The “virtuous woman” is the subject of Proverbs 31, perhaps the most beloved of all the Proverbs because it addresses the most central figure in life apart from our Creator—one’s mother. Like chapter 30, the authorship of Proverbs 31 has been debated down through the centuries; however, I feel there is much about this chapter that commends itself to having been authored by King Solomon. [Author’s note – A separate devotional for 1 Kings 12 is available at www.HeartofAShepherd.com]
Proverbs 31:1 – “The words [discourse; law] of king Lemuel, the prophecy[burden; tribute] that his mother taught him [instructed; discipline; chasten].”
There is no record of a king named Lemuel in ancient Israel or Judah, and many scholars believe Lemuel might have been a nickname Bathsheba gave to her son Solomon. Having lost her firstborn son in infancy, the one conceived in an act of adultery with David; one can understand why Bathsheba would dedicate Solomon to God, and in her heart, name him Lemuel (the literal meaning of Lemuel is “unto God” –lit. dedicated to God). For the sake of our devotional studies in Proverbs, I propose we view this chapter as Solomon’s memorial to his mother.
Verse 2 of Proverbs 31 records the Queen mother’s appeal to her son in a three-fold question:
Proverbs 31:2 – “What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows [dedication to God; binding covenant between mother and God]?”
Allow me to probe the meaning of the three questions proposed by the king’s mother.
1)“What myson?”(31:2a)– i.e. – What more can I say to you my son and king?
2)“What, the son of mywomb?”(31:2a) – She reminds the king that she knew him in her womb; before he drew his first breath. She gave him life, and loves him as no one else could love him.
3)“What, the son of myvows?”(31:2a) – Like Hannah dedicated her son Samuel (1 Samuel 1:11), Bathsheba dedicated her son while he was in her womb. She remembers the first stirring of life and how she prayed for him. She had dedicated him to serve the Lord!
We are not told what moved Bathsheba to make an impassioned plea to her son. Perhaps her motherly instincts sensed the moral dangers Solomon would face. She knew all too well the temptations that beset a man of power, possessions, and popularity. The plea of the Queen mother resonated in her son’s heart, and he memorialized her virtuous qualities as an example for all women.
Someone has said: “The greatest moral power in the world is that exercised by a mother over her child.”
John Quincy Adams, the 6th president of the United States said concerning his mother, “All that I am, or ever have been, in this world, I owe, under God, to my mother.”
Closing thoughts – Read the entirety of Proverbs 31 today. It is my prayer the king’s praise of his mother will move husbands, sons and daughters to thank the LORD for loving mothers, and encourage them with words of affirmation and thanksgiving. Finally, in a day that is desperate for a moral compass, I pray there will be mothers who have been inspired from the king’s praise of his mother, to aspire to the qualities of a virtuous woman.
To the two mothers in my life, thank you for your loving sacrifices, and examples of Christ-like, unconditional love. (Proverbs 31:28-31)
Today’s Scripture reading consists of two lengthy psalms: Psalm 37, “A Psalm of David,” and Psalm 71, a psalm whose author is not known (although it may have been penned by David in his old age). Today’s devotional is taken from a portion of Psalm 37.
Every day we are inundated by reports of wickedness that can only be explained as evidence of abject depravity. We cannot go a day without violence and wickedness blazed across news headlines; yet, when I was a child, parents allowed their children to play outside, unmolested, for hours on end, with ne’er a worry. What happened?
How should Bible-believers respond to a culture that is the antithesis of godliness and morality? Where do we focus our thoughts and emotions when we witness injustices that grieve the soul, and stir us to anger and indignation? Psalm 37 tackles those questions.
David wrote, “Fret [angry; angered] not thyself because of evildoers [wicked], neither be thou envious [jealous; provoked to jealousy] against the workers [makers] of iniquity [wickedness; unrighteousness]” (37:1).
Don’t allow the sins of the wicked to stir you to anger. Don’t be jealous when the wicked appear to prosper in their sins. Remember, there is pleasure in sin, but only for a season (Hebrews 11:25), and the wicked “shall soon [speedily; quickly] be cut down [cut off] like the grass, and wither [fade away; sink down] as the green herb [tender grass]” (37:2).
Like grass that withers under the summer heat, God’s wrath will inevitably consume the wicked in their sin.
Rather than fret and worry (37:1-2), we are to, “Trust in the Lord, and do good” (37:3).
Psalm 37:3 – “Trust [be confident; bold] in the LORD, and do good [pleasing; pleasant]; so shalt thou dwell [abide; remain; continue] in the land, and verily [truth; faithfully; believe] thou shalt be fed [shepherd; lit. graze or pastured].”
Not only must we not fret, and trust in the LORD; we must also “delight…in the LORD.” (37:4)
Psalm 37:4 – “Delight [be content] thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give [deliver; put; make] thee the desires [request; petitions] of thine heart [mind; feelings; understanding].”
To “delight” is to be content and satisfied. We delight in the LORD when we are content to enjoy His presence, study His Word, and accept that His will and purpose is always good (Romans 8:28-29). Consider what the LORD promises those who delight in the Lord: “Heshall give [deliver; put; make] thee the desires [request; petitions]of thine heart [mind; feelings; understanding]” (37:4b). Of course, when your delight is in the Lord, His will is your heart’s desire!
To thrive in a “sin mad world,” believers must “roll over on the LORD” their burdens, troubles, and anxieties. (37:5-6)
Psalm 37:5-6 – “Commit [roll over; trust] thy way [journey; manner; road; course] unto the LORD; trust [secure; confident; bold] also in him; and he shall bring it to pass [make; wrought; commit; create]. 6 And he shall bring forth [bring out; finish; i.e. make to appear] thy righteousness [justice; prosperity; justice] as the light [illuminate; i.e. light of day], and thy judgment [manner; right; cause] as the noonday.”
To “commit thy way” is to “roll over” one’s burdens onto the LORD. The “way” is one’s life path, road, and future. When we give our life to the LORD (Romans 12:1), we must learn to “trust also in Him” (37:5). David invites believers to be bold, and confident the LORD will accomplish His will in us. He will defend us from slander, and vindicate us [“thy righteousness”] in the light of day (37:6).
Surrounded by wickedness, and facing unjustified attacks of an enemy, we must seek that special place of finding “rest in the Lord.” (37:7-11)
Psalm 37:7 – “Rest [be still; silent] in the LORD, and wait patiently [lit. endure anguish; tremble] for him: fret not [don’t be soon angry] thyself because of him who prospereth [to succeed; to have success] in his way [journey; road; course], because of the man who bringeth [create; wrought; make] wicked devices [lewd; mischievous] to pass [creates wicked plots].”
The discipline of silence is nearly lost in today’s society. We are surrounded by noise and activity everywhere we go. Even worship services are filled with noise and activity! Yet, we are exhorted to “rest in the Lord,” be still, silent, and quiet. Sadly, many are unwilling to be quiet long enough to pray, and allow the LORD an opportunity to speak deep within their hearts.
Returning to the admonition he used in the first verse, David again urged, “fret [angry; angered] not thyself because of him who prospereth [succeeds; to have success] in his way [journey], because of the man who bringeth [create; wrought; make] wicked devices [lewd; mischievous] to pass [create; wrought; make]. 8Cease from [forsake; abandon] anger [wrath], and forsake [relinquish; abandon] wrath [fury; anger; rage]: fret [angry; angered] not thyself in any wise [altogether] to do evil [hurt; afflict; break]” (37:7-8).
Don’t allow the sins of others to provoke you to sin! Don’t be overcome with anxiety, when the wicked flaunt their sin, and appear to prosper.
Psalm 37:9-10 – “For evildoers [the wicked] shall be cut off [destroyed; consumed]: but those that wait upon [look for; expect; tarry] the LORD, they shall inherit [occupy; take possession of] the earth [land]. 10 For yet a little while [a brief time], and the wicked [ungodly; guilty]shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider [understand; perceive; regard] his place [home; country], and it shall not be.”
The lives of the ungodly are short-lived, but the LORD rewards those who wait on, and look to Him (37:9-10). David assured believers, “the meek [humble] shall inherit [possess; be heir; take possession] the earth [land; country]; and shall delight [refresh; delicate] themselves in the abundance [great] of peace [Shalom; completeness; happy]”(37:11).
Closing thoughts – Jesus Christ quoted Psalm 37:11 in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:5). While the world portrays the “meek” as weak, the biblical definition is of one who exercises spiritual discipline and self-control. The meek are, by God’s grace, and the work of His Holy Spirit, strong and tender. Of such a man, God promises, He will give him an inheritance, and lasting peace.
How should you respond to the evil and wickedness in the world? Don’t worry (37:2), trust the Lord (37:3), delight in Him (37:4), roll all your anxieties onto Him (37:5-6), and seek that perfect place of rest (37:7).
The prophet Nathan had warned David that the consequences of his adultery, and the murder of Uriah would follow him to his grave (2 Samuel 12:10-14). Absalom was dead! Contrary to the king’s wishes, Joab, one of David’s captains, had killed the son of the David, and buried his body in a ravine under a heap of stones (2 Samuel 18).
David’s soldiers had been victorious on the battlefield, and routed the men of Israel who had sworn devotion to Absalom. Although his reign had been preserved, the death of Absalom thrust upon the king a grief that moved him to cry, “would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (18:33b) Joab rebuked David for grieving the death of his son, and urged him to express his gratitude to his soldiers or risk their resentment (19:7).
2 Samuel 19 concluded exposing a division among the people. The ten tribes to the north, identified as “the men of Israel” (19:41), resented the “men of Judah” (19:42), for David was of that tribe (19:43).
Sheba, “a man of Belial” (literally, a worthless man), of the tribe of Benjamin (from which King Saul had come), openly opposed David (20:1). Expressing his animosity for the king, Sheba rallied an army to oppose him (20:2). David, having promoted Amasa to lead his army (19:13), commanded him to rally the “men of Judah,” and in three days pursue Sheba, putting down the insurrection before he could retreat to the safety of a walled city.
Amasa, however, proved incapable of rallying the “men of Judah,” for he had been captain of Absalom’s army (20:5). David turned to Abishai, brother of Joab and a trusted captain, and commanded him to pursue Sheba (20:7-8). Amasa arrived too late to lead David’s army, allowing opportunity for Joab to stealthily beguile him close enough to slay him in the sight of the soldiers (20:9-10). David’s men put down the rebellion, and the conflict ended with Sheba being beheaded (20:22).
A Growing Rift between Joab and the King
We should take note of Joab’s flawed character, and his lack of reverence for David. He had slain Absalom, and watched as his men brutalized his body. In 2 Samuel 20, he defied David’s authority, slaying Amasa whom the king had appointed as captain of his army. David certainly had cause for not trusting Joab, but he did nothing to deter the man’s ambitions.
Once again, we are reminded that David had abdicated his moral authority over Joab, when he commanded him to expedite Uriah’s death (2 Samuel 11:14-25). Troubles between Joab and David are on the horizon.
Troubles in Israel continued with that nation enduring three years of famine (21:1). Thus, David “inquired of the LORD” (21:1) the cause for the famine.
The LORD revealed the famine was his judgment for a wrong committed by his predecessor, king Saul, against the Gibeonites (non-Israelites who lived in Canaan, 21:1). Because Saul had broken covenant with the Gibeonites, and shed innocent blood, the LORD declared He would not heal the land until David righted the wrong (21:2).
As head of the nation, David humbled himself, and questioned the Gibeonites what they required to right the sin committed against them (21:3). The Gibeonites rejected any offer of silver or gold from the household of Saul, leading David to promise, “What ye shall say, that will I do for you” (21:4).
The Gibeonites, employed an ancient law of mankind (Genesis 9:6), and demanded the deaths of seven sons of Saul (seven men who were direct descendants of Saul). David agreed to the demand (21:6), but spared Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son, who was the grandson of Saul (21:7).
Understanding the land was polluted by innocent blood, David took hold of seven sons of Saul, for “the land [could not] be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it” (21:8-9; Numbers 35:33). Two sons of Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, were slain (21:8a), and five sons identified as “sons of Michal the daughter of Saul (21:8b). Remembering Michal bore the curse of never having children (2 Samuel 6:23), it would seem she had raised five sons as her own (perhaps the sons of her sister Merab, 1 Samuel 18:19).
2 Samuel 21:9 – “9And [David] delivered them [the sons of Saul] into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the hill before the Lord…and were put to death in the days of harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of barley harvest.”
2 Samuel 21 concludes with a historical record of Israel’s conquests over the Philistines, and the slaying of the giants who were of Goliath’s household (21:15-22).
Closing thoughts – Our world is troubled in a way I have not witnessed in my lifetime. Civil unrest, violence, murders, drought, massive storms, famine, and warnings of a shortage of food are constant. Understanding when innocent blood is shed and there is no justice, God will judge the land. We should expect God’s judgment for the millions of unborn children whose lives had been snuffed out in their mother’s womb.
After the Twelve Tribes of Israel were allotted their lands (Joshua 14-19), the LORD commanded Joshua to speak to the tribes, and require them to appoint “cities of refuge… 3That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be [a] refuge from the avenger of blood” (20:2-3).
The purpose for the cities of refuge has been discussed in earlier devotions, so suffice it to say we are again reminded of the sanctity of all human life (Genesis 9:4-6; Exodus 20:13), and the principle of capital punishment established by the LORD in Genesis 9:5-6. The cities of refuge afforded a safe place for those who had unintentionally taken the life of another (20:3-4). The cities provided a place where a man’s case could be judged by the elders of the city, and his life protected from those who felt compelled to avenge the death of a loved one (20:5).
Joshua 21 – Cities Designated for the Tribe of Levi
Having divided the land among the Twelve Tribes, the priestly tribe of Levi requested the cities they had been promised for their inheritance in the land (Joshua 21:1-3). Each tribe was to give cities, and their surrounding lands, wherein the Levites would dwell (21:4-42). Forty-eight cities were given to the Levites, and assigned by family (21:41).
A Lesson Regarding the Sanctity of Human Life, and Capital Punishment
There are many who naively oppose capital punishment, and argue it is an act of barbarity, and is inhumane. The opposite is true! Because man was created an eternal soul, and in the image of God (Genesis 9:6), his life is sacred in the eyes of God. Willfully taking a human life, a life God deems sacred, demands the ultimate act of justice…the forfeiture of one’s own life (Genesis 9:5-6; Exodus 20:13).
Concerning abortion: The Word of God upholds the sanctity of life in a mother’s womb. Exodus 21:22 gives an example of where two men were fighting, and a mother with child was injured, and the baby was born prematurely. The law demanded, should the mother and her child live, the judgment was there was “no mischief,” and the man who injured the woman would need only pay a fine. However, should the mother or her infant die, the judgment was “give life for life” (21:23).
Imagine God’s judgment upon a 21st century mother, father, or abortionists who daily, and routinely kill the unborn!
The sum of today’s Scripture reading is essentially two words: Blessings and Cursings.Deuteronomy 27concluded with the people affirming their understanding of God’s Covenant, and agreeing to both its blessings and penalties (27:15-26). Deuteronomy 28 continues the same proclamation, detailing the LORD’S promise of His blessings if the people would obey His Laws and Commandments (28:1-14), and curses should they disobey (28:15-68).
The Rewards and Blessings of Faithfulness (28:1-14)
The promise of blessings was conditional, and would be fulfilled, but only if the people would “observe and to do all His commandments.” If the people would “hearken…observe…and do all His commandments,” the LORD promised He would “set [Israel] on high above all nations of the earth” (28:1). All would be blessed, both city and field (28:3), and would be fruitful and increase. Children would be born; cattle would calve, and the flocks of sheep would increase. The fields would give forth a great harvest (28:4-6).
Israel’s enemies would fall before them, and be scattered (28:7). Her storehouses, and treasuries would overflow (28:8-14). The LORD promised He would open the treasury of heaven, send rain upon the land, and the nations of the world would become debtors to Israel (28:12). All this was promised, if Israel obeyed the LORD’s Law, and His Commandments (28:13-14).
The Penalties of God’s Judgment for Disobedience (28:15-68)
The balance of Deuteronomy 28 predicts the punishments that would befall Israel as a nation, should the people turn from the LORD, and disobey His Law, and Commandments (28:15-68). In the same way the LORD promised to bless the nation if the people obeyed Him, the opposite was true should they disobey Him. The curses are far too extensive for me to address individually; however, we should notice the sum of them in our Scripture reading.
Should Israel reject Him, the LORD warned He would abandon them to their enemies (28:45-47), and the people would become slaves to their enemies (this would come to pass during the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, and be repeated in the Roman era). The fruitfulness of their lands, trees, and storehouses would be eaten by their enemies. Their cattle, and flocks would be destroyed (28:48-51).
When the cities would be besieged, the starving people would turn to cannibalism, and eat “the flesh of [their]sons and of [their] daughters (28:52-53). Their men would become effeminate, “tender among you, and very delicate” (28:54), and their women would no longer be “tender and delicate” (28:56). The eyes of a wife would “be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter” (28:56). Leaving her natural affection, Moses warned a mother “shall eat [her children] for want of all things secretly in the siege” (28:57).
Because the people had rejected the LORD, and disobeyed His Law, the LORD promised to bring upon the nation “great plagues…and sore sicknesses” (28:59). Israel would be overcome with plagues (28:58-60), and the births of the children would be few (28:62-63). The nation would be conquered, the people scattered, oppressed, and enslaved (28:64-65).
Fear, dread, and depression would haunt the nation, and the people would dread the night, and the dawn (28:66-67). Eventually, they would be taken from their land, “see it no more again…[and] be sold unto [their enemies]” as slaves (28:68). All of this did come to pass in AD 70 when Titus, the Roman General, destroyed Jerusalem, and the Jews were scattered throughout the nations.
I close, being reminded, the pattern of decline seen in today’s Scripture is a foretelling of judgment upon all nations that reject God. History records the rise and fall of nations, and no nation can long reject God without experiencing moral decay, and the judgment of God.
My own country, is following the path God promised to curse.
Everywhere I look, I see the evidences of a nation whom God has turned over to its enemies. We are enslaved, and become a debtor nation to our enemies. The women of our nation, take the lives of their unborn in grotesque abortions, as surely as if they cannibalize them from the womb (28:52-53). Effeminate men, “tender [and]delicate” (28:54) are celebrated, and rebellious women blight our society, and with an “evil eye,” look upon their husbands and children (28:56-57). We are experiencing epidemics, a failing birthrate, and a fear, and dread of the future such as I have not witnessed in my lifetime.
If America does not repent of her sins, and turn to God, she is doomed.
Moses continues his charge to Israel in our Scripture reading. Found in Deuteronomy 21-22 are fundamental principles that establish the sanctity of human life, the fundamentals of civil decency and human kindness, and the practical application of the command, “love thy neighbor.”
We have considered several passages of Scripture that explain the sanctity of human life, and the sixth commandment that reads, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). Capital punishment, a “life for a life,” was God’s judgment upon the man who willfully, and deliberately took the life of another (19:11-13, 21). Deuteronomy 21:1-9, addresses the loss of human life, should a victim’s body be discovered, but there are no witnesses to the murder.
Concerning a woman taken as a spoil of war (21:10-14)
Ancient cultures considered women who were taken prisoners to be nothing more than a possession, a spoil of war. The God of Israel, however, established laws to protect women. Should a man desire to take a female prisoner to wife, he was to allow her head to be shaved, an outward symbol of her purification, and give her thirty days to mourn the deaths of her parents, before taking her as his wife (21:12-13). Should the man later decide to reject her, he was to set her at liberty, and was commanded to neither sell, or humiliate her (21:14).
Some suggest the reference to “two wives” (21:15) is a suggestion of polygamy; however, I believe it is not. In the beginning, God defined marriage as “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), the union of one man and one woman. The Mosaic Law did not redefine what God Himself had designed, and established.
I believe the explanation for the reference of “two wives” (one being described as “beloved,” and the other “hated”), implies the first wife to be dead. The first wife had given birth to a son, and being the firstborn son, he was to be heir of the man (21:15-16). The second wife, the stepmother of the firstborn son, would be tempted to influence her husband to disown his firstborn son, and choose her son to be his heir (21:16). The LORD condemned that practice, and declared the firstborn son was to be given “a double portion” of all that was his father’s (21:17).
The stoning of a rebellious son is no doubt an offense to our 21st century sensibilities. This son of shame, described as “stubborn and rebellious” (21:18), refused to hear and obey his father and mother. Such a son was to brought before the elders of the city, where his character was described as “a glutton, and a drunkard” (21:19-20).
Given the severity of the punishment, we can conclude that the stoning of a rebellious son was a rare event. Such a judgment required the consent of both the father and mother (21:19-20). If found guilty by the elders of the city, the son would have been stoned to death by the “men of his city” (21:21).
We are reminded that an Israelite was to love his neighbor, and that command was demonstrated in a man’s duty to his neighbor’s livestock, clothes, and any other possession that belonged to another (22:1-3). Should a man’s ox, sheep, or donkey be astray, a man was to restore them to their owner. Should the owner not be readily known, an Israelite was required to take the animal to his own home, until its rightful owner was found (22:2). Compassion for animals of God’s creation was commanded (22:4).
There is much ado about the “rights” of self-declared transexuals, who desire to blend, and distort the natural distinctions between male and female in both their dress, and manner. Such a blur of distinctives is not a “new woke” (as today’s society would have you believe), but was an ancient sin that God’s Word declared was an “abomination unto the LORD thy God” (22:5).
Compassion and Affection for Nature (22:6-7) – From the beginning, man was commanded to be the “keeper” of God’s creation (Genesis 2:15). It follows that even the smallest of animals should arouse in man a natural affection, and compassion (22:7).
Several other laws and guidelines are given in Deuteronomy 22, but I conclude by inviting you to notice the LORD’S protection of womankind (22:13-29).
Unlike their heathen neighbors, Israelite women were afforded protections, and shielded from abuses that are even prevalent in our own day. A woman had the right of due process, should her purity and testimony be questioned. Should a woman be forcefully taken, and raped, the severity of the law would fall upon the man, and he would forfeit his life (22:25-27).
Our world has rejected the LORD. The authority of God’s Word has been scuttled over the course of the past century. We have become a society with laws methodically divorced from unalterable principles, and been left a people given to the whims of wicked men.
Isaiah 5:20-21– “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!”
Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith
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Numbers 34 records the boundaries of the land the LORD had promised Abraham, and his seed as their inheritance (Genesis 15:18-21; 26:4; 28:13-14). Although the land would not be formally divided by tribe until Joshua 15-19, we are given the southern boundaries (34:3-5), with the western boundary being the “great sea” (the Mediterranean Sea, 34:6). The northern most boundary of Israel was to be Mount Hor (34:7-9), and the eastern boundary was the Jordan River (34:10-13). Per their request, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had “received their inheritance on [the east] side Jordan [River] near Jericho” (34:14-15).
With the assistance of “Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun” (34:17), the LORD chose a man from each of the tribes, to represent his tribe when the land would be divided (34:18-29).
Numbers 35 – The Inheritance of the Tribe of Levi, and the Laws Governing Murder
Unlike the other tribes, the priestly tribe of Levi was not assigned a portion of the land. Their inheritance would be forty-eight cities, and suburbs that would be allotted to the Levites. These cities and suburbs were to be located in the midst of the lands apportioned to the Twelve Tribes, both on the east and west sides of the Jordan River (35:1-5,7).
Of the forty-eight Levite cities, six were to be designated “cities for refuge,” to which men would flee in the event they had taken the life of another (35:6-8). Three cities of refuge were to be located on the east side of the Jordan, and three on the west side (35:9-14).
The cities of refuge offered haven to a man killer (“man slayer”), until he was tried by the congregation, and a determination was made whether or not he was guilty of murder (35:15-29). The cities of refuge could not serve as a safe haven for a man guilty of murder.
Taking the life of another was a violation of the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13), and the judgment of God was: “The murderer shall surely be put to death” (35:16). A blood kinsman had the right to avenge the death of his loved one, and to him fell the responsibility of slaying the murderer (35:17-21).
Should a man slay another “unawares,” an unintentional, accidental killing, he could seek sanctuary in a city of refuge, and so long as he stayed within the city, he was safe. Should a man guilty of manslaughter depart from the protection of his city of refuge, a blood kinsman could avenge the death of his loved one (35:25-28). Only the death of the high priest would release a manslaughterer from the borders of the city of refuge (35:28).
In cases of capital punishment, it was required that more than one witness would give testimony before a man could be convicted of murder, and killed (35:30). Ransom or bribes that were intended to spare the life of a murderer were forbidden (35:31-32).
Numbers 35:33–34 – 33So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it. 34Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel.
Take a moment, and weigh the seriousness of taking the life of another. When there is no justice for the slain, and the murderer goes unpunished, the innocent blood “defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood” (35:33b). The only means of cleansing a land of innocent blood, and a nation of its guilt, was by exacting justice, and taking the life of the murderer.
When justice for the innocent fails, a nation is cursed, and its people live under the shadow of God’s judgment.
What hope is there for a people, and nation that is guilty of injustice, and the slaying of the innocent, and unborn?
2 Chronicles 7:14 – 14If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
Note from the Author: This is a bonus devotional from today’s Scripture reading, Job 9-10. My earlier writing focused entirely on Job 9; however, I feel the central theme of Job 10 is too important for us not to take a moment to consider the sanctity (sacredness) of human life (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17).
Job’s reply to Bildad continued in Job 10, and he confessed to God what many have felt when besieged with trials and beset by troubles: “My soul is weary of my life” (10:1a).
Job’s statement was not a threat of suicide, but an honest, transparent complaint that the sorrows and losses he had experienced had taken their toll on him physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
Distressed in his soul, Job prayed, “Do not condemn me,” do not abandon me; show me why you have allowed such hardship and difficulties to fall upon me (10:2). Notice that Job’s appeal to His Creator was deeply personal, and he identified himself to the LORD as “the work of thine hands” (10:3b). He was not under any delusion that he merited God’s favor. In fact, the opposite was true. He acknowledged his “iniquity” and “sin” (10:6); however, he protested, “7Thou knowest that I am not wicked; And there is none that can deliver out of thine hand” (10:7).
The sanctity of human life is the central truth we find in these verses (10:7-17). Here is an inspiring passage that leaves no doubt that human life is consecrated from the moment of conception, and that God is intimately interested in each of us. From the unborn, to the very ancient among us, every human life is sacred, and conceived in the heart of God.
Notice Job’s description of God’s personal affection, and His attentiveness to everything about us:
Job 10:8–9 – 8Thine hands have made[shaped; formed] me and fashioned[created] me Together round about; yet thou dost destroy me. 9Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made[fashioned] me as the clay [an allusion to God creating Adam, Genesis 1:27; 2:7]; And wilt thou bring me into dust again? [implying death and decay]
God is not only the giver, and preserver of life; He is the gatekeeper for every trial and blessing that graces our lives.
Job 10:12 – 12Thou hast granted [make; wrought; create] me life and favour [grace; loving-kindness], And thy visitation [lit. oversight] hath preserved [keep watch over] my spirit. 13And these things hast thou hid [treasured] in thine heart: I know that this is with thee.
David penned similar truths regarding the sacredness of human life, and acknowledged God as His Creator in Psalm 139:13-16.
Psalm 139:13–16 – 13 For thou hast possessed [get; acquire] my reins [lit. kidneys; figuratively the mind; feelings]: thou hast covered [protect; defend] me in my mother’s womb [belly; bosom; body]. 14 “I will praise [give thanks; confess] thee; for I am fearfully[amazingly; stand in awe or reverence]andwonderfully made [distinguish; uniquely; set apart]: marvellous [wonderful; distinguish; extraordinary; surpassing] are thy works [labor; i.e. needlework; deed]; and that my soul [life; person; being] knoweth [perceives; observes] right well [exceedingly; greatly]. 15 My substance[bones and being] was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, andcuriously wrought[woven as a tapestry] in the lowest parts of the earth. 16 Thine eyes did see [perceive; look; behold] my substance[might; body; frame; bones], yet being unperfect[embryo; unformed mass]; and in thy book [letter; scroll]all my members were written[described; lit. – all the days of my life were ordained], which in continuance [day; time; continually] were fashioned [formed, as a potter; to mold], when as yet there was none [i.e. not the first] of them[before one day of my life was past].”
God is your Creator, and He knows you personally, and intimately. He has followed your life from the moment you were conceived, and has kept you by His sovereign, providential care. In fact, He loves you so much that He has extended His grace to you, offering salvation and forgiveness of sin through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Our Scripture reading brings us to the final crisis that Ezekiel has long warned would come: The final siege and destruction of Jerusalem, the beloved capital city of Judah and all Israel. Today’s devotional commentary will focus on Ezekiel 23.
Ezekiel 23 – A Tale of Two Sisters, Aholah and Aholibah
The account of the final days before the fall of Jerusalem and the eradication of both Israel and Judah as nations, is vivid and graphic (23:1-2). In Ezekiel 23 we have the description of Israel and Judah symbolically represented as two sisters who had committed spiritual “whoredoms in Egypt…in their youth” (23:3).
Aholah, identified as the elder sister, was a symbolical name for the nation of Israel (identified in this passage as Samaria, the capital city of the ten northern tribes). Aholibah was the younger of the sisters and was a symbolical name for Judah, the southern kingdom whose capital was Jerusalem (23:4).
Aholah (Israel) and Aholibah (Judah) are portrayed as sisters who had rebelled, broken covenant with the LORD, and turned to other lovers (i.e. alliances with other nations). Aholah (Israel), awed by the strength and power of Assyria had made an alliance with that nation and turned from the LORD (23:5-10; 2 Kings 15:19-20; 17:1-4). Aholibah (Judah), Aholah’s sister, had sought alliance with Assyria and also courted the favor of Chaldea (Babylon). King Hezekiah had foolishly displayed to Nebuchadnezzar’s ambassadors the wealth and treasuries of his palace and the Temple (23:11-21; Isaiah 39:1-8).
When Aholibah (Judah) realized the evil intent of Chaldea (Babylon), she appealed to Egypt for aid, but to no avail (23:21; 2 Kings 23:26-30, 31-24:2). Thus, the “lovers,” Assyria and Chaldea, had ravaged both Israel and Judah with their “chariots, wagons, and wheels, and with an assembly of people,” and stripped those nations bare of their wealth and people (23:22-29). God’s judgment against His people and the devastation of Israel and Judah would be an astonishment to the nations who would scorn and disparage them (23:32).
What sins had Aholah (Israel) and Aholibah (Judah) committed against the LORD that would justify so great a judgment? (23:37-49)
The judgment of Israel and Judah was just because those nations had broken their covenant with God and committed spiritual adultery (23:37). The people had defiled the Temple with idols, forsaken their Sabbaths (23:38), and committed the ultimate act of wickedness and depravity: They had sacrificed their children to Moloch, and on the same day entered the Temple to worship (23:39; note Ezekiel 16:21).
The destruction of Israel and Judah was set and the horror of the people’s sufferings had been determined (23:47). The final siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar’s army had begun and the days were numbered.
Ezekiel 24:2 – Son of man, write thee the name of the day, even of this same day: the king of Babylon set himself against Jerusalem this same day.
Why did God chasten and punish His people? Not only because He loved them, but so they would know He is “the LORD GOD” (23:49).
Hebrews 12:6– For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
Today’s Scripture reading consists of six Psalms; however, this devotional commentary will limit its focus to Psalm 139.
Charles Darwin, the 19th century English naturalist, was a geologist and biologist by training. Called by many, the Father of Evolution, Darwin attained world-wide fame when he published his book, Origin of the Species (1859).
Though many (if not the majority) of his suppositions on the Theory of Evolution have been disproven and rejected by credible scientists, nevertheless evolution has continued to be taught in secular education as the explanation for life and the physical universe. The delusion of evolution has wreaked havoc in our world and has infected not only our outlook on life, but also the value we place on life itself.
Consider this statement: What you believe concerning the origin of life will dictate the answers to fundamental questions on life itself:“Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? How should I live? Where am I going?”
Psalm 139 is not only David’s declaration of his belief in His Creator, but also his revelation concerning God’s attributes.
God is Omniscient and knows all that is in your heart (Psalm 139:1-6).
He knows your fears, longing, thoughts, and desires (139:1a). There is nothing you can hide from God. He knows all about you (139:2). He knows everything you think in secret and everything you say in public (139:2b). He savors the noble and excellent qualities of your life (139:3-6).
God is Omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-12). He abides in every part and place of His creation and there is no place where God is not present (139:7-8).
Psalm 139:7-8 – “Whither shall I go [walk; come; ] from thy spirit [God’s Spirit]? or whither shall I flee [i.e. be put to flight] from thy presence [face; countenance]? 8 If I ascend up [go up] into heaven [i.e. Heavens..the sky above; stars and planets], thou art there: if I make my bed in hell [Sheol; grave; pit; place of the souls of the dead], behold, thou art there.”
Knowing the LORD is omnipresent, you can be confident you are never beyond His protection, love, and compassion (139:9-10). You can take flight, but you are never beyond His grasp.
Psalm 139:9-10 – “If I take [depart; carried away] the wings of the morning [dawn; first beams of morning light], and dwell [abide; remain; inhabit] in the uttermost parts [end; last] of the sea; 10 Even there [flight as fast as light or the depths of the sea] shall thy hand [power] lead [guide; bring] me, and thy right hand [i.e. considered to be the stronger side] shall hold [take hold; possess; handle; grasp] me.”
When the darkest hour of life is upon you, the light of the Lord is with you (139:11-12).
Psalm 139:11-12– “If I say [speak], Surely the darkness [i.e. misery] shall cover [bruise; break; overwhelm] me; even the night shall be light [day; light] about me. 12 Yea, the darkness [i.e. misery] hideth [obscures] not from thee; but the night shineth [shines; enlightens; gives light] as the day: the darkness [i.e. misery] and the light [luminous light] are both alike to thee.”
God is your Originator… your Creator, Designer and Architect (Psalm 139:13-16). He has Sovereignly determined your uniqueness. (139:13)
Psalm 139:13 For thou hast possessed [get; acquire] my reins [lit. kidneys; figuratively the mind; soul, seat of my desire and affections]: thou hast covered [knit; weave] me in my mother’s womb [belly; bosom; body].
He has impressed on man’s soul a consciousness of his Creator’s hand and design. (139:14)
Psalm 139:14-15 – “I will praise [give thanks; confess God in public] thee; for I am fearfully[amazingly; stand in awe or reverence]andwonderfully made [distinguish; uniquely; set apart]: marvellous [wonderful; extraordinary; surpassing] are thy works [labor; i.e. needlework; deeds]; and that my soul [life; person; being] knoweth [perceives; observes] right well [exceedingly; greatly]. 15My substance[strength; physical frame; bones and being] was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret [mother’s womb], andcuriously wrought[woven as a tapestry] in the lowest parts of the earth [out of human sight].
From the moment of your conception, your person and days were determined (139:16).
Psalm 139:16 – Thine eyes did see [perceive; look; behold] my substance[body; frame; bones], yet beingunperfect[embryo; unformed mass in mother’s womb]; and in thy book [letter; scroll]all my members were written[described; lit. – all the days of my life were ordained], which in continuance [day; time; continually] were fashioned [formed, as a potter; to mold], when as yet there was none [i.e. not the first] of them[before one day of my life was past].”
My friend, you are special, unique, and one of a kind; there is no one like you. Modern science has proven just how unique you are. Your ears are geometrically unique as is your body odor (secreting a combination of 44 compounds). Your fingerprints and fingernails are unique with loops and swirls forming patterns unique to you. Even the pores of your nose form a pattern like no other.
He created you as a free will agent. You are not a robot and every person has the privilege and responsibility of choice, individual actions, thought and will.
Romans 1:20 – “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”