pilot assisting Operation Renewed Hope with that organizations disaster recovery ministry.  Bro. Spangler recently flew a Hillsdale team to Houston, TX  to assist churches in recovery efforts following Hurricane Harvey.  He has also been making missionary aid flights to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

Bro. Spangler will be teaching in Hillsdale’s 9:15 AM Adult Bible Study and reporting on his ministry in the 6:00 PM services.

Today’s Scripture reading is Hebrews 11-13.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Scripture Reading for Saturday, October 14, 2017

Dear Hillsdale Family and Heart of a Shepherd Followers,

Please accept my apology for failing to post the scripture reading for Friday, October 13, 2017.

My wife and I traveled all day Friday from my mom’s 80th birthday celebration this past week and I was away from my computer the whole day.

My priority today is preparation for Sunday services at Hillsdale and I doubt I will have time to write and post today’s devotional commentary.  In the absence of my commentary, I trust you will continue in your Bible reading.

Friday’s scripture reading was the Book of Micah, chapters 1-7.

Today’s Bible reading is Acts 5-6.

If time allows, I will post a brief commentary later today.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

 

 

Don’t enable your children’s sins!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 29-30

Today’s devotional commentary focuses on one verse, Proverbs 29:3 and was first posted on this blog April 29, 2014.

As I was considering today’s devotional it occurred to me how little has changed in the world since Solomon’s writings nearly 3,000 years ago.  We share the same concerns in our day as those addressed by Solomon in his.  Granted, we are more sophisticated and enjoy the conveniences of modern technology; however, the problems of humanity are the same.  Poverty, rebellion, wickedness, oppression, heartache, sorrows and immorality are ever-present.  How can this be, you ask?

Times have changed, but the sinful nature of man is the same from generation to generation.  All humanity shares the bloodline of Adam and bear his nature and the curse of sin (“For since by man came death…For as in Adam all die” – 1 Corinthians 15:21-22).

Today’s proverb is timeless, as is all wisdom.

Proverbs 29:3  “Whoso loveth wisdom rejoiceth his father: but he that keepeth company with harlots spendeth his substance.”

Solomon returns to contrasting a wise son with a foolish son.  Someone might mistake Solomon’s observation of a son who loves wisdom with the more recent phenomenon of what I will describe as “perpetual students”—young adults who make going to school and pursuing degrees a career rather than the means to a career.  No, this son who is a delight to his father is more than a learner—he loves and adheres to godly wisdom and counsel.   A wise son who “loveth wisdom” rejoices the heart of his father!

The contrast to a son who walks according to wisdom is the son who is a heartache to his father and walks an ungodly path where he wastes his inheritance [“his substance”] in the company of the immoral.   I believe this son was a child of privilege and grew up in a home of affluence.  Like the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), he has no appetite for wisdom and, once free of his parent’s constraints, follows sinful pleasures until all is spent.

Sound familiar?  I have observed this pattern far too often over the years.  It has become commonplace for well-meaning parents longing for their child’s affections and desiring to keep peace in the family, to become enablers of an adult child’s waste and wantonness.

There may be parents and grandparents reading today’s proverb who feel as though you are looking at the reflection of your home and family in a mirror.   I know the pain of disappointments hurt, but you must accept that no amount of “substance” will earn your rebellious son or daughter’s affection.   At the same time, you must weigh your stewardship of the material possessions God has entrusted to you as a sacred trust.

Don’t enable your children’s sins!  Love them, care for their basic needs, but don’t become an enabler of sin.

I challenge sons and daughters reading this devotional to love godly wisdom, obey your parents and heed godly counsel.

Ephesians 6:1-3 – “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2  Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) 3  That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Failure to Thrive

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalm 119

Today’s scripture reading is Psalm 119.  With the exception of Psalm 23, Psalm 119 may be the favorite psalm of saints down through the centuries.  Its celebration of the Word and Law of God might seem out of step with many 21st century believers’ emphasis on grace [which is in danger of becoming “lawless grace” that knows little of the holiness of God]; however, its truths are eternal and its lessons regarding what manner of people the saints ought to be timeless.

I preached a series of messages on Psalm 119 in January 2016 and authored a brief series of devotions on the chapter during that time.  Today’s devotional commentary was first posted on this blog, January 25, 2016.

Psalm 119:129 – “Thy testimonies [witness; admonitions; ordinances] are wonderful [marvelous]: therefore doth my soul [life; person] keep [preserve; guard] them.”

“Failure to thrive” is an ominous term I have heard doctors use for both the very young and elderly patients.  The terminology is not a disease, but a description of a patient who is failing; failing to gain weight, failing to grow and failing to mature.  It is a state of being undernourished despite heroic actions taken to encourage physical weight gain and well-being.

The term, “failure to thrive”, is a fitting diagnosis for many church members.  They come to church faithfully and sit in pews year after year with no visible signs of spiritual life, health or growth.  

American Christians are hardly undernourished when it comes to physical weight; however, there are too many who are spiritually undernourished…failing to grow and mature.

The writer of Hebrews observed the same malady in the 1st century church when he wrote:

Hebrews 5:12-14 – “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers [Instructors], ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God [Old Testament sayings]; and are become [having degenerated] such as have need of milk [unable to chew solid food], and not of strong meat [solid food; advance doctrines].
13  For every one that useth [drink] milk is unskilful [ignorant; inexperienced] in the word [doctrine; preaching] of righteousness: for he is a babe [spiritually immature].
14  But strong meat [solid food] belongeth to them that are of full age [mature], even those who by reason of use [exercised in the Word and Law of God] have their senses [discernment] exercised [train; workout; disciplined exercise] to discern both good and evil [moral and immoral].”

anorexic ChristiansFailure to thrive” is the malady of the 21st century church.   Although we live in a day of mass communication and modern technology has put within our reach opportunities of studying and hearing God’s Word taught 24\7; the reality is there is a gross ignorance of the scriptures.  Like the 1st century, there are Christians who should be faithful students and teachers of the Bible, but are content with being spoon-fed the puree of elementary truths in churches more focused on entertaining the masses than the faithful exposition of God’s Word.

A spiritually anorexic Christian is the portrait of 21st century Christianity in America!  No wonder sin and lawless liberty abounds within our churches; we have fostered a generation of carnal Christians who demand pandering because they are spiritual babies desensitized to sin by their ignorance of the Truth!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The Eyes of the LORD Are Upon Us!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Chronicles 16-20

I pick up our reading of 2 Chronicles, reminding you Israel is a divided nation.  The northern ten tribes, known as Israel, rebelled against king Rehoboam, following the usurper Jeroboam who had been an adversary of king Solomon.  The southern nation, consisting of two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, was known as Judah and aligned themselves with heirs of David’s throne and maintained a semblance of worship in the Temple in Jerusalem.

As we come to 2 Chronicles 16 we find Asa, the great-grandson of Solomon reigning in Judah.  Asa ruled forty-one years and led the nation in revival, purging Judah of idols (2 Chronicles 14:2-5), strengthening the defense of the nation (14:6-8) and most importantly, setting his heart to serve the LORD (14:7).

Asa’s reign was one of success, peace and prosperity, until the closing years of his life.  In the thirty-sixth year of his reign, when Baasha, king of Israel led an invasion against Judah, Asa failed to call upon the LORD and made a covenant with Benhadad king of Syria (16:1-6).

Asa’s decision, successful in the immediate, nevertheless proved foolish when he learned from a prophet named Hanani, the LORD would have given him victory not only over Israel, but also Syria if he had turned to the LORD.  Hanani declared Asa’s failure foolish, warning him it would haunt him the rest of his life for “henceforth thou shalt have wars” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

Rather than repent, Asa was enraged and placed Hanani in prison (16:10).  Three years later, in the thirty-ninth year of his reign in Judah, God afflicted Asa with a disease in his feet (16:12).  The disease is not identified.  Some scholars suggest his affliction was gout.  I wonder if it was gangrene.  Whatever it was, the affliction proved terminal when Asa turned to his physicians rather than to the LORD.  A great memorial was held upon Asa’s death, however, his lifetime of serving the LORD was marred by his faithlessness and rebellion in his later years (2 Chronicles 16:13-14).

Perhaps learning from the tragic failures of his father, Jehoshaphat son of Asa, “walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim; 4  But sought to the LORD God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel” (2 Chronicles 17:3-4).

Jehoshaphat foolishly made a league with Ahab, the wicked king of Israel in 2 Chronicles 18, and allied himself to go to war against Ramothgilead.  The story of Ahab’s inquiry with the prophet Micaiah is humorous, but also tragic.  Jehoshaphat recognized Ahab’s prophets were not of the LORD and asked Ahab, “Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might enquire of him?” (18:6)

There was one faithful prophet; however, Ahab was disinclined to seek his counsel for, in the king’s words, “I hate him; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil: the same is Micaiah the son of Imla…” (18:7).

Adorned in their royal robes, each sitting upon his own throne, Jehoshaphat and Ahab must have been an impressive sight (18:8-14); however, the prophet Micaiah was not intimidated and even trifled with king Ahab, telling the king what the king wanted to hear (18:14-15).   Ahab became incensed and demanded Micaiah prophesy what the LORD revealed to him (18:15-16).

Micaiah prophesied the scattering of Israel and Ahab’s imminent death in battle (18:16-22).  In spite of an attempt to disguise himself by removing his royal robes (18:28-33), Ahab was struck by an arrow and perished as the sun was setting on the battlefield (18:34).

When Jehoshaphat returned from the battle, Jehu, the son of Hanani whom his father Asa had imprisoned, confronted the king (19:1-2).  Evidencing the boldness of a prophet of God, Jehu condemned the king’s alliance with Ahab saying, “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD” (19:2).

In spite of Jehoshaphat’s failure, Jehu comforted him with the promise of God’s grace saying, “there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek God” (2 Chronicles 19:3).  Jehoshaphat set his heart to lead Judah in the way of the LORD and set judges in the land to rule in difficult matters (19:4-11).

Near the latter years of his reign, Jehoshaphat received word a confederacy of enemies was coming to wage war against Judah (20:1-3).  We read, “Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah” and called upon the LORD before the people in the Temple (20:3-13).

God heard the king’s prayer and sent Jahaziel to prophecy and encourage the king and Judah saying, “Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (20:15).

With God’s assurance, the people went to the battlefield and found their enemies had turned and destroyed one another (20:22-23).  Without lifting a sword or spear, the LORD gave Judah victory and it took three days to gather the spoils (20:24-25).   Receiving the news of Judah’s victory and how the LORD had fought against their enemies, “the fear of God was on all the kingdoms” (20:29).

We can take many lessons from today’s reading…perhaps the most prominent one is the LORD wants us to call upon Him in times of trouble, trials and sickness.  When we are afraid, call upon the LORD.  When enemies threaten and we feel overwhelmed, remember, “the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him” (16:9), for “the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Gender Roles and Spiritual Synergy

Monday, October 9, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 33-36

We come today to the closing chapters of the Book of Numbers.  It is fitting that Numbers 33 begins with a look back at the providences of the LORD and His compassion on the twelve tribes of Israel.

The sovereignty of God is one of the great spiritual truths we take from this historical review of God’s providences.  From Israel’s triumphant exodus out of Egypt following the tenth plague (33:3-7), through the midst of the Red Sea (33:8), to the starts and stops of the nation’s forty-year journey in the wilderness and the LORD’s miraculous provision of water and food along the way (33:9-37).  Suddenly and unceremoniously we read:

Numbers 33:38-39 – And Aaron the priest went up into mount Hor at the commandment of the LORD, and died there, in the fortieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the first day of the fifth month. 39  And Aaron was an hundred and twenty and three years old when he died in mount Hor.

The record of Aaron’s death at the threshold of the Promise Land reminds us a whole generation had died in the wilderness because they refused to trust the LORD and enter into the land He promised Israel forty-years before.  With the exception of Joshua and Caleb, all perished short of the journey’s destination.

The LORD promised Israel a fertile and fruitful land; however, it was a land inhabited by the Canaanites whom the people would have to drive out of the land in order to possess it (33:40, 50-54).  Israel was to destroy all the ways of the Canaanites, their idols and the high places where they worshipped.  God’s people were to be intolerant of the Canaanites in their midst, being warned their failure to drive them out would become “pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell” (33:55).  Indeed, Israel’s failure to fulfill God’s command would demand He do to them what He commanded them to do to the inhabitants of the land (33:56).

Numbers 34 records the boundaries of the land God promised His people.  The southern boundary (34:3-5), the western boundary (34:6), the northernmost boundary (34:7-9) and the eastern boundary (34:10-12) are determined.  The land was to be divided among the tribes by lot (34:13); this meaning God, not fate, would determine in the sight of the people their portion by tribe in the land.  Per their earlier request, the tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh had already received their inheritance east of the Jordan River (33:14-15).

Unlike the other tribes, the priestly tribe of Levi was not assigned a portion of the land.  Instead, the Levites were apportioned forty-eight cities in the midst of the tribal lands (35:1-5).  Six of the forty-eight cities were to serve as cities of refuge to which a man accused of slaying another might flee to seek justice (35:6-34).

The Book of Numbers ends on an interesting note as the matter of inheritance is raised.  Because lands were assigned by tribes and families, there was concern what would become of tribal lands should a man’s legal heirs be his daughters (Numbers 36:1-4).  It was argued the lands assigned to a tribe would be lost should a man’s daughters marry outside their tribal bloodline.  The dilemma was solved by requiring daughters to marry within the tribe of their father (36:5-9), thereby keeping the land within the tribe.

Numbers 36 concludes with the “daughters of Zelophedad” being assured of their inheritance in the land and them submitting to the LORD’s will that they marry men within their tribal bloodline, thus securing the inheritance not only for themselves, but also for the future generations of their family (36:10-13).

The context of the matter of a man’s heirs and the rights of his daughters began in Numbers 27 and concludes in Numbers 36.  The decision that a daughter had a right of inheritance in the absence of a son was a radical one for ancient times since women were viewed as less than men in society and in matters of inheritance.  As late as the 20th and early 21st century, the majority of women in our world live in oppressive conditions; however, such is not to be the case among God’s people.

The church and believers must recognize that, though gender roles differ, a spiritual synergy between male and female, husband and wife is God’s will.  When a man accepts a woman is not his servant, but his helpmeet and companion (Genesis 2:18; Ephesians 5:25) and the woman fulfills her role following her husband’s lead (Genesis 3:16; Ephesians 5:23-24), there is harmony, respect and peace (Ephesians 5:31-33).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith