Innocence Lost (Genesis 34)

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 33-34, Psalm 13, and Matthew 13.  Our devotional is from Genesis 34.

One wonders if Shakespeare, the great English playwright, did not take his inspiration for “Romeo and Juliet” from today’s love tragedy found in Genesis 34.

The desire for popularity and acceptance is universal among youth.  No matter the culture, the teen years breed a mix of excitement and danger.  Independence, new life experiences, physical growth, raging hormones…and temptations before one’s values are grounded shadow the teen years.

Genesis 34 is a story of opposites attracting and the all-too-often tragic ending.  It is the stuff of love novels…lust, sex, bitterness, revenge, and murder.

Now Jacob was the father of eleven sons (the twelfth son, Benjamin, not yet born) and at least one daughter named Dinah, the central figure in Genesis 34.  The sons of Jacob were chronologically in their late teens to early 20’s in this chapter.

Perpetual strife and jealousies filled Jacob’s home brought on by his having sons of four different wives and concubines.  Growing up in the midst was Dinah, Jacob’s daughter born to Leah, his less favored wife (Gen. 30:21; 34:1).  Dinah’s wandering ways and her involvement with Shechem, a Canaanite prince, introduced into Jacob’s home the first great sorrow upon his return to Canaan.

A wealthy and powerful man (Genesis 33), Jacob made the fateful decision to live in the land among the heathen, a choice that had far-reaching consequences for his household.  Dinah, perhaps no more than 13-15 years old, decided to “spread her wings” and “went out [from her father’s household] to see the daughters of the land” (Genesis 34:1).  Young, beautiful, innocent and naive, Dinah was taken by “Shechem the son of Hamor” and “defiled” (34:2).

Hearing the news, Jacob waited until his sons came from the fields to tell them how Dinah had fallen prey to Shechem’s lust (34:5-7).  Pretending to save face and make peace, the decision was made for Dinah to become Shechem’s wife and the sons and daughters of Jacob’s and Hamor’s households to become one on the condition that Hamor’s men accepted circumcision (34:8-16).

Hamor accepted the stipulation and convinced the men of his household to accept the rite of circumcision, reasoning they would inevitably be enriched by Jacob’s possessions (34:20-23).

The circumcision of Harmor’s household was a ruse by Jacob’s sons who were bent on revenge (34:25-29).  Knowing the men would be incapacitated, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s full brothers, attacked Hamor’s household, killing the men (34:25-26).  Their brothers, Jacob’s other sons, joined them claiming the wives and possessions of the city for spoil.

Genesis 34 ends with Jacob rebuking Simeon and Levi (34:30).  The brothers; however, defended their lies, murder, and pillaging for spoils as honorable acts in light of their sister’s shame (34:31).  On his death-bed, Jacob would remember their sins against them (Genesis 49:5-7).

Galatians 6:7 – Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Believer, Wonder Why the Wicked Are in Authority? Look in the Mirror! (Psalm 12)

Psalm 12:8 – The wicked [immoral; criminal] walk on every side [every place], when the vilest [worthless]men are exalted [raised up; high].”

The historical context of Psalm 12 is uncertain; however, it was a desperate time for the nation of Israel. This author is of the opinion the psalm was written when Saul was king and David was witnessing the decline and decay of the nation.

Of course, we need only put this psalm in an immediate context to ponder the same dilemma for our nation and world.  How do vile men and women of immoral passions come to occupy positions of power and influence in the world?  Why are the wicked of our day so embolden in their sin?  How long will the LORD abide the sins of the wicked?

The answer to those questions is found in the first verse of Psalm 12 where David prays,

Psalm 12:1– “Help [deliver; save; avenge], LORD; for the godly man [saint] ceaseth  [come to an end]; for the faithful [true; people of faith; believers]fail [disperse; disappear]from among the children of men.”

Why were the ungodly emboldened in their sin and promoted?  (Psalm 12:8)

Because godly men were either silent or had themselves ceased from following the LORD and walking in righteousness (12:1). The righteous had failed and their retreat and absence in public discourse permitted the promotion of the ungodly (12:1b, 8).

Notice the character of the ungodly in verses 2 and 4.

Psalm 12:2 – “They [the ungodly] speak [say; declare] vanity [deceit; evil]every one with his neighbor [friend; companion]: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.

Psalm 12:4 –  4  Who[the wicked] have said [declared; tell], With our tongue will we prevail [act insolently]; our lips are our own: who islord [master; sovereign; owner]over us?

The ungodly have no shame. They lie, flatter, beguile, and boast great things (12:2).  Unchecked in their ways, they dare make their boast against the God of Heaven (12:4).

Why do the ungodly go unpunished?  How dare the wicked boast against the LORD of Heaven?

David took comfort knowing the LORD would avenge Himself and take vengeance against those who railed against Him. (12:3)

Psalm 12:3 3  The LORD shall cut off all flattering [smooth] lips [language; speech], and the tongue that speaketh [declares; tells] proud [great; magnify] things:

We know the LORD is patient, longsuffering, and merciful (Numbers 14:18; Psalm 86:15; 2 Peter 3:9); however, be reminded He is just and will have vengeance against the wicked.  The LORD will pour out His wrath on those who speak proud things, “puffeth”, and scoff (12:5)!

Psalm 12:5 – For the oppression [spoil; destruction] of the poor [afflicted], for the sighing [groaning; cries] of the needy [beggar; destitute], now will I arise [stand up], saith the LORD; I will set [array; appoint] him in safety [salvation; safety; liberty; prosper] from him that puffeth [scoffs; kindles as a fire] at him.

Unlike the wicked whose lips are full of lies and deceit, the LORD’s words are pure like refined silver that has passed through the furnace seven times (12:6).

Psalm 12:6 6  The words [speech; commands]of the LORD are pure [clean; fair]words: as silver tried [refined]in a furnace of earth, purified [purged; refined] seven times. 

The Word of the LORD is sure, faithful and true from generation to generation (12:7).

Psalm 12:7 7  Thou shalt keep [preserve; guard; protect]them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve [guard; protect]them from this generation [age]for ever.

Why do the “wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted”?  (Psalm 12:8)

Sadly, we need only look in the mirror and the church!  When the godly cease and the righteous fail the wicked are “on every side”. (Psalm 12:1)

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Like a Father, the LORD Loves the Righteous (Psalm 11)

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 29-30, Psalm 11, and Matthew 11. Today’s devotional is from Psalm 11.

We are uncertain of the historical context of Psalm 11; however, we know king David was facing the threats of an enemy and weighing the counsel of advisers who urged him to flee.

There are times retreat from confrontation is a wise choice.  David fled from the presence of Saul when the king attacked him. David fled Jerusalem after his son Absalom stole the people’s affections and led an insurrection against the king.  However, as we learn in our study of Psalm 11, there are times we face adversaries and the LORD would have us stand fast and trust Him.

We do not know if the foe David faced was within or without his kingdom; however, the threat was significant and the king’s counselors advised him to flee (11:1b-2).  David answered his frightened counselors,

Psalm 11:1 – “In the LORD put I my trust [confide; flee for protection; make refuge]: how say [speak; command] ye to my soul [life; person; mind], Flee [disappear; remove] as a bird to your mountain?

The counselors answered their king, reminding him the plot of the wicked was to destroy the just and upright (11:2) and as king, he was the moral pillar, the foundation of the nation (11:3).

Psalm 11:2-3 – “For, lo, the wicked  [ungodly; immoral; guilty] bend their bow, they make ready [prepare; set up; fix] their arrow upon the string, that they may privily [secretly] shoot at the upright [right; just; righteous] in heart [mind].  3 If the foundations [purpose; support; moral pillars] be destroyed [thrown down; broken in pieces], what can the righteous [just] do?”

David’s counselors reasoned, not only was his life at risk, but so also were the lives of the people and the future of the nation (11:3b).  In other words, what will become of the righteous should the king fall?

We find David’s response in Psalm 11:4-7.

Psalm 11:4-5 – “The LORD is in his holy [sacred; hallowed] temple, the LORD’S throne [seat] is in heaven: his eyes behold [perceive; look; gaze], his eyelids try [examine; prove], the children of men. 5 The LORD trieth [proves; examines] the righteous [just; law-abiding]: but the wicked [ungodly; immoral; guilty] and him that loveth violence [injustice] his soul hateth [as a foe].”

What a great reminder…regardless the threats of an enemy or his demands we compromise our integrity, the LORD has not abdicated the throne of heaven and He is Just!  The ways of the righteous will not go unrewarded and the ways of the wicked will surely be punished!

Our devotion ends with the assurance, “the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.”(Psalm 11:7)

What a great thought!  The righteous are the objects of the LORD’s love!  Like a father looks adoringly at his children, the LORD looks upon the righteous.

My friend, perhaps there is an enemy that haunts your life with threats, maligning gossip, or with disapproving gazes.  Take confidence in this…the LORD loves the righteous and He is just. Trust the LORD!

Isaiah 40:31 – “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

To Know God’s Will You Must First Be Doing His Will! (Genesis 23-24)

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 questioned his father, “Where is the Lamb?” (22:7); John the Baptist answered that question 2,000 years later when he said concerning Jesus, “Behold the Lamb” (John 1:29, 36).

Reminding us God’s people are sojourners in this world, 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 isHebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her” (Genesis 23:1-2).

A theme for Genesis 24 is simply stated,“Here Comes the Bride”.   Following Sarah’s death, Abraham was burden to find a fitting wife for Isaac, his heir of God’s covenant promises. Fearing Isaac might be tempted to take a wife of the heathen tribes in Canaan, Abraham sent 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 a 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 and a lesson to all who desire the will of the LORD, the servant prayed, being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren” (24:27).  Perhaps someone is reading this devotional and find themselves sincerely seeking the will of God in a matter or His direction for their lives.

Take a lesson from Abraham’s eldest servant: To know the will of the LORD you must be “in the way” of the LORD. You cannot pray sincerely for the LORD to reveal His will if you are not “in the way” of the LORD…obedient to His Word, walking the path of His choosing, and submitting to the authorities He has providentially placed in your life.

Do Right, my friend and you will not only do the will of the LORD, you will also be confident in it!

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

To God Be the Glory!

* The following letter is from Hillsdale’s bulletin this Sunday, January 13, 2019.

Welcome to Hillsdale!

I anticipate with JOY our church family being together this Sunday after a month of interruptions and holiday travels!  December is a month of celebration and holds loving memories of childhood for most; however, how blessed we are to celebrate a New Year and the possibilities of a new beginning!  The past is behind us and the slate for 2019 is open before us.

Dr. Michael and Sheri Privett

I continue my new series in the Epistle to the Philippians this Sunday morning and look forward to challenging you with Paul’s contagious JOY and example of “Abounding Love: One Spirit, One Mind, and One Passion”(Philippians 1).   Dr. Michael Privett and his wife Sheri will minister to us in our 6:00pm service.  Dr. Privett was formerly the Director of Church Planting with Gospel Fellowship Missions and is dedicated to training national pastors around the world. [Note – Children’s Choir will meet this evening and throughout the year with few interruptions].

Hillsdale’s Winter\Spring Semester Classes

New Bible study classes begin this Wednesday and I urge you to make a fresh start this New Year. Join us for Dinner (served each Wednesday, 5:00-6:00pm) and choose from a wide variety of new classes. Dr. Ted Martens is teaching a new Bible Institute class that is a study of the Church in the Book of Acts.  Pastor Barber and Linda are teaching and leading a practical class series on Evangelism and Encouragement (a “How to” course).  Mrs. Pat Youstra is leading a Ladies’ Class and a study of Bible Characters through their prayers. Travis and Tanya Henry begin a new parenting class titled “Character Matters”.  Classes begin at 6:30pm.

Pastoral Staff, circa 1983 (Youth Pastor Travis Smith, Senior Pastor Blaine Farley, School Principal Jim Webster)

To God Be the Glory!

Sheilah and I celebrate 40 years in ministry this Sunday.  January 1979, fresh out of Bible College, we arrived at the First Baptist Church of Sterling Heights, MI where we labored under the founding pastor of that ministry, Dr. Blaine Farley. For nearly seven years, God blessed our work as Youth and Music Pastor.  We saw the youth ministry grow from 20 to over 50 teens and at one time had twenty enrolled in Bible colleges.

Dr. Alan Bradshaw

Through circumstances and a providential phone call from Dr. Alan Bradshaw, we came to come to Hillsdale October 1, 1985 and spent the next ten years as the Youth Pastor before Pastor Bradshaw’s sudden home going on June 21, 1995.  As some might say, “the rest is history”.  As Sheilah and I celebrate God’s faithfulness, we are indebted to your love and patience with us through the years.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

pastorsmith@hillsdalebaptist.org

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

“He saw the multitudes [and] was moved with compassion on them” (Matthew 9:36-38)

Today’s Bible reading assignment is Genesis 21-22, Psalm 9, and Matthew 9.  Today’s devotion is taking from the Gospel of Matthew 9.

Matthew 9 gives us a beautiful portrait of Christ’s compassion for the physical suffering and hurting of His day.  Among the objects of His compassion was a paralyzed man “sick of the palsy” (9:2-7), a leader’s daughter raised from the dead (9:18-19, 23-25), a woman healed from “an issue of blood” (9:20-22), two blind men given sight (9:27-30), a man delivered from a demon (9:32-33), and the healing of “every sickness and every disease among the people” (9:35).

What an extraordinary record of compassion and miracles!  To almost overstate the obvious, we read, “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them” (9:36a).

What a compassionate Savior!  Men’s afflictions moved Jesus; however, His compassion also plunged to the depths of men’s souls who “fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36b).  What lessons might a believer take from Jesus’ extraordinary example of compassion?

Christlike compassion is deeper and broader than empathy.  Cultural icons and American institutions frequently make hit and run “feel good” gestures in the name of charity.  Stars and athletes drop a few coins in a kettle, establish a “Go Fund Me” account, pledge money to a good cause, and hold a Money-thon for an emergency; however, when the popularity of the cause has waned, the hurting are forgotten.

Christlike compassion is deeply invested in the well-being of men’s souls. Author William Barclay observes the compassion Jesus expressed was “no ordinary pity or compassion, but an emotion which moves a man to the very depths of his being.”  (N.T. Words; Philadelphia: The Westminister Press, 1964), p. 276.

What moved Jesus with compassion in Matthew 9:36?  The spiritual condition of the people moved Him.  He observed they “fainted”, tired of pursuits that left them spiritually and emotionally wanting. They were like sheep, “scattered abroad…having no shepherd”.

Knowing, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few” (Matthew 9:37), moved Jesus with compassion.  Harvest speaks of judgment when the sickle is employed to cut grain (Isaiah 17:11; Joel 3:9, 13; Revelation 14:14).   When the harvest comes, good grain is separated and stored, but bad grain is gathered and burned (Matthew 13:24-30).

We should be moved to compassion knowing the harvest and judgment of men’s souls.  Lost sinners are dying everyday without the  Shepherd.

What would Jesus have us do?

Matthew 9:38– “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Lot: The Tragic Consequences of One’s Father’s Sinful Choices

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 19-20, Psalm 10, and Matthew 10. Our devotional is taken from Genesis 19-20.

We read in Genesis 18 that the LORD and two angels appeared to Abraham and Sarah as men.  That elderly couple soon realized the three visitors were not mere mortals, for the LORD revealed He knew Sarah’s private thoughts and how she scoffed and laughed within herself when she heard the promise she would bear a son in her old age (Genesis 18:11-15).

We are made privy to the LORD’s love for Abraham and His desire to not keep from the man the great judgment that would soon befall the cities of the plain, specifically Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-17, 20-21).

Abraham pled for Sodom, proposing if ten righteous souls be found there the city might be spared God’s judgment (Genesis 18:23-33).  The LORD heeded Abraham’s petition and promise to spare the city from destruction should ten righteous souls be dwelling among its citizens (Genesis 18:32).

After “the LORD went His way” (Genesis 18:33), the angels made their journey into the valley, arriving at Sodom that even (Genesis 19).   Entering the city, the angels found Lot sitting “in the gate” (Genesis 19:1) where city leaders transacted business and settled disputes.  Lot recognized the visitors were not like the wicked of Sodom and urged them to find refuge in his home for the night (19:2-3).

As darkness fell on the city, the wicked men of Sodom encircled Lot’s home demanding he turn his visitors out into the street to be sodomized (19:4-6).  Unable to prevail against them (19:7), Lot foolishly offered his daughters to satisfy their depraved lusts (19:8-9).  Refusing Lot’s offer, the citizens of Sodom pressed upon the man threatening to break down the door of his home.  Lot was saved when the angels drew him into the house and striking the sodomites with blindness (19:10-11).

Exhibiting grace, the angels urged Lot to gather his family and flee the city before God destroyed it (19:12-13).  A desperate Lot went out of the house into the night hoping to persuade his sons, daughters, and sons-in-laws to flee the city; however, they dismissed the man as “one that mocked” (19:14).

As the sun began to pierce the eastern horizon, the angels forced Lot, his wife and daughters out of the city, warning them to no look back upon its destruction (19:15-23).  Adding sorrow upon sorrow, Lot’s wife looked back and “became a pillar of salt” as God rained fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah (19:24-29).

One would hope the deaths of loved ones and the judgment that befell the cities might transform Lot and his daughters; however, such was not the case. Lot’s daughters enticed their father with strong drink and committed incest with him (19:30-36).  The eldest daughter conceiving a son she named Moab, the father of the Moabites (19:37).  The youngest daughter conceiving a son she named Ammon, the father of the Ammonites.

The tragic consequences of Lot’s sinful choices has shadowed God’s people as the lineages of Lot’s sons, the Moabites and Ammonites, became adversaries and a perpetual trouble for Israel to this day.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith