Category Archives: Anger

Samson: A Man of Raging Passions (Judges 14-15)

Scripture reading – Judges 14-15

Although the Scriptures do not go into a detailed description of Samson’s physical appearance, he must have been a striking figure. Various artists have portrayed him as a hulk of a man, with bulging muscles, and longer hair that was a visible testimony of his Nazarite vow (13:5).

Judges 14 – A Woman, A Wedding, and A Riddle

Samson had made a short journey from his home “down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines” (14:1). As was the custom of his day, Samson returned home, and demanded of his father and mother, saying, “I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife.”

The Philistines were an idolatrous people, and Samson’s parents rightfully objected to his desire to marry a Philistines woman. They asked their son, “Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren [that being the tribe of Dan], or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?” (14:3) Nonetheless, Samson’s desire for the woman was undeterred, and he “said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well” (14:3).

Judges 14:4 gives us a testimony of the sovereignty, and providence of God, working through Samson’s desire, for we read: Samson’s “father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel” (14:4). The stage was set for Samson to find a cause of conflict with the Philistines, and the LORD meant to use the occasion to set his champion against the enemies of His people.

Samson’s physical strength is one of his enduring characteristics. On the way to meet his future bride, Samson slew a lion with his bare hands (14:5-9). His meeting with the woman confirmed his desire to make her his wife (14:7), and upon his return home, he found the dried carcass of the lion he had slain, filled with a swarm of bees, and honey which he did eat (14:8-9).

Samson’s wedding feast continued seven days, and he told a riddle to challenge his guests, and made a wager of “thirty sheets (under garments) and thirty change of garments” (probably fancy embroidered robes worn on special occasions, 14:12), if they should solve his riddle 14:13-14). When the seventh day of the feast came (14:14), the nefarious wedding guests threatened Samson’s wife, and her father if she failed to tell them the answer to the riddle (14:14-15). She wept, and pressed Samson to give her the answer. When he did, she betrayed him to the men who had threatened her, and gave them the answer (14:16-18). Samson was furious (14:16), and to fulfill his promise of new garments, he “slew thirty men” (14:19), and provided his guests with their robes.

Betrayed, Samson left his wife, and returned to his father’s house (14:19). In his absence, his wife’s father gave her to “his companion” [his best man] (14:20).

Judges 15 – Betrayed and Bound

When time passed, and his rage dissipated, Samson returned to his Philistine wife, only to learn she had been given to another man (15:1-2). Fearing Samson’s response, her father offered him his younger daughter, but Samson was determined he would have his revenge (15:3). He went out, captured three hundred foxes (scholars suggest jackals that inhabit that area to this day), bound their tails to one another, and placed a fiery torch between them (15:4). Fearing the fire, the foxes ran wild through the fields of the Philistines, burning their wheat, vineyards, and olive trees (15:5).

The Philistines responded, killing, and burning his wife, and her father (15:6). Threatening vengeance, Samson took in hand the jaw bone of a donkey, and slaughtered a great number of Philistines (15:7-8).

Mustering their army, the Philistines invaded Judah (15:10). When the men of Judah learned the cause for the invasion was to capture Samson, they raised up three thousand men. Those men made their way to Samson, and reproached him asking, “Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us? what is this that thou hast done unto us?” (15:11) Samson, defended his actions, saying, “As they did unto me, so have I done unto them” (15:11). With the promise they would not harm him, Samson submitted to the men of Judah, who bound him with two new ropes, and brought him to the Philistines (15:12-13).

Bound, and led away by three thousand men, Samson came into the encampment of the Philistines, and they rejoiced, and scorned him (15:14). In that moment, “the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands. 15And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith.” (15:14-15). The bodies of the Philistine soldiers were stacked in two heaps” (15:16).

Judges 15 concludes with the observation that Samson “judged in Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years” (15:20). He was not dead, but Judges 16 will give us the tragic history of the last days of his life.

The champion of Israel will follow the lust of his flesh, fall and come to ruin.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Broken Covenant, and a Path to Forgiveness (Judges 9-10)

Scripture reading – Judges 9-10

The last years of Gideon’s rule as judge left Israel ill-prepared for the years that followed his death (Judges 8:29-35). Upon Gideon’s death, Israel forsook their covenant with the LORD (8:34).

Judges 9 – The rise of Abimelech, son of Gideon

We remember how Gideon had many wives, and “threescore and ten sons” (8:30); however, there was another son, not numbered with the seventy sons born to Gideon’s wives. His name was Abimelech, a son of Gideon born of a concubine (and not a wife). After Gideon died, he aspired to claim his father’s leadership in Israel, and stirred the men of Shechem, his mother’s people, to make him king (9:1-2).

Abimelech plotted to murder the seventy sons of Gideon, and his mother’s people reasoned they would be better off with one of their own ruling Israel, rather than one of Gideon’s other sons (9:3). With seventy pieces of silver, Abimelech hired wicked mercenaries, described as “vain and light persons” (9:4), and they “slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal…notwithstanding yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left; for he hid himself” (9:5). Imagine the breadth of depravity present in Israel, that men in their midst would slay the sons of Gideon!

Jotham, Gideon’s youngest, and only surviving son, stood upon “the top of mount Gerizim,” towering eight hundred feet about the plain. Lifting up his voice against the men of Shechem who had made Abimelech king (9:6-21), he told a parable (9:8-15) how the olive trees, fig trees, and vines invited a bramble bush to be king, saying, “Come thou, and reign [i.e. be king] over us” (9:14).

A prickly, thorny bramble is a wild bush, and lacks the majesty, beauty and height of other trees. The parallel Jotham drew with his parable, was that his brothers had been great men, like the cedars of Lebanon (9:15), and Abimelech was nothing more than a bramble bush, and yet they had chosen him to be their king. Jotham cursed the men of Shechem (9:15), and they would come to hate Abimelech, and he would hate them, to their destruction (9:17-49).

Three years passed, and the men of Shechem’s plot to kill Abimelech failed, forcing them to flee into a tower. Abimelech set fire to the tower, and “a thousand men and women” died (9:46-49). He then went to Thebez, and the men of the city fled into their strong tower, and Abimelech would have burned the tower, but “a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and all to brake his skull” (9:53).  Realizing he was dying from his wounds, Abimelech commanded his armorbearer to slay him with his sword, lest it be said of him, “A woman slew him” (9:54).

Judges 10 – The LORD Sends Revival in Israel

Two judges ruled in Israel after Abimelech died (10:1-5). If we assume that Shamgar was the third judge (3:31), Deborah the fourth judge (4:4), and Gideon the fifth judge (6:12; 8:28), Tola would have served the LORD as the sixth judge, and he judged Israel twenty-three years (10:1-2). After Tola, Jair judged Israel twenty-two years (10:3-5).

Following Jair’s death, Israel turned from the LORD, and “did evil again in the sight of the Lord,” and served many gods; however, they “forsook the LORD” and did not serve Him (10:6). Then the LORD turned Israel over to her enemies, to be chastened by them eighteen years, until they cried out to Him (10:7-10). Humbled, broken, and oppressed by their enemies, Israel confessed, “We have sinned against thee” (10:10).

The LORD answered their cry, and rebuked Israel’s ingratitude, and reminded them of the times He had delivered them out of the hand of their enemies (10:11-12). He admonished Israel, saying, “14Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation” (10:14).

The children of Israel, however, cried out the more, and not only confessed their sins, but surrendered to the LORD to do with them as He pleased (10:15). Israel repented, and destroyed the idols they had worshipped, and set their hearts to serve the LORD (10:16).

Judges 10: 6-16

What a wonderful lesson in repentance we have in today’s devotional! Israel realized it was not enough to confess they had sinned. They knew their fellowship, and covenant with the LORD could not be restored until they put away their idols. Then, in a beautiful act of God’s grace, we read, the LORD “was grieved for the misery of Israel” (10:16). With their sins forgiven, and the covenant restored, Israel was ready to go to war, knowing the LORD was on their side (10:17-18).

Observe the cycle: Sin, leads to Slavery, that leads to Sorrow, and leads back to the LORD for to Salvation.

God takes no pleasure in the sorrows that befall us because of our sin. He is gracious, merciful, and longs to forgive, and restore us.

1 John 1:99If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Place to Call Home (Joshua 19)

Scripture reading – Joshua 19

The narrative concerning the division of the Promised Land continues in Joshua 19 with the final tribes receiving their territory by lot: Simeon (19:1-9), Zebulun (19:10-16), Issachar (19:17-23), Asher (19:24-31), Naphtali (19:32-39), and Dan (19:40-48).

While the names of the borders, and cities are too numerous to list, there are some details found in Joshua 19that I invite you to consider in your meditation. The first, unlike the other tribes, Simeon would not receive their own distinct territory, but would instead find its lands “within the inheritance of the children of Judah” (19:1b).

Why would Simeon not be blessed with their own territory?

The immediate explanation is “the part of the children of Judah was too much for them: therefore, the children of Simeon had their inheritance within the inheritance of them” (19:9). However, there was a prophetic significance to the assignment of Simeon’s land, within that of Judah, and it is found in Jacob’s dying words. On his death bed, Jacob remembered how Simeon, and Levi had sinned and brought shame upon Israel.

Do you remember how Simeon and Levi had avenged the honor of their sister Dinah, after she had been raped by Shechem, the son of Hamor, the Hivite (Genesis 34:1-2). When Jacob’s sons heard their sister had been violated (Genesis 34:5-7), they determined to deceive Shechem, his father, and their people into accepting circumcision under the guise of an accord between their families (Genesis 34:13-24).

On the third day of the circumcision, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, attacked, and slew Shechem, Hamor, and the men of the city (Genesis 34:25-30). Jacob rebuked Simeon and Levi, saying, “Ye have troubled me”(Genesis 34:30). Many years later, as Jacob was dying, he remembered the cruelty of Simeon and Levi (Genesis 49:5-6), and cursed them saying, “7Cursed be their [Simeon and Levi] anger, for it was fierce; And their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, And scatter them in Israel” (Genesis 49:7).

“Divide and scatter,” Jacob’s prophetic cursed was fulfilled, as the tribe of Levi, would not receive their inheritance in Canaan. Also, the tribe of Simeon, would be in the midst of Judah, without its own distinct territory.

Joshua 19 concludes with the LORD commanding Israel to give Joshua an inheritance (19:49).

Like the servant leader he was, Joshua had served the needs of all the others, insuring each tribe had their inheritance. Now, “according to the word of the Lord they gave [Joshua] the city which he asked, even Timnath-serah in mount Ephraim: and he built the city, and dwelt therein” (19:50).

Why did Joshua chose to build a city on mount Ephraim? He was a son of the tribe of Ephraim; however, I believe the principal reason was this: The Tabernacle was located at Shiloh, a city of Ephraim, and Joshua wanted to live out his days near the LORD’s sanctuary, a symbol of His presence in the midst of His people.

What about you? Is worshipping, and serving the LORD a priority for your life, and family? It was for Joshua!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Curse of a Dying Nation: Feminine Men, and Rebellious Women (Deuteronomy 28)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 28

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.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Foolish Prophet, and His Chattering Donkey (Numbers 21-22) (part 2 of 2)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 21-22

This devotional commentary continues our summary review of Numbers 21, and will also consider Numbers 22. The LORD had spared Israel from greater judgment, by directing Moses to make, and lift up a brass serpent on a pole, that served as the object God provided for the people to look to look for their healing (21:1-9). 

Numbers 21:10-16 – A Song of Rejoicing

The nation continued on their journey to the Promised Land, skirting the border of Edom (Deuteronomy 2:4, 5), and coming to the “border of Moab” (21:13). There the people rejoiced for the water the LORD provided (21:14-18).

Numbers 21:10-31 – Victory over Sihon, King of the Amorites

Desiring to pass through the territory of the Amorites, “Israel sent messengers unto Sihon, king of the Amorites” (21:21), and requested safe passage through their land. The leaders of Israel vowed to not harm their crops, vineyards, or drink water from their wells (21:22). King Sihon, however, refused Israel’s request, and gathered his people and attacked the congregation (21:22). Israel rose up against the Amorites, and God gave them victory (21:24-25). Memorializing their victory over Sihon, king of the Amorites, Israel celebrated with a song (21:27-31).

Numbers 21:32-35 – The Defeat of Og, the King of Bashan

Building upon Israel’s defeat of the Amorites, the nation faced Og, king of Bashan. He attacked Israel, but the LORD assured Moses and Israel that He would give them victory. King Og was then defeated so soundly that “there was none left him alive: and they [Israel] possessed his land” (21:35).

Numbers 22 – Balak, King of the Moabites

The next several chapters, Numbers 22-24, introduces us to Balaam, whom we might describe as an unfaithful seer (a seer being a prophet, or fortune-teller), and a king of Moab named Balak.

Balak had heard how Israel defeated Og, king of Bashan, and Sihon, king of the Amorites, and his heart failed at the thought of facing this formidable foe that was marching through his land (22:1-4). Lacking confidence that his soldiers could defeat Israel, Balak turned to Balaam, and sent ambassadors to summon the prophet to come, and curse Israel (22:5-6). The king was confident “that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed” (22:6).

Coming with the promise his services would be well rewarded, the Moabite delegation insisted that Balaam come and curse Israel (22:7). The foolish prophet, rather than reject the Moabites invitation outright, and send them away, invited them, “Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as the Lord shall speak unto me” (22:8a).

The LORD came to Balaam, and warned, “Thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed” (22:12). The next morning, Balaam sent the Moabites away, saying, “the Lord refuseth to give me leave to go with you” (22:13).

Receiving Balaam’s refusal, and desperate for help, Balak sent a second delegation more powerful and influential than the first (22:15). Those men came to Balaam promising to enrich, and “promote [him] unto very great honour,” if he would come and “curse…this people” (22:17).

Balaam knew he could not curse a people whom God blessed, nevertheless, he invited the Moabites to spend the night, and he would bring the matter before the LORD (22:19). That night, the LORD came to Balaam, and gave him liberty to go with the delegation (22:20-21).

Balaam rose the next day, saddled his donkey, and began his journey with the Moabites. As Balaam set out on his journey to Moab, “God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the Lord stood in the way for an adversary against him” (22:22).

The next verses (22:22-41), relate a humorous interaction between Balaam, his donkey, and the angel of the LORD, that has captivated mankind’s imagination for thousands of years. Balaam, spiritually blinded by the thought of the honors, rewards, and riches that were promised him, did not see what his donkey saw: the angel of the LORD had become Balaam’s adversary (22:22), and was “standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand” (22:23).

Fearing the angel, the donkey rushed off the road, running Balaam into a wall, and crushing his foot (22:25). Hobbled, and humiliated, Balaam struck his donkey. Still blind to the presence of the angel, Balaam attempted to continue his journey, but his donkey “fell down under [him]: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff” (22:27). The LORD then gave the donkey voice, and the beast asked him, “What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?” (22:28).

Balaam, filled with rage, answered his donkey’s rebuke, saying, “thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee” (22:29). The dialog between the foolish prophet and his donkey continued (22:30), until “the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and [Balaam] bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face” (22:31). The angel revealed how Balaam’s donkey had saved his life (22:32-33), for surely he would have been slain for going with the Moabites.

Balaam confessed his sin, and spiritual blindness, and promised to turn back (22:34). The angel, however, directed Balaam to continue his journey to see Balak, the Moabite king, and there he would be directed by the LORD what things he should say (22:25-38).

To be continued….

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

He Stood Between the Living and the Dead (Numbers 16-17)

He Stood Between the Living and the Dead (Numbers 16-17)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 16-17

Today’s Scripture reading continues a succession of rebellions that followed Israel since the people refused to trust God, and enter the Promised Land. Incredibly, the rebellion recorded in Numbers 16 arose from the Levites, the tribe the LORD had chosen to serve Him, and assist the priests with worship and sacrifices.

Numbers 16 – A Rebellion in the Tribe of Levi

Three men, and two hundred fifty princes, renown leaders of the people, conspired to challenge the priestly leadership of Aaron, and his sons. “Korah…and Dathan and Abiram…took men: 2And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown” (16:1-2). Emboldened, after having colluded in secret, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram “gathered themselves against Moses and against Aaron” (16:3a), and railed against them, saying “Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?” (16:3).

Ponder the assertion made by the rebels. Their words were a direct attack upon the leadership the LORD had ordained for Israel. Their flattery of the people, saying “all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them,” was either delusional, or a lie intended to court the favor of the people.

Moses’ response to the rebels, proved he was a “meek man,” for he “fell upon his face” (16:4), and determined to put the matter of the rebellion before the LORD (16:5). Remembering the rebellion was led by men who were Levites, Moses directed Korah, the principal rebel, and his cohorts to bring censers the next day to the Tabernacle, and the LORD would make known whom He had chosen to serve Him (16:6-9). Numbers 16:10-11 reveals the seed of the rebellion was a resentment of Aaron and his sons, for Moses questioned Korah, “Would you seek the priesthood also?” (16:10)

How did the rebels respond? Rather than receive the rebuke, and humble themselves, they scorned Moses. Dathan and Abiram, when summoned to appear before Moses to answer for their part in the rebellion, refused, and mocked him as though he had failed the people as a leader (16:12-14). Provoked by their rebellion, Moses cried to the LORD, “Respect not thou their offering: I have not taken one ass from them, neither have I hurt one of them”(16:15). (What pastor, after serving a congregation faithfully, has not felt the same sorrow when some he served murmured against him?) Moses summoned Korah and his company to appear before the LORD with their censers the next day (16:16-17).

The next day, “Korah gathered all the congregation against [Moses and Aaron] in the door of the Tabernacle…and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the congregation” (16:18-19). When the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron, “separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them” (16:21), those men “fell upon their faces” and cried out to the LORD, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt thou be wroth with all the congregation?” (16:22).

Guided by the LORD, Moses, with the “elders of Israel” following, sought out Dathan and Abiram, and implored the congregation, “Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men [Korah, Dathan, and Abiram], and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins” (12:26).

The people removed themselves from the usupers, as the rebels stood in the doors of their tents with their families (16:27). Raising his voice to the congregation, Moses let it be known that should “the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up” (16:30), the people would know those rebels had “provoked the LORD” (16:30). Suddenly, even as the words fell from the lips of Moses, “the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up…and they perished from among the congregation” (16:32-33). The people, also fearing the earth might swallow them up, fled as the LORD sent fire upon the two hundred and fifty men who had joined in the rebellion (16:34-36).

Rather than brokenness, and remorse, the next day some of the congregation came together and accused Moses and Aaron saying, “Ye have killed the people of the LORD” (16:41). Suddenly, the presence of the LORD descended on the Tabernacle, and He commanded Moses to separate from the people, that He might “consume them as in a moment” (16:45).

Fearing the wrath of the LORD, Moses commanded Aaron to take a censor and go quickly among the people, “and [make] an atonement for the people” (16:47). The drama of that moment was captured in this: [Aaron] stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed (16:48).

Fourteen thousand and seven hundred perished, not counting the two hundred and fifty who had perished with Korah (16:48-50), but the LORD in His mercy spared the congregation.

Numbers 17 – Aaron’s Role Confirmed by an Almond Blossomed Rod

Numbers 17 addresses the challenge to Aaron, and his son’s role as priests. The matter was solved in a manner that forever answered the question of spiritual leadership in Israel, and confirmed the priesthood would be that of the lineage of Aaron and his sons.

I close with two verses that should serve as a sobering reminder to all believers.

Hebrews 10:30–3130For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. 31It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Lord Heard It! (Numbers 11-12)

The Lord Heard It! (Numbers 11-12)

Scripture reading – Numbers 11-12

Israel’s journey to the Promised Land began, and the people “departed from the mount of the Lord [Mount Sinai where they had received the Law and Commandments] three days’ journey: and the ark of the covenant of the Lord [a symbol of God’s throne] went before them in the three days’ journey, to search out a resting place for them. 34 And the cloud of the Lord was upon them by day, when they went out of the camp.” (10:33-34)

Numbers 11 – The Complainers, and God’s Judgment

Israel, having accepted the terms of their covenant with God, had observed the Passover, and set out on their journey in the manner the LORD had ordained. After only three days, the people began to complain, and “it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts [outskirts] of the camp” (11:1).

How swift the judgment of the LORD fell upon the people! Why? What did their complaints reveal that the LORD’S “anger was kindled?” (11:1) Their complaints revealed their disloyalty to the LORD, and ingratitude for all He had provided (Psalm 106:6-14). The people cried out to Moses, and he “prayed unto the Lord, [and] the fire was quenched” (11:2).

Notice where the fire of God’s judgment began: “in the uttermost parts [outskirts] of the camp” (11:1). Those people were as far away from the Tabernacle, and the Ark as possible. Numbers 11:4 reveals the nature and character of those upon whom the fire fell: “And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?” (11:4)

This “mixt multitude” were those who left Egypt with Israel, but they were not numbered or named among the Hebrews (11:4). They had taken opportunity to escape Egypt, but they had no inheritance with God’s people.

They had introduced a contentious spirit in the camp. They asked, “Who shall give us flesh to eat?” (11:4), and lusted for the foods of Egypt (11:5). They had come to despise the manna God provided, and in so doing rejected not only the provision, but the provider Himself (11:7-9, 20).

Hearing the complaints, and the people weeping (11:10), Moses moaned to the LORD in a series of self-focused questions (11:11-13). Exasperated, overwhelmed, and despairing, he cried to the LORD, 14I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me” (11:14).

With loving compassion, the LORD directed Moses to choose seventy leaders from among the Twelve Tribes who would share his burdens (11:16). The LORD “came down in a cloud, and spake unto [Moses], and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders” (11:25a).

Provoked by bitter complaints, the LORD determined to give the people the meat they demanded (11:18-23). On the next day, He took away the manna, and for thirty days they had nothing but meat to eat (11:18-21). In their lust for meat, they gorged themselves and became sick, and “the LORD smote [them] with a very great plague” (11:31-33).

Numbers 12A Leader’s Response to Criticism

While the complaints in Numbers 11 caused Moses to despair of life (11:11-15), the criticism in Numbers 12was the most grievous of all. Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ own sister and brother, spoke against their brother (12:1). Miriam was the eldest, and she appeared to be the principal antagonist, since she bore the consequences of murmuring against God’s leader (12:10).

I have learned that minor disputes are often the cover for deeper sins, and this was especially true with Miriam and Aaron. The initial challenge was concerning an Ethiopian woman whom Moses married (12:1). We do not know why they objected to the Ethiopian woman [although it was a violation of the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, Genesis 2:24].

In the next verse we discover the core issue of their reproach of Moses when they ask, “Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the Lord heard it.” (12:2). They were jealous of their brother’s position, and challenged his authority, but “the Lord heard it” (12:2c).

Moses was “very meek [not weak, but a strength under control], above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (12:3); however, the LORD did not allow their complaint to go unchecked. Suddenly the LORD spoke “unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation” (12:4).

Imagine that moment! Summoned by the voice of the LORD who “came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth” (12:5). Leaving no doubt who His prophet was, the LORD fortified Moses (12:7), and His anger “was kindled against them” (12:9). As the LORD departed, He struck Miriam with leprosy (12:10) as a visible sign of His displeasure, and she “became leprous, white as snow” (12:10). Aaron cried out to Moses for his sister (12:11), and Moses “cried unto the Lord, saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee” (12:13).

The LORD heard Moses’ plea, but He reasoned that Miriam’s sin was a cause for shame, and she would bear the reproach of leprosy for seven days, outside the camp (12:14). Seven days passed, “and the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again” and was restored to the fellowship (12:15).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Grace, and More Grace (Exodus 34-35)

Scripture reading – Exodus 34-35

The judgment had passed (32:25-32), and the LORD had granted a reprieve to the people in response to the intercessory prayer of Moses. Moses returned to the mount, and entered into the presence of the LORD (33:1), where He repeated His promise of the land He had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. No longer, however, would the people be comforted by the LORD leading them; instead, His Angel would go before them (33:2-3).

Moses was commanded to take “the tabernacle,” and pitch it outside the camp (33:7). Because the “Tabernacle” the LORD had commanded Moses to make was not yet constructed. I believe this “tabernacle” was Moses’ personal tent. Moving his “tabernacle” would have meant that the nation’s leader was outside the encampment (33:7-8). It was outside the camp, where the people witnessed the LORD’s presence descending as a cloudy pillar, and knew He “talked with Moses…face to face as a man speaketh unto his friend” (33:9-11a).

Moses beseeched the LORD to restore His favor to Israel, and the LORD promised, “I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name” (33:17).

Moses also requested the LORD show him His glory. In response, the LORD promised, “I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee” (33:19-20).

Exodus 34 – The Glory of the LORD, and Its Reflection on the Face of Moses

The LORD reviewed His covenant with Israel, and summoned Moses to cut out two tables of stone upon which He engraved His Commandments (34:1-4). Moses ascended Mount Sinai, as “the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there” (34:5).

Keeping His promise to give Moses a glimpse of His glory (33:21-23), “the Lord passed by before him, and introduced Himself to Moses by name: “The LORD [YAHWEH; Jehovah], The LORD [YAHWEH] God [El],” the Eternal, Self-existent God (34:6).

Revealing His nature to Moses, the LORD named seven attributes (34:6-7). He is “merciful,” meaning compassionate. He is “gracious,” kind, good, showing favor without merit. He is “longsuffering,” slow to anger. He is rich in “goodness and truth,” faithful and true. He keeps “mercy for thousands,” and His mercy is sufficient for all. He is forgiving, “forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” He is just, and “by no means [clearing] the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation” (34:7).

Finding himself in the presence of the LORD in all His majesty, Moses hastily “bowed his head…and worshipped” the LORD (34:8), and interceded for Israel (34:9-10). For “forty days and forty nights” (34:28) he went without food or water, as the LORD instructed him, and renewed His covenant with Israel (34:10-28).

Moses was commanded to, “Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel” (34:27). Moses did as he was commanded, and “wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments” (34:28). Taking up the stone tables of the Law, Moses descended the mount and “when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw [him], behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him” (34:30).

Although Moses had only been exposed to the back of the LORD (33:22-23), the glory of the LORD so reflected on him that he veiled his face when he stood before the people (34:32-33). However, when he was in the presence of the LORD, he removed the veil (34:34).

Exodus 35 – Giving for God’s Work

Exodus 35 reviews in detail the instructions Moses was given for fabricating the Tabernacle and altars, creating the Ark of the Covenant and its Mercy Seat, and preparing the garments of the high priest. As the LORD had commanded him, Moses called for the people to bring “an offering unto the LORD: whosoever is of a willing heart” (35:4-5). The response of the people was universal, and “every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work” (35:29).

We are once again introduced to Bezaleel and Aholiab. They were artisans, chosen by God not only for their workmanship, but also because of their godly character (35:30-35).

I close today’s devotional, reflecting on God’s forgiving grace. Though He judged Israel guilty for that nation’s sins, the LORD heard the intercessory prayer of His servant, and showed mercy. It is the same mercy and grace by which we who believe are saved.

Ephesians 2:8–108For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

When Holiness Contends with Wickedness (Exodus 32-33)

Scripture reading– Exodus 32-33

For “forty days and forty nights” (24:18), Moses and Joshua had been on Mount Sinai, with the LORD. Their appointment with the LORD being ended, the LORD had given to Moses “two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God” (31:18).

Moses was unaware of events that were transpiring in Israel’s camp, but the LORD knew. He had heard the wicked demands of the people (32:1), and observed Aaron’s failure to hold the people to the covenant Israel had vowed to the LORD (32:2-3).

Aaron had cast in gold “a molten calf” for the people to worship (32:4), and the people blasphemed the LORD, saying, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (32:4). Aaron accommodated their wickedness, and “built an altar before [the calf]; and [proclaimed]… To morrow is a feast to the Lord” (32:5).

Disavowing their covenant with the LORD, the people gave themselves to a worship that was like the idolatry they had witnessed in Egypt, and “offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play” (32:6). The implication is that their conduct was not only idolatrous, but morally depraved.

Angered by the sins of the people, God vowed to judge them in His wrath (32:7-10), to cut off the nation, and covenant with Moses to “make of [him] a great nation” (32:10). Moses, however, humbly interceded for the people, and was jealous for the LORD’s testimony with Egypt, and other nations. He implored the LORD to remember His covenant with “Abraham, Isaac, and Israel” (32:13).

The LORD heard the prayer of Moses, and He “repented [lit. had a change of mind or heart] of the evil [judgment; destruction] which he thought to do unto his people” (32:14).

Moses descended the mount, and the “two tables of the testimony were in [his] hand: the tables [The Ten Commandments] were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written. 16And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables” (32:15-16).

When Joshua heard the clammer of voices in the camp, he wondered if it was the “noise of war” (32:17). Moses, however, knew it was the sound of frolicsome singing, and when “he saw the calf, and the dancing…[his] anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount” (32:19).

Words fail to describe this tragic moment in Israel’s history. How soon the nation had turned from their covenant with the LORD, and had given themselves to wickedness and idolatry!

Incensed by their wickedness, Moses “took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it” (32:19b-20).

Turning to Aaron, Moses rebuked him, and questioned, “What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?” (32:21)

Aaron’s retort was sadly, much like many in spiritual leadership; he put on the people the responsibility for his own failure and said, “thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief” (32:22).

The full conversation that passed between those brothers is not recorded, but the Scriptures indicate that Aaron not only failed to resist the people, but implicated him as a willing participant, for we read: “Aaron had made [the people] naked unto their shame among their enemies” (32:25).

The time to stand for the LORD had come, and “Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi [the priestly tribe; the tribe of Moses and Aaron]gathered themselves together unto him” (32:26). Three thousand men were slain for their wickedness (32:28), and Moses rebuked the people saying, “Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin” (32:30).

The LORD, in answer to the intercessory prayer of Moses (32:31-32), and in act of mercy and grace, gave Israel a reprieve from utter destruction. Tragic consequences owing to the sins of the people followed; however, the Lord did not destroy the nation altogether (32:12-35).

I will review some of the effects of Israel’s sin in a later devotional (Exodus 33).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“That ye may know…I Am the LORD” (Exodus 9-10)

Scripture reading assignment: Exodus 9-10

Our study in the Book of Exodus continues with the contest between Moses, God’s messenger, and Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Four judgments have befallen the nation, and each has been followed by Pharaoh hardening his heart and refusing to let the children of Israel go to offer sacrifices to the LORD.

Exodus 9 – The Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Plagues

The fifth plague that befell Egypt afflicted the “cattle which [was] in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep” (9:3). The disease was “a very grievous murrain,” an epidemic so severe that “all the cattle of Egypt died.” As a testimony of God’s sovereignty and love of His people, none of the livestock of Israel perished (9:4-7). Yet, “the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go” (9:7b).

The sixth plague began when Moses gathered “handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and [sprinkled] it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh” (9:8), and boils broke out on man and beast (9:8-11). The affliction of the boils was so painful, that even Pharaoh’s magicians “could not stand before Moses” (9:11). And yet, “the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had spoken unto Moses” (9:12).

The seventh plague destroyed all the crops of Egypt when the LORD rained down hail upon the crops (9:13-35). This time, however, some of Pharaoh’s servants believed the warnings of Moses, and made their servants and livestock take shelter in their houses (9:20). Pharaoh confessed, I have sinned this time: the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked (9:27). He promised to let Israel go and sacrifice to their God; however, when the hail ceased, “the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the Lord had spoken by Moses” (9:35).

Exodus 10 – The Eighth and Ninth Plague

Egypt’s losses in crops, and livestock brought upon the nation the suffering of hunger and famine. Perhaps you wonder, why the LORD did not simply deliver Israel from bondage, rather than judge Egypt with ten plagues? The answer is found in Exodus 10.

Exodus 10:2 – “And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the LORD.”

More than delivering His people from slavery, the LORD wanted Israel to know, and remember through successive generations all He had done in Egypt.  His dealings with Pharaoh were to serve as a lasting testimony of God’s person, power, and presence among His chosen people.  Israel was a nation of slaves, but their God was the Creator, and Sovereign of nature. He would bring the greatest ruler, and the most powerful nation in the ancient world to her knees.

The eighth plague of locusts devastated Egypt, and devoured what was left of the nation’s vegetation (10:3-20).  A heavy darkness was the ninth plague that befell Pharaoh and Egypt (10:21-29). The Egyptians were oppressed and frightened by the darkness, but Israel was spared, and God’s people enjoyed the warmth of light in their dwellings.

Pharaoh sought a compromise with Moses, and would have allowed the people to depart, but not with their livestock (10:24-25). Moses, however, refused (10:26), and “the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go” (10:27).

Furious with Moses, Pharaoh warned, “take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die” (10:28).

Moses, strong, and confident in the LORD, answered the king truthfully, “Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more” (10:29). The stage is set for the final judgment, and the humiliation of Pharaoh.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith