Category Archives: Divorce

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

“The Dilemma of Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage” (Matthew 19; Mark 10)

Scripture reading – Matthew 19; Mark 10

Today’s Scripture reading, Matthew 19 and Mark 10, begin with a question that has troubled many down through the ages, and continues to be misunderstood in our day: “Is it lawful for a man to put away [divorce] his wife for every cause?” (Matthew 19:3; Mark 10:2)

The issue of divorce was a matter of debate in Jesus’ day, and the Pharisees had approached Jesus, hoping to pull Him into the dispute (Matthew 19:1-12). They came, “tempting Him” (19:3), wanting to discredit Christ in the eyes of the public, and desiring to diminish His following. In an effort to place Jesus at odds with the Law, and their own liberal interpretation of the Law concerning divorce, the Pharisees asked, “Is it lawful for a man to put away [divorce] his wife for every [any] cause?”

There were two schools of thought (Hillel and Shammai) on the matter of Divorce in Jesus’ day.

The School of Hillel held a liberal interpretation of divorce, and it was adhered to by the Pharisees and a majority of 1st century Jews. Hillel taught that a man could divorce his wife for any reason; however, a woman was not permitted to divorce her husband. The School of Shammai represented the conservative, unpopular view on divorce. Followers of Shammai argued that divorce was unlawful, except in the case of adultery.

Divorce had become a widespread practice among some Jewish people, and many Pharisees were guilty of multiple divorces, often for the most absurd reasons. Of course, such oligarchy would never permit a wife to divorce her husband for any cause! Jesus answered the Pharisees question on divorce, directing them to the authority of the Scriptures (19:4-6).

Divorce was, and is, a violation of several Biblical principles.

Divorce violates the Creator’s plan and design for man and woman. Citing the writings of Moses, Jesus asked the Pharisees, “Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female?” (19:4; Genesis 1:27; 2:24)

Divorce is also a violation of God’s design for marriage which is “one flesh” (19:5). A man is commanded to leave his father and mother and “cleave to his wife” (19:5-6a). A man’s bond with his wife is to overshadow all human relationships, although two individuals, husband and wife are to be one, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Divorce violates the sanctity of marriage (19:6b). It was God’s plan, and His command, that what He had “joined (or yoked) together,” no man, court, or judge had the power or authority to “put asunder” (meaning to separate).

Disregarding Jesus’ appeal to consider the Scriptures as their authority in the question of divorce, the Pharisees asked: “Why did Moses then command [charge; order] to give a writing [certificate; bill; paper] of divorcement, and to put her away [dismiss; divorce]?” (19:7)

Those hypocritical religious leaders were not interested in God’s standard, design, or plan for marriage. They were looking to justify their sin, and disallow the sanctity of marriage. They suggested Moses as a defense of their distorted interpretation of divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).

Jesus answered their question, rebuking, and exposing their wickedness as a violation of God’s will and design for marriage (19:8). Leaving no ambiguity, Jesus spoke plainly:

Matthew 19:99And 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.

Divorce was never God’s plan, and the only grounds for divorce is “fornication,” meaning sexual conduct with anyone who is not one’s spouse (19:9a).

Jesus’ conclusion may come as a shock to some as it did to His disciples (19:10); but remember God’s purpose and design for marriage was companionship, for “it is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). God made one woman for one man, and Adam the first man was complete (Genesis 2:22). They were “one flesh,” and their union was designed to be inseparable (Genesis 2:24).

Warning: Divorce is a rejection of God’s plan and design for mankind, and He is witness of the covenant vows of marriage (Malachi 2:14b).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith