Category Archives: America

The Blessings of Faithfulness and the Curse of Sin and Disobedience (Deuteronomy 28-29)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 28-29

Deuteronomy 28 – The Blessing of Faithfulness

Having declared God’s Covenant with Israel as His chosen people (Deuteronomy 5-28), Moses concludes with a challenge for the people to affirm the covenant they entered into at Mt. Horeb 40 years earlier (Exodus 24), and acknowledge their obligation to the LORD to obey His Laws and Commandments (Deuteronomy 29-30).

Moses promised Israel, the nation would be blessed above all nations of the earth on the condition they would hear, obey, and follow His commandments (Deuteronomy 28:1-15).  We find fifteen verses enumerating the multitude of God’s blessings should they obey His Laws and Commandments (28:1-14).

Of course, because the covenant was a binding agreement between the LORD and Israel, Moses warned the nation would bear the curse of God’s judgment should they turn away from the LORD, break His covenant, and live like the heathen people in whose land they were entering (28:15-68).

The promise of God’s blessings on Israel is stunning! Every area of the nation’s life would be blessed… “in the city…in the field” (28:3).  Universal fruitfulness was promised…the womb of women, cattle, sheep and the fields would reap a harvest of God’s blessings (28:4-6).  Israel’s enemies would fall before her, and their storehouses and treasuries would overflow (28:7-14).

In the same way God promised to bless the nation if the people obeyed Him, the opposite was true should they disobeyed Him. The curses that would befall Israel are listed in a series of judgments that are alarming to read (28:15-68). Should the people disobey the LORD, they were assured “all curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee” (28:15).

The cities, fields, storehouses, wombs of wives, livestock, and fields would all be cursed (28:16-18). Pestilence, physical disease, and drought would follow (28:20-24). The promise of God’s judgment for disobeying His Laws and Commandments continues another forty-eight verses! Humiliation before Israel’s enemies (28:25-29), poverty (28:30-31), slavery (28:32, 47-48), and disease (28:35) are all listed.

The siege of Israel’s cities and conditions of her poverty and hunger would become so severe the people would turn to cannibalism (28:49-57). All the diseases that befell Egypt would befall Israel (28:58-61).  The people would know no rest and would be terrified day and night (28:62-68).

Deuteronomy 29

The basis of Israel’s obligation to honor the Covenant with the LORD was not only the sacrifices they had offered to seal the Covenant at Mt. Horeb (Exodus 24), but also the LORD’s loving care of the nation over the course of their forty years wandering in the wilderness (29:2-9).

The nation, its leaders (“captains…elders…officers”), and “all the men of Israel” (29:10), representing every man, woman, boy and girl…even “thy stranger that is in thy camp” (those in the midst of the tribes, but not of the Twelve Tribes), were to affirm the covenant with the LORD (29:11-15).

Moses warned the people (29:16-29), should they turn to idols and follow in the sins of the heathen nations, and fail to obey the LORD’S Laws and Commandments, the nation will be punished with plagues and sickness (29:22), and the ground would be cursed (29:23).

“Choices Have Consequences,” and no nation, people, or family can expect to disobey the LORD’s Law and Commandments and be blessed! 

I close with good news. Although a promise received by king Solomon for Israel, I invite you to covet the same for our nation:

2 Chronicles 7:1414 If 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.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Moral Foundation of Societal Laws (Deuteronomy 21-23)

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 21-23

We find in today’s scripture reading the basis from which we derive our societal views on the sanctity of life, compassion, and decency. Signs of moral decay are around us; however, there are glimpses of compassion, rightness, and a sense of justice that continues to prevail.

Our neighbors may be ignorant of the source of their outrage when animals are mistreated, the weak are abused, or women are victims of violence. In today’s scripture you will discover the moral basis of justice and our conviction that demands kindness and fairness.

Moral Decency and Compassion (Deuteronomy 21)

Deuteronomy 21 sets forth various laws Israel was to follow. The sanctity of human life is demonstrated in the regard of a slain man whose body was discovered with no witnesses to identify his killer (21:1-9).

The just treatment of an alien woman taken as the spoil of war is addressed and the dignity of womanhood was demanded (21:10-12). Should a Hebrew man take a foreign woman as his wife, she was to be given a season of mourning (21:13). Should the husband later declare he did not desire her, she was to be treated with dignity and not to be sold as a slave. She was to be granted her freedom (21:14).

The birthright of inheritance as a firstborn son was established (21:15-17). The firstborn son’s right of a double inheritance could not be diminished, even if he was born to a least favored wife. He was his father’s firstborn and his privilege could not be reduced.

The nation was to be intolerant of rebellion in its youth (21:18) and a rebellious, stubborn son given to gluttony and drunkenness was to be put to death by the men of the city after due process (21:19-21).

Love Thy Neighbor (Deuteronomy 22)

There are many life principles we follow as a nation that originate in the Old Testament scriptures. What we consider civil behavior has its roots in Old Testament laws.  For example, your neighbors might try to find and return a stray pet to its owner. That compulsion is founded in the Israelite law that a man was required to preserve his neighbor’s property, have compassion on stray livestock (22:1-2), and hold a lost object until it was claimed by its owner (22:3).

A militant movement in the 21st century has attempted to normalize “transsexualism,” but God’s law addressed this aberration of His divine order and demanded the dress and fashion of the male and female to be distinctive (22:5).

Remembering God is Creator and life is sacred, the Israelites were to value and preserve life; even the smallest bird and her nestlings were to be treated with compassion (22:6-7).

Traditional homes in the Middle East were flat roofed and families would escape the interior heat of a home by seeking refuge on the roof at night. Demonstrating the sacred nature of human life, a “battlement” or low wall was required on the roof to prevent accidental falls that would result in injury and death (22:8).

Unlike the heathen, Hebrew women were given protections and the right of due process should their purity and testimony be called into question (22:13-21).  Practical laws and guidelines regarding the sanctity and purity of marriage were stated and adultery and rape were condemned (22:13-30). Incest was prohibited and was an abomination to God (22:30).

Deuteronomy 23

Males who underwent sexual mutilation (23:1), such as what you and I might identify as “sex change” in the 21st century, were to be put out from God’s people.

The rights of inheritance and those prohibited to have any inheritance in Israel are listed (23:2-8). Principles concerning hygiene and sanitation are enumerated, even the use of a shovel to cover human waste was endorsed (23:12-14).

A slave fleeing a foreign master was to be given safe haven in Israel (23:15-16) and female whores and sodomite men were to be excluded from the nation (23:17-18).

A Hebrew was forbidden to charge interest (usury) on a loan to another Hebrew; however, interest was allowed when loaning to a non-Hebrew (23:19-20).

Principles concerning vows are stated: 1) Making a vow is binding and is not to be entered into lightly and when failed is a sin (23:21). 2) In fact, it is better to not make a vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it (23:22-23).

Finally, we notice a lesson in civility and an expression of compassion for others: Strangers were permitted to eat fruit in vineyards and fields as they passed by; however, they were forbidden to employ a vessel to carry more than they could eat at one time (23:24-25).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Hype, Hysteria, and Hope (in the midst of uncertainty)

March 16, 2020

Dear Heart of A Shepherd readers,

I have been away from Tampa for only one week, however, the world and our nation have dramatically changed in that short span of time.

While I am not generally a conspiracy theorist, I believe there is a dark purpose behind what is happening in our nation. I think there are unseen, dark figures driving the present crisis and I wonder if this is a “dry run” for something diabolical and more malicious. Knowing the spiritual character of this generation is far different than the faith of our nation a century ago, I fear the potential of violent societal conflict.

The hype around the Coronavirus is a potential catalyst for an overreach of government that is, in my opinion, the perfect stage for a socialist agenda. The draconian measures that are being suggested and taken by federal and state governments (closing schools, churches, restaurants, and businesses; threatening curfews and outlawing gatherings of more than 50) threatens to ruin the economy and plunge our nation and world into an economic depression. Unless sanity prevails, businesses, ministries, and families will soon be forced into bankruptcy. (I do not write that sentence lightly).

No one could have foreseen the events of the past two weeks, nor can we predict the future ripple effect across our lives, families, and ministries. I have many concerns that I am sure are shared across our nation.

What impact will current events have on employers and employment?  What is the economic impact on businesses and families who survive paycheck to paycheck?  With hoarding on a scale never witnessed in my lifetime, how secure are our food supplies and staple goods?

In the immediate, I offer you counsel and encouragement:

Pray – Someone has said, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”

Mark 11:22-24 – “22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. 23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. 24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”

Plan – The distance between a panic attack and confidence is a plan.

Definition of “Plan” – “Since God knows exactly what would happen in every situation, He plans for the best thing to happen. God takes counsel, puts all things under advisement, and chooses the best way.” – Practical Word Studies in The New Testament.

Purpose – Put your trust in the LORD and hope in Him.

Isaiah 26:3-4 – “3  Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. 4  Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

http://www.HillsdaleBaptist.org

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Remember and Never Forget (Deuteronomy 11-13)

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 11-13

Memories and experiences shape us and can forever change us.

My grandparents’ generation experienced the Great Depression of the 1930’s, and frugality was their lot and practice to their graves. The bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 was an event that catapulted the United States into World War II but also birthed at the close of the war a prosperity the world had never known.

The extraordinary terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 introduced my generation to the horrific nature of militant Islam as we faced our own vulnerability and witnessed the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York City.

Like our parents and grandparents, I fear we fail to pass on to our children the deep, heart-felt emotions and wisdom life experiences has afforded us. Moses understood the children born during the wilderness journey would not appreciate all the LORD had done for Israel. Moses observed,

I speak not with your children which have not known” (11:2), “but your eyes have seen all the great acts of the LORD which He did” (11:7).

There is a wisdom that comes to those who “walk the walk.” Moses challenged Israel: Remember both God’s deliverance and His judgments, “keep all the commandments…be strong” (11:8). Moses promised the people, “keep all these commandments…to do them, to love the LORD your God… There shall no man be able to stand before you” (11:22-25).

God’s People Are to Be Intolerant of Sin (Deuteronomy 12)

It was not enough to conquer their enemies and take possession of the Promised Land. Israel was to destroy their idols and places of worship lest they be tempted to worship (12:1-3).  One place was to be holy to the LORD, and there the people were to bring and offer their sacrifices (12:4-14).

Remembering the abominations committed by the heathen, in particular, sacrificing their sons and daughters “in the fire to their gods” (12:31), Israel was admonished, “Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them” (12:30).

Warning: Don’t be dismissive of Deuteronomy 13 and its principles.

Moses warned the nation to not be ensnared by false prophets (13:1-5). So grave was his concern, he warned the people to be intolerant of the enticements of family and friends who would draw them away from the LORD (13:6-11).

False prophets are a constant presence in the 21st century. Many come under the guise of spiritual leaders; however, there are politicians, teachers, and media personalities who constantly promote a false narrative that is atheistic and baseless.

Shut out the clamor and noise of the world. Love the LORD, obey His law, heed His commandments, and rest in His promises.

1 Peter 1:14-16 – “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15  But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16  Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Memorial to the LORD’S Faithfulness (Deuteronomy 1-2)

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 1-2

Our chronological journey through the Bible continues today with the book of Deuteronomy, the fifth of the first five books of the Bible known as the Pentateuch.

While Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers chronicled Israel’s journey through the wilderness, the book of Deuteronomy begins at the journey’s end and the threshold to the Promised Land.  With the exception of three men, Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, the generation from twenty years and above that departed Egypt has perished along the way.

Deuteronomy is a record of Moses’ final instructions and exhortations to a people he had shepherded 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 their future as a nation (1:8).  Moses realized his days were numbered, and he wanted the people to know not only their physical lineage, but more importantly, their spiritualheritage as God’s chosen people.

The men and women who were 19 years old and younger when Israel exited Egypt were now in their late fifties, and Moses feared their children and grandchildren might be tempted to turn back from the challenges of the new land. Many were too young to know the hardships of Egypt or remember when the people rebelled against the LORD.

Concerned the youth lacked an understanding of what faithlessness had cost their parents and grandparents, the aged and wise leader rehearsed the tragic consequences of their disobedience.  Moses made certain they understood the challenges they would soon face.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

You Can’t Take It With You! (Leviticus 24-25)

Scripture reading assignment – Leviticus 24-25

A beautiful picture of corporate worship is introduced in Leviticus 24 as the children of Israel are invited to bring “pure oil olive beaten for light” to the Tabernacle (24:1-2). The people each had a part keeping the light continually burning in the sanctuary (24:3-4).

A spiritual crisis is recorded when the son of an Israelite woman, a man whose father was Egyptian, is guilty of cursing and blaspheming the name of the LORD (24:10-11).  Accused of violating the third commandment and taking the LORD’S name in vain (Exodus 20:7), Moses ordered the man held while he sought the LORD’s will (“the mind of the LORD” – 24:12).

Understanding the weight of their testimony, those who heard the man blaspheme the LORD’S name laid “their hands upon his head” and the people carried out God’s judgment, stoning him to death outside the camp (24:14).

Expanding God’s demand for justice and restitution, we read, “Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again” (24:20).

Leviticus 25 instructs the children of Israel in matters concerning the land the LORD promised would be a perpetual inheritance for Abraham’s lineage (Genesis 12:1; 13:14-15; 17:8).

Two occasions are discussed in this chapter, the seventh year Sabbath and the fiftieth year of “Jubilee” (25:2 -4, 8-13).

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

Seven “Sabbath years” were to pass (numbering forty-nine years) and the fiftieth year would be to the people a year of “Jubilee” (25:8-13); an additional Sabbath, meaning the lands and vineyards were idle for two years, the forty-ninth and fiftieth years (25:11). The year of Jubilee was also a year of celebration and restoration. Impoverished families who had sold their plots of land had them restored. (25:23-28).

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

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

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

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

Whether you live in a mansion or a shanty, count your millions or your pennies; you are at best a temporal owner of your possessions.   Estate sales and auctions are perpetual reminders…You cannot take it with you!  After all, you will go to your grave and others will eventually claim your possessions.

Matthew 6:20-21 – But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:21  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Infanticide and Five Other Capital Punishment Sins” (Leviticus 20-21)

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 19-21

* This is the second of two devotionals for today’s Scripture reading.

The LORD’s command for His people to be a holy people continues in Leviticus 20 listing six sins that were punishable by death.

The first sin demanding capital punishment was the sacrifice of children to a pagan god identified as Molech (20:2).

Scottish born minister of the 19th century, Andrew Bonar, writes in A Commentary on the Book of Leviticus, “Molech was worshipped by revolting cruelties, the cries of the sufferers being drowned in loud noise. An image of red-hot glowing brass was the form in which he was adored, and his arms received the children offered to him, forthwith consuming them by their red-hot touch. The child was put (“εἰς τὸ χάσμα πλῆρες τυρός”) “into a gaping hole, full of fire,” says a historian. Everything was savage and demoniacal; fiendish tyranny and hellish hate.”

Five additional sins demanding capital punishment were:

1) Consulting with witches (20:6)

2) Cursing and abusing one’s parents (20:9)

3) Committing adultery (20:10)

4) Committing incest (20:11-12, 14, 17, 19-21)

5) Sodomy (20:13)

5) Bestiality (20:15-16)

Leviticus 21 gives us additional guidelines God required of the High Priest and others who served in the priesthood.  The paramount demand for all priests was for them to be holy (21:6), consecrated (21:8), and without physical blemish before the LORD (21:16-23).

I close being reminded you might be surprised by the horror of parents sacrificing their children to Molech (20:2-5) in ancient times.  

I suggest, however, that abortion in our day is no less barbaric! 

Over sixty million children have been aborted since the United States Supreme Court upheld abortion in the 1973 case, Roe vs. Wade. Abortion procedures have the same end as sacrificing sons and daughters to Molech…terminating a child’s life.

The barbarity of abortion defies vindication. In many cases a powerful vacuum suctions the infant from its mother’s womb limb by limb.  In other instances, a doctor uses forceps to pull the baby from the birth canal piece by piece. In addition, there are others who advocate leaving the infant to die after birth.

Surely a silent scream is heard in heaven when a mother sacrifices her baby.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith