Category Archives: Church

The Third Generation: A Tragic Rejection of Spiritual Leadership (Judges 3)

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Scripture reading – Judges 3

Today’s Scripture reading introduced a new era in Israel’s history, as the LORD began to raise up judges to rule the nation. Why judges and not a king? Because the LORD was Israel’s Sovereign and the people were bound by covenant to His Law and Commandments.

Tragically, after Joshua and the generation that followed him had passed (2:6-10a), Israel turned from the LORD. We read that they “knew not the Lord…[and] did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2:10-11). The LORD, in His mercy, “raised up judges, which delivered [Israel] out of the hand of those that spoiled [plundered] them” (2:16). However, when a judge died, the people “corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them” (2:19a).

Judges 3 – The LORD Raised Judges to Rule the People

Because Israel had broken the covenant with Him, the LORD determined He would not drive out the enemies of His people, and He left them in their midst to “prove [test; try] Israel by them” (3:1).

To what end was this testing? It was to test and prove a generation that did not know the hardships and trials of war as their fathers before them. The LORD longed for Israel to turn to Him and obey His commandments. Therefore, He did not drive out the enemies with whom His people had compromised (3:2-7).

The Compromise and Wretchedness of the Third Generation

Israel allowed their sons and daughters to intermarry with idolaters, and they “served their gods…and did evil…and forgat the LORD their God” (3:6-7). They “served Baalim and the groves” (places of sexual deviancy, 3:7). Thus, the sins of Israel provoked “the anger of the LORD” (3:8), and “He sold them into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushan-rishathaim eight years” (3:8).

Othniel, the First Judge in Israel (3:9-11)

When the people began to cry to the LORD, He heard their cry and raised up “Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother” (3:9), who served as Israel’s first judge, and delivered the nation from their enemy (3:10). God blessed Othniel’s rule as judge, and Israel was at peace forty years (3:11).

Ehud, the Second Judge in Israel (3:12-30)

Judges 3:12-30 records a fascinating series of events. We read, “The children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord: and the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they [Israel] had done evil in the sight of the Lord” (3:12).

God’s people had strayed far from the law and commandments and found themselves humbled and enslaved by an enemy (3:12-13). For eighteen years, “the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab…15But when [they]cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded” (3:14-15). (The men of Benjamin were known as ambidextrous people and skilled marksmen, Judges 20:16; 1 Chronicles 12:2).

Ehud’s skill with his left hand gave him an advantage when he plotted and attacked Eglon, the king of Moab (3:16-22). Thrusting the dagger into the obese king, the blade went so deep that Ehud left the knife in his bowels when he fled the palace (3:21-22). When he returned to Mount Ephraim, Ehud blew the trumpet and rallied Israel to go to battle against Moab, and they slew “about ten thousand men” (3:27-29).

Shamgar, the Champion of Israel (3:31)

Judges 3 concluded with the heroism of a man named Shamgar (3:31). He is not identified as a judge; however, he is noted for slaying six hundred Philistines “with an ox goad [a sharp metal point on the end of a pole]” (3:31).

Closing thoughts:

In the chapters ahead, we will observe an emerging spiritual cycle in our study of the Book of Judges. In fact, what was true of Israel has been true of believers through the ages.  What is the cycle? It is that sin leads to servitude[enslavement], which leads to Sorrow, and sorrow moves the hearts of men to turn to the LORD for Salvation(3:11-19).

Sin…Servitude…Sorrow…Salvation: We are, as the songwriter penned, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; Prone to leave the God I love.”

Where are you in that spiritual cycle?

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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The Failure of Third Generation Leaders: They Tend to Lack the Convictions and Spiritual Fortitude of Their Fore-fathers (Judges 1; Judges 2)

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Scripture reading: Judges 1-2

The Book of Judges began with a statement indicating a leadership void that followed Joshua’s death. We read, “Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the Lord, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?” (Judges 1:1)

Though Israel possessed the land, they still faced enemies in their midst. So the LORD answered their inquiry, not with the name of a man, but with that of a tribe: “And the Lord said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his [the tribe of Judah’s] hand” (1:2).

The Unity of the Tribes of Judah and Simeon (Judges 1:1-20)

Lacking the leadership of a man like Joshua, the LORD chose the men of Judah to be the first to wage battle in the post-Joshua era. Why Judah? Judah had the largest population of the twelve tribes and was the most powerful among them. Judah, the patriarch Jacob’s fourth-born son, had been blessed by his father (Genesis 49:8-12). His lineage bore the noble character from whom a line of kings would emerge, beginning with David and concluding with the LORD Jesus Christ, the lion of Judah (Matthew 1:1-3).

Judah accepted the challenge. Because the tribe of Simeon lived in their midst, Judah said to them, “Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I likewise will go with thee into thy lot.” (1:3). The people of Simeon accepted Judah’s invitation, for their land was encircled by Judah’s territory (Joshua 19:1).

Amid victories, a repetition of failures emerged in Judges that haunted the people as a nation for generations. The tribes of Judah and Simeon fought against the Canaanites and the Perizzites, and God blessed them with victories over their enemies (Judges 1:2-20), but regrettably, they fell short of the LORD’s will. The LORD did not fail Judah; however, the tribe did not trust their God and “could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron” (1:19).

The Cowardice of the Other Tribes (Judges 1:21-36)

A pattern of failures to obey the command of the LORD and drive out Israel’s enemies continued throughout Judges 1. For example, the tribe of Benjamin failed (1:21), as did Manasseh (1:27-28). Also, Ephraim did not “drive out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer” (1:29). Zebulun failed to “drive out the inhabitants of Kitron” (1:30). Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of cities in their land (1:32). Naphtali failed (1:33), and “the Amorites forced the children [tribe] of Dan into the mountain” (1:34).

Judges 2 – A Third-Generation Crisis in Leadership

An Ominous Announcement of the Angel of the LORD (Judges 2:1-5)

Judges 2 began with an ominous declaration from “an angel of the LORD” (whom I believe was a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ). Israel’s failure to drive the idol-worshiping nations out of Canaan breached their covenant with the LORD. He reminded them of His promise: “I will never break my covenant with you” (2:1). The people, however, had failed to drive the inhabitants out of the land and destroy their altars (2:2).

God warned, “I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you” (2:3). When the people heard what would befall them because of their sins, they “sacrificed there unto the LORD” (2:5). Nevertheless, the consequences of their sinful failures followed them.

The State of Israel During the Rule of the Judges (Judges 2:6-23)

Notice that the narrative in Judges 2 turns briefly to a reflection on the death of Joshua (2:6-10) and his influence on his generation and the one that followed. We read, “The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that he did for Israel” (2:7). When that generation passed, a third generation arose, and “did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim” (2:11). That generation “forsook the Lord God of their fathers…and followed other gods…and provoked the Lord to anger. 13And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth” (2:12-13).

Yet, the LORD did not altogether forsake Israel. On the contrary, he chose judges in Israel to call the people to return to the LORD, His Law, and Commandments (2:16). He would bless the judge of His people and deliver them “out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge” (2:18). Nevertheless, “when the judge was dead, [the people] returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers…[and] ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way” (2:19).

Closing thoughts:

On a personal note, I have witnessed the failings of transitional leadership throughout my years of ministry. A nation, organization, corporation, school, and church are never more vulnerable than in a time of leadership change. Judges 2 proved that the nation of Israel was no exception.

Why are third-generation organizations and ministries so vulnerable?

The reason can be summed up in an old adage: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Israel’s third generation in the land had not experienced the sacrifices or the victories of the generations before them. They had grown comfortable and familiar with the heathen in their midst. Invariably, their parent’s failure to drive the wicked out of the land became a fatal attraction, and the third generations’ contempt for the ways, law, and commandments of the LORD invited God’s judgment (2:20-23).

Tragically, as I write today’s devotion, I recall several churches, Christian camps, Bible colleges, and organizations that have faltered and are failing to thrive under third-generation leaders.

Is your church or organization facing a third-generation transition? If so, be on guard! Leaders who dismiss the principles and precepts of their predecessors will inevitably lead others to their demise.

Questions to consider:

1) Why did Judah invite the tribe of Simeon to join them in the war against the Canaanites? (Judges 1:4)

2) What great city fell to Judah and was destroyed by fire? (Judges 1:8)

3) What connection did the Kenites have with Israel? (Judges 1:16)

4) Who failed to drive the Jebusites out of Jerusalem? (Judges 1:21)

5) In what had Israel failed? (Judges 2:1-2)

6) What generation failed to know the LORD? (Judges 2:7-10)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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Crossing the Jordan: An Obstacle or An Opportunity? (Joshua 4; Joshua 5)

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Scripture reading – Joshua 4-5

With the promises of the LORD and the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant, “the people removed from their tents, to pass over Jordan” (3:14). When the priests bearing the Ark stepped into the waters, they receded, and “and rose up upon an heap… and the people passed over right against Jericho” (3:16).

Joshua 4

A Lasting Memorial (Joshua 4:1-9)

What a glorious event in Israel’s history, and one that the LORD commanded Joshua to honor in a physical memorial of twelve stones (4:1-8). Joshua commanded twelve men, each representing his tribe, to pass before the Ark and “take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder” (4:5). The weight and size of the stones required the men to carry them upon their shoulder. So they went before the Ark and brought them to Gilgal (4:8, 19-20), where Israel encamped after crossing the dry riverbed into Canaan.

Then, Joshua placed a second memorial of twelve stones, representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel, “in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood” (4:9).

A Miracle: Crossing Jordan (Joshua 4:10-14)

All the people passed over, including forty thousand men of war from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and “half the tribe of Manasseh” (4:13). That day, the LORD fulfilled His promise, for He had “magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life” (4:14).

Closing Waters and a Monument of Stones (Joshua 4:15-24)

The LORD then instructed Joshua, “Command the priests that bear the ark of the testimony, that they come up out of Jordan” (4:16).” Then the priests came “up out of the midst of Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up unto the dry land, that the waters of Jordan returned unto their place, and flowed over all his banks, as they did before” (4:18).

That evening, the people encamped at the plain of Gilgal, east of Jericho. There, Joshua took the twelve stones the men had removed from the Jordan and built a memorial, a lasting testimony to future generations. So, when their children should ask, “What mean these stones” (4:21), their parents were to instruct them: “Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. 23For the Lord your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over” (4:22-23).

Joshua 5 – A New Land and a Renewed Covenant

Demoralized Adversaries (Joshua 5:1)

The nations in Canaan had not assaulted Israel; however, their spies had witnessed the power and presence of the LORD amid His people. “All the kings of the Amorites, which were on the side of Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites, which were by the sea, heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel” (5:1).

Renewing the Covenant of Circumcision (Joshua 5:2-9)

Circumcision had not been observed in Israel during the wilderness wanderings; however, in the new land, the LORD commanded Joshua to circumcise the men of Israel (5:2-3).

Now circumcision served as a physical reminder of Israel’s blood covenant with the LORD (Exodus 19:5-6) and a testimony that the LORD had “rolled away the reproach of Egypt” (5:9). What was “the reproach of Egypt?” I believe it was the reproof of the faithless generation that refused to believe the LORD and had turned back from the land He had promised them for an inheritance (5:6). The name of the place of circumcision would be Gilgal, meaning “rolled away” (5:9).

Celebrating the Passover (Joshua 5:10-12)

Remembering His grace, and goodness, Israel reaffirmed the LORD’s presence and observed the Passover (5:10) and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (5:11). The next day, the provision of manna ceased, and “they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year” (5:12).

A Heavenly Vision: A Pre-Incarnate Appearance of Christ (Joshua 5:13-15)

When Joshua came near the city of Jericho, he looked up, and “behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand” (5:13). Joshua bravely went to the man and asked, “Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?” (5:13)

Then the man introduced himself, saying, “Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come” (5:14; Hebrews 2:10). Joshua, sensing he was in the presence, not of a man, but the LORD Himself, “fell on his face to the earth, and did worship…and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?” (5:14)

The LORD, “captain of the host,” and ready for battle, “said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so” (5:15).

Closing thoughts:

What made the ground holy? It was the presence of the LORD.

When Moses drew aside to see the flaming bush in the wilderness, he removed his shoes, for he understood he was in the presence of the LORD (Exodus 3:5). Now Joshua did the same (5:15). With his shoes removed, Joshua bowed with his face bowed to the earth, and was ready to receive his marching orders for the siege of Jericho (Joshua 6).

Questions to consider:

1) Why did the LORD require Joshua to choose twelve men to take stones from the Jordan? (Joshua 4:2-5)

2) What were the stones to represent? (Joshua 4:6-7)

3) How did Israel crossing Jordan affect their attitude toward Joshua? (Joshua 4:14)

4) How did Israel crossing Jordan affect their adversaries? (Joshua 5:1)

5) What rite did Joshua command Israel’s men to observe after they crossed the Jordan? (Joshua 5:3)

6) Why did the LORD cause the daily manna to cease in Canaan? (Joshua 5:12)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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The End is the Beginning: Getting Ready to Depart (Deuteronomy 31; Deuteronomy 32)

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Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 31-32

Deuteronomy 31

As we near the end of our study of the Book of Deuteronomy, I am reminded of a verse from the song Moses: “So teach us to number our days, That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Keep in mind, as you read Deuteronomy 31-32, the balance of Moses’ life can be numbered in days, if not hours. This great leader, arguably one of the greatest of all time, was coming to the end of his earthly sojourn (31:2).

Moses’ Exhortation to Israel and Joshua (Deuteronomy 31:1-8)

Mindful of his mortality, Moses reminded the nation he was “an hundred and twenty years old,” and the LORD had said, “Thou shalt not go over this Jordan (31:1-2). With the urgency of a man who knows he will soon be passing, Moses exhorted the people: “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (31:6). Then, “in the sight of all Israel,” Moses affirmed Joshua as the leader whom the LORD had chosen to lead the nation into the Promised Land (31:7-8).

Moses’ Challenge to Israel’s Spiritual Leaders (Deuteronomy 31:9-11)

Turning from Joshua, Moses challenged the spiritual leaders of the nation to be the custodians and teachers of the Law and keep the Law and Commandments before the people (31:9). Every seventh year, the priests were to gather the people together, and “read [the] law before all Israel in their hearing” (31:10-11).

God’s Confirmation of Joshua’s Succession (Deuteronomy 31:12-15)

The LORD then commanded Moses, saying, “Thou must die: call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle of the congregation, that I may give him a charge” (31:14). The LORD then descended “in a pillar of a cloud…[and] stood over the door of the tabernacle” (31:15).

God’s Revelation of Israel’s Disobedience (Deuteronomy 31:16-18)

With Moses and Joshua standing at the door of the Tabernacle, the LORD revealed that after Israel conquered the Canaanites and took possession of the land, the people would “go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land” (31:16). They would break their covenant with Him (31:16b). and depart from the Law and Commandments. God then warned that He would hide His face and abandon them to the consequences of their idolatry (31:17-18).

A Song of Remembrance and Instruction (Deuteronomy 31:19-21; Deuteronomy 32)

To memorialize His prophecy against Israel, the LORD commanded Moses to write a song, “and teach it, the children of Israel…that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel (31:19). The song was to serve as a testimony of God’s faithfulness, and how He had fulfilled the promises He had made to their forefathers (31:20-21). And so, Moses wrote the song “and taught it [to] the children of Israel” (31:22).

A Public Charge to Joshua and Israel’s Leaders (Deuteronomy 31:22-30)

Deuteronomy 31 concluded with Moses giving a final charge to Joshua in preparing him to assume the leadership of the nation (31:23).  Moses then commanded the Levites to take the record of the Law he had written with his hand (31:24) and “put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD” (31:26). He then stated, what the LORD had revealed to him concerning the hearts of the people, saying, “I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the Lord; and how much more after my death?” (31:27).

Deuteronomy 32 – The Song of Moses and His Imminent Death

Given the length of Deuteronomy 32, a brief oversight of Moses’ song of praise, worship, and forewarning will need to suffice. First, you will notice the preface of Moses’ song in the first two verses and a declaration of its purpose (32:1-2). Moses then wrote, “I will publish the name of the Lord: Ascribe ye greatness unto our God” (32:3). He then declared that Israel’s God was “the Rock [strong and stable], His work is perfect [complete; lacking nothing]: For all His ways are judgment [He is Just]: A God of truth [trustworthy] and without iniquity [sinless], Just [Righteous; Innocent] and right [straight; upright] is He” (32:4).

After confessing the sinful character of the people, Moses memorialized the LORD’s compassionate care as a testimony of His grace, love, and mercies (32:7-18). He also recorded the tragic prophecy of the nation’s wickedness and God’s punishment that would follow (32:19-33). Yet, though the LORD would use other nations to judge His people, He promised He would not altogether forsake Israel (32:34-43).

After rehearsing the song he had written “in the ears of the people” (32:44), Moses challenged them: “Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law” (32:46).

Closing thoughts:

When Moses finished speaking, the LORD commanded him, “49Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, unto mount Nebo…and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession: 50And die in the mount whither thou goest up” (32:49-50a). Moses evidenced no protest at the LORD’s command and was reminded he would not enter the land (32:51).

From Mount Nebo, Moses looked out on the vastness of the land the LORD had promised Israel (32:52). His sin prevented him from leading the people into the land; however, the LORD had chosen Joshua, and the mantle of leadership now rested on him.

Questions to consider:

1) What assurance did the LORD give Israel that they should be “strong and of a good courage?” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

2) What tribe was responsible for carrying the Ark of the Covenant into the new land? (Deuteronomy 31:9)

3) What solemn event was Israel to observe every seventh year? (Deuteronomy 31:10-11)

4) What did Moses command the Levites to do with the book of the law he had written? (Deuteronomy 31:24-26)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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A Covenant and a Choice of Two Paths (Deuteronomy 29; Deuteronomy 30)

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Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 29-30

Deuteronomy 29 – Renewing the Covenant

Moses declared and recorded God’s Covenant with Israel in Deuteronomy 5 through Deuteronomy 28. He then challenged the people to reaffirm the covenant they had entered into at Mt Horeb forty years prior (Exodus 24). In doing so, the nation would acknowledge its obligation to obey the LORD’s Laws and Commandments (Deuteronomy 29-30).

The Past (Deuteronomy 29:1-9)

Moses then rehearsed with the people all the LORD had done for them in Egypt. He acknowledged how they had been blind to the ways of the LORD (29:4) and reminded them how God had lovingly sustained and preserved them for forty years in the wilderness (29:5-6). Then, in the place they were that day, the LORD had given them victory over their adversaries and their land on the east side of the Jordan as an inheritance for the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and “the half tribe of Manasseh” (29:7-8).

A Summons to Obey (Deuteronomy 29:10-15)

Reminding the people they were standing “before the LORD,” Moses challenged every member of the nation (its captains, elders, officers, women, children, and servants) to “enter into the covenant with the LORD” (29:10-12). Moses promised the LORD would exalt Israel as a nation and be their God as He was with their forefathers (29:13). The promises of the LORD would not only apply to their generation but to their children and children’s children (29:14-15).

An Admonition (Deuteronomy 29:16-29)

Nevertheless, should a “man, or woman, or family, or tribe” turn from the LORD and worship idols, they would bear the sorrow and bitterness of God’s judgment (29:18). Such might be deluded and believe they might find peace walking after their imaginations. Still, Moses warned, “The Lord will not spare him…and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven” (29:20).

If Israel tolerated wickedness in its midst, Moses warned that the judgment of the LORD would leave the land like the “overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah” (29:23). He prophesied the nations would look upon the desolation of Israel and ask, “Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?” (29:24). Then, men would answer, “Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt” (29:25).

Deuteronomy 30 – A Promise of Grace and Mercy

An Opportunity of Restoration (Deuteronomy 30:1-10)

Though Israel would reject the LORD and disobey His Law and Commandments, Moses promised He would remember His people and not forget His covenant promises (30:1). While the LORD promised to punish Israel for her disobedience, He also promised to be gracious, merciful, and forgiving if the people would repent of their sins and turn back to Him (30:1-7). Furthermore, should the people repent, God promised to renew His covenant with them and “make [them] plenteous in every work of thine hand…for the Lord will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers” (30:9).

Ignorance was Not an Excuse (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)

The will and commandments of the LORD were not mysterious or hidden from Israel (30:11-13). Instead, God’s purpose was established, and His will was revealed by His “Word” (30:14).

Two Paths to Choose: Death or Life (Deuteronomy 30:15-20)

Deuteronomy 30 concluded with a strong challenge to Israel to know the Word of the LORD was sure. While the path of obedience leads to “life and good,” the way of disobedience leads to “death and evil” (30:15). Choose to keep the LORD’s covenant, and He will bless you. However, disobey God’s Law and Commandments, and you invite His judgment (30:17-18).

So then, summoning heaven and earth to be his witness, Moses warned: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (30:19).

Closing thoughts:

I am reminded that every soul faces the spiritual dilemma of choosing between two paths in life. Faith and obedience are the paths of blessing and eternal life. The way of sin inevitably ends in death and hell. As the shepherd of Israel, Moses longed for the people to love and obey the LORD. After all, that path promised the quality and quantity of life that God alone could provide (Deuteronomy 30:20).

What path have you taken? Are you on the path of obedience and life or disobedience and death?

Questions to consider:

1) Why did Israel need to remember “all that the LORD did” in Egypt and the wilderness? (Deuteronomy 29:2-6)

2) What was the key to Israel’s prosperity in the new land? (Deuteronomy 29:9)

3) What was the condition for Israel to be blessed and fruitful? (Deuteronomy 30:8-10)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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

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Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 28

The sum of today’s Scripture reading is essentially two words: Blessings and Curses. Deuteronomy 27 concluded with the people affirming their understanding of God’s Covenant and agreeing to its blessings and penalties (27:15-26). Deuteronomy 28 continued the same proclamation, detailing the LORD’s promise of 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 (Deuteronomy 28:1-14)

The promise of blessings was conditional and would be fulfilled, but only if the people diligently listened to the Lord’s voice “to 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 world’s nations 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 (Deuteronomy 28:15-68)

The balance of Deuteronomy 28 predicted 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, I invite you to observe their sum in today’s devotion.

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). Their enemies would eat the fruitfulness of their lands, trees, and storehouses. Their cattle and flocks would be destroyed (28:48-51).

Israel was warned that when their cities were besieged, the starving people would turn to cannibalism and eat “the flesh of [their] sons and of [their] daughters” (28:52-53).

Portrait of a Dying Nation: Effeminate Men and Embittered Women (28:54-57)

Their men became effeminate (“tender among you, and very delicate.” 28:54). Their women were no longer “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 rejected the LORD and disobeyed His Law, He 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). Finally, the nation would be conquered, and 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 and “see it no more again…[and] be sold unto [their enemies]” as slaves (28:68). All that Moses warned is documented by the historian Josephus and came to pass in AD 70 when Titus, the Roman General, destroyed Jerusalem. Then, the Jews were scattered throughout the nations of the earth.

Closing thoughts:

Today’s Scripture reading reminded me that the pattern of decadence and decline foretold by Moses is seen in the nations of the world today. Such wickedness precludes the judgment of God upon those nations that reject Him. No nation can long reject God without experiencing moral decay and His judgment.

The trademark of God’s judgment is undeniable when I assess my country. I see the evidence of a nation that God has turned over to its enemies. The United States is an enslaved, debtor nation to our enemies. Our nation’s women have taken 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 with an “evil eye” towards their husbands and children (28:56-57). We have experienced epidemics, a failing birthrate, a fear, and a dread of the future, as I have not witnessed in my lifetime.

The United States, like all nations, is doomed if we do not repent of our sins and turn to God.

Questions to consider:

1) What spiritual benefits would Israel gain if they obeyed the commandments of the LORD? (Deuteronomy 28:1-2)

2) What curses would befall Israel if the people refused to heed and obey the commandments of the LORD? (Deuteronomy 28:15-24)

3) Rather than men of strength, how were the rebellious men of Israel described? (Deuteronomy 28:54)

4) What afflictions did Moses prophesy would befall a rebellious nation? (Deuteronomy 28:59-61)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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Choices Always Have Consequences (Deuteronomy 26; Deuteronomy 27)

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Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 26-27

Deuteronomy 26

A Confession of Indebtedness and a Prayer of Thanksgiving (Deuteronomy 26:1-11)

Moses continued his charge to Israel with laws and spiritual principles to guide the people as they became a nation in their land (26:1). Remembering that the blessing of the harvest comes from the LORD (26:1-11), the first-fruits offering was to be taken to the place of worship (Tabernacle). There it was given to the LORD, thus supporting the priests, the Levites, and their households.

Tithes and Offerings for the Poor (Deuteronomy 26:12-15)

A special tithe was given in the third year, coinciding with the tither’s confession that he had honored and obeyed the LORD’s commandments. Rather than taking the tithe of the third year to the Tabernacle, it was used locally to meet the immediate needs of one’s community and to support “the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled” (26:12-15).

The Benefits of Obeying the LORD and Keeping His Commandments (Deuteronomy 26:16-19)

Beginning with Deuteronomy 26:16 and continuing to Deuteronomy 31:13, Moses expounded on the benefits of obeying the LORD and keeping His commandments. He reminded the people that they were to do all that God had commanded with all their hearts and soul (26:16). Israel had been chosen by the LORD “to be His peculiar people,” and He promised “to make [Israel] high above all nations” (26:16-19).

Deuteronomy 27

Renewing the Covenant (Deuteronomy 27:1-10)

Continuing his challenge, Moses was joined by the “elders of Israel,” and he “commanded the people, saying, Keep all the commandments which I command you this day” (Deuteronomy 27:1).

Lest the people forget all the LORD had done for them, the elders of Israel were commanded to build a pillar of uncut stones on the west side of the Jordan River (Deuteronomy 27:2-8). The stones were to be plastered, and engraved upon them were the Commandments of the Lord, serving as a lasting memorial of the LORD’s promises and commandments. Also, an altar was to be built to sanctify the place (Deuteronomy 27:5-8).

A Rehearsal of the Blessings and Curses Sanctioned by the Law (Deuteronomy 27:11-26)

Continuing his speech to Israel and with the elders beside him, Moses reminded the nation that “Choices have Consequences.” He charged the people that by obeying the Law, they would invite the LORD’s blessings (27:11-12); however, disobedience would arouse His judgments (27:14-26). Should the nation disobey the LORD and reject His Law and Commandments, Moses warned that twelve curses would befall the nation (27:15-26). To each pronouncement, the people assented and answered, “Amen.”

The first through fifth curses (Deuteronomy 27:15-19)

The following violations of the Law and commandments invited God’s judgment and would be cursed: 1) Idolatry, a violation of the first and second commandments, was cursed (Deuteronomy 27:15). 2) Dishonoring one’s parents was cursed (27:16), for it is a violation of the fifth commandment (Exodus 20:12). 3) Stealing the property and possessions of another by deceit, a violation of the sixth commandment, was cursed (Deuteronomy 27:17; Exodus 20:15). 4) Taking advantage of one infirmed or disabled was cursed (Deuteronomy 27:18). 5) The fifth curse was upon one who would treat “the stranger, fatherless, and widow” unjustly (Deuteronomy 27:19;Exodus 22:21-24).

Sexual impurity, a violation of the seventh commandment, was addressed by the sixth through ninth curses (Deuteronomy 27:20-23; Ex. 20:14). Specifically addressed and cursed were: 6) Incest with one’s stepmother (Deuteronomy 27:20; Leviticus 18:8-9, 17; Leviticus 20:11); 7) Bestiality (Deuteronomy 27:21; Leviticus 18:23); 8) Incest between siblings and parents (Deuteronomy 27:22); and 9) Incest with one’s mother (Deuteronomy 27:23).

The fifth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13), was the subject of the tenth and eleventh curses (Deuteronomy 27:24-25): 10) Intentional murder of one’s neighbor (Deuteronomy 27:24), and 11) hiring an assassin to kill another was cursed (Deuteronomy 27:25).

The twelfth and final curse (Deuteronomy 27:26), a sum of the twelve curses, was addressed to any child of Israel who failed to confirm God’s Law and Commandments.

And so the people affirmed all Moses commanded, and all the people gave their assent and said, “Amen” (Deuteronomy 27:26).

Questions to consider:

1) What was Israel to present to the LORD after they took possession of the land? (Deuteronomy 26:1-2)

2) What was Israel instructed to do with the tithes and offerings in the third year? (Deuteronomy 26:12)

3) What did the LORD promise Israel if they kept His law and commandments? (Deuteronomy 26:17-19)

4) What was the first thing Israel was to set up after they crossed the Jordan River? (Deuteronomy 27:2-3)

5) With what word did the people acknowledge and affirm the curses pronounced by the Levites? (Deuteronomy 27:15-26).

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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Moral Dilemmas: Divorce, Debt, and Human Trafficking (Deuteronomy 24; Deuteronomy 25)

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Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 24-25

Our Scripture reading continues with Moses setting forward various laws that would guide Israel in matters of marriage, family, societal civility, business, and government.

Deuteronomy 24

Principles Regarding Marriage and Divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-5)

Divorce is addressed, sadly indicative of man’s sinful heart. We understand that God’s desire for man and wife is: “A man…shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Yet, because man’s nature is bent away from God, the Lord allowed (through Moses) for a writing of divorcement when there was a valid reason.

Moses allowed for divorce in this passage; however, I remind you that was never God’s plan or will. What is the will of the LORD? The sum of God’s will for marriage is this: “A man…shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

The Pharisees questioned Christ on this subject and asked, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife [divorce]for every cause?” (Matthew 19:3) The LORD answered, citing the “one flesh” principle and added, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6).

Displeased with His answer, the Pharisees pressed Him, saying, “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?” (Matthew 19:7). Christ answered and diagnosed the deplorable basis for Moses permitting divorce (Deuteronomy 24).

Matthew 19:8–98He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered [allowed] you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so9And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

A Moral Guideline for the Borrower and Lender (Deuteronomy 24:6)

Taking an upper millstone is foreign to most until we understand Moses referred to the stones used to grind grain into flour. So, a lender was warned he could not take for a surety the “upper millstone,” for by it, a family could grind grain into flour and bake bread for the family.

A Solution to Human Trafficking (Deuteronomy 24:7)

One of the great abominations of the 21st century is human trafficking (in essence, modern slavery). Forcefully taking children, women, and men and subjecting them to the darkness of moral depravity has been and continues to be an appalling wickedness. In the words of the Scripture, anyone found guilty of “[making] merchandise…or selleth [selling] him” shall be put to death (24:7).

If the judgment of the Scriptures were practiced in our day, victims of human trafficking would receive justice and human traffickers would be dispatched to a swift judgment: “Thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deuteronomy 19:21).

Charitable Obligations (Deuteronomy 24:10-22)

Today’s false teachers and preachers have led many to believe the laws of the Old Testament were lacking in grace. They support their reason and boast that we live in an “Age of Grace.” Indeed, we do, but grace has been a part of every age because God is a part of every age. He has been and continues to be immutable – the same yesterday, today, and forever. Therefore, characterizing the Law and Commandments as “graceless” suggests the LORD was graceless, which is heresy.

Deuteronomy 24:10-22 proved that God was sensitive and compassionate concerning the condition of the poor, the weak, the orphan, and the widow. For example, in ancient times, the poor often had nothing more than the “clothes on their backs.” Robes were the attire for those times, and men generally wore inner and outer robes. The inner robe afforded modesty, while the outer robe protected against the elements and provided warmth at night.

Should a man of little means borrow, his outer robe might serve as the surety or pledge for his debt (24:10-11). However, the lender was not to humiliate a debtor and take by force the robe of a poor man while he was in his house (24:10-11). Also, in the evening, the lender was to return the outer robe so that the man “may sleep in his own raiment, and bless thee” (24:13).

Admonitions Against Injustices (Deuteronomy 24:14-18)

Day laborers were paid their wages at the end of a workday (24:14). Also, everyone was to bear the consequences and punishment for their sins. Therefore, a father was not to be punished for the sins of his children, nor were his children to be punished for the sins of their father (24:16).

Charity Was the Law (Deuteronomy 24:19-22)

In ancient times there was no welfare system, and the impoverished were a perpetual presence on the earth. Tragically, widows were sometimes forsaken by their children, orphans were neglected, and foreigners often found themselves homeless. Moses reminded the congregation how Israel suffered bondage in Egypt. He urged the people to remember the poor and let them glean the leftovers from their fields, olive trees, and grapevines.

Deuteronomy 25

Time and space prevent a thorough commentary on Deuteronomy 25; however, I suggest the following outline of principles for your study.

I. Capital Punishment and Civil Justice (Deuteronomy 25:1-4)

II. Family Posterity (Deuteronomy 25:5-12)

III. Business and Commerce (Deuteronomy 25:13-16)

IV. The Offence of an Enemy (Deuteronomy 25:17-19)

Closing thoughts:

Once again, I trust you have seen the grace of God evidenced throughout His Laws and Commandments. Although some invite believers to ignore the Old Testament altogether, they do so at their peril and that of their followers. But, of course, the greatest expression of God’s Law and grace is identified in Christ’s sacrifice for our sins (1 Peter 2:21-24).

Questions to consider:

1) Could a divorced man remarry his wife after she had been married to another man? (Deuteronomy 24:4)

2) What was God’s judgment concerning human traffickers? (Deuteronomy 24:7)

3) Rather than long terms of imprisonment, how was an offense settled in Israel? (Deuteronomy 25:1-3)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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“WOKE,” Civility, Women’s Rights, and Sexual Perversity (Deuteronomy 21; Deuteronomy 22)

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Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 21-22

Warning: You may find the content of today’s devotion inflammatory; however, its immediate relevance is undeniable.

Moses continued his charge to Israel in our Scripture reading. In Deuteronomy 21-22, fundamental principles establish the sanctity of human life, the basics of civil decency and human kindness, and the practical application of the command, “love thy neighbor.”

Deuteronomy 21 – Fundamentals of Civil Duty

“Thou Shalt Not Kill” (Deuteronomy 21:1-9)

In our study of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), we have considered several passages of Scripture that explain the sanctity of human life and the sixth commandment that reads, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). Capital punishment, a “life for a life,” was God’s judgment upon the man who willfully, and deliberately took the life of another (19:11-13, 21). In addition, Deuteronomy 21:1-9 addressed the loss of human life, should a victim’s body be discovered, but there are no witnesses to the murder.

Concerning Women Taken as Spoil of Wartimes (21:10-14)

Ancient cultures considered women taken as prisoners in war to be nothing more than a possession, a spoil of battle. The God of Israel, however, established laws to protect women. Should a man desire to take a female prisoner as his wife, he was to allow her head to be shaved, an outward symbol of her purification, and give her thirty days to mourn her parents’ deaths before taking her as his wife (21:12-13). Should the man later decide to reject her, he was to set her at liberty and was commanded to neither sell nor humiliate her (21:14).

The Inheritance Rights of a Firstborn Son (21:15-17)

Some propose that the reference to “two wives” (21:15) suggested polygamy; however, I believe it is not. From our study of the Book of Genesis, we know that God defined marriage as “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), meaning the union of one man and one woman. Therefore, polygamy cannot be the intent of Deuteronomy 21:15, for the Mosaic Law did not redefine what God Himself had designed and established.

In my opinion, the explanation for the reference to “two wives” (one being described as “beloved” and the other “hated”) implied that the first wife was dead. In this example, the first wife had given birth to a son; as the firstborn son, he was the husband’s heir (21:15-16). The second wife, the stepmother of the firstborn son, would perhaps be tempted to influence her husband to disown his firstborn; thereby choosing her son to be his heir (21:16). The LORD condemned that practice. He declared that the firstborn son would be given “a double portion” of all that was his father’s (21:17).

Capital Punishment of a Rebellious Son (21:18-21)

A disobedient son, defined as “stubborn and rebellious” (21:18), refused to hear and obey his father and mother. Such a son (described as “a glutton, and a drunkard”) would be brought before the city elders, who would sit in judgment of his character (21:19-20).

I understand that stoning a rebellious son is undoubtedly offensive to our 21st-century sensibilities. Yet, given the severity of the punishment, we can conclude that it was a rare event. Indeed, such a judgment required the consent of both the father and mother (21:19-20). Yet, should the city’s elders find the son guilty, he would have been stoned to death by the “men of his city” (21:21).

Deuteronomy 22 – Having a Good Conscience

Compassion for a Neighbor’s Livestock (22:1-4)

We are reminded that God’s people were to love their neighbors. That command applied to his person and was demonstrated practically in one’s duty to his neighbor’s livestock, clothes, and possessions (22:1-3). Should a man’s ox, sheep, or donkey be astray, his neighbor was to restore them to their owner. Should the owner not be readily known, an Israelite was commanded to take the animal to his home until its rightful owner was established (22:2). Once again, we are reminded that God is benevolent. He required compassion for the animals of His creation (22:4).

An Abomination: TransgenderTransexuals (22:5)

There is much ado about the “rights” of self-declared “Queers, “Transexuals,” and “Asexuals” in 21st-century society. Such people aspire to blend and distort the natural differences between males and females in their dress and manner. It may surprise you to learn that blurring the distinctiveness in the sexes is not a “new woke” (as some would have you believe). Indeed, it was declared an “abomination unto the LORD” in the Scriptures and condemned as a practice among ancient heathen societies (22:5).

Compassion and Affection for Nature (22:6-7)

From the beginning, humanity was commanded to be the “keeper” of God’s creation (Genesis 2:15). It follows, therefore, that even the smallest of creatures should arouse in man a natural affection and compassion (22:7).

Closing thoughts:

Several other laws and guidelines are given in Deuteronomy 22, but I conclude this devotion by inviting you to notice the LORD’s protection of womankind (22:13-29).

Unlike their heathen neighbors, Israelite women were protected and shielded from abuses that are even prevalent today. For example, a woman had the right to due process should her purity and testimony be questioned. Also, should a woman be forcefully taken and raped, the severity of the law would fall upon the man, and he would forfeit his life for his sin (22:25-27).

Tragically, our nation and world have rejected the authority of God’s Word and removed itself from the divine guiding principles for life and civil society. We have become a people with laws divorced from unalterable principles. As a result, we are governed by the whims of wicked, unprincipled men and women. Indeed, the prophet Isaiah’s condemnation of the wicked is applicable and relevant when we read:

Isaiah 5:20-21 – “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! 21  Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!”

Questions to consider:

1) How were captive, enslaved women to be treated in Israel? (21:10-14)

2) What might become of a rebellious son? (21:19-19)

3) Why would the adage “finders, keepers” not apply to God’s people? (22:1-3)

4) What was the law concerning a man dressing like a woman or a woman dressing like a man? (22:5)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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