Category Archives: Doctrine

The LORD is Just (Deuteronomy 19-20)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 19-20

Moses’ challenge to Israel returned to the subject of cities designated as cities of refuge (19:1-13). After defining the boundaries of the tribes, Israel was to designate three cities of refuge on each side of the Jordan, “that every slayer may flee thither” (19:3).

There would be a total of six cities of refuge in Israel. (19:2-13)

The law recognized a distinction between an accidental killing, described as one who “killeth his neighbor ignorantly, whom he hated not in time past” (19:4), and murder, an intentional killing provoked by hate, and committed by lying in wait (19:11).

An example of an accidental killing was given (19:5), and proved the necessity for the cities of refuge to be at a distance from one another in the land. The elders of the cities of refuge were to give opportunity to a slayer to prove a killing was an accident, and he was innocent of murder (19:6, 10). A city of refuge was not to give sanctuary to a murderer (19:11-13).

Remove Not the Ancient Landmarks (19:14)

Once the ownership of land was established, its borders were marked, either by natural boundaries, or by a column of rock and stone. Because a man’s land was the means by which he supported his family, it was a serious offense for a thief to move a landmark, and thereby encroach upon the land of another.

Two or Three Witnesses Were Required to Convict (19:15-19)

The LORD required Israel to take any allegations of wrongdoing seriously, and no man might be convicted of an offense without his sin being established by “two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses” (19:15). It was a serious matter when a man brought a “false witness” against another (19:16). The priests and the judges would weigh the testimony, and after diligently inquiring, should a man be guilty of bearing a false witness, he would suffer the punishment of the crime for which he had “testified falsely against his brother” (19:18-19).

The law was summed up in this: “life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (19:21).

Instructions for Going to War (Deuteronomy 20)

Israel’s invasion into Canaan would necessitate years of battles; however, they were not to be afraid of their enemies (20:1a). The men of Israel were to go to war, finding their courage from the LORD, and believing the God who “brought [them] up out of the land of Egypt” would be with them (20:1). When they prepared themselves for battle, the priest was to speak to the people, and remind them:

“Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; 4For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” (20:3-4).

Exemptions from Enlistment (20:5-9)

To go to battle required a man to be fully committed to the cause, and distractions in the heat of battle could be disastrous to the man, and his fellow soldiers. Four groups of men were exempted from military service in Israel: A man who had “built a new house, but not dedicated it,” was allowed to return to his house (20:5). A man who had “planted a vineyard,” but “not yet eaten of it,” would return home (20:6). Should a man be “bethrothed,” but not yet taken her to wife, he could return to his house (20:7). Recognizing the disastrous influence of fear in the midst of battle, a man who was “fearful and fainthearted,” would be allowed to “go and return unto his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart” (20:8).

Laying Siege to a City (20:10-20)

If the people of a city “were very far off,” and willing to pay tribute, Israel was to offer terms of peace (20:11). Should terms for peace be rejected, every man of the city was to be slain, “but the women, and the little ones, and the cattle,” and all other spoil would be taken by Israel (20:14).

Those nations that dwelled in Canaan, the land the LORD had promised Israel for an inheritance, were to be destroyed. “The Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites,” were to be destroyed, lest the heathen teach God’s people “to do after all their abominations” (20:18).

The land was the inheritance of God’s people, therefore the LORD required the army spare the fruit trees when laying siege to a city. The trees that were not fruit bearing, Israel was to “build bulwarks against the city that maketh war with thee, until it be subdued” (20:20).

I close, inviting you to again notice the LORD’s grace and favor when He gave His Law and Commandments. His judicial system for Israel, was just, and no one was to rush to judgment. Desiring truth, any witness that dared distort law and justice with a false testimony, would find himself facing the punishment of the crime for which they had falsely accused another.

Micah 6:8b…What doth the Lord require of thee, But to do justly, and to love mercy, And to walk humbly with thy God?”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Obedience, Justice, and a Leader of God’s Choosing (Deuteronomy 16-17)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 16-17

With the urgency of a leader who knows his days are waning, Moses continued his challenge to Israel, preparing that nation to go forward without him. Because worship would be central to that nation’s heritage, it was essential for the people to have one place where they would offer sacrifices to the LORD. Unlike the heathen, whose towns and villages had their own deities, and places of worship, Israel’s worship was to be in the place where the LORD had chosen “to place His name in” – the Tabernacle (16:6).

“Three times in a year,” the men of Israel were required to “appear before the LORD” (16:16). The first was the “Feast of the Passover,” which occurred in the first month of the Hebrew calendar, “the month of Abib” (later identified as “Nisan” in the post-captivity era, and occurring during our months of March-April, 16:1). We have considered the Passover in the past, and are reminded this feast day was observed by the sacrifice of a lamb, and commemorating the LORD sparing the Hebrews because they had applied the blood of the lamb to their door posts in Egypt (Exodus 12:22). The Paschal Lamb was a pre-figure of Christ, the Lamb of God sacrificed for our sins (1 Corinthians 5:7). Leaven was to be purged from the households, and not eaten (16:3-4; in the entirety of God’s Word, both the Old Testament, and the New Testament, the nature of leaven is used as a type for sin 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; Galatians 5:9).

The “Feast of Weeks” (also identified as Pentecost), was observed for seven weeks after the Passover (16:9;Leviticus 23:10; Exodus 34:32; Acts 2:1). It marked the time of harvest, and giving the LORD the first-fruits (Exodus 23:16; Numbers 28:26). It was memorialized with freewill offerings.

The third feast to be observed was the “Feast of Tabernacles” (16:13-15; Numbers 29:12). Also described as the “Feast of Ingathering,” it was observed by dwelling in booths (temporary shelters), and marked the end of the harvest season (Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 23:42).

Deuteronomy 16 concludes with the focus on the matter of civil order and justice in Israel (16:18-22).

Knowing the tribes would be geographically distant from one another in the new land, it was important for there to be one system of law, and justice that would govern the people (16:18). Prejudice in matters of judgment was condemned, and the bribery of a judge was considered an act of wickedness (16:18-19).

Deuteronomy 17 – Justice, and the Character of a King

Reminding Israel that the LORD would refuse a blemished sacrifice (17:1), the subject of judgment, and justice continued in Deuteronomy 17:2-7. We have noted in earlier devotionals the requirement of two or more witnesses for crimes that necessitated capital punishment (17:4-6). Those who served as witnesses to a capital offense (for instance, idolatry, 17:3-4), were required to bear the gravity of the sentence of death, laying their hands upon one that was condemned (17:7).

In “matters of controversy” (17:8), where there was some uncertainty, judgments would be taken before the priests who would serve as judges (17:8-10). The Law of the LORD, not the law of a king, would serve as Israel’s authority (17:14).

What manner of man would the LORD have to rule Israel? (17:15-20)

Moses, knowing Israel would one day aspire to be like other nations, and have a king rule over them (17:14), established the manner of man whom God would choose (17:15-20). He was to be a man of God’s choosing, and a Hebrew (not a “stranger,” or non-Hebrew, 17:15). He was to be a man of humility, and not set his heart upon many horses, wives, or riches (17:16-17). He was to have a copy of the Law of the LORD, written by his own hand, and kept beside his throne. He was to study “to keep all the words” of the law and statutes (17:18-19).

The Law reminded the king that he was not above the law, nor was he above the people (lest “his heart be lifted up above his brethren,” 17:20). Consider how marvelous was this decree concerning the choosing of a king, and the character the LORD demanded of the man who would rule His people.

How far the nations of the world have strayed from choosing leaders who fear the LORD, and realize no man is above the law! Our 21st century world is following a path to judgment, and destruction. While 2 Chronicles 7:14was a conditional promise, made to Israel, it is my prayer for my country.

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Law of the LORD is Gracious (Deuteronomy 15)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 15

In today’s world, some suggest the Laws of the Old Testament were cold, oppressive, and lacking in grace. They are wrong! In their historical context, and understanding their application, you will find the Law and Commandments of the LORD not only just, but fair and judicious. For example, consider the guidelines for the borrower and lender (15:1-11).

Debtors, Lenders, and the Sabbatical Year (15:1-6)

The Sabbath Year, occurred every seven years, and was the year the LORD commanded the land to rest. Fields were not worked, seeds were not planted, and any vegetation that volunteered and gave fruit, were committed to poor, and the grazing animals.

What about a man’s debt, in the seventh year when they were not permitted to plant seed, harvest crops, and use a surplus to pay one’s debt? Because there was no harvest in the seventh year, lenders were not to press the poor for payment. The lender, in the Sabbath Year, was to suspend payment of a debt for the year (a non-Hebrew was not released of his obligation to pay his debt in the seventh year, 15:3).

If Hebrew lenders would show grace to their debtors, God promised He would bless the nation (15:4), and Israel would become a lender, not a borrower to other nations (15:5-6).

Lending to the Poor (15:7-11)

The poor are ever among us (15:11), and the LORD required His people to be charitable to them, especially those who were “one of the brethren,” meaning a Hebrew (15:7). God’s people were commanded to open their hand, and their heart when they looked upon those who were poor and needy (15:7). The lender was not to be miserly in giving to those in need, and was to “lend him sufficient for his need” (15:8).

In the matter of lending in the proximity of the Sabbath Year, it was probable some lenders might refuse to lend to the poor, knowing the seventh year might suspend repayment of a debt (15:9). Such reasoning was a sin in the eyes of the LORD (15:9b), and lenders were exhorted to give, and trust “the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto” (15:10).

Slavery, and the Release of Slaves (15:12-18)

Slavery was a cultural reality in the ancient world, and poverty was often the catalyst for one to become a slave. A Hebrew man or woman, unable to pay their debts, would become slaves to the lender (15:12). Unlike the abuses afflicted by the heathen upon their slaves, the LORD provided that His people would not become perpetual slaves (15:12). A Hebrew might serve six years, but on the seventh year they were to be released of their debt, and “go free” (15:12b).

When a slave was set free, a master was to ensure the slave would not “go away empty” (15:13). It was required that a master honor the one being set free, giving to “him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him” (15:14).

Some masters were so kind, and gracious, that some slaves would elect to continue as a slave for life, and have a hole pierced through their ear, marking them as such (15:17).

Dedication and Consecration of the Firstborn (15:19-23)

Remembering the tenth plague in Egypt, and how the LORD had spared the firstborn of Israel where the blood had been applied to the doorposts; that deliverance was forever memorialized by dedicating the firstborn male in Israel to the LORD (Exodus 13:2, 15).

The firstborn of cattle, and sheep, were to be unblemished, and offered as a sacrificial meal (15:19-20). Firstborn oxen were not to be worked in the fields, nor were firstborn sheep to be sheared, for they were the LORD’S. Should the firstborn be blemished, it was not a worthy sacrifice, and would therefore be eaten like ordinary meat (15:21-23; 12:15).

I close inviting you to consider how the Law of the LORD was gracious, and it protected the poor from harsh lenders, slaves from cruel taskmasters, and extended seasons of hope, and relief to the people.

Remember, all offerings were a type of God’s final, and perfect offering for our sins. Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the firstborn of Mary, was the perfect, sinless, unblemished sacrificial Lamb of God (John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

God’s People are a Treasure (Deuteronomy 13-14)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 13-14

Deuteronomy 13 – The Intolerance, and Punishment of Idolatry

Deuteronomy 12 concluded with Moses cautioning the people, “32What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it” (12:32). That admonition brings to mind a similar warning to believers that is found in the closing words of the New Testament: “18For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life…” (Revelation 22:18–19). Today, believers tolerate all manner of versions, and perversions of the Scriptures; however, such was not to be the case for Israel, and should not be the case for us.

Concerning the laws of idolatry, if a man deemed himself a prophet, and even performed signs and wonders, he was to be rejected, if his prophecy departed from the revelations of the LORD (13:1-2). If he should say, “Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them” (13:2), he was to “be put to death” (13:4-5).

Not even the bonds of love, and familial ties were to obstruct the judgment of the LORD concerning the worship of idols (13:6-7). Should a loved one entice a man, and say, “Let us go and serve other gods” (13:6), that man was guilty of a capital offense, and his sin must not be concealed (13:7-8). Understanding the grievous sin of idolatry, and its judgment, the witness of the offense was to be the first to cast a stone (13:9). The congregation would then “stone him with stones, that he die” (13:10), and thereby sharing in his condemnation.

Should a city be turned to idolatry, the inhabitants of the city were to be killed, their flocks and herds destroyed, and the spoils of the city burned with fire (13:12-16). If all was destroyed, Moses promised the “Lord may turn from the fierceness of his anger, and shew thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee, and multiply thee, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers” (13:17).

Deuteronomy 14 – A Chosen People for the LORD

Moses begins Deuteronomy 14 with a wonderful declaration concerning Israel:

1Ye are the children of the Lord your God…an holy people [sanctified, set apart] unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people [His treasure] unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth” (14:1a, 2).

That affirmation is likened to two others we read in the New Testament concerning all believers. Paul penned concerning the saints: Christ “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people [His own possession], zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). Peter exhorted believers, “ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

What was the application of Israel’s unique relationship with the LORD?

“Ye shall not cut yourselves, not make any baldness between your eyes for the dead” (14:1b). You may be thinking, what a strange statement! Let me explain.

The heathen people were known to cut their flesh, and shave their heads as outward signs of mourning at funerals. Israel, however, was forbidden to do the same. The heathen mutilated their bodies as a sign of grief, but the people who were chosen by the God of heaven were not to mourn as those without hope! Paul exhorted believers concerning the same hope, writing to believers in Thessalonica: “13But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. (1 Thessalonians 4:13–14).

Clean and unclean meats is the subject of Deuteronomy 14:3-21, and one we have studied in depth in earlier devotionals (Leviticus 11). The differences between clean beasts, and unclean beasts (14:3-8), clean and unclean fish (14:9-10), clean and unclean birds (14:11-19), are all addressed once again. The people are also reminded that they are not to eat diseased animals (14:21a), nor cook or boil a “kid” (a baby goat), in its mother’s milk (such would be cruel to the sensitivity of nature, 14:21b).

The geographical locations of some tribes in Canaan would put them at great distances from the Tabernacle (14:22-24), and making it impossible to tithe of the first fruits of the harvest, and the first born (“firstlings of thy herds”). The matter was resolved, by permitting the people to “turn it [the tithe and the firstlings] into money.” Then taking the money, and going to the Tabernacle, a man could purchase whatever, he desired in the meat, meal, and wine as his tithe to the LORD (14:26). Though the distance would prevent the practice of tithing as it had been observed in the wilderness, the people were warned to honor the LORD with their tithe, and not forsake the Levite (14:27).

Every three years, one’s tithe would not be taken to the Tabernacle (14:28-29), but would instead be laid “up within thy gates” (14:28), and used in one’s town and village to feed the Levite, the alien, the orphan, and the widow (14:29). For their faithfulness with the tithes, the LORD promised to bless the labor of his people.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Blessings or Curses: It’s Your Choice (Deuteronomy 11-12)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 11-12

Moses’ second challenge to Israel began in Deuteronomy 5, and continues in today’s Scripture reading.

Deuteronomy 11 – A Covenant Promising Blessings, or Cursings

Moses reiterated the LORD’S covenant demand, to “love the Lord thy God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, alway” (11:1). Deuteronomy 11:2-7 reminded the people why they should love, and obey the LORD (11:2-7).

The LORD had demonstrated “His greatness, His mighty hand, and His stretched out arm” (11:2), when He brought the plagues upon Pharaoh and Egypt (11:3). When He parted the Red Sea for His people to pass through on dry ground, He sent the waters upon the Egyptians, drowning them, their horses, and chariots (11:4). When Dathan and Abiram rebelled (Numbers 16), the LORD had “the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their households, and their tents, and all the substance that was in their possession, in the midst of all Israel” (11:6).

Because the people had seen, “all the great acts of the Lord which he did” (11:7), they were compelled to keep His commandments, and know their strength. prosperity, and longevity in Canaan would be directly related to their obedience (11:8). Moses reminded the people the land was all the LORD had promised their forefathers, “a land that floweth with milk and honey” (11:9)

Nevertheless, the promise of God’s blessing was conditional (11:10-17), and should the people turn from Him, and worship idols, His wrath would be kindled against them. He would “shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the Lordgiveth you” (11:17).

The people were reminded their covenant responsibility was not only to obey the commandments, but to teach them to their children (11:18-19). The LORD’s covenant with Israel was a conditional promise of both “a blessing and a curse” (11:26). Obey the LORD’S commandments, and He would bless them (11:27). Disobey the LORD, and He would curse them (11:28).

Deuteronomy 12 – Prohibitions, and No Exceptions

It might be argued, that Deuteronomy 5-11 was the preface to the “statutes and judgments” that begins with Deuteronomy 12. Having presented to the people the choices, and consequences for obeying or disobeying the LORD, Moses began to reveal the prohibitions.

The first prohibition: Israel must destroy all idols, and every idol place of worship and sacrifice (12:1-3). There were no exceptions! Whereas the heathen sacrificed and served “their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree” (12:2), Israel was not to follow in their ways. Only in “the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation [the Tabernacle] shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come” (12:5).

The Tabernacle was the place God had chosen. There was one place of sacrifice, and that was the altar in the Tabernacle court (12:6). There was one place the tithes, and offerings (above that which was the portion of the Levites) might be eaten, and that was before the Tabernacle (12:7).

The law that had demanded all domestic animals be brought to the Tabernacle for killing (Leviticus 17:3-6), would no longer be observed in the Promised Land (12:10-15). The geographical distance of the tribes in Canaan from the Tabernacle, and altar was “too far” (12:21). All sacrifices were to be offered at the Tabernacle, “the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen” (12:21). However, domestic animals used for household meat could be killed, and eaten “in thy gates” (12:21), as it would be with wild beasts (12:22).

Another prohibition was in the matter of blood, of which was commanded: “ye shall not eat the blood; ye shall pour it upon the earth as water” (12:17, 23-25; Leviticus 17:10).

In closing, Moses warned the people they were not to adopt the ways of heathen in their worship, nor enquire, “How did these nations serve their gods?” (12:30b) The worship of the wicked had been an abomination to God, and in their depravity, they had sacrificed “their sons and their daughters…to their gods” (12:31). Moses warned, the LORD would accept nothing less than obedience, and the people were “not [to] add thereto, nor diminish from it” (12:32).

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Behold, the God of Creation, and Heaven Has Revealed Himself” (Deuteronomy 10)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 10

Deuteronomy 10 continues Moses’ second oration, describing how the LORD had shown Israel mercy following the idolatry of the people at Sinai. Moses was reminding the people what they, and we already know. Nevertheless, it was important for the people to recollect all that had befallen their forefathers, and remember the LORD’s Covenant with them as a nation.

Moses recalled how, in anger because of their idolatry, he had broken the first tables of stone upon which were written the Ten Commandments. The LORD had then commanded him to hew out two additional tables of stone (10:1). On them, the LORD engraved “the words [the Commandments] that were in the first tables” (10:2). The Commandments were then placed in the Ark, and served as a lasting memorial of God’s covenant with Israel (10:2b-5; Exodus 40:20).

Continuing his remembrance of the events that had brought the nation to the edge of the Promised Land, Moses rehearsed how his brother Aaron, the first high priest, had died short of Canaan, and “Eleazar his son ministered in the priest’s office in his stead” (10:6).

Lest any should forget, the people were reminded that the LORD had chosen, and “separated the tribe of Levi” to serve Him, and “to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD” (10:8). Unlike the other tribes, the Levites would have no inheritance, no land, assigned to them. Their inheritance was a portion of that which was due the LORD, in the people’s tithes, offerings, and sacrifices (10:8-9).

With the urgency of a father who loves his sons and daughters, Moses challenged the people to obey the LORD with five imperatives (10:12-13).

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 – “And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear [revere]the LORD thy God, to walk [behave] in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, 13 To keep [keep watch; guard] the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?”

Who is this God who revealed Himself as Creator, and chose Israel, and covenanted with them by giving them His Law, Commandments, and Statutes (10:14-22)?

He is the Creator and Sovereign of “the heaven of heavens…and the earth also, with all that therein is” is the LORD’S (10:14). He is the “God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible [i.e. to be feared].” He is just, and “regardeth not persons [not a respecter of persons], nor taketh reward” (10:17). He is merciful, and the protector “of the fatherless and widow [the defenseless]” (10:18a). He is tender, and “loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment” (10:18b).

I close, inviting you to ponder what effect the revelation of God’s nature, and attributes should have had upon Israel?

The answer to that question is found in the closing verses (10:19-22). The children of Israel were to love strangers (10:20), for they could identify with the hardships of being a stranger in Egypt (10:19). They were to fear, serve, and cleave to the LORD (10:20). They were to be a people whose word, was their bond (“swear by His name,” 10:20).

The hearts, thoughts, and affections of Israel were to be solely directed to the LORD (10:21), for He had fulfilled His promises, and they had grown from seventy souls, and “the LORD [had] made [them] as the stars of heaven for multitude” (10:22).

My God is great, and mighty. He is the LORD of the Scriptures, Sovereign of Creation, and King of heaven and earth!

Is He your God?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Fear, and Obey the LORD, and He Will Prosper You (Deuteronomy 6-7)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 6-7

Our chronological Scripture reading brings us to Deuteronomy 6-7, where we find Moses continuing his second oration before the congregation of Israel (which he began in Deuteronomy 5). After stating the Ten Commandments of the LORD to the people (5:7-21), Moses had charged them to keep covenant by “[walking]in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you” (5:33).

Deuteronomy 6 – A Sacred Duty: The Perpetual Responsibility to Instruct Sons and Daughters

The people were not only to obey “the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments” which the LORD had given Moses to teach the people (6:1), but they were to “fear the LORD,” and teach their “son, and [their] son’s son, all the days of [their] life; and that [their] days may be prolonged” (6:2). Take a moment and ponder not only that command, but also the promise.

There is a direct correlation between the quality, and length of your life, and whether or not you have faithfully obeyed the LORD’S commands, feared Him, and instructed your children, and grandchildren in His statutes, and commandments. One wonders how many believers die young, broken in health, and heart, because they failed to fear the LORD, obey His commandments, and instruct their children in the same.

Moses appealed to the people, “3Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey” (6:3). Once again, prosperity is the reward of fearing and revering the LORD.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5, was known as The Shema among Hebrew people, and is prayed twice daily by many Jewish people today, for it summarizes the essence of Who Israel’s God is, and that nation’s unique relationship with the LORD.

Deuteronomy 6:4–5 4Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: 5And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

When a lawyer asked Jesus, “36Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matthew 22:36). “37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38).

Without exception, each generation of believers, is not only to obey the commandments out of a heart of love, they are also to communicate the commands, statutes, and laws of the LORD “diligently” to their children (6:7-9).  The Word of God was to be persistently considered in every household. The commands, statutes, and laws were the spiritual guide for every area of life, and were to be taught when sitting down, walking, lying down at night, or rising at dawn. Even the entrance to one’s home was to be graced with the Law of God (6:9).

The people were warned to not forget the LORD, in the midst of their prosperity (6:10-11), and were reminded “the LORD thy God is a jealous God” (6:15), and they were not to “tempt” or test the LORD by failing to obey Him (6:16). The LORD promised, if the people would keep His commandments, He would prosper them (6:17). If they would do “right and good in the sight of the LORD,” it would be well with them (6:18).

Deuteronomy 6:20-23 returned to the privilege, and responsibility the people had for instructing their children. They were to remind their sons and daughters of all the LORD had done for them, and to “do all these statutes, to fear the LORD,” promising He would preserve them as a nation (6:24).

Deuteronomy 7 – Why did the LORD Choose Israel?

After challenging Israel to remember the providences, and promises of the LORD, and to obey His commandments, and teach them to their sons and daughters: Moses challenged Israel to utterly destroy the nations in the land He had promised them for an inheritance (Deuteronomy 7). They were to make no covenant of peace with the heathen, nor allow their sons and daughters to intermarry with them (7:2-4). Every idol, and every place of idolatry was to be cut down (7:5).

Moses reminded the people how Israel had been chosen by the LORD to be a “holy people” (7:6), but not because they were great in number, and a powerful people (7:7). He chose Israel because “the LORD loved [them], and because He would keep the oath [covenant] which He had sworn unto [their] fathers [Abraham, Issac, and Jacob]”. (7:8)

Deuteronomy 7 reveals so much more we might consider regarding the nature of God, and His relationship with Israel; however, time and space do not permit me to continue. I encourage you to read, study, and meditate on God’s grace, longsuffering, and holiness that is revealed in the balance of this chapter. The LORD is “immutable,” and He has not changed!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Behold Your God! (Deuteronomy 3-4)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 3-4

The address to Israel, that Moses began in Deuteronomy 1, continues in today’s Scripture reading. It is good to pause in our study, and remember Moses is 120-years-old. He finds himself standing before a new generation, the majority of whom had been born in the wilderness over the course of forty years.

Four-hundred years of slavery in Egypt was a fact of history, but not something that generation had experienced. The consequences of their forefather’s faithlessness, and rebellion had befallen that generation, and it was essential that they not only knew the character of their God, but understood their covenant relationship with Him as a nation.

Deuteronomy 3 – God is Gracious, But Choices Have Consequences

With the urgency of a man who knows his death is imminent, Moses reviewed the LORD’s care, and compassion for Israel. He reminded the people how God had delivered Og, the king of Bashan into their hands. Israel had conquered sixty walled cities (3:4-5), and utterly destroyed the “men, women, and children, of every city” (3:6). The LORD had enriched His people, and given them “all the cattle, and the spoil of the cities” (3:7). Moses reviewed that the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had requested the lands on the east side of the Jordan River (3:12-20).

The LORD had chosen Joshua as his successor (3:21a), and Moses recalled that God promised to drive out the inhabitants on the west side of the Jordan (3:21-22), even as He had defeated the two kings on the east side (Sihon, the Amorite, 2:24-36, and Og, the king of Bashan, 3:1-11).

For a second time in the Book of Deuteronomy (1:37), Moses reminisced how He had asked the LORD to permit him to enter Canaan. God had refused his request, and remembered that He had commanded Moses to speak to the rock to bring forth water in the desert, but he had disobeyed, and in anger struck the rock.

He had violated the LORD’S command, and His judgment was that Moses would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land. The LORD had rebuked him, saying, “Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter” (3:26); yet God, in His grace promised, Moses would have opportunity to gaze upon Canaan from the top of Pisgah (3:27; 34:1-5).

Deuteronomy 4 continues Moses’ exhortation, and he reminded the people of Israel’s unique covenant relationship with the LORD.

Unlike any other nation, Israel was chosen by the LORD, and privileged to know Him personally (4:1-6). By His statutes and judgments, He had revealed His person and character to them (4:7-8). The people knew the LORD, like no other people, and they were the custodians of His Laws and Commandments (4:7-14).  It was their covenant responsibility to not only “heed [and] keep” the statutes and judgment of the LORD, but also “teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons” (4:8-9).

The new generation was told how their forefathers had gathered at Mount Horeb, and out of the “midst of the fire” they had heard the LORD’s commandments, and accepted His covenant with them as a nation (4:10-13; Exodus 20:1-23:33). Moses warned them to abstain from all forms of idolatry (4:14-40), and not to worship objects of God’s creation, as was the way of the heathen (4:16-19).

Remembering God is sovereign, Moses retold how Israel had been delivered out of Egypt, though that nation was the most dominant, and powerful nation in its day (4:20).

Moses warned, the LORD is a righteous judge, and jealous God (4:23-24). Then, calling upon heaven and earth to be his witness, Moses warned: Should the people corrupt themselves, and turn to idols, many would perish (4:26), and the people would be dispersed, and scattered among the nations (4:27-28).

Who is Israel’s God?

He is the Creator, and the God of heaven (4:21). He is God alone, and “there is none else beside Him” (4:35).  He is the Sovereign of heaven and earth (4:39).

He is my God, my LORD, and my Savior! Is He yours?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Shedding the Blood of An Innocent Life, Defiles the Land, and Demands God’s Judgment (Numbers 34-35)

Scripture reading – Numbers 34-35

Numbers 34 records the boundaries of the land the LORD had promised Abraham, and his seed as their inheritance (Genesis 15:18-21; 26:4; 28:13-14). Although the land would not be formally divided by tribe until Joshua 15-19, we are given the southern boundaries (34:3-5), with the western boundary being the “great sea” (the Mediterranean Sea, 34:6). The northern most boundary of Israel was to be Mount Hor (34:7-9), and the eastern boundary was the Jordan River (34:10-13). Per their request, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had “received their inheritance on [the east] side Jordan [River] near Jericho” (34:14-15).

With the assistance of “Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun” (34:17), the LORD chose a man from each of the tribes, to represent his tribe when the land would be divided (34:18-29).

Numbers 35 – The Inheritance of the Tribe of Levi, and the Laws Governing Murder

Unlike the other tribes, the priestly tribe of Levi was not assigned a portion of the land. Their inheritance would be forty-eight cities, and suburbs that would be allotted to the Levites. These cities and suburbs were to be located in the midst of the lands apportioned to the Twelve Tribes, both on the east and west sides of the Jordan River (35:1-5,7).

Of the forty-eight Levite cities, six were to be designated “cities for refuge,” to which men would flee in the event they had taken the life of another (35:6-8). Three cities of refuge were to be located on the east side of the Jordan, and three on the west side (35:9-14).

The cities of refuge offered haven to a man killer (“man slayer”), until he was tried by the congregation, and a determination was made whether or not he was guilty of murder (35:15-29). The cities of refuge could not serve as a safe haven for a man guilty of murder.

Taking the life of another was a violation of the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13), and the judgment of God was: “The murderer shall surely be put to death” (35:16). A blood kinsman had the right to avenge the death of his loved one, and to him fell the responsibility of slaying the murderer (35:17-21).

Should a man slay another “unawares,” an unintentional, accidental killing, he could seek sanctuary in a city of refuge, and so long as he stayed within the city, he was safe. Should a man guilty of manslaughter depart from the protection of his city of refuge, a blood kinsman could avenge the death of his loved one (35:25-28). Only the death of the high priest would release a manslaughterer from the borders of the city of refuge (35:28).

In cases of capital punishment, it was required that more than one witness would give testimony before a man could be convicted of murder, and killed (35:30). Ransom or bribes that were intended to spare the life of a murderer were forbidden (35:31-32).

Numbers 35 closes with a dire, sober warning:

Numbers 35:33–3433So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it. 34Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel.

Take a moment, and weigh the seriousness of taking the life of another. When there is no justice for the slain, and the murderer goes unpunished, the innocent blood “defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood” (35:33b). The only means of cleansing a land of innocent blood, and a nation of its guilt, was by exacting justice, and taking the life of the murderer.

When justice for the innocent fails, a nation is cursed, and its people live under the shadow of God’s judgment.

What hope is there for a people, and nation that is guilty of injustice, and the slaying of the innocent, and unborn?

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Safe, and Satisfied is a Dangerous Place to Live (Numbers 31-32)

Scripture reading – Numbers 31-32

We are closing in the final chapters of the Book of Numbers, and though our study has been historical in context, it is foundational to a broader, and deeper understanding of the Scriptures! Don’t get weary, for the journey is worth it, and enriching.

Numbers 31 – A War of Revenge Against the Midianites

The LORD spoke to Moses, and as one of his last acts as Israel’s leader (31:1-2), he was commanded to raise up an army of twelve thousand men, to war against Midian (31:1-4). Strategically, it was important for Israel to eliminate all nations on the east side of Jordan that might threaten their campaign in Canaan. The LORD had determined to avenge Israel against Midian, because the kings of Midian had employed Balaam, the seer to curse Israel, and their women had enticed the men of Israel to sin (Numbers 25:6).

Thus, the LORD ordered Moses to wage war against the Midianites (31:1-10, 16). The LORD gave Israel’s army of twelve thousand a glorious victory, and not one soldier was lost in the battle (31:49b). Israel slew all the men of Midian, including five kings, and Balaam, whom “they slew with the sword” (31:8).

The spoils of war were the women and children of Midian, their cattle, flocks of sheep, and possessions (31:9). Israel burnt all the cities, and fortresses to the ground (31:10-11). Returning from battle, the soldiers were met outside the camp by Moses, Eleazar the priest, and the chief leaders of the tribes (31:12-13). Moses, seeing the women of Midian in the midst of the spoils, was furious, for he remembered they had wreaked havoc by luring the men of Israel (31:14-16). With the exception of virgins, Moses ordered all the women of Midian be slain, and “every male among the little ones” (31:17-18). Before they were reunited with their families, the soldiers were commanded to remain outside the camp for seven days, purify themselves, their clothes, and all their goods (31:19-24).

The balance of Numbers 31 addresses the large sum of people, livestock, and goods that had been taken in the victory over Midian (31:25-35), and the distribution of the spoils of the war with Midian. A half-portion of the spoils was awarded to the soldiers (31:36-40), the other half was divided up among the congregation (31:42-47), and the tribute or tithe was then given to the priests (31:41, 48-54).

Numbers 32 – The Division of the Land on the East Side of the Jordan River

Two and a half tribes of Israel, Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, petitioned Moses to assign them land on the east side of the Jordan, reasoning the land was fertile, and could support their livestock (32:1-5). Moses’ first reaction to the request was swift, for he feared those tribes were deserting the nation, and shirking their obligation to assist in conquering the Promised Land (32:6-15).

Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh responded to Moses’ concerns, and assured him they were ready to go to war. They desired, after Canaan would be conquered, to return to the grassy fields on the east side of the Jordan (32:16-42).

The compromise reached between Moses, and the tribes appeared to be, “all’s well that ends well.” Such, however, would not be the case. While the leaders of those tribes kept their vows, and fought beside their brethren in Canaan; their decision to build their homes, and raise their children short of Canaan proved disastrous.

Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh were not only geographically distant from the other tribes, but they also became spiritually distant from the LORD in the generations that followed.  We will later read of those tribes: They transgressed against the God of their fathers, and went a whoring after the gods of the people of the land” (1 Chronicles 5:25).

Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh were convinced the land “just short” of the Promised Land was good enough. That decision, however, would become a great sorrow for their children. Those tribes were the first to turn from the LORD, and were taken captive by Assyria (1 Chronicles 5:26).

Lesson – No half-way, half-hearted service for the LORD will ever be acceptable!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith