Category Archives: Anger

From Hero to Disgrace and Sorrow (Judges 8-9)

Daily reading assignment: Judges 8-9

Judges 8 – What is important? Not Where You Begin, but Where You End!

Our study of Gideon’s life continues with his leading a mere three hundred men to rout an army of Midianites (7:16-25). Judges 7 closes with Gideon sending messengers to call the men of Ephraim to take up arms and pursue the Midianites across the Jordan River (7:23-25).

Remembering Gideon was of the Abiezrite family and member of the tribe of Manasseh (one of Joseph’s two sons, the other being Ephraim), the Ephraimites alleged Gideon had slighted them by not inviting them to war against the Midianites (8:1).

Charged unfairly, nevertheless, Gideon humbly appeased the anger of the Ephraimites, proposing that tribe had achieved more than he in slaying two princes of Midian (7:25; 8:2-3).

 

Gideon requested food for his men while in pursuit of the Midianites; however, both Succoth and Penuel denied him aid and suggested Gideon would fail to dispose of the Midianites and their kings (8:6-10). Incensed, Gideon warned he would return after the battle and the men of Succoth and Penuel would pay for their rejection (a threat Gideon fulfilled – 8:11-21).

With the battle over, the men of Israel proposed to make Gideon their king (8:22). Gideon wisely refused and encouraged the nation, “The LORD shall rule over you” (8:23).

Judges 8:24-35 – No Fool Like an Old Fool

The battle being ended and his status as a victor secured, Gideon took a path that ultimately led him and the nation far from the LORD.

Requesting earrings of gold taken from the Ishmaelites (of whom the Midianites were descended), Gideon foolishly venerated his victory with a commemorative ephod that became an idol to Gideon and his household (8:27).

An old adage comes to mind when I read the concluding verses of Judges 8: “The best of men are men at best.” Gideon, known as Jerubbaal (“Baal fighter”), embraced his hero status and took “many wives” of whom were born seventy sons (8:30).

Gideon lived to be an old man; however, his sin so compromised his life and testimony that when he was dead, “the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim” (8:33).  The tragedy is heightened by the observation that the people not only forgot the LORD, but they did not honor the memory of Gideon or his household (8:34-35).

Judges 9 – The Tragic Culmination of Gideon’s Sins

Abimelech, one of the seventy sons of Gideon, was born to a Canaanite woman, a concubine in Shechem (8:31; 9:1). Abimelech hated his brothers and set in motion a plan to annihilate his father’s household.  Hiring wicked men to assist him, Abimelech ordered the murder of Gideon’s sons (9:1-5).

Only Jotham, Gideon’s youngest son, was spared death because he hid himself (9:5). When Jotham heard Abimelech had gathered men to crown him king (9:6), he stood eight hundred feet above the plain and shouted from mount Gerizim a parable about trees that proved to be a prophetic curse against Abimelech (9:7-15).

Judges 9:8-13 – A Parable of Trees

For the sake of interpretation, the olive tree, fig tree, and even the grape vine represent noble men (9:8-13). The bramble, a worthless vine of briars and thorns, was meant to represent Abimelech as a worthless man whom noble men had foolishly appointed to rule over them (9:14-15). Portraying the bramble as a worthless vine devoured by fire (9:19-20), Jotham prophesied Abimelech would die an ignoble death.

Abimelech reigned for three years (9:22) when there arose a rebellion. Attempting to put down the rebellion, Abimelech was mortally wounded by a woman who “cast a piece of a millstone” and fractured his skull (9:53). Rather than leave the account he was slain by a woman, Abimelech demanded his armorbearer thrust him through with his sword and kill him (9:54-57).

An Ignoble End

The tragic end of Gideon’s legacy is a lesson for all believers. When he was young and insecure, he was conscious how much he needed the LORD (6:12, 15-16). When he became famous and prosperous, he forgot the LORD and led his family down a path of sin and self-destruction.

What path are you taking, and where are you leading others?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Baldheads, Charity, Generosity, and Blind Justice (Deuteronomy 14-16)

Scripture reading assignment – Deuteronomy 14-16

Today’s scripture reading covers a wide swath of rules, laws, and regulations Israel was to follow as a nation in the Promised Land.

Outward Signs of Mourning Forbidden (14:1-2)

Deuteronomy 14 opens with an unusual command: “Ye are the children of the LORD your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead” (14:1).

Shaving one’s head as an outward sign of mourning had been a practice of the Hebrews (Micah 1:16; Amos 8:10; Ezekiel 7:18) and other ancient cultures. Reminding Israel, they were “an holy…chosen…peculiar people unto [the LORD]”, Moses commanded the men to no longer follow that practice when they entered the Promised Land (14:3).

The people were to be different, set apart in their diet, distinguishing between the clean and unclean as the LORD had commanded (14:4-21). They were to remember to give the LORD His tithe, and when the distance to bring tithes of beasts or fruits was too far, they were to sell them and bring the money to the sanctuary (14:22-26).

They were to be a charitable people, supporting the Levites who ministered before the LORD and caring for the poor, widow, orphan, and foreigner (14:27-29) with the promise the LORD would bless them “in all the work of thine hand which thou doest” (14:29b).

Deuteronomy 15 reminded the nation they were to observe the Sabbath year which occurred every seven years.

The Sabbath year was the year debtors would be forgiven their debts (15:1-5) and Hebrews who had enslaved themselves due to their impoverished state were released from servitude (15:12-15).

Permit me to invite you to consider several monetary principles and spiritual truths found in this chapter. The first, a sign of the LORD’S blessing on Israel was His prohibition against that nation ever becoming a debtor nation.  While they might lend to nations, they were to never borrow from them less they become their servants (15:6). Sadly, we as citizens of the United States, now over 20 trillion dollars in debt, find ourselves debtors to our adversaries.

A second truth is the perpetual presence of the poor in the world. We read, “the poor shall never cease out of the land” (15:11). The Hebrews were to be known for their generosity to the poor and needy.

A third principle is the requirement of generosity toward those who served their master or employer faithfully (15:12-18). A Hebrew slave who was given his freedom on the Sabbath year was not to be sent away empty-handed (15:12-14).  The nation was to remember they had been slaves in Egypt and were to extend compassion to their brethren.

Some who had served out their debt, and so loved their masters that they voluntarily accepted a lifetime of servitude, were marked by a hole in their ear (15:16-17). Hired servants were generally obligated to a three-year term; however, some were “double hired,” serving six years and were to be honored with the promise “thy God shall bless thee in all that thou doest” (15:18).

Three feasts are recorded in Deuteronomy 16 (Feast of the Passover, Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles) and were given to all Israel to observe. The men of Israel were commanded to observe them each year in Jerusalem (16:1-16). The standard for giving at the feasts was, “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee” (16:17).

I close today’s devotional commentary inviting you to consider the justice system Israel was to implement (16:18).  Knowing the tribes of Israel would be scattered in the Promised Land, it was essential that judges be appointed by each tribe. God valued justice, and judges were to be impartial and not prejudiced by bribes (16:19-20).

The law of God requires impartiality; however, in all fairness, I fear equity has been lost in our world, and the scales of justice weigh heavily in favor of the rich and powerful.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Charge to Joshua and a Challenge to Israel (Deuteronomy 3-4)

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 3-4

Moses rehearsed with Israel the LORD’S faithfulness in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 2-3:17).  He reminded Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh (the tribes that had chosen the land on the east side of the Jordan) of their covenant with the nation to go to war with their brethren (3:18-20).

Yearning for the LORD to grant him a reprieve, Moses prayed he might be permitted an opportunity to enter the Promised Land (3:23-25). The LORD, however, denied Moses his request and commanded him to “speak no more” of it (3:26).  True to God’s nature, in an act of grace Moses was promised an opportunity to see the land (3:27).  Sin had cut short Moses’ leadership and the consequences were a lesson for all Israel to heed (4:21-22).

Joshua, Moses’ successor, must now take up his mantle and lead Israel into the Promised Land. As a final act of leadership before he is taken, the LORD commanded Moses to “charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see” (3:28).

Accepting the LORD’s prohibition on entering the Promised Land, Moses challenged the people to hear and obey the statutes and judgments of the LORD (4:1).  Unlike any other nation, Israel was chosen by the LORD and were custodians of His Laws and Commandments (4:2-20).

All that the LORD had promised, He wished to fulfill; however, the covenant He had established was conditioned on the nation’s heeding and keeping the vows they had made.

Lest the people be disheartened, Moses acknowledged he would not accompany them into their inheritance for, “I must die in this land, I must not go over Jordan” (4:21-22).

Who is Israel’s God? 

He is a “consuming fire, even a jealous God” (4:24). He is merciful, longsuffering, and forgiving (4:29-31). He is man’s Creator and the God of heaven (4:32).  He is God alone, and “there is none else beside Him” (4:35).  He is Sovereign of heaven and earth (4:39). He is just and ready to pour out His blessings on those who obey His law and commandments (4:40).

Moses was aware his days on the earth were ending and he would soon perish. Choosing not to wallow in self-pity, he challenged and encouraged the people to remember the LORD’s providences and claim His promises.

Words and example matter, and some of the most powerful words you will ever speak are parting words.

May your words be Truth and seasoned with grace.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Look and Live…And a Little Hee-Hawing! (Numbers 21-22)

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 21-22

Forty years after Israel departed Egypt, the nation is nearing the culmination of her 40-year sojourn in the wilderness. The generation that departed Egypt, but refused to trust the LORD to enter Canaan, has perished.  Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ sister and brother, are dead (20:1, 28). I wonder what loneliness Moses have borne?

Forty years of trials and hardships has prepared the people for the battles that lie before them. 

Numbers 21 opens with a victorious battle against a Canaanite king. These were the people before whom Israel had fled forty years prior (Numbers 21:1-3; 14:44-45). Soon after, in spite of their victory, the people fell to murmuring against the LORD and Moses (21:4-5).

Responding to the accusations that He and Moses had led them out of Egypt to die, the LORD sent “fiery [poisonous] serpents” among the congregation (21:6). Chastened by the LORD, the people confessed their sin and asked Moses to pray the LORD would “take away the serpents from us” (20:7).

The LORD answered Moses’ prayer by providing a way of salvation, a serpent of brass he was instructed to make and suspend above the people (21:8).  The LORD promised that when the people looked upon the brass serpent they would live (21:9). It was that symbol, the brass serpent, Jesus mentioned when He foretold His own sacrificial death on the cross.  Jesus prophesied:

John 3:14-16 – “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: [15] That whosoever believeth in Him [Jesus Christ] should not perish, but have eternal life.  [16] For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

As the brass serpent suspended on a pole was the object God provided for Israel to be saved, Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross is the LORD’S provision for our salvation and deliverance from the curse of sin.

We find Israel within months of entering the Promised Land, the land God promised Abraham would be an inheritance for his lineage (Genesis 12). Knowing the adversaries they would face when they cross the Jordan River, it was necessary that Israel conquer and destroy her enemies on the east side of the Jordan River less they fall victim.

War and More Wars (Numbers 21:12-22:41)

Ancient enemy states, whose ruins modern archaeology have identified, are named here: the Amorites, Moabites (21:13-23), and Ammonites (21:24).

Balak, a king of the Moabites (22:1), is renowned for his desperate attempt to have Balaam, a heathen prophet, intercede for him against Israel (22:2-6).  After refusing the king’s petitions, Balaam yielded to take his journey with representatives of the Moabite king after God directed him to go with the men (22:20-21).

Insuring the prophet would obey Him, the LORD sent an angel to stand in the path of Balaam (22:22). An argument ensued that is a favorite of children and one of the most unusual conversations in the Scriptures…an exchange between a man and his donkey! (22:23-35)

Terrified by the appearance of an angel bearing a sword, the donkey rushed out of the way as Balaam desperately attempted to guide him. Seeing the angel, the donkey fell down and refused to move in spite of Balaam’s abuses (22:27).

Miraculously, the LORD gave the donkey the ability to speak, and Balaam, seemingly without thought, found himself in a heated conversation with his donkey until the “LORD opened the eyes of Balaam” (22:28-31). Complying to the angel’s bidding, Balaam continued his journey to Balak, king of Moab (22:34-35).

I close today’s devotional with the stage set for a dramatic confrontation between a heathen king (22:36-41), a wayward prophet, and the LORD, the King of Heaven!

To be continued…

Copyright  2020 – Travis D. Smith

Three Men Went Up, But Only Two Came Down (Numbers 18-20)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 18-20

What difference does it make?

You may be wondering if Old Testament passages that state laws and guidelines for sacrifices have any relevance for New Testament believers.  Unfortunately, there are some preachers who foolishly assert the Old Testament scriptures have no application for the Church.  They could not be further from the Truth!

Christ “offered one sacrifice for sins for ever” (Hebrews 10:12), His death satisfying the penalty of our sins, we no longer observe the laws and guidelines for sacrifices. However, the Old Testament scriptures give us eternal principles that we find reflected in New Testament doctrine.

For example, unlike the other tribes that would be assigned an inheritance in the Promised Land, the tribe of Levi would have no inheritance of land (18:20-21).  The LORD’S will was for His ministers to be wholly dedicated to the LORD. Provision for the priests, Levites, and their families came from the tithes and sacrifices offered to the LORD by the people (Numbers 18:8-19, 23-24).

The laws directing the people to support the high priest, priests, and Levites through their sacrifices is reflected in the New Testament principle that a faithful minister of the Gospel is to honored and rewarded for his labor (1 Timothy 5:17-18).

Numbers 19 gives us ceremonial laws for cleansing should a priest come in contact with a corpse, whether beast or man. Modern science has revealed what ancient Israel may not have known…the ever-present danger of disease and contamination.

The Deaths of Miriam and Aaron (Numbers 20)

Several events are recorded in Numbers 20 that give us pause to consider the ever-present consequence of sin…Death.  Miriam, the sister of Moses dies (20:1) and near the close of the chapter Aaron, Moses’ brother dies (20:28).

Returning to a sin that has been their pattern, the people began to chide Moses and Aaron when there was no water (20:2-5). The LORD mercifully commanded Moses to take up his rod, speak before all the people, and water would come forth from the rock (20:7-8).

Frustrated and angry, Moses disobeyed the LORD and spoke harshly to the people. Striking the rock with his rod, water came gushing forth, supplying water for the people and their beasts (20:9-11).

Moses’ actions met the desires and needs of the people; however, the consequence of his sin was tragic for himself and his brother Aaron. We read, Numbers 20:12 – 12 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.

Our devotional ends with a dramatic ceremony that took place at Mount Hor. Remembering Aaron would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land (20:23-24), Moses was told to strip his brother of his priestly robes and place them on his son and heir, Eleazar (20:25-26).

Moses, Aaron, and his son Eleazar ascended Mount Hor; however, only Moses and Eleazar “came down from the mount (20:28).

Numbers 20:29 – 29 And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

 

“Standing Between the Living and the Dead” (Numbers 16-17)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 16-17

Korah and his followers, convinced they were equals to Moses, challenged his spiritual authority in their lives. 

Moses warned the young men, “Ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi…seek ye the priesthood also?” (Numbers 16:7, 10).

Undaunted by the question, Moses invited Korah and his company of rebels to take up fire in censers and on the next day approach the LORD to see whom He would choose (16:5-7, 16-18).

Indulging the young men, we read, “Korah gathered all the congregation against” Moses and Aaron (16:19a). Why? How did the people come to turn against Moses and follow their youth?

I suggest proud parents and grandparents saw in their young men the beauty and strength of youth. They foolishly listened as those young men dared to accuse Moses of failing the nation (16:13-14). The next day, those young men and their families stood outside the doors of their dwellings, and the “glory of the LORD appeared” (16:19, 27).

The LORD stated His intention to bring judgment upon the whole congregation; however, Moses, standing with the elders of the tribes against the young men, interceded with the LORD to not “be wroth with all the congregation” (16:22).

Seeing the LORD’s glory, the people withdrew from the rebels (16:25-27), and Moses declared a test:

Should the young men die a common, natural death (perhaps in their old age), then the people would know, “the LORD hath not sent me [Moses]” (16:29).  However, should the earth open up and swallow the rebels, the people would know they had provoked the LORD to wrath (16:30).

Displaying the His wrath and affirming the leadership of Moses and Aaron, we read, “the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up, and their [families]” (16:31-33). As the congregation fled God’s judgment, the LORD sent a fire and “consumed the two hundred and fifty men” who had followed Korah (16:35).

Incredibly, the next day the people, grieving the deaths of their young men, gathered against Moses and Aaron, and accused them of being the cause for their deaths (16:41-42).

Once again, “the glory of the LORD appeared,” and He sent a plague in the congregation that consumed them until Moses interceded and Aaron ran through the midst of the congregation with a censer of burning incense seeking to placate the wrath of God (16:44-49).

In Numbers 17, the LORD determined to leave no doubt the priesthood would descend from Aaron’s lineage and no other, in a simple, but visible sign.  The LORD commanded Moses to instruct the heads of each tribe to bring a wooden rod, a symbol of authority, to the tabernacle with the names of the elders of the tribes inscribed on them (17:2). Aaron’s name was inscribed on the rod for the tribe of Levi (17:3).  A visible testimony of God’s favor was the rod of the man whom God had chosen would blossom (17:5-7).

On the next day, of the thirteen rods that represented the twelve tribes and the tribe of Levi, only the rod of Aaron miraculously budded and “bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds” (17:8-9).  Moses displayed Aaron’s rod to the children of Israel as a sign his lineage alone was chosen to lead the priesthood (17:10-13).

There are many lessons and cautions we might derive from Numbers 16.  One is, while this passage is instructive, it does not suggest the LORD will swiftly judge critics of His ministers.  I have known too many pastors who aspire to pedestals and presume to be above accountability.

The same might be said of some in the church who are all too ready to level veiled criticisms at spiritual leaders and not give them the respect due their office.  If your minister is called by the LORD, examined, confirmed by an ordaining assembly, and chosen by a body of believers whom he faithfully serves…his office and role is to be respected.

Pastors are far from perfect, and some engaged in ministry lack the Biblical qualifications of the pastor\shepherd (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9); however, those ministers who are qualified and faithful should be honored for their sacrifices and endeavors.

As purveyors of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, pastors stand “between the dead and the living” (16:48).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture Reading – Numbers 14-15; Psalm 90

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

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

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

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

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

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

Numbers 15 rehearses the matter of the Law and sacrifices.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith