Category Archives: Death

Three Affirmations Concerning the Faithfulness of God (Joshua 19-21)

Daily reading assignment: Joshua 19-21

Joshua 19 – A selfless, godly leader

The business of dividing the Promised Land and assigning portions to the seven tribes (18:2-3) that had not yet taken possession of their inheritance continues in Joshua 19.

After dividing the land according to tribe, Joshua was the last to receive his inheritance. Honoring him for his years of faithful service, the “children of Israel gave an inheritance to Joshua… [and]they gave him the city which he asked, even Timnathserah in mount Ephraim: and he built the city, and dwelt therein” (19:49-50).

A word of caution: Don’t make the mistake of glibly passing over the names of cities and territories listed in Joshua 19 and miss an important lesson. Although the names of the cities may be foreign and difficult to pronounce, they remind us of an important truth: God fulfilled His promise, and Israel was settled in her land.

Joshua 20 – Cities of Refuge for the Innocent Accused of Murder

The LORD commanded Joshua to establish six “cities of refuge” in the land (20:1-2). Moses had already assigned three cities on the east side of the Jordan River (20:8; Deuteronomy 4:41-43). To those three remaining Joshua designated three cities west of the Jordan (20:7).

Reflecting the sanctity of human life and the principle of capital punishment established by God (Genesis 9:5-6; Exodus 20), the cities of refuge afforded a safe place for those who had unintentionally taken the life of another man (20:3-4).  Because there was no law enforcement, the cities of refuge provided a place where a man’s case could be judged by the elders of the city and his life protected from those who felt compelled to avenge the death of a loved one (20:5).

Two regulations governed who might find refuge from an avenger (20:6). The first was the responsibility of the inhabitants of the city to determine if a man was guilty or innocent of murder. If guilty, the accused would be turned over to the avenger. If innocent of murder, but guilty of manslaughter, the accused must remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest.

Joshua 21 – Cities Assigned to the Tribe of Levi

We have been reminded on several occasions that the priestly tribe of Levi would not receive its own land.  Serving the LORD and the congregation, the Levites’ physical needs were to be met by the sacrificial gifts of God’s people.

The tribe of Levi requested the cities they had been promised for their inheritance in the land (Joshua 21:1-3) and were assigned forty-eight cities, by family, and scattered throughout the tribal lands (21:4-42).  It was the ministry of the Levites to minister to the people and teach them the Word and Law of God (2 Chronicles 17:9).

I invite you to consider three affirmations concerning the faithfulness of God as we close today’s commentary.

1) The LORD gave Israel “all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers” (21:43).

2) He gave the nation victory over her enemies and “gave them rest” (21:44).

3) Not one “good thing” the LORD had promised failed (21:45).

What a great and faithful God we serve!

2 Corinthians 1:2020  For all [every one of] the promises of God in him [Christ] are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.

Copyright 2020– Travis D. Smith

Rahab: A Testimony of Saving Grace (Joshua 5-8)

Daily reading assignment: Joshua 5-8

Having crossed the Jordan River, Joshua and Israel faced the challenge of waging war with the inhabitants of the land God had promised He would give to Abraham and his lineage.

The first great city of the land was the ancient city of Jericho, whose walls made it the strongest fortress in the land, but one that had to be conquered for the people to pass on and take possession of their inheritance.

The two men Joshua had sent to spy out Jericho had, after finding refuge in the home of Rahab (Joshua 2), returned and gave a report, stating that the citizens of Jericho feared the God of Israel and her armies (Joshua 2:11-12).

Joshua 5 – Circumcision, Now?

Circumcising all males born during Israel’s wilderness sojourn was Joshua’s first task after leading Israel into the Promised Land (5:1-9).  While the generation that had departed Egypt had been circumcised, the succeeding generation who were born during the forty years of wandering had not been circumcised (5:5).

Why did Joshua wait until crossing the Jordan into “enemy territory?” Circumcision was a sign of the LORD’S covenant and it was His desire that it be administered in the land He had promised to give the sons and lineage of Abraham. Egypt was in the past and a new land was before them (5:9).

The first Passover was also observed in the new land and the people remembered how the LORD had delivered them out of the hand of Pharaoh and slavery in Egypt (5:10-12). The daily manna the LORD had provided during their sojourn ceased as the people would begin consuming “the fruit of the land of Canaan” (5:12).

The appearance of the angel of the LORD, a theophany of God’s physical presence, confirmed to Joshua that LORD was with him and Israel (5:13-15).

Joshua 6 – The Fall of Jericho

Joshua 6 is the record of the overthrow of the ancient city of Jericho. Jericho was not defeated by a force of arms nor a well-planned siege of ancient military engines. God delivered the city into Israel’s hand, and all perished with the exception of Rahab and her household.

Joshua 7 – The Humiliating Defeat at Ai

Joshua 7 reminds us the sin of one man can invite the judgment of God on a family and a nation. Achan had allowed covetousness to take root in his heart. Seeing the wealth and riches in the ruins of Jericho, he set his heart on them and took into his heart and tent the gold, silver, and elaborate clothing God had forbidden (7:21).  Achan’s decision proved to be a disaster for the nation and was the ruin of his household (7:24-26).

Joshua 8 – Faith is the Victory!

After learning the dreadful consequences of sin and the presumptive failure to seek God’s direction and blessing, Joshua 8 records Israel’s great victory over the city of Ai.

I close today’s devotional commentary inviting you to consider Rahab and the astonishing testimony of God’s grace she represents (Joshua 6:17, 22-25).  Why did God, out of all who perished in Jericho’s destruction, spare a harlot and her family?  The answer to that question is found in Hebrews 11:31.

Hebrews 11:31 – “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.”

Rahab’s character garnered no merit with God or Israel. She was a heathen and a prostitute.  Why was she spared?

She believed Israel’s God was the One True God and Israel was His chosen people (Joshua 2:8-13).  She had welcomed the spies into her home and when the army of Israel surrounded the city, the scarlet rope tied in her window was a testimony and symbol of her faith.

Rahab’s faith was rewarded by God! She was spared the destruction of Jericho, she became the mother of Boaz and was the great-great grandmother of David. Rahab is named in the lineage of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5) and is a lasting testimony of God’s saving grace.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Virtual Invitation to Hillsdale’s Sunday Services and Today’s Devotional

You are invited to join Hillsdale’s Virtual Sunday Services at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.
Youth Pastor Justin Jarrett will present a Bible study for teens titled “Finding the Cure for Cabin Fever” at 9:45 AM.

At 10:30 AM, Pastor Smith will be sharing Three Principles for Overcoming Fear and Anxiety in a message titled, “The Sanctuary and Security of the Saints” at 10:30 AM.

Please click on this link to view a video invitation and recording of today’s Devotional Commentary (feel free to share).

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 28-29

Deuteronomy 28 – The Blessing of Faithfulness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deuteronomy 29

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

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

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

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

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

2 Chronicles 7:1414 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Choices Always Have Consequences (Deuteronomy 24-27)

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 24-27

Moses continues his final challenge to Israel in today’s scripture reading, and his speech covers nearly every aspect of life in the new land.

Deuteronomy 24

Marriage and divorce are the subject of the opening verses of Deuteronomy 24, and we are reminded that divorce was never God’s will. God’s plan from creation was that man would be the husband of one wife (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:8). The principles on divorce stated in this passage were given to stress the solemnness of marriage and the sobriety of divorce (24:1-5).

Various life principles follow (24:6-22)

1) Never take a pledge of indebtedness against a man’s “millstone,” meaning his means to grind wheat and provide bread for his family (24:6). Stated in a different manner: Don’t take from a man his livelihood and means to provide for his family.

2) Don’t engage in “man stealing” (the 21st century describes this as “human trafficking” and its victims are often children). The penalty of such is death (24:7).

3) Never oppress the poor by taking advantage of their impoverished state (24:10-15). In ancient times, the sole possession of a poor man might have been nothing more than the robes he wore. Explanation: While a poor man might offer his outer robe to secure a loan and the lender take possession of it during the day, the debtor was not to be denied the warmth and comfort of his robe at night.  That principle is timeless!  While people should not assume debts, they cannot pay; neither should lenders be harsh in charging usury, seeking justice, and restitution.

4) Employers are to pay employees their due (24:16).

5) Everyone was to bear the punishment for their own sin and not another in their stead (24:16).

6) Compassion for the poverty of the orphan, widow, and foreigner was a burden shared by Hebrew society (24:19-22).

Deuteronomy 25

Because justice is essential for the peace and well-being of a society, corporal punishment that fit the crime was to be administered, but within reason and without excessive harshness (Deut. 25:1-4).

Even the ox that labored in the field was to be an object of compassion and allowed the reward of eating some of the grain as it labored (25:4; 1 Timothy 5:18).

Hebrews were expected to be men of integrity in business, and weights and measurements used in commerce were to be “perfect and just” (Deut. 25:13-16).

Though commanded to have compassion on a foreigner in other passages, Israel was not to appear weak or trivialize offenses an enemy’s (25:17-19).

Deuteronomy 26

Because the LORD had chosen Israel and blessed the people, Moses reminded them they were to demonstrate their gratitude by bringing the first fruits of the harvest to the sanctuary (26:1-15).

A special tithe was given every third year accompanying the tither’s confession he had honored the LORD’s commandments and obeyed them. The third-year tithe was used to meet immediate needs in 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).

Reminded of their covenant with the LORD, Israel was to promise to “walk in his ways, and to keep His statutes, and His commandments” (26:16-17). In response, the LORD promised to promote Israel above all the nations of the earth (26:19).

Deuteronomy 27

Lest the people forget, a memorial pillar of stones was to be inscribed with the law and raised up on the west side of the Jordan River as a reminder of the LORD’s promises and commandments (Dt. 27:1-2).  An altar was to be built to sanctify the place and the LORD’s covenant with Israel (27:2-10).

Admonishing the people “Choices have Consequences”, the elders of the twelve tribes were charged to remind them obedience to the Law brought the LORD’s blessing, and disobedience His curse and judgments (27:14-26).

A series of twelve curses were pronounced, and the tribes affirmed they accepted the LORD’s covenant (Dt. 27:15-26).

1) Idolatry, a violation of the first and second commandments is cursed (27:15).

2) Dishonoring one’s parents is cursed (27:16), a violation of the fifth commandment (Ex. 20:12).

3) Stealing the property and possessions of another is cursed, a violation of the eighth commandment (27:17; Ex. 20:15).

4) Taking advantage of the infirmed or disabled is cursed (27:18).

5) Unjust treatment of “the stranger, fatherless, and widow” is cursed (27:19; Ex. 22:21-24).

The sixth through ninth curses address sexual impurity, a violation of the seventh commandment (27:20-23; Ex. 20:14).

6) Incest with one’s stepmother is cursed (27:20; Lev. 18:8-9, 17; 20:11).

7) Bestiality is cursed (27:21; Lev. 18:23).

8) Incest between siblings and parents is cursed (27:22).

9) Incest with one’s mother-in-law is cursed (27:23).

The sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Ex. 20:13), is the subject of the tenth and eleventh curses (Dt. 27:24-25).

10) Intentional murder of one’s neighbor is cursed (Dt. 27:24).

11) Hiring an assassin to kill another is cursed (Dt. 27:25).

The twelfth and final curse is addressed to any child of Israel who failed to affirm God’s Law and Commandments (Dt .27:26).

When the people were asked to affirm they accepted the LORD’s covenant, they answered, “Amen” (27:26).

In case you are tempted to believe the law and commandments have no application to you, I remind you:

1 Peter 1:15-16 – “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16  Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 21-23

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

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

Moral Decency and Compassion (Deuteronomy 21)

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

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

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

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

Love Thy Neighbor (Deuteronomy 22)

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

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

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

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

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

Deuteronomy 23

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Rules of Law, Justice, and War (Deuteronomy 17-20)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 17-20

Moses challenge to Israel and his rehearsal of the laws and regulations the nation was to follow continues in today’s scripture reading.

Capital Punishment (Deuteronomy 17)

Capital punishment is a God-ordained exercise of human authority (Romans 13:4); however, a sentence of death required two to three witnesses (17:2-7).  When judicial matters were too difficult to be settled, the matter was taken to priests who were instructed to enquire diligently into the accusation (17:9-11). Judgments were binding and when a man refused to accept a sentence the penalty was death (17:12-13).

Israel was not to pattern herself after other nations (17:14).

Should the people demand a king, he was to be a Hebrew whom the LORD would choose (17:15). Unlike heathen kings, Israel’s king was to reflect humility and integrity.

Three rules applied to the king: 1) He was not to seek his strength in a stable of horses (17:16); 2) He was not to practice polygamy (17:17); 3) He was to write with his own hand a copy of the law to read and continually meditate upon its statutes (17:18-19).

Principle – The effect of knowing the law was that the king would “learn to fear the LORD…That his heart be not lifted up” (17:19-20).

The rights of priests, Levites, and prophets is the subject of Deuteronomy 18.

The physical needs of priests, Levites, and their families were to be met through the offerings and sacrifices of the people (18:1-8).

Fearing Israel might be tempted to follow the wicked practices of their neighbors, Moses warned, “thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations” (18:9).

Enumerated among the sins was human sacrifice (18:10a), soothsaying, witchcraft, and other sources of darkness (18:10b-14). False prophets, identified as those who claim to speak in the name of the Lord, but whose prophecies did not come to pass, were to be put to death (18:20-22).

Cities of Refuge is the subject of Deuteronomy 19.

Three cities on the east side of Jordan (Numbers 35:14) and three cities in the Promised Land were established as sanctuaries where a killer might flee until justice would prevail (19:1-8).  Three additional cities (making nine total) were to be established should Israel take possession of all the land the LORD had promised as an inheritance (19:9).

Two types of killing are identified: Unintentional manslaughter (19:3-5) and premeditated murder (19:11-13). The cities of refuge were to be safe cities for those who had accidentally taken the life of another; however, they were not to give refuge to a murderer (19:11-13).

The demand for two to three witnesses is repeated (19:15) and false witnesses are warned they would suffer the judgment of the law for the crime they might falsely accuse another (19:16-21).

Deuteronomy 20 is a continuation of Moses’ instruction to Israel in times of war. 

The Canaanite nations were greater and more powerful than Israel; however, Moses challenged the people to, “be not afraid of them” (20:1). They were not to trust in their own strength, but place their confidence in the LORD.

Three exemptions for enlisting in the army were given: 1) A man who built a new house, but had not dedicated or taken possession of it was exempted (20:5); 2) A man who planted a new vineyard, but had not yet enjoyed its fruit was exempted  (20:6); 3) A man who was betrothed to a woman, but had not taken her to his house was exempted (20:7). According to Deuteronomy 24:5, a newlywed husband was afforded a one-year exemption from military duty.

A city under siege was to be offered peace and servitude (20:10-11); however, when an offer of peace was rejected the males of the city were to be put to death and women, children, and livestock taken as spoil (20:12-15).

Remembering the LORD is a jealous God and He had chosen Israel to be His people, Moses commanded the cities nearby when Israel invaded Canaan were to be annihilated: “That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the LORD your God” (20:18).

Let us remember the God of Israel is our LORD and He is Holy and Jealous for our affections (Exodus 34:14).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith