Category Archives: Divorce

Five Strangers That Consume Happiness and Three Things that Never Satisfy (Ecclesiastes 6)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 6

Our study in the Book of Ecclesiastes continues with King Solomon echoing a sentiment I suggest can be summed up in three words: Life is not fair! Writing from his observations of men’s lives, we read:

Ecclesiastes 6:1–21There is an evil [depravity; distress] which I have seen under the sun, and it is common [great] among men: 2A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour [abundance; glory], so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power [control] to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it [feeds upon; consumes]: this is vanity [empty], and it is an evil [bad; displeasing] disease [grief].

What had Solomon concluded was an injustice, and therefore not fair? It was that men labor, store up riches, wealth, and possessions, only to leave it all to others. The king concluded; it is a grief that is common, an universal experience. Men spend their lives becoming rich, acquiring possessions, obtaining honors, only to leave all to those who come after them.

I suggest five “strangers” that enter uninvited into a family’s life, and steal their happiness, and wealth.  (Ecclesiastes 6:1–2)

Disease: Sickness consumes not only a man’s strength and vitality, but may leave him physically wasted and financially ruined. Divorce is another stranger; it not only destroys a family, but legal proceedings plunder a family of its home, possessions, and savings. Disobedience: rebellious children rob parents not only of their joy, but can bring financial woes upon the parent that enable a child’s rebellion. A fourth stranger is represented in  Disasters, such as natural calamities (hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, earthquakes, drought), and human calamities (war, and the danger of living in a violent society) can destroy a family’s wealth. Of course, the greatest “stranger” that will inevitably come knocking is Death: The death of a spouse, child, or the reality of one’s own mortality.

Three Things That Do Not Satisfy (6:3-8)

Solomon proposed three things men pursue, but do not bring happiness and fulfillment. The first is found in multiples: The man who begets many children, and lives many years (6:3-6). Solomon had observed children more concerned with their rights of inheritance, than they were in honoring their parents. He concluded, it would be better to be stillborn, than live to a ripe old age, and your children neither love or honor you (6:3-6).

Secondly, some men believe if they work harder, and longer hours, they will achieve success and happiness (6:7). Yet, a man might climb the ladder of success, earn titles, and gain fame, but die a miserable soul.

Lastly, some men pursue knowledge, believing academic achievement is the path to happiness (6:8). Still, having one’s name engraved on a “Who’s Who” plaque, or earning the applause and admiration of men, will not satisfy the hunger of an eternal soul.

What, then, satisfies the soul of man? (6:9-12)

Having a right perspective, and outlook on life is the path to happiness (6:9). It is better to be satisfied with what you see, than it is to be driven about by lusts for temporal possessions and vain pleasures (6:10). You see, God is eternal, and His purposes are “named already” (6:11). Did you know that nothing surprises God? He is sovereign, and we dare not “contend with Him,” for He is not only mightier, but also wiser than we (6:10).

Closing thoughts – “Many things” might attract our affections for a season. We might also increase in goods and honors, but in the end all is vain (6:11). God is loving and benevolent (6:12), and only those who trust Him will be satisfied.

Isaiah 45:9 – “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!”

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Hatred Reveals What Love Forgives” (Proverbs 10)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 10

We are considering Proverbs 10 for today’s Scripture reading. Our devotional will consider Proverbs 10:12, and Proverbs 10:31-32.

“Hatred Exploits What Love Conceals” (Proverbs 10:12)

Proverbs 10:12 – “Hatred [an attitude that detests, despises] stirreth up [awakens] strifes [discords; contentions]: but love [genuine, sincere love of a friend] covereth [conceals; hides; passes over] all sins [transgression; rebellion; guilt].”

Have you ever wondered why there is so much strife and discord in the world? Solomon diagnosed the root cause of a pervasive, contentious spirit, and stated simply: “Hatred stirreth up strifes” (10:12a). To state the same judgment in a different way: Hatred, not love, disrupts, denigrates, damages, and devastates all whose life it touches. Hatred provokes strife in marriages, families, friendships, and congregations.

Paul identified pride as the root cause of envy and strife in his letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:4).  John wrote concerning Diotrephes, who was a cause of grief and a source of discord in the early church: Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence [ambitious, and striving to be first] among them, receiveth us not (3 John 1:9). Some will dress up strife in a garb of religious piety; however, the presence of unresolved conflict is indicative of an unforgiving spirit. Such a spirit, if unchecked, will become antagonistic, and destroy friendships, families and fellowships.

A second principle from Proverbs 10:12 is, “love covereth all sins” (10:12b).

Biblical love does not overlook sin, for that would contradict the ways of the LORD, (Proverbs 3:11-12), and the Scriptures. After all, believers are commanded to lovingly, and meekly address sin in each other’s life (Matthew 18:15-17; Galatians 6:1). What does it mean, “love covereth all sins?”

Sincere, genuine love longs to forgive, and will not unnecessarily expose the sins, failures, and shortcomings of one who is loved. Biblical, Christ-like love is longsuffering, kind, gracious, and forgiving (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).

Closing thought – In his letter to believers in the 1st century, Peter wrote: And above all things have fervent charity [self-sacrificing love] among yourselves: for charity shall cover [forgives; overlooks] the multitude of sins [personal offenses]” (1 Peter 4:8).

You and I should not be surprised that hatred stirs up strife; however, we should be concerned that some who profess to love others, readily entertain and expose their failures.

Hatred reveals, what love conceals; hatred exploits, what love forgives (Ephesians 4:31-32).

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Careful: Your Lips Will Reveal Your Heart (Proverbs 10:31-32)

Proverbs 10:31 The mouth [speech; utterance] of the just [righteous; lawful] bringeth forth [utters; bears the fruit of] wisdom [shrewdness; skillful use of knowledge]: but the froward [perverse; swearing] tongue [speech; evil speaker] shall be cut out [cut down; destroyed; punished]. 

The tongue was a frequent subject of Solomon’s proverbs, and the Scriptures abound with examples of its use, and misuse. James wrote, “the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things…6  And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity…8 the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:5-6, 8).

Controlling one’s tongue is a challenge; however, it is not the small member in our mouth that is the trouble. The problem is the heart.

The words and conversations of the God-fearing righteous will evidence grace, godly wisdom and discernment. By contrast, the tongue of the wicked is perverse, and will be known for lies, and speaking evil of others. Jesus taught His disciples, “those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart…For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:18-19).

Proverbs 10:3232The lips [language; speech] of the righteous [just; lawful] know [perceive; understand; acknowledge; observe] what is acceptable [desired; delightful; pleasing]: but the mouth [speech; utterance] of the wicked [ungodly; lawless] speaketh forwardness [perverse; is obstinate].”

Listen to a man’s conversation long enough, and you can discern his character. We would do well to understand that words matter, and they are a window into the soul. The substance and character of a man will be revealed in his words. A good, just man will encourage the soul with words that edify, and are pleasing. A righteous man understands the power of a well-spoken word (Psalm 37:30). The wicked, however, are proud and their words cut, and conversations are perverse.

Closing thoughts – What do your words and conversations reveal about your character?

Be careful how you answer that question. The true measure of your inner man is revealed in your words and conversations. Understanding the power of a spoken word, we would do well to embrace Paul’s challenge to believers of the church in Colosse:

Colossians 4:66 Let your speech [word; conversation] be alway [ever] with grace [acceptable; favor; kindness], seasoned [i.e. spiced; prepared] with salt [purifying; a natural preservative], that ye may know how ye ought [should] to answer [respond] every man.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“A Cancer Called Adultery” (Proverbs 7)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 7

Proverbs 7 continues Solomon’s warnings concerning the devastating consequences of immorality (a theme you find throughout the book of Proverbs). I encourage you to read all of today’s assignment, but for the sake of brevity, my focus will be Proverbs 7:1-7. [Words and phrases in brackets are the amplifications and applications of the author.]

A Preamble (7:1-3)

Proverbs 7:1-3 – “My son, keep [preserve; observe] my words [sayings; speeches], and lay up [treasure] my commandments [i.e., do’s and don’ts] with thee.
Keep my commandments, and live; and my law [instructions; teaching] as the apple [pupil] of thine eye.
3 Bind [tie] them upon thy fingers [note – Deuteronomy 6], write [record; engrave] them upon the table of thine heart.”

Solomon was concerned that his son not be led astray by sexual lusts. He had witnessed the sorrow and tragedy caused by his mother and father’s adultery. Unfortunately, he walked the same kind of path, and it was one that neither his parents, nor his God would condone! The king fell into a practice often shared by 21st century fathers; he modeled the parenting philosophy: “Do as I say, Not as I do.” We read, “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father” (1 Kings 11:4).

Embracing the wisdom embodied in Proverbs 7:1-3, consider the following two-pronged application: 1) Parents must call their sons and daughters to moral purity, and address the moral character of their children by their words and example. 2) Wise sons and daughters are under obligation to cherish their parent’s instructions, and recall them to heart when temptations arise.

The Subtlety of Flattering Lips (7:4-5)

Proverbs 7:4-5 – “Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman [friend]:
5 That they [wisdom and understanding] may keep [preserve; be a hedge] thee from the strange [immoral] woman, from the stranger which flattereth [smooth; i.e., she leads him away] with her words.”

Concerned with the enticements of a “strange woman” [an immoral woman], Solomon urged his son to love wisdom as a sister, and understanding [discernment; insight] as an intimate friend (7:4). Tragically, it was not what Solomon taught, but what he practiced that became his son’s moral guide.

A Father’s Haunting Failure (Genesis 13:10-1319:1)

No parent can afford the luxury of failing to address the sexual perils of a deviant society. Yet, some fathers and mothers follow the reckless path of Lot (Genesis 13:10-1319:1), who moved his family from the company and influence of uncle Abraham (Genesis 13:11), into Sodom, an ancient city known for its perversity and unrestrained wickedness (Genesis 14:12; 19:1).

Lot failed to teach and admonish his children to fear the LORD, and when he learned God’s judgment was imminent, he made a futile attempt to cause them to flee the city. Tragically, his sons-in-law refused his warning, for he appeared to them as “one that mocked” (Genesis 19:14).

Closing thoughts – Solomon urged his son to hear, and remember his words, and to engrave his instructions upon his heart to serve as a moral compass (7:5). Instead, it was what he modeled, not what he taught that influenced his son’s life.

Are you vigilant regarding the dangers posed by an immoral culture? Are you modeling and guiding your children to take the high road in moral choices? Are you leading your family to seek the company and friendship of the godly?

Remember: Sexual immorality is a moral cancer to life, career, marriage, and family!

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Love Thinketh No Evil! (Psalm 72, Song of Solomon 1)

Scripture reading – Psalm 72, Song of Solomon 1

Today’s Scripture reading was authored by two kings of Israel, David and his son Solomon. Psalm 72 was most likely penned in the last weeks or months of David’s life, and was titled, “A Psalm for Solomon.” The last verse of the psalm identified the elderly king as its author with the words, “20The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended” (72:20).

Psalm 72 – David’s Prayer for His Son, King Solomon

Psalm 72 expresses David’s prayer for God’s blessings on Solomon’s reign (72:1), and his prayer that his son will be a just, honest, and a good man.

In my opinion, Psalm 72:2-17 had an immediate application for Solomon’s kingdom, and a prophetic implication that will only be fulfilled during the millennial reign of Jesus Christ. David’s desire and prayer was that Solomon’s judgment as king would be righteous (72:2), and the effect of his rule would be one of peace (72:3-4).

Psalm 72:5-8 will only be fulfilled when Christ shall return, and rule the earth. His reign of righteousness will provoke fear and reverence over those whom He will rule (72:5), and like the rain and dew upon green pastures (72:6), His rule will bring peace (72:7). Though Solomon’s kingdom would be great, it is Christ’s future kingdom that will span “from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth” (72:8).

The reign of Christ will be compassionate, and “He shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and himthat hath no helper. 13 He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy” (72:12-13). What a glorious day it will be when men will be redeemed “from deceit and violence” (72:14), and He will be continually the object of praise in the earth (72:15). Christ’s reign upon the earth will be a time of plenty (72:16), and His name, like His kingdom, will “endure for ever…and men shall be blessed in Him: all nations shall call him blessed” (72:17).

David concluded the psalm with a doxology offering praise and thanksgiving to God, and foreseeing the day the glory of the LORD would fill the earth (72:18-19).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Song of Solomon 1 – An Introduction to a Timeless Love Story

The second half of today’s Scripture reading bears the name of its author, “The Song of Solomon.” The Song of Solomon has been described as a story of love, and a celebration of love between a man and woman. The book does bear messianic implications (meaning it is a prophecy, and portrayal of the millennial reign of Christ following His second coming). Throughout the book you will find Solomon expressing a young king’s passion, and love for a peasant woman whom he identified as a “Shulamite” (Song of Solomon 6:13).

Possible Interpretations of The Song of Solomon

It has been suggested that “The Song of Solomon” might be interpreted in three genres. Some suggest an Allegorical interpretation, and that it is a narrative describing God’s relationship with His people, Israel. Early church fathers took the approach that the Song of Solomon was meant to describe Christ’s love for His church. A Typical interpretation has also been suggested by some who contend, “The Song of Solomon” is descriptive of Christ’s love and relationship with the Church (Ephesians 5:25, 29).

For the sake of our brief study, I suggest a Literal interpretation of “The Song of Solomon.” I believe the narrative of the book is a story of romance, a love story. I suggest “The Song of Solomon” is a celebration of love and romance between the young king and the woman whom he loved. Song of Solomon 1 is the beginning of that courtship.

Following a literal interpretation, I tend to agree with some who suggest that King Solomon had departed his court and royal city, disguised as a lowly shepherd. That he had traveled northward, and in his journey noticed a beautiful young woman, a peasant laboring in a vineyard her family had leased, perhaps from the king himself (1:6).

Identified as a Shulamite (6:13), she did not recognize her king and, concluded she and the shepherd were of the same rank in society. Like many young women who dream of love, she met the stranger and was flattered and embarrassed by the attention he had shown her (1:2-4). Mindful of her skin tanned by the rays of the Middle Eastern sun, she reasoned within herself, 5I am black, but comely [beautiful], O ye daughters of Jerusalem, As the tents of Kedar [Bedouin shepherds], as the curtains of Solomon. 6Look not upon me, because I am black, Because the sun hath looked upon me: My mother’s children [not her brothers, but her step-brothers] were angry with me; They made me the keeper of the vineyards [another’s vineyards, perhaps the kings]; But mine own vineyard have I not kept” (1:5-6). She dreamed of meeting the shepherd again, and wondered where his flocks graze (1:7).

Romance was in the air, and she knew their interests were mutual; however, she did not know the object of her affections was Solomon, the king of Israel! (1:9, 15) Her love for the shepherd is expressed in verses 9-14. She imagined lying beside the shepherd on a bed of green grasses (1:16). With a canopy of cedar and fir branches above her head (1:17), she dreamed of love.

Closing thoughts“Love is not blind.” Though their stations in life were different, the king loved the tanned skin woman who labored in the vineyard, and she loved him (though she believed him to be a lowly shepherd). Ignoring the traits that might have been undesirable (weathered skin, and calloused hands from labor), Solomon loved the young woman, and focused on the positives of her beauty and character.

Lesson – Negative traits will inevitably become obvious in your relationships (friendships, courtship, marriage, or church family). When they do, you have a choice:

Dwell on the negatives, or love and look past them. After all, “Charity [Love] thinketh no evil” (1 Corinthians 13:5).

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

If You Were Granted One Wish, What Would It Be? (2 Chronicles 1; 1 Kings 4)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 1; 1 Kings 4

When we began our study of 1 Chronicles, I noted the two books titled “Chronicles” were in fact, just that: chronicles of Israel’s history as a people, and nation, and most likely written during the post-exilic era (meaning the years following Israel’s Babylonian exile), Together, the Chronicles give us vital information. 1 Chronicles, in particular, gave us a parallel account of some events recorded in 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel. The history record found in 2 Chronicles parallels events that are detailed in 1 Kings 3 and 1 Kings 4.

For the sake of interpretation, I suggest that 1 Kings and 2 Kings are a record of historical events written from man’s viewpoint. By contrast, 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles, in my opinion, are written from God’s perspective.

2 Chronicles 1 (note – 1 Kings 3:4-15)

1 Chronicles concluded with King David exhorting Israel to accept Solomon as king, and support him in the greatest undertaking of his life, building a Temple for the LORD in Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 29:1-25).  With modest fanfare, David “died in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honour: and Solomon his son reigned in his stead” (1 Chronicles 29:28).

2 Chronicles 1 opened with Solomon sitting on his father’s throne “and the LORD God was with him, and magnified him exceedingly” (1:1). Solomon began his reign, summoning “all Israel,” including the captains of his military, and governors, to gather at “Gibeon; for there was the tabernacle of the congregation of God, which Moses the servant of the Lord had made in the wilderness” (1:3). David had removed the Ark of God to a tabernacle he had prepared in Jerusalem, but the ancient Mosaic tabernacle, and the altar had remained in Gibeon (1:5-6), and there Solomon “offered a thousand burnt offerings upon it” (1:6).

As was recorded in 1 Kings 3, God appeared to Solomon at Gibeon, “and said unto him, Ask what I shall give thee” (1:7). 

What an incredible opportunity from the LORD! “Solomon, name your heart’s desire, and I will perform it!”

Consider God’s proposition for a moment. Were God to grant you an opportunity to ask for something, for anything, and it would be granted, what would you request? Would you ask for riches?  Possessions?  Power? Popularity?  Fame? Your answer to that question reveals a lot about who you are. Solomon’s answer would no doubt put us all to shame!

The young king did not request those things that carnal, worldly-minded men pursue. His request revealed a heart of sincere humility: “Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this thy people, that is so great?” (2 Chronicles 1:10)

God’s Response to Solomon’s Request (1:11-12)

God knew Solomon’s heart and motives, and not just his request (1:11). The LORD commended Solomon and promised to reward him with not only wisdom and knowledge, but also “riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like” (1:12).

God was true to His promise to bless Solomon (1:13-17). When the king returned to Jerusalem, he began gathering 1400 chariots, and 12,000 horsemen for his military (1:14). In fact, the wealth of Israel became so vast, that silver and gold were as plentiful as stones, and cedar trees as common as sycamore trees (cedar being the preferred wood for construction, 1:15).

Evidencing the wisdom of which God promised to bless him, Solomon’s kingdom became powerful, and Israel controlled the trade routes out of Egypt. He began trading in chariots and horses that were sent to kings of other nations (1:16-17).

1 Kings 4 – Solomon’s Administration

Solomon’s officers’ names are given (1 Kings 4:1-6), beginning with Azariah, the high priest (4:2). The names of others who assisted Solomon are recorded including scribes who handled his correspondence with other nations (4:3), and a court clerk who kept a record of the affairs of state (4:3). There was Solomon’s military captain (4:4), priests who were his advisors (4:4b), a principal officer, and head of the officers (4:5). The steward of his household was named (4:6a), and the man charged with overseeing those who paid tribute (indentured servants to the king, 4:6b).

Twelve officers, each representing a district of Israel, were charged with providing household provisions to support the king’s court (4:7-19). There were also taxes levied on the people, and nations that paid tribute to Israel. The taxes went to support Solomon’s massive construction projects that included his palace, the Temple, and the city walls (4:20-28). Because Israel and the people were enjoying unprecedented prosperity, there was plenty of revenue for the government (4:26-28); however, as we will see later, the burden of taxation did inevitably become an oppression of the people. Following Solomon’s death, the people would demand the taxes be lessened (1 Kings 12:1-4).

The International Fame of Solomon’s Wisdom (4:29-34)

God kept his promise, and He “gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore” (4:29). Solomon’s fame increased, and the people of the east marveled that his wisdom and knowledge exceeded the men of the east orient (4:30-31). Three thousand proverbs were attributed to Solomon (many are recorded in the Book of Proverbs), and 1,005 songs (4:32). His knowledge of botany and biology excelled all men, and people and rulers from all the known world came to Jerusalem seeking an audience with the king (4:33-34; note, Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31).

Closing thoughts – Solomon requested wisdom, and understanding, and God gave Him all that a man could desire. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus admonished His followers, “take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” (Matthew 6:31).

The LORD then promised, 33But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

What about you? Upon what have you set your desires and affections?

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Choices Always Have Consequences (Deuteronomy 26-27)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 26-27

Moses continues his charge to Israel, with laws and spiritual principles that were to guide the people as they became a nation in their own land (26:1).

Remembering 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), and given to the LORD, thus supporting the priests, the Levites, and their households.

A special tithe was given in the third year, and one that coincided with the tither’s confession that he had honored the LORD’S commandments and obeyed them. The tithe of the third year, was used locally to meet the immediate needs of one’s own 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 Benefit of Obeying the LORD, and Keeping His Commandments (26:16-19)

Beginning with Deuteronomy 26:16, and continuing to Deuteronomy 31:13, Moses expounded the benefits of obeying the LORD and keeping His commandments. Reminding the people that God had chosen Israel “to be His peculiar people…and to make thee high above all nations…” (26:16-19), Moses admonished the nation to “be an holy people unto the LORD thy God” (26:19b).

Renewing the Covenant (Deuteronomy 27)

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 (27:2-8). The stones were to be plastered, and engraved upon them was to be the Commandments of the Lord, serving as a lasting memorial of the LORD’S promises and commandments.  An altar was to be built to sanctify the place (27:5-8).

Reminding the leaders of Israel that “Choices have Consequences,” Moses charged the people to remember that obedience to the Law would bring the LORD’S blessings (27:11-12), and disobedience would invite His judgments (27:14-26).

Should the people disobey the LORD, and reject His Law and Commandments, a series of twelve curses was pronounced (27:15-26), and all the people gave their assent by an oath:

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

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

3) Stealing the property and possessions of another by deceit was cursed, a violation of the sixth commandment (27:17; Ex. 20:15).

4) Taking advantage of one infirmed or disabled was cursed (27:18).

5) The fifth curse was upon one who would treat “the stranger, fatherless, and widow” unjustly (27:19; Ex. 22:21-24).

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

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

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

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

9) Incest with one’s mother was cursed (27:23).

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

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

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

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

Deuteronomy 27:26 – “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

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.

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

The matter of divorce is raised, and it is indicative of the heart of man. 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 saying, “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, asking, “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?” (Matthew 19:7). The LORD answered the matter of divorce, and diagnosed the moral basis for Moses permitting divorce in 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 so.
9And 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 (24:6)

The matter of taking the upper millstone is foreign to most, until you understand Moses was talking of the stones used to grind grain into flour. A lender was warned, he could not take the “upper millstone,” for by it a family was able to grind grain into flour, and then bake bread for the family.

A Solution to Human Trafficking (24:7)

One of the great abominations of the 21st century is human trafficking. Forcefully taking children, women, and men and subjecting them to the darkness of moral depravity is an appalling wickedness. In the words of the Scripture, anyone found who “maketh merchandise…or selleth him” shall be put to death (24:7). Were the judgment of the Scriptures practiced today, innocent victims of human trafficking would receive justice, and human traffickers would be dispatched to 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 (24:10-22)

False teachers have led many to believe the laws of the Old Testament were lacking in grace, and boast that we live in an “Age of Grace.” Indeed, we do, but to characterize the Law and Commandments as “graceless,” is to suggest the LORD was the same.

Deuteronomy 24:10-22 give evidence 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, and men generally had an inner, and outer robe. The inner robe afforded modesty, the outer robe protection against the elements, and warmth in the night. Should a poor man borrow, it was his outer robe that might serve as the security or pledge of his debt (24:10-11). The lender was not to humiliate the borrower, and forcefully take the robe of a poor man while he was in his house (24:10-11), and in the evening the lender was to return the outer robe, that the man “may sleep in his own raiment, and bless thee” (24:13).

Admonitions Against Injustices (24:14-18)

Day laborers were to be paid their due at the end of the day (24:14). 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 (24:19-22)

There was no welfare system for the poor in ancient times, and they were a perpetual presence on the earth. Widows were forsaken by their children, orphans suffered neglect, and foreigners found themselves homeless. Moses reminded the people how Israel had suffered bondage in Egypt; therefore, they were to remember, and allow the poor to glean the leftovers from their fields, olive trees, and grapevines.

Time and space prevent a commentary on Deuteronomy 25; however, I suggest the following for an outline: I. Principles for Capital Punishment, and Civil Justice (25:1-4); II. Principles for Family Posterity (25:5-12); III. Principles Regarding Business and Commerce (25:13-16); IV. Principles Concerning the Offence of an Enemy (25:17-19).

I close, inviting you to ponder the Grace of God: Not only the grace we find expressed in Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, but also the grace of God we have seen throughout His laws, and commandments.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Civility, Sexual Perversity, and Women’s Rights (Deuteronomy 21-22)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 21-22

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

Deuteronomy 21 – Fundamentals of Civil Duty

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). Deuteronomy 21:1-9, addresses the loss of human life, should a victim’s body be discovered, but there are no witnesses to the murder.

Concerning a woman taken as a spoil of war (21:10-14)

Ancient cultures considered women who were taken prisoners to be nothing more than a possession, a spoil of war. The God of Israel, however, established laws to protect women. Should a man desire to take a female prisoner to wife, he was to allow her head to be shaved, an outward symbol of her purification, and give her thirty days to mourn the deaths of her parents, 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, or humiliate her (21:14).

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

Some suggest the reference to “two wives” (21:15) is a suggestion of polygamy; however, I believe it is not. In the beginning, God defined marriage as “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), the union of one man and one woman. The Mosaic Law did not redefine what God Himself had designed, and established.

I believe the explanation for the reference of “two wives” (one being described as “beloved,” and the other “hated”), implies the first wife to be dead. The first wife had given birth to a son, and being the firstborn son, he was to be heir of the man (21:15-16). The second wife, the stepmother of the firstborn son, would be tempted to influence her husband to disown his firstborn son, and choose her son to be his heir (21:16). The LORD condemned that practice, and declared the firstborn son was to be given “a double portion” of all that was his father’s (21:17).

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

The stoning of a rebellious son is no doubt an offense to our 21st century sensibilities. This son of shame, described as “stubborn and rebellious” (21:18), refused to hear and obey his father and mother. Such a son was to brought before the elders of the city, where his character was described as “a glutton, and a drunkard” (21:19-20).

Given the severity of the punishment, we can conclude that the stoning of a rebellious son was a rare event. Such a judgment required the consent of both the father and mother (21:19-20). If found guilty by the elders of the city, the son 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 an Israelite was to love his neighbor, and that command was demonstrated in a man’s duty to his neighbor’s livestock, clothes, and any other possession that belonged to another (22:1-3). Should a man’s ox, sheep, or donkey be astray, a man was to restore them to their owner. Should the owner not be readily known, an Israelite was required to take the animal to his own home, until its rightful owner was found (22:2). Compassion for animals of God’s creation was commanded (22:4).

An Abomination: Transgender\Transexuals (22:5)

There is much ado about the “rights” of self-declared transexuals, who desire to blend, and distort the natural distinctions between male and female in both their dress, and manner. Such a blur of distinctives is not a “new woke” (as today’s society would have you believe), but was an ancient sin that God’s Word declared was an “abomination unto the LORD thy God” (22:5).

Compassion and Affection for Nature (22:6-7) – From the beginning, man was commanded to be the “keeper” of God’s creation (Genesis 2:15). It follows that even the smallest of animals should arouse in man a natural affection, and compassion (22:7).

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

Unlike their heathen neighbors, Israelite women were afforded protections, and shielded from abuses that are even prevalent in our own day. A woman had the right of due process, should her purity and testimony be questioned. Should a woman be forcefully taken, and raped, the severity of the law would fall upon the man, and he would forfeit his life (22:25-27).

Our world has rejected the LORD. The authority of God’s Word has been scuttled over the course of the past century. We have become a society with laws methodically divorced from unalterable principles, and been left a people given to the whims of wicked men.

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!”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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Sin in the Camp? Put it Out! (Numbers 4-5)

Sin in the Camp? Put it Out! (Numbers 4-5)

Scripture reading– Numbers 4-5

Our study in the Book of Numbers continues with another census in today’s Scripture reading. The number of men in three Levite families, and their responsibilities regarding the Tabernacle and its vessels are considered.

Numbers 4 – The Levites, Their Number, and Responsibilities

The Lord commanded Moses and Aaron to take the sum of the males, thirty to fifty years old (4:2-3), who were of three Levite families, and charge them with responsibilities relating to their ministries as assistants of Aaron and his sons.

The Kohathites (4:2-20), whose males numbered 2,750 men between thirty and fifty years old (4:34-35), were assigned the most honorable duty of the Levite tribes.  It was their duty to transport the most holy items associated with the sacrifices and worship of the God of Israel. Before the Kohathites were allowed to carry vessels that were holy, and sanctified, the priests were to cover and protect them from being looked upon, or treated in an irreverent manner (4:5-6).

The Kohathites were charged with the care and transport of the veil of the Holy Place, the Ark of the Covenant (4:5), the table of shewbread (4:7) with its instruments and vessels (4:7-8), the golden lampstand, and its instruments (4:9-10), and the golden altar, its instruments, and vessels (4:11-15). Because those items represented the most holy tasks of the priests, none but Aaron and his sons could look upon them, and not die (4:20).

The males of Gershon, thirty to fifty years old, numbered 2.630 (4:38-41). Though their tasks were essential, their service to the Tabernacle was less honorable. They were charged with the care and transport of the draperies, hangings, and badger skins that covered the Tabernacle (4:21-28).

The males of the Merarites numbered 3,200 men, between thirty and fifty years old (4:42-45). Their duty was to transport the wood that made up the frame of the sanctuary, the boards, bars, pillars, and sockets (4:29-33).

The earlier census of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (Numbers 1-2) counted able-bodied men, twenty years old and older. In Numbers 4, Levite males, thirty to fifty years old were numbered. The difference in the census age of the Twelve Tribes, and the Levites is not explained.  I suppose it was because the LORD required both wisdom of years, and physical strength of those who served Him, and assisted the priests in their duties.

Numbers 5 – Disease, Restitution, and Adultery

The Commandments of the LORD were given and recorded in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Numbers 5focuses on specific steps for addressing leprosy, disease, restitution when one had been harmed, and the sin of adultery (Exodus 20:14).

Leprosy and Disease (5:1-4)

God desired His people to be clean, holy, and free from disease. Leprosy, oozing skin issues, and touching a dead body were deemed unclean, and were put out of the camp until healing and cleansing occurred (5:1-4). This method of handling communicable skin sores, or being contaminated by disease from a dead body, kept disease from spreading through their families.

Fraud and Restitution (5:5-10)

Should a man or woman defraud another, restitution, and an additional “fifth part” (20%) of the loss that was suffered would be added (5:5-7). No sacrifice was acceptable to the LORD, without first confessing one’s sin, restoring the damage the other had suffered, and only then could a man bring an offering to the altar (5:8). In the case where a man had been harmed and died, and with no next of kin, the offender was to present the restitution of his wrong to the priest, and it would be his to keep (5:9-10).

The Sin of Adultery (5:11-31)

Because marriage was instituted by God, and is a holy covenant between a man and woman, God’s people were to be intolerant of adultery in their midst (5:11-13). Should a woman be suspected of adultery, and there be no witnesses (5:13), a jealous husband was compelled to bring his wife to the priest, along with a jealousy offering (5:14-15).

The priest was charged with the responsibility of setting the accused woman “before the LORD” (5:16), and he would question her guiltiness or innocence of adultery (5:17-21). Should the woman protest her innocence, the priest would warn her with “an oath of cursing,” which was, in essence, reminding her that she would bring a curse upon herself, should she be guilty. The priest would call for the LORD to “make [her] thigh to rot, and [her] belly to swell” (5:21b). The outward manifestation of abdominal distention was an evident sign she was guilty.  Likewise, if she was not guilty, she could drink the water and it would not affect her. Should the LORD allow her belly to swell from its impurities, she would be “a curse among her people” (5:27), “and the priest [would] execute upon her all this law” (5:30b).

How jealous was the LORD concerning marriage between one man and one woman?

Leviticus 20:10 – “10And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Singing the Desert Blues (Job 30-31)

Scripture reading – Job 30-31

Our previous devotional (Job 29) found Job remembering the way life used to be. He had enjoyed the blessings of God’s favor, and had been esteemed by his family, friends, and fellow citizens. Young men had shied from his company, and elders stood in his presence (29:8). He had been valued for his counsel (29:7-17), and had believed he would enjoy God’s favor forever (29:18-23). Of course, those were the “good old days,” before he had experienced catastrophic losses and afflictions.

Job 30 – The Reality of Present Sorrows

Job’s situation had changed, and he found himself mocked by lesser men (30:1-14). Young men, whose lineage Job would not have entrusted the care of sheep dogs, held him in disdain (30:1). They were the sons of a line of men who were like wild dogs. They were slothful, and he loathed their company (30:2-4). They were the “children of fools” (30:8), and sang ballads mocking his afflictions (30:9). They spat in his face (30:10), and the sorrows God had permitted in his life (30:11) had given them cause to treat him spitefully (30:12-13).

Job’s body was wrecked by disease (30:16-18).

Grief had taken hold deep within (30:16), and the toll of his afflictions pierced him to the bone (30:17a). His muscles ached (“my sinews take no rest”), and open sores had caused his clothes to cling to his flesh (30:17b-18). Job had come to feel that God was opposed to him, and refused to hear his cry for pity or compassion (30:19-20). He had accused God of being cruel (30:21); he felt abandoned (30:22-24).

Job complained that all the good he had done had been forgotten, and he had been rewarded evil for good (30:25-26). He moaned and groaned (30:27-30), and in the words of the late preacher J. Vernon McGee, he began to sing “The Desert Blues” (30:31).

Job 31 – Job’s Final Response, and His Defense

Job’s concluding deposition of his righteousness, and his assertion of innocence has been recorded in Job 31. Consider briefly eleven virtues he claimed in his summary defense.

Personal chastity was the first virtue Job claimed. Declaring he was not guilty of lust, he stated, “1I made a covenant [vow; agreement] with mine eyes; Why then should I think [i.e. lust after] upon a maid?” (31:1) Though accused of lies and deceit by his friends, Job declared that he was innocent, and desired to be “weighed in an even balance,” for he was certain that God knew he was a man of integrity (31:5-6). Thirdly, Job asserted he had committed himself to purity and uprightness; his hands were clean of wrongdoing, and there was no stain on his life and character (31:7-8).

The fourth virtue Job claimed was marital fidelity. He declared he was innocent of adultery (31:9-12). He had been a “one woman kind of man” throughout his life. He had also been a faithful master, and a kind employer, to those who served him. He believed himself no better than his servants, for he understood God was Creator of them both (31:13-15).

Though he had been accused of abusing those less fortunate, Job declared he had been charitable to the poor, widows, and fatherless (31:16-20). He wished his arm would fall off, if he had taken advantage of others (31:21-22).

Though he lived in the midst of an idolatrous people, Job declared he was innocent of idolatry, for his trust and faith were in God alone (31:23-28). He had been kind to his enemies, and never took satisfaction in their misfortune (31:29-30). Job had been a man given to hospitality, and had been generous to strangers (31:31-32). Unlike Adam who sinned, and then sought to hide his transgressions from God (31:33), he was innocent of hypocrisy, hiding no secret sins (31:33-37).

Lastly, Job declared he had been honest in business (31:38-40). For example, he had not leased another man’s field, and failed to pay what was owed when harvest time came.

Job 31:40 concludes Job’s longest speech. Sadly, what is true of us was also true of Job. Though he could boast of many great virtues, he was blinded by pride, and was unwilling to see his flaws.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith