Category Archives: Death

Ruth: A Testimony of Sovereignty and Providence (Ruth 1-2)

Scripture reading – Ruth 1-2

The Book of Ruth is a bridge between two eras: Its historical context is in the time, and “days when the judges ruled Israel” (1:1), but before kings reigned in the land. It is a book beloved by Jews, and Christians alike. It establishes the ancestry of King David, and also the genealogy of Jesus Christ in the lineage of David, and a descendant of the tribe of Judah (Ruth 4:17-22; Matthew 1:5-6).

We will see in our brief study of this book, a testimony of God’s sovereignty, for He overrules in the affairs of man, and providentially is ever working out His will through the infirmity of human decisions. The Book of Ruth is also a testament of the LORD’S redemption, for it reveals how Ruth, a Moabite, who had no right of inheritance among God’s people, came to be named in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

Ruth 1 – A Prodigal Family, and A Journey from Death to Life

The introductory verses of Ruth introduce us to a family that is facing a crisis of faith, “there was a famine in the land,” and the decision was made to leave “Bethlehem-judah” (Bethlehem, a village of Judah), and travel to “the country of Moab” (1:1).  To escape the famine in Israel, Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and sons Mahlon and Chilion, descendants of Ephraim, moved to Moab where they would live ten years (1:4). Tragedy followed Elimelech’s decision to leave Bethlehem, and he died in Moab leaving Naomi a widow, and her two sons (1:3). Continuing to live in Moab, Naomi’s sons took wives of the Moabites, and continued in the land. Mahlon took Ruth as his wife (4:10), and his brother Chilion married a woman of Moab named Orpah.

Tragedy again struck Naomi’s life, when both of her sons died, leaving her in desperate straits as not only a widow herself, but with daughters-in-law who were also widows (1:5). Remembering the culture of the day would have provided no welfare for widows, the three faced a future that would prove desperate, especially for Naomi who was not living among her own people. Naomi, facing a dismal future living outside of Israel, and hearing the famine was past, set her heart to return to Bethlehem (1:6). Naomi urged her daughters in law to return to their parents, with hopes of marrying Moabite men (1:8-9). Yet, Ruth and Orpah set their hearts to accompany Naomi, but she blessed and encouraged them to go home, and seek a husband (1:9).

The bond of love between Naomi and her daughters-in-law was strong, and as they parted “they lifted up their voice, and wept” (1:10-14). “Orpah kissed her mother-in-law [and departed]… back unto her people, and unto her gods” (1:14-15); however, Ruth refused to go back. In one of the great confessions of faith in the Scriptures, Ruth said to Naomi, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: 17Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me” (1:16-17).

Although Ruth was a Moabite, and outside God’s covenant with Israel (1:18), Naomi accepted her promise, and they journeyed together to Bethlehem (1:19). As they entered the village of Bethlehem, the people were stirred, and began questioning, “Is this Naomi?” (1:19)

Ten years of sorrows had taken their toll, and no doubt Naomi’s physical appearance revealed the hardships and disappointments she had suffered. Naomi, evidencing the sorrows of her sojourn from the Promised Land to Moab, answered their inquiries, confessing, “20b …Call me not Naomi [pleasant], call me Mara [bitter]: for the Almighty [El Shaddai] hath dealt very bitterly with me…21b the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent One]hath testified against me, and the Almighty [El Shaddai—Eternal; All powerful; All Sufficient One] hath afflicted me?” (1:20b-21).

Naomi and Ruth’s arrival in Bethlehem coincided with the time of “the beginning of barley harvest,” and about the month of April (1:22).

Ruth 2 – The Will of God, and Your Responsibility

Although Ruth was a Moabite woman, and a stranger in the midst of God’s people, the LORD used the wisdom of Naomi to sovereignly direct her daughter in law to the fields of Boaz, “a mighty man wealthy,” and “kindred” of Naomi and Elimelech, her deceased husband (2:1). True to her character, Ruth went out to glean grain in the fields belonging to Boaz (2:2-3). When he came to visit the workers in his field, Boaz found a stranger among them, and asked, “Whose damsel is this?” (2:5)

The servant supervising the field workers, identified Ruth as “the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab” (2:6). He went on to explain how Ruth had requested to join the poor and “glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves” (2:7a). More than a pretty face, she was a woman of exceptional character, and the servant commented, “she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house” (2:7b).

Boaz, a Model of God’s Grace (2:8-23)

Boaz, understanding Ruth was a widow of his kindred, typified God’s grace and love for sinners, spoke kindly to her, and insisted she labor only in his field, and among his maidens where she would find not only provision, but also safety (2:8-9). Humbled by his favor, Ruth fell before Boaz, and asked, “Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?” (2:10)

Boaz acknowledged Ruth’s testimony in Bethlehem, and how she had left her country, and kindred, and accompanied Naomi to a land and people she did not know (2:11). He realized she was a woman of faith, and prayed she would be rewarded by the LORD, and enjoy His favor (2:12). Ruth accepted Boaz’s expression of grace with humility (2:13), and he displayed his affection by inviting her to his table (2:14). She instead, took her place with the “reapers,” the hired servants, and ate enough to not only satisfy her hunger, but leaving some leftovers to bring home with her to Naomi.

I close, encouraging you to consider three ways Boaz displayed grace to Ruth. He offered her protection, and charged the men they were not to touch her (2:9). He made provision for her by leaving behind handfuls of grain (2:15-16). She was promoted, and was the object of Boaz’s attention and affection (2:14).

That evening, when Ruth came home to Naomi, she revealed to her how she had been blessed by Boaz (2:18-19). When Naomi realized the probability of the LORD’S leading, she rejoiced, and encouraged Ruth, thereby dispelling her own bitterness by the hope of redemption! (2:21-23)

As you will see, this book that began with famine, death, sorrow, and bitterness, is emerging to be a wonderful story of love and redemption.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Lawlessness Breeds Moral Degeneracy” (Judges 19-20)

Scripture reading – Judges 19-20

A familiar refrain in the latter chapters of the Book of Judges is: “It came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel” (19:1).

Consider the question, “When was there no king [literally, no ruler or judge] in Israel?” The answer gives us a different perspective for the events recorded in today’s Scripture reading. I believe Judges 17-21 falls chronologically between the death of Joshua (Joshua 24:29-33, Judges 1:1-2:15), and the beginning of the era of the judges (Judges 2:16), when “the Spirit of the LORD came upon [Othniel], and he judged Israel” (3:8-10).

A contemporary application: The tragic events that occur in today’s Scripture reading, Judges 19-20, are a reflection of the lawlessness, and moral degeneracy of a society when men reject the Law of the LORD, and His Commandments.

Lesson: When spiritual leaders fail to preach, and teach the Word of God, they not only fail the LORD, they fail their families, community, and nation. Consider with me a time of lawlessness, much like our day, “when there was no king [no judge, no ruler] in Israel” (19:1).

Judges 19 – The Levite, and His Unfaithful Concubine

A man of the priestly tribe of Levi, passed through Mount Ephraim (near the place where the Tabernacle was located), and took to wife “a concubine out of Beth-lehem-judah [Bethlehem of Judah]” (19:1). The woman was most likely a concubine, because she had come to the marriage without a dowry. She would have been considered a lesser wife, and her children would have had no right of inheritance.

Tragically, the Levite’s concubine played the harlot, and left the Levite and returned to her father’s house (19:2). Four months passed, and the Levite and his servant, determined to travel to Bethlehem, and with kind words, endeavor to “bring her again” to his home (19:3). The concubine’s father rejoiced when the Levite came to claim his daughter (19:3). The man pressed upon his son-in-law to accept his invitation to continue in his home, and “he abode with him three days: so they did eat and drink, and lodged there” (19:4).

For four days, the Levite, his concubine, and servant continued with his father-in-law, and on the fifth day, though the father protested, the Levite set out on his journey to Shiloh (where the Tabernacle was located, 19:18). Because the hour was late, the servant pressed the Levite to stay the night near “Jebus” (ancient Jerusalem, 19:10-11). The Levite, however, refused to spend the night in Jerusalem, for it was occupied by Jebusites, and not the children of Israel. Instead, they made their way to Gibeah, a city occupied by the tribe of Benjamin, and arrived in the city as “the sun went down upon them” (19:14).

The Tragedy of Depravity in Gibeah

Contrary to the Law’s injunction to show compassion to the sojourner, no man of Gibeah offered the Levite, and his concubine provision or lodging for the night, and he settled to spend the night in the city street (19:15). An old man, however, whose birthplace was Mount Ephraim, resided in Gibeah, and spied the Levite and his company. The old man offered them lodging for the night (19:16-20), and though the Levite resisted his invitation, he pressed upon him, saying, “lodge not in the street” (19:20).

The old man was entertaining his guests, when “the men of the city, certain sons of Belial [wicked, immoral men], beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him” (19:22).

Like Lot, who found his household beset by the wicked men of Sodom (Genesis 19:4-9), the old man’s endeavor to reason with the sodomites of Gibeah proved futile (19:23). Though he defined their passions as wickedness, and folly (19:23), their immoral desire, and lust would not be assuaged. Following the manner of Lot, and to save the Levite from the violence of the mob, the old man offered his virgin daughter, and the Levite’s concubine to “do with them what seemeth good unto you” (19:24). Even that shameless attempt to pacify the lusts of the sodomites failed, and did not deter them from their debased objective (19:24).

Tragically, choosing to save himself, and his host from the degenerate mob, the Levite thrust his concubine out of the house. The men of Gibeah raped, and “abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go” (19:25), and retreated to their households (19:26).

What a hideous thought, that a man would give his wife to a mob to be abused, while he sheltered in the security of a household! Nevertheless, we read, the Levite “rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold” (19:25).

Can you picture this tragic moment? With a callousness that defies love, the Levite opened the door, not to search for his wife, but to go on his journey (19:27). He knew the violence of the Sodomite culture, and what she would have suffered, and no doubt believed she would be dead. Instead, she had made her way to the threshold of the house; battered, bruised, bleeding, and demeaned, she found the door closed to her cries, and died (19:27).

What manner of man would give his beloved to suffer, and himself be spared? The same who would fail to stoop, and caress her, and say, “Up, and let us be going” (19:28). The abused woman did not stir, and she did not answer. Her life was gone, her soul departed. She had died from the violence of the mob that had made her the object of their lusts. Taking up her lifeless body from the threshold, the Levite placed her upon his donkey, and went to his house (19:28).

Remembering there was no king, judge, or ruler in Israel, the Levite had no place to appeal for justice.

The city of Gibeah, and the tribe of Benjamin had sheltered, and tolerated a great evil in their land, and the Levite determined to appeal to all Israel for justice. He “took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her [body parts] into all the coasts [boundaries, tribes] of Israel” (19:29). The Levite’s deed left Israel shaken, and the children of Israel gathered to weigh the spiritual state of their nation, and what must be done (19:30, 20:1).

Author’s note: In a later devotional, I hope to consider the events that follow in Judges 20, and their application to our own society, and world.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Samson and Delilah (Judges 16-17)

Scripture reading – Judges 16-17

Today’s study in the Book of Judges brings us to an event in the life of Samson that is as dramatic, as it is tragic.

Samson’s super-strength exploits, his infatuation with Delilah, her betrayal, and the tragic finale of his life has filled childhood imaginations, and been the inspiration for plays, operas, and Hollywood films. It might be said, never has a man been born with such promise, and died with such infamy. He was the hope of Israel, and his strength was legend; however, his moral failures shadowed his life, and ended inglorious.

This final chapter of Samson’s life opens with a reminder of his flawed character. Though set apart by the LORD, and dedicated by his mother when he was yet in her womb (13:3-5), Samson’s lusts eclipsed his calling as the judge of Israel (15:20+). While his physical acts of valor were renown, his unbridled lusts were ultimately his demise.

Judges 16 – Samson, Delilah, and the Philistines

The early verses of Judges 16 placed Samson in Gaza, a Philistine town fifty miles southwest of Jerusalem, and was only a short distance from his home. Unafraid of the Philistines, Samson visited with a harlot of Gaza (16:1), and the men of that city waited at the gate, plotting to kill him (16:2). Sensing the danger, he arose at midnight, and stormed out of the city, pulling the great gate up by its posts, and carrying them a distance of nine miles where he sat them at “the top of an hill that is before Hebron” (16:3).

Delilah, the Temptress, and Vixen (16:4-21)

The story of Samson and Delilah is well known, and I feel no need to be detailed in my commentary; however, let it serve as a warning to any who might trifle with sexual immorality.

Samson came to love Delilah (16:4), with whom he not only indulged his lusts, but trifled with his Nazarite vow, under which he had been born. When the Philistines offered Delilah a bribe of “eleven hundred pieces of silver” (16:5), she began to entice, and plot to betray Samson into the hands of his enemies (16:6-14). Three times she urged Samson to reveal the secret of his strength, and three times he deceived her, and foiled the plot to capture him (16:6-14).

Delilah’s unrelenting pleas for him to trust her with his secret, weakened Samson’s resolve, until he confessed “all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man” (16:17).

Knowing his secret, Delilah betrayed him, and as he slept she sent for a man to shave his head (16:18-19). With the locks of his hair shaved, Delilah awoke Samson, and “his strength went from him” (16:19). She lifted up her voice as she had in the past, and said, “The Philistines be upon thee, Samson” (16:20), and when he rose from his bed to face his enemy, “he wist not that the Lord was departed from him” (16:20).

Seized, Enslaved, and Scorned (16:21-31)

With the Spirit of the LORD no longer upon him, Samson was bound by the Philistines, his eyes gouged out, and like a dumb beast, he was forced to push the mill wheel to “grind in the prison house” (16:21). Days and weeks passed, and Samson’s hair began to grow (16:22). We know the disgrace he endured in prison; however, it was the humiliation he suffered when he was taken from prison that turned his thoughts to the LORD. Led by a boy to the temple of Dagon, the once mighty Samson become an object of buffoonery for the Philistine men and women (16:23-25).

Samson asked the boy to guide him to the main pillars that supported the roof of the temple, and there he prayed, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes” (16:28). Standing in the midst of the two pillars, Samson pushed against them, and prayed, “Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life” (16:30).

The story of Samson’s life ends with a sad scene, as his brethren (the tribe of Dan), and those of his father’s house, claimed his body from the rubble of the temple of Dagon, and buried him with his father (16:31).

Judges 17 – Wickedness, and Idolatry in Israel

To illustrate the wickedness and depravity that had taken hold in Israel, we are introduced to a man of the tribe of Ephraim named Micah.  Micah was a wicked sort, for he is introduced as one who had stolen eleven hundred shekels of silver from his mother! When he learned his mother had uttered a curse on the thief, he returned her silver, and excused his theft on the pretense of religious piety, claiming it was his desire to have an idol shaped from the silver and revered in his “house of gods” (17:3).

Micah’s mother, no doubt deluded by her son’s pretext of spirituality, rewarded him with two hundred shekels of silver, which he melted at a foundry, and poured into a mold of the image that would serve as one of his idols (17:4-5).  Increasing his wickedness further, Micah employed a Levite priest to serve him and his gods (17:7-13).

I close today’s devotional with a revelation of the sin problem that was present in Israel, for 6in those days there was no king [no ruler, no judge] in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes”(17:6).

Samson had been the hope of his nation, but his moral failures overshadowed his life, and ministry as Israel’s judge.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Gideon: Gone, and Forgotten (Judges 8)

Scripture reading – Judges 8

I invite you to return with me to Judges 7, as we continue our study in the Book of Judges. Gideon had obeyed the LORD’S command, and in return, his army was reduced to three hundred men (7:7). Humanely, the task before Gideon was an impossible one; Israel was about to face an army that numbered one hundred thirty-five thousand men (8:10).

The night before the battle, the LORD came to Gideon and “said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand” (7:9). Knowing Gideon’s heart, the LORD gave him an opportunity to assuage his fear, and invited him to go with his servant, Phurah to the host of Midian, to “hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host” (7:11).

Providentially, Gideon overheard the telling of a soldier’s dream, and the interpretation that predicted how God had “delivered Midian, and all the host” into his hand (7:14). Gideon then worshipped the LORD, and returned to his soldiers, and exhorted them, “Arise; for the Lord hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian” (7:15).

Dividing his army into three companies of one hundred men, Gideon gave each man a trumpet, a pitcher, and a lamp whose light would be concealed within the pitcher (7:16). Under the cover of darkness, Gideon commanded his men to encircle the encampment of the Midianites. He instructed his men, when they heard him blow his trumpet, they were to blow their trumpets, break the pitchers that concealed the light of their lamps, and cry with one voice, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon” (7:20).

The sudden blaring of the trumpets, the shouts of the soldiers, and the piercing lights of their lamps made Israel’s army appear to be a great force. In the confusion, the Midianites turned “every man’s sword against his fellow” (7:22). They fled toward the waters of the Jordan, and Gideon sent messengers to the tribe of Ephraim, whose men pursued them, and slew “two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb…and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side Jordan” (7:25).

Judges 8

What a glorious moment in Israel’s history; however, though the armies of Midian were routed, Gideon would not be satisfied until all the leaders of Midian were slain.

One would think all Israel would have rejoiced with Gideon, but that was not the case. The men of Ephraim came to Gideon, and complained that he should have invited them to the battle against Midian. According to Judges 6:35, he had summoned only the tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali. How shallow, and self-centered was this protest! For seven years, Ephraim had suffered the Midianite invasion, and there is no evidence that tribe had made any effort to stand against their foe. Rather than chiding Gideon out of their wounded pride, they should have shown gratitude for his leadership!

Pursuing a remnant of the Midianite army, Gideon and his men crossed the waters of the Jordan, and entered the territory of the tribe of Gad. Passing by Succoth, Gideon appealed to its men, saying, “Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they be faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian” (8:5). The men of Succoth were of the tribe of Gad, and brethren of Israel; however, they refused to give Gideon’s men bread. He vowed to return after the battle, and warned he would “tear [their] flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers” (8:7).

Gideon went next to Penuel, another city of the tribe of Gad, and they refused his request. Angered by their heartlessness, Gideon vowed he would return, and break down their strong tower (8:9).

God blessed Gideon, and he captured the “two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and discomfited [terrified] all the host” (8:12). Faithful to his oath, he returned to Succoth, and fulfilled his promise, and “took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught [punished, disciplined them]” (8:16). Gideon continued to Penuel, and there “he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city” (8:17).

Following his victory over the Midianites, there were some in Israel who would have made Gideon king, and said to him, “Rule thou over us…for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. 23And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you” (8:22-23)

I conclude today’s devotional, on a sad note. Though Gideon was used greatly by the LORD, he was a man who made foolish decisions in the later years of his life. He raised up a memorial to his victory over Midian, overlaid it with gold, and it became an idol to some in Israel, and “a snare unto Gideon, and to his house” (8:27). He took “many wives,” and had seventy sons (8:30). When he “died in a good old age…as soon as Gideon was dead…the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim” (8:32-33).

Gideon’s life serves as a warning to any who desire to build a name, or raise up a monument to themselves. In spite of his heroism, and the adulation of the people, “the children of Israel remembered not the Lord their God…35Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel” (8:34-35).

Gideon, gone, and forgotten! If you want to have a lasting legacy; remember, it is not in what you build, but whom you serve!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

When Third Generation Leaders Lack Spiritual Fortitude (Judges 1-2)

Scripture reading: Judges 1-2

The Book of Judges begins with a revealing statement indicating a void in leadership left by Joshua’s death. We read, “1Now 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 the presence of enemies in their midst. The LORD answered Israel’s inquiry, not with the name of a man, but with that of a tribe: “2And the Lord said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his [the tribe of Judah’s] hand” (1:2).

In the absence of Joshua, the LORD chose 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, Jacob’s fourth born son, was blessed by Jacob (Genesis 49:8-12), and his lineage bored the noble character out of whom would emerge the line of kings, beginning with David, and concluding with the LORD Jesus Christ, the lion of Judah (Matthew 1:1-3).

Judah accepted the challenge, and invited the tribe of Simeon saying, “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).

In the midst of victories, a repetition of failures emerges in Judges; failures that would haunt the people as a nation for generations to follow. Though Judah and Simeon fought against the Canaanites and the Perizzites, and God blessed them with victories over their enemies (Judges 1:2-20); regrettably, they fell short of the LORD’S will. The LORD had not failed Judah, but Judah had failed to trust the LORD, and they “could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron” (1:19).

A pattern of failing to obey the command of the LORD, and drive out Israel’s enemies continues throughout Judges 1. The tribe of Benjamin failed (1:21), and Manasseh failed (1:27-28). Ephraim did not “drive out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer” (1:29). Zebulun, failed to “drive out the inhabitants of Kitron” (1:30), and 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 Crisis in Third Generation Leadership

Judges 2 begins with an ominous declaration from “an angel of the LORD” (whom I believe to be a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ). Israel’s failure to drive the idol worshiping nations out of Canaan was a breach in 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 they heard what would befall them because of their sins, the people “sacrificed there unto the LORD” (2:5); however, the consequences of their sinful failures followed them.

Notice 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 from the scene, 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).

The LORD did not altogether forsake Israel, and He began raising up 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).

I close on a personal note: I have witnessed the failings of transitional leadership throughout my lifetime. A nation, organization, corporation, school, and a church are never more vulnerable than in a time of leadership change. Judges 2 proves the nation of Israel was no exception.

Why are third generation ministries so vulnerable? I believe the reason is 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 proved to become a fatal attraction, and invited God’s judgment (2:20-23).

What about you? Have you become so familiar with sacred truths, and the blessings of the LORD, that you have become insensitive to the conviction of His Word?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Forgiven, and Ready (Joshua 8)

Scripture reading – Joshua 8

The focus of this devotional is Joshua 8, the second chapter of today’s assigned Scripture reading, Joshua 7-8.

With the sin of Achan, and his family purged from Israel, the nation was ready to continue its conquest of Canaan. There was no time to look back, or wallow in regret. The sin of one man had been addressed, the nation had corporately passed judgment, and put the sin out of their midst (7:25-26). And so, the LORD came to Joshua, and commanded, “Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land”(8:1).

Let us pause, and ponder an important spiritual lesson from this event. Like many sinners, Achan only confessed his sin, when it was discovered. He had opportunity to repent, come forward, and confess his sin after Israel was defeated at Ai, and thirty-six of his countrymen had perished (7:5). Instead, his heart was hardened, and his confession offered only after his sin was exposed. Such sin could not be tolerated by God’s people, and the LORD bless them. The LORD had warned Joshua, “neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you” (7:12).

Israel’s prompt judgment of the sin in their midst, moved the LORD to forgive, and restore the people to His favor (8:1). Indeed, the LORD promised to go to war with Israel, and to give them the spoils of Ai (8:2).

Personal application: Some reading this devotional, bear the guilt of a sin that is yet to be exposed. I encourage you; don’t hide your sin, and wait for it to be discovered. The LORD is patient, and longsuffering, but the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The apostle John admonished believers, “8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).

The Battle of Ai, and Bethel (8:2-29)

Unlike the presumption that was evidenced in the first battle of Ai (7:2-4), Joshua received not only his orders to go to battle against Ai, but also the strategy for the fight (8:2-13). Unlike the siege of Jericho that lasted seven days, and was conducted in silence until the walls of the city fell down; the attack on Ai employed an entirely different scheme.

Dividing the army into two companies, Israel was to lie in ambush, and draw out the king of Ai who was emboldened by his first victory (8:3-8). With thirty thousand men sent out into the night before him, Joshua “lodged that night among the people” (8:9). True to his character, the next day, “Joshua rose up early in the morning” (8:10), and lured both the men of Bethel (a city some two miles from Ai), and the king of Ai out of the city (8:12-13).

Arrogantly presuming he would send the warriors of Israel scurrying as before, the king of Ai took all of the men of the city to pursue Joshua (8:14), and leaving the city vulnerable. Ai’s king realized, too late, that he had been drawn into the midst of Israel’s armies. The king beheld “the smoke of the city…[and he and his army] had no power to flee this way or that way” (8:20). All was lost, and Israel turned “and slew the men of Ai” (8:21).

Like Moses before him (Exodus 17:8-16), Joshua held his spear aloft during the battle, and Israel warred until the king of Ai was captured, and twelve thousand men of the city slain, along with “all the inhabitants of Ai” (8:22-26). The cattle, and spoils of Ai were Israel’s, and the city was burned (8:27-28). The king of Ai was “hanged on a tree until eventide,” and as the sun was setting, Joshua commanded his body be placed in the gate of Ai, and stones heaped upon it (8:29).

A New Commitment (8:30-35)

The battle being won, “Joshua built an altar unto the Lord God of Israel in mount Ebal,” as the law prescribed (8:30), and then he offered sacrifices (8:31). Upon the stones of the altar, Joshua inscribed “a copy of the law of Moses” (8:32), and he read aloud “all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law” (8:34).

Joshua 8 concludes with a reminder that every word of the LORD is sacred:35There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them” (8:35).

Don’t allow the obvious application of today’s Scripture to be lost! The consequences of one man’s sin, can prove disastrous for a family, church, and nation. Let the stoning of Achan, and his family serve as a warning: Be sure your sin will find you out!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Silent Enemy: Sin in the Camp (Joshua 7-8) – part 1 of 2 devotionals

Scripture reading – Joshua 7-8

With the fortress of Jericho defeated, and destroyed, the men of Israel set their eyes on the next city, Ai. Joshua had reminded the people that the LORD had accursed all that was in Jericho, and the gold, silver, brass, and iron was sanctified, and dedicated for the “treasury of the house of the LORD” (6:24, 26). Nevertheless, one man in Israel had disregarded Joshua’s oath, and had foolishly taken that which was accursed (7:1).

Joshua 7 – A Hidden Sin in the Camp

Joshua 7:1 reveals both the sin and the sinner, whose transgression would not be discovered until thirty-six soldiers of Israel had perished in battle (7:5).

Joshua 7:11But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the Lordwas kindled against the children of Israel.

Who was Achan? In the realm of two million citizens, we might assert he was nobody; however, he was a transgressor who committed a great sin against the LORD. Achan was a son of the tribe of Judah (7:1), and a father with sons and daughters (7:24). He was a man of possessions, for he owned ox, asses, and sheep (7:24). He was, however, a covetous man, and a thief (7:20-21).

Defeat at Ai (7:3-5)

Unlike the battle of Jericho, Joshua failed to consult the LORD before he ordered men to attack Ai (7:2). Joshua sent men to spy out Ai, and they returned, and advised, “Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few” (7:3). Confident, and presumptuous, Joshua heeded the advice of his spies, and sent three thousand soldiers into battle. Israel was defeated (7:4-5), leaving the nation confused, humiliated, and humbled by the deaths of thirty-six warriors of Israel.

Joshua’s Remorse (7:6-9)

Distraught by the defeat, Joshua “rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD” (7:6). He was joined by “the elders of Israel,” and they “they put dust upon their heads” as a sign of mourning (7:6). In dismay, Joshua cried to the LORD, “what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies?” (7:8) He appealed to the LORD, consider how Israel’s defeat will embolden our enemies, and they will encircle us, “cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?” (7:9)

The LORD’S Rebuke, and the Cause for Israel’s Defeat (7:10-14)

Joshua’s cry insinuated the LORD had failed Israel; however, such was not the case, for God had promised Joshua, “whithersoever thou goest” I will be with you (1:9).

The LORD rebuked Joshua, saying, “Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?” (7:10). He revealed, the cause for Israel’s defeat was not His unfaithfulness, but the sin of one man had troubled the whole nation (7:11-12). The LORD warned, He would not bless the nation until the sin was put out of the camp (7:10-13).

The Discovery of Achan’s Sin (7:14-21)

The next morning, Joshua made hast to begin searching out the sin in Israel, and he did as the LORD had commanded (7:14-16). It was revealed that the sin had been committed by a man of the tribe of Judah (7:16). When the tribe of Judah passed before Joshua, the “family of the Zarhites” was implicated (7:17). The Zarhites were examined, and the household of “Zabdi was taken, and [Joshua] brought [Zabdi’s] household man by man and; and Achan…was taken” (7:18).

Perhaps hoping his sin would go undetected, Achan held out until he was discovered. When Joshua confronted, and appealed for him to confess his sin (7:19), Achan answered, “Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done” (7:20).

Achan’s Confession (7:21)

Achan’s confession revealed the pattern of sin that men take when they sin against the LORD. He consideredthe opportunity to sin, and looked “among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight” (7:21a). He coveted them (7:21b). Achan then carried them to his tent (7:21c), and concealed them, hiding them “in the earth in the midst of [his] tent” (7:21).

The Effect of Achan’s Sin Upon His Household (7:22-26)

Joshua’s men searched, and discovered all Achan had confessed, but there was no appeal that would satisfy the LORD’S wrath. Because of Achan’s sin, thirty-six men had died in the defeat of Ai (7:4-5), and now the whole congregation passed judgment. Taking him, and all that he owned outside the camp, Israel stoned him to death, along with his sons and daughters, and livestock (7:24). All was destroyed, and the people “burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. 26And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of his anger” (7:25-26).

I close with two observations. 1) When God’s people are right with Him, their most powerful enemies will fall before them. 2) When we conceal our sin, we are powerless to face even our weakest enemies.

* Joshua 8 records the victory that followed the nation’s judgment against Achan.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Silent Enemy: Sin in the Camp (Joshua 7-8)

Scripture reading – Joshua 7-8

With the fortress of Jericho defeated, and destroyed, the men of Israel set their eyes on the next city, Ai. Joshua had reminded the people that the LORD had accursed all that was in Jericho, and the gold, silver, brass, and iron was sanctified, and dedicated for the “treasury of the house of the LORD” (6:24, 26). Nevertheless, one man in Israel had disregarded Joshua’s oath, and had foolishly taken that which was accursed (7:1).

Joshua 7 – A Hidden Sin in the Camp

Joshua 7:1 reveals both the sin and the sinner, whose transgression would not be discovered until thirty-six soldiers of Israel had perished in battle (7:5).

Joshua 7:11But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the Lordwas kindled against the children of Israel.

Who was Achan? In the realm of two million citizens, we might assert he was nobody; however, he was a transgressor who committed a great sin against the LORD. Achan was a son of the tribe of Judah (7:1), and a father with sons and daughters (7:24). He was a man of possessions, for he owned ox, asses, and sheep (7:24). He was, however, a covetous man, and a thief (7:20-21).

Defeat at Ai (7:3-5)

Unlike the battle of Jericho, Joshua failed to consult the LORD before he ordered men to attack Ai (7:2). Joshua sent men to spy out Ai, and they returned, and advised, “Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few” (7:3). Confident, and presumptuous, Joshua heeded the advice of his spies, and sent three thousand soldiers into battle. Israel was defeated (7:4-5), leaving the nation confused, humiliated, and humbled by the deaths of thirty-six warriors of Israel.

Joshua’s Remorse (7:6-9)

Distraught by the defeat, Joshua “rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD” (7:6). He was joined by “the elders of Israel,” and they “they put dust upon their heads” as a sign of mourning (7:6). In dismay, Joshua cried to the LORD, “what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies?” (7:8) He appealed to the LORD, consider how Israel’s defeat will embolden our enemies, and they will encircle us, “cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?” (7:9)

The LORD’S Rebuke, and the Cause for Israel’s Defeat (7:10-14)

Joshua’s cry insinuated the LORD had failed Israel; however, such was not the case, for God had promised Joshua, “whithersoever thou goest” I will be with you (1:9).

The LORD rebuked Joshua, saying, “Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?” (7:10). He revealed, the cause for Israel’s defeat was not His unfaithfulness, but the sin of one man had troubled the whole nation (7:11-12). The LORD warned, He would not bless the nation until the sin was put out of the camp (7:10-13).

The Discovery of Achan’s Sin (7:14-21)

The next morning, Joshua made hast to begin searching out the sin in Israel, and he did as the LORD had commanded (7:14-16). It was revealed that the sin had been committed by a man of the tribe of Judah (7:16). When the tribe of Judah passed before Joshua, the “family of the Zarhites” was implicated (7:17). The Zarhites were examined, and the household of “Zabdi was taken, and [Joshua] brought [Zabdi’s] household man by man and; and Achan…was taken” (7:18).

Perhaps hoping his sin would go undetected, Achan held out until he was discovered. When Joshua confronted, and appealed for him to confess his sin (7:19), Achan answered, “Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done” (7:20).

Achan’s Confession (7:21)

Achan’s confession revealed the pattern of sin that men take when they sin against the LORD. He consideredthe opportunity to sin, and looked “among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight” (7:21a). He coveted them (7:21b). Achan then carried them to his tent (7:21c), and concealed them, hiding them “in the earth in the midst of [his] tent” (7:21).

The Effect of Achan’s Sin Upon His Household (7:22-26)

Joshua’s men searched, and discovered all Achan had confessed, but there was no appeal that would satisfy the LORD’S wrath. Because of Achan’s sin, thirty-six men had died in the defeat of Ai (7:4-5), and now the whole congregation passed judgment. Taking him, and all that he owned outside the camp, Israel stoned him to death, along with his sons and daughters, and livestock (7:24). All was destroyed, and the people “burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. 26And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of his anger” (7:25-26).

I close with two observations. 1) When God’s people are right with Him, their most powerful enemies will fall before them. 2) When we conceal our sin, we are powerless to face even our weakest enemies.

* Joshua 8 records the victory that followed the nation’s judgment against Achan.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“The Death of a Leader: Not an End, but a New Beginning” (Joshua 1)

Scripture reading – Joshua 1

The death of God’s servants never takes Him by surprise, and no leader is indispensable.

Moses was dead, “according to the word [and the will] of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 34:5), and for thirty days Israel mourned his death (34:8). Joshua felt the loss of his mentor, but when the days of mourning were complete, the LORD came to him and said, “2Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel” (Joshua 1:1-2).

I am sure there were some in Israel who were dismayed. The nation was facing its greatest test of faith, and the task before them was one the generation before them had failed. They were to enter and take possession of Canaan, the land the LORD had promised their forefathers.

Who was Joshua? (1:1)

With modest fanfare, Joshua is introduced simply as, “the son of Nun, Moses’ minister” (1:1). He had served Moses as his servant, and attendant. For forty years he had shadowed that great leader.

When Moses received the Ten Commandments, Joshua was there (Exodus 24:13). When he sent men to spy out the Promised Land, Joshua was among them. When he faced times of strife and insurrection within Israel, Joshua had been at the side of Moses. When the nation went to battle against its enemies, it was Joshua who led Israel into the fray.

Joshua was a proven leader, but most importantly, he was the man whom the LORD had chosen as Moses’ successor. In the sight of all Israel, Moses had confirmed and charged him (Deuteronomy 31:7-8), and “the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the Lord commanded Moses” (Deuteronomy 34:9).

The Challenge: Stop Looking Back; Go Over this Jordan

The LORD stated two initial commands to Joshua. The first, “Stop Looking Back,” for “Moses my servant is dead” (34:2a). Moses was a man without equal (Deuteronomy 34:10-12); however, his ministry was ended. The second command, “Go Over this Jordan” (1:2b). The time for mourning had ended, and it was essential that their focus be upon the LORD, with a clear view of the task that was before them: crossing the Jordan, and taking the land the LORD had promised as their inheritance (1:2c).

Three Keys to Crossing the Jordan River (1:1-9)

The first key was a Listening Ear: “the LORD spake unto Joshua” (1:1). According to Joshua 3:15, the “Jordan was in flood.” How would a nation of some two million people cross a river in its flood stage, with no bridges or ferries? The second, Believing Faith: Joshua needed to claim, and believe all God had promised (Joshua 1:3-5). Thirdly, Joshua needed to Obey God’s Commands (1:6-8), and 6Be strong and of a good courage… [and] observe to do according to all the law…turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. 8This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night” (1:6-8a).

Preparing for Battle (1:10-18)

With the LORD’s promise to be with him (1:9), Joshua “commanded the officers of the people” (1:10) to prepare to cross the Jordan “within three days” (1:11). He gave orders for the tribes that would inhabit the lands on the east side of Jordan (1:11-12), to send their best warriors, their “mighty men of valour” (1:14), to fight beside the other tribes.

I invite you to consider four ways the people encouraged Joshua as he assumed the mantle of leadership (1:12-18).

They had hearts of submission to duty (1:16). They vowed their allegiance, saying, “as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee” (1:17a). They affirmed Joshua, and declared, “only the Lordthy God be with thee, as he was with Moses” (1:17b). Lastly, they assured Joshua they would be intolerant of insubordination in their ranks: “18Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death: only be strong and of a good courage” (1:18).

Think about how much heartache a leader, and ministry would be spared if the members of a church, or the employees of an organization were everything the people of Israel promised to be under Joshua’s leadership. Disloyalty was a serious offense in Israel, and so it is today.

Romans 16:1717Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Moses, the Man Whom the Lord Knew Face to Face, is Dead (Deuteronomy 34; Psalm 91)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 34; Psalm 91

The psalmist writes in Psalm 116, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (116:15), and certainly the death of Moses would be numbered among the most splendid of believers. Having finished his parting blessing to the congregation of Israel, Moses “went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo” (34:1a). From Pisgah, one of the peaks of Mount Nebo, “the Lord shewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan” (34:1). Gilead encompassed the land on the east side of Jordan, which Moses had promised the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, would be their inheritance (the “Dan” that is mentioned is not the Dan that was located on the west side of the Jordan River).

Standing on the peak of Pisgah, Moses beheld all the land the LORD had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as their inheritance (34:2-4). There was the land of Naphtali in the north, and “the land of Ephraim, and Manasseh” in the central region of Canaan (34:2a). To the west, he could see “all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea [the Mediterranean Sea],” and to the south, the Jordan Valley, that reached “the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar” (34:3), the region that laid near to Sodom and Gomorrah.

How might Moses have scanned so great a vista from Mount Nebo? The LORD revealed that miracle in these words: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes” (34:4). Additionally, the LORD had preserved Moses’ eyesight, for though he was one hundred and twenty years old, “his eye was not dim” (34:7).

“Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the Land of Moab.” (34:5)

Moses had been described as, “the man of God” (33:1) in the preceding devotional. In this final devotional, this giant of the faith is lovingly remembered as, “the servant of the LORD” (34:5). Moses died, but not because he was old, frail, or suffering failing health. He died “in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord” (34:5). He was “an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated” (34:7). Moses was dead, because it was “according to the word [and the will] of the LORD” (34:5).

The LORD had permitted Moses to see the land, but he was not allowed to “go over thither” (34:4). With humility and meekness “the servant of the LORD,” accepted the consequences of his failure to obey the LORD at Meribah-Kadesh (32:51-52; Numbers 20). He died, and the LORD “buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day” (34:6).

Israel mourned the death of Moses, “in the plains of Moab thirty days” (34:8). When the days of mourning were past, Joshua, “full [filled] of the spirit of wisdom” (34:9), became the man whom “the children of Israel hearkened” (34:9).

Now, there was no man like Moses, “whom the LORD knew face to face” (34:10-12), and Joshua did not need to be like his predecessor. He was the man for the hour, and the one whom God had chosen to lead Israel, and claim the Promised Land.

Psalm 91

Ancient scholars attribute Psalm 91 to Moses, and I believe there is much about the psalm that would arguably be the work of Moses; for his fellowship with the LORD was intimate, and he was one “whom the LORD knew face to face” (Deuteronomy 34:10).

Simple, beautiful, and inspiring; rather than give commentary, I encourage you to read Psalm 91, and meditate on its promises, and truths.

* Thank you for following me on this journey through the Scriptures, Today’s devotional marks the completion of my study of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. I invite you to become a subscriber to www.HeartofAShepehrd.com, by entering your email address in the right column of this website.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

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Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith