Category Archives: Doctrine

Forsaken by Man, But not By God! (Genesis 45)

Scripture reading – Genesis 45

Joseph, unable to contain his emotions, cried out suddenly, “Cause every man to go out from me” (45:1b). With only his brethren present, he wept so forcefully that his servants, and even those of Pharaoh’s household heard of it (45:2). Speaking for the first time without an interpreter, Joseph cried out in Hebrew, “I am Joseph; doth my father yet live?” (45:3)

Imagine that moment! They had betrayed, sold their brother as a slave, but now he stands before them. He is a powerful ruler in Egypt, and a man to whom they bowed in fear and reverence. With the authority of a sovereign, and the compassion of a brother, Joseph stated in their tongue, “Come near to me, I pray you”(45:4a). With fear, awe, and dread, his brothers drew near, and he confessed, “I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt” (45:4b).

Calming their anxieties, he consoled his brothers, saying, “be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life” (45:5).

Take a moment, and meditate on the last phrase: “God did send me before you to preserve life” (45:5).

Rather than bitterness, and vengeance, Joseph’s words conveyed a reassuring spirit of faith and forgiveness. He had come to see the hand of God’s providences in his life. Confessing his faith, Joseph said, “8So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler [with power and authority] throughout all the land of Egypt” (45:8).

There were yet five years of famine (45:6, 11); therefore, Joseph commanded his brothers, “Go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not” (45:9). He promised his brothers, “thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children’s children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast” (45:10).

When he had finished speaking, Joseph “fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him” (45:14-15). Imagine the conversation that passed between Joseph and his brothers. Through tears, and laughter, Joseph conveyed all that had passed in the twenty-two years he had been apart from them.

The news of Joseph’s reunion with his brothers had reached Pharaoh’s household, and the king of Egypt was pleased (45:17-18). Pharaoh decreed that wagons should be taken to Canaan, and the children, wives, and Joseph’s father be conveyed to Egypt (45:19).  He promised that the “good of all the land of Egypt” would be theirs, and they would have need of nothing (45:21-25).

Stunning News: Joseph is Alive! (45:25-28)

Imagine the spectacle when an Egyptian wagon train came within sight of Jacob’s encampment in Canaan (45:25). When he heard that Joseph was alive, and was “governor over all the land of Egypt, [his] heart fainted, for he believed them not” (45:26). Seeing the wagons, and all the provisions that had been sent to him by his son, Jacob’s spirit was revived (25:27). “Israel (Jacob) said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die” (45:28). He was content. The LORD had preserved his life into his old age, and answered the longing of his heart: He would be reunited with Joseph.

Let us take a moment and reflect on God’s providences in Joseph’s life.

His mother died giving birth to his brother Benjamin. He grew up resented, and hated by brothers who would have killed him had they not elected to sell him as a slave. He was falsely accused by his master’s wife, and was a prisoner, until the LORD directed Pharaoh to promote him to the second most powerful throne in Egypt.

Joseph was rejected, tried, and forsaken by man, but not by God!

Psalm 34:1919Many are the afflictions of the righteous: But the Lord delivereth him out of them all.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

God Must Break You, Before He Will Fully Bless You! (Genesis 32)

Scripture reading – Genesis 32

The Backdrop to Events in Genesis 32

After twenty years of shepherding his father-in-law’s flocks, the LORD commanded Jacob to go home: “Return unto the land of thy fathers…and I will be with thee” (31:3).

Fearing his father-in-law would forbid his parting, Jacob secretly departed Padanaram, the place he had served his father-in-law Laban (31:17-20). Crossing the Euphrates river, and putting as much distance between himself and Laban, Jacob set his face toward Canaan, and arrived at Mount Gilead, on the east side of the Jordan River (31:21).

His stealth parting had given Jacob a three-day start before news reached Laban that he and his family had taken flight (31:22). Laban set out in anger, and pursued Jacob for seven days, before overtaking him at Mount Gilead. What ill intentions Laban might have had, were confronted by God who came to him “in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad” (31:24).

The verbal confrontation between Jacob and Laban is recorded in Genesis 31:26-42, and the amicable resolution between the two is recorded in Genesis 31:43-55. Setting a pillar of stones as a memorial to their covenant of peace, “Laban departed, and returned unto his place” (31:55)

Genesis 32 – Facing Your Greatest Enemy, and Greatest Fears

Jacob set out on his journey, and God gave him a vision of an angelic host that would accompany him, and he named the place, Mahanaim, “God’s Camp” (32:1-2).

Twenty years had passed since Jacob stole his brother’s birthright, and fled Canaan. His return home would take him through Edom, his brother Esau’s land and country (32:3). Though two decades in the making, his reunion with his brother had revived the memory of Esau’s threats and his fears. I am reminded of the proverb, “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle”(Proverbs 18:19).

Knowing his brother was a warrior (27:40), and he a shepherd, Jacob feared Esau. Understanding he might face his brother’s wrath, Jacob plotted and planned how he might defuse his brother’s fury (32:4-8). When he received news that Esau was coming with four hundred men (32:6), Jacob prepared for the worst, and divided his household, hoping to spare his family and possessions from a total loss should Esau attack (32:7-8).

Jacob had evidently forgotten about the host of angels that had appeared to him along the way (32:1-2), and he prayed to the LORD, reminding Him how He had commanded him to return to his homeland, with the promise, “I will deal well with thee” (32:9-12).

Jacob then sent gifts to his brother, in hopes of appeasing his wrath (32:9-23). Knowing he would face his brother the next day, Jacob spent the night alone, perhaps pondering what the morning might bring upon him and his family (32:13, 24-32).

It was in the solitude of the night that the LORD appeared to him in the physical form of a man, and wrestled with both Jacob’s body and soul (32:24-32).  Even with his hip out of joint, Jacob wrestled with the LORD until he was assured of His blessing (32:25-28).

The LORD blessed Jacob (whose name meant trickster or schemer), and gave him the name of “Israel,” meaning one who has power with God (32:28).

The next morning, it was Israel, a man transformed by the grace of God, that faced his enemy. He had spent his life scheming, and wrestling with God; however, he was transformed after seeing “God face to face” (32:30).  No longer a man that relied on his wit, the painful limp in his stride was as a reminder of the night God broke his will (32:30-31).

Jacob had come to the end of himself, and the God of his grandfather Abraham, and his father Isaac, was his God. Jacob’s life was so transformed. If you saw him, you would know him; for he was a man with a limp, whose faith was in the LORD.

In the words of A.W. Tozer, “The Lord cannot fully bless a man until He has first conquered him.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Confess Your Bitterness, and “Dig Another Well” (Genesis 25-26)

Scripture reading – Genesis 25-26

Our chronological study of the Scriptures continues today as we come to some major spiritual crossroads in the Genesis account of Abraham, his chosen heir Isaac, and Ishmael, Abraham’s son born to Hagar, Sarah’s handmaiden.

Genesis 25 – The Death of Abraham, and Isaac and Rebekah Become Parents

With Sarah dead, and Isaac happily married to Rebekah, Abraham was no doubt lonely, and took a second wife named Keturah (25:1). The Scriptures do not say, but perhaps she was one of Abraham’s maidens in his household. Keturah gave birth to six sons (25:2-4), and they were a further fulfillment of God’s promise that Abraham would be a father of nations (Genesis 12). Though a father of many sons, Abraham remembered that Isaac was the son whom God had chosen to be his heir.  Therefore, “Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac” (25:5) his spiritual and legal heir. The other sons he sent away with gifts, and therefore settling his obligation to them as a father (25:6).

Abraham lived an incredibly long life, and when he was “hundred threescore and fifteen years (175 years old),[he] gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people” (25:7-8). He was content with his life, and ready to entrust his spirit to the LORD.

As is so often true, their father’s death gave occasion for Isaac and Ishmael, son of Abraham and Hagar, to be reunited and give their father a proper burial in the tomb he had purchased for Sarah (25:9-10). Ishmael’s lineage is recorded (25:12-16), and true to God’s promise to Abraham and Hagar (21:13, 18), his twelve sons were fathers of tribes, and nations (25:16). Ishmael died when he was “an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people” (25:17).

The Bible narrative now focuses upon God’s providences in Isaac’s life. Isaac had taken Rebekah to be his wife when he was forty years old; however, another twenty years passed before she conceived. (25:26).  Like his father before him, Isaac longed for children to be born to his beloved Rebekah, and when she conceived she was blessed with twin sons (25:21). Taking her concerns to the LORD (25:22), He revealed that the sons in her womb were opposites in almost every way imaginable (25:23), and contrary to the culture, the older son would become servant to the younger).

Those two sons had not only struggled in their mother’s womb, but when they were born the younger son, Jacob, took hold of the heel of his firstborn brother, Esau (25:25-27). Esau was red haired, and stunning in his physical appearance, preferring the outdoors, he was a skilled hunter (25:25, 27). Jacob, was plain in his appearance, and preferred a quiet, pastoral shepherd’s life (25:28).

The most stunning difference, however, was in the brother’s spiritual values. As the firstborn son, Esau was the rightful heir of the “birthright,” meaning he was destined to be the spiritual leader, the priest of the family clan. Esau, placed no value on his spiritual birthright, and for the price of a bowl of soup, sold his birthright to Jacob (25:29-34).

Genesis 26 – Famine, Conflict, a Peaceful Resolution, and Unhappy Parents

Isaac and his household faced the hardship of famine, the first noted in the Scriptures since Abraham had gone down into Egypt one hundred years earlier.

Like Father, Like Son (26:1-11)

The famine had forced Isaac to move his household, and he relocated to Gerar, where the Philistines lived. Lest he be tempted to do as his father, the LORD warned Isaac that he must not go down into Egypt (26:1-2). Commanding him to remain in Gerar, God renewed his covenant promise to bless Isaac, and give him and his lineage “all these countries” (26:3-4).

Fearing for his life, Isaac was frightened that men in the land might look upon Rebekah’s beauty and desire her, and he would be killed (26:7). He foolishly sinned as his father had, and told others, “She is my sister” (26:7). His deceit was exposed when King Abimelech (the title of Philistine kings), confronted him for “sporting with Rebekah his wife” (meaning the familiarity of a husband who loves the wife of his youth, 26:8-9). Abimelech rebuked Isaac for his lie, and took Isaac’s household under his protection (26:10-11).

“Dig Another Well” (26:12-33)

God continued to bless Isaac, and “the Philistines envied him” (26:14). Moved by envy, they began to stop up the wells that Abraham had digged in his days for his flocks and herds, and “filled them with earth” (26:14-15). Rather than the warring spirit with which Ishmael was born, Isaac was a peacemaker and he continued moving from one well to the next seeking peace (26:12-22).

Isaac’s response to the Philistines’ aggression is a worthy model for us all to follow when conflicts arise. Fresh water wells were invaluable in a land known for its deserts, and we can imagine the hardships and personal offence Isaac felt as the wells dug by his father were destroyed.

How did Isaac respond?  Did he become embittered?  Did he plot a way and path of revenge?  

No, he kept digging wells (26:18, 21, 22), and not only built and repaired the wells of his father, he also “builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the LORD” (26:25).

I invite you to follow Isaac’s example, and set aside bitterness and disappointments, and “dig another well.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Here Comes the Bride” (Genesis 24)

Scripture reading – Genesis 24

Faithful to His promises, God had blessed Sarah in her old age, and as a 90-year-old wife, she had given Abraham a son when he was 100-years-old. She died when she was “an hundred and seven and twenty years old” (Genesis 23:1), meant that Isaac was 37-years-old at the time of his mother’s death.

Genesis 24:1-9 – An Urgency to Find a Suitable Wife for Isaac

We read, “Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things” (24:1). The three years that had passed since Sarah’s death (25:20), had impressed Abraham with an urgency to prepare his son to become not only the master of the household, but also the heir of God’s covenant with Abraham’s lineage. An essential part of that preparation was the choosing of a wife for Isaac.

Burdened that Isaac would have a fitting wife, Abraham summoned his eldest servant (24:2), and charged him that Isaac “shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites [a heathen, idolatrous people], among whom I dwell: 4But thou shalt go unto my country [the country out of which God had called him, Genesis 12:1-3], and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac” (24:3-4).

The servant questioned Abraham concerning the considerations for choosing Isaac’s wife, and was admonished that, should a young woman be unwilling to return with him to Canaan (24:5), he must not permit Isaac to leave the land God had given him as an inheritance (24:6-9).

Genesis 24:10-67 – The Search for Isaac’s Wife

A caravan of ten camels, servants, and supplies accompanied Abraham’s trusted servant for the 500-mile journey across the desert, from Canaan to the city of Nahor in Mesopotamia (24:10).

Arriving at the well in Nahor in the evening, the servant was aware the young women of the households would come to the well for water, and there he compelled the camels to kneel (24:11-13). Abraham’s servant made a passionate plea to the LORD to guide him (24:11-14), and “before he had done speaking…Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder” (24:14).

Rebekah was God’s answer to the servant’s prayer, for she was “very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her: and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up” (24:16). Beautiful, chaste (24:16), considerate (24:18), diligent in serving (24:19-20), and of a household that called on Jehovah (24:31a), the servant broke out into a prayer of praise and thanksgiving, testifying, “I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren” (24:27).

Rewarding Rebekah with “a golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold” (24:22), she invited Abraham’s servant to her family’s household where he would meet Laban, Rebekah’s brother (24:23-29).

The servant refused to be comforted by food or shelter until he had stated his mission, and given testimony of God’s providences in leading him to their home (24:30-50). Declaring, “I am Abraham’s servant” (24:34), he shared how God had blessed his master with great wealth (24:35), and a son who would be his heir (24:36).

Hearing how God had providentially led the servant to Rebekah, her brother and father gave their blessing for her to become Isaac’s wife (24:50-56). When Rebekah was requested to give her consent to depart with Abraham’s servant, and to be the wife of Isaac, she consented saying, “I will go” (24:58). With the blessing of her family (24:59-60), Rebekah departed with her attendant, and journeyed with the Abraham’s servant to Canaan (24:61).

As they entered the land Abraham and Isaac called home, they spotted Isaac coming toward them (24:62-63), and Rebekah covered herself with a veil, expressing both modesty and humility (24:64).

Isaac listened to the servant’s report, and how the LORD had led him to Rebekah (24:66), and “Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent… and she became his wife; and he loved her” (24:67).

Though their marriage was not always a picture of peace and happiness, the union of Isaac and Rebekah has served as an enduring testimony of God’s personal interest in our lives, and His providential leading in our marriages, and families.

Oh that we all might choose to walk in righteousness, be able to say with Abraham’s servant, “I being in the way, the LORD led me” (24:27). 

Do Right, and you will not only do the will of the LORD, you will be confident in it!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Where is the Lamb?” (Genesis 22-23)

Scripture reading – Genesis 22-23

We cannot be certain how many years passed between the close of Genesis 21, and the events recorded in Genesis 22. It is not unreasonable to suppose that Isaac was a young man, and perhaps in his early twenties at this point in his life.  One thing is for sure, he was “the apple of his father’s eye,” and the joy of his old age. Abraham’s task was to prepare his son to become not only the master of all that he owned, but also the heir of God’s covenant that promised “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (12:3).

Genesis 22 – Faith Tested: Abraham Commanded to Sacrifice Isaac

Genesis 22 puts Abraham to the test, and God determined to prove his faith by commanding him to take Isaac (22:1-2), “and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (22:2).

With a spirit of submission, Abraham obeyed God, and early the next day set out on the journey with his son, and the wood that would be used for “the burnt offering” (22:3). The trip from Beersheba (21:33), to the place where God had commanded him to sacrifice Isaac, was a three-day journey (22:2). Arriving at Moriah, Abraham instructed his servants to stay while he and Isaac went up the mount to worship, promising they would “come again” (22:5).

Placing the wood on his son, much like Jesus carried the beam of His cross, Abraham “took the fire in his hand, and a knife [symbols of judgment]; and they went both of them together” (22:6). Isaac questioned his father, “Where is the Lamb?” (22:7), and Abraham assured him, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together” (22:8). Two thousand years later, John the Baptist would answer Isaac’s question, pointing to Jesus Christ and saying, “Behold the Lamb” (John 1:29, 36).

We might wonder what emotions stirred in Abraham’s heart as he climbed the Mount, knowing he had been commanded to, “take now thy son…whom thou lovest” (22:2), and sacrifice him (22:8-9). Arriving at “the place which God had told him,” Abraham built the altar, laid the wood in place, and “bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood” (22:9).

Faith, trust, and hope are readily identified in that event on Moriah. Abraham’s faith went beyond himself, focusing on God who would “provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (22:8). Isaac’s trust, went beyond himself and focused on submission to his father’s will who placed him on the altar (22:9). The hope was that God would be faithful to His covenant promises, and Isaac would be Abraham’s heir (Hebrews 11:17-19).

When “Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son…the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 12And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (22:11-12).

When Abraham looked up, he spied a ram “caught in a thicket by his horns,” and he took it and “offered him up for a burnt offering” in Isaac’s stead (22:13). Abraham “called the name of the place Jehovah-jireh,” meaningthe LORD will provide (22:14).

What spiritual lessons did Abraham and Isaac take from this trial of faith?

Abraham learned how far he was willing to trust God, and walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7), even at the sacrifice of the one he loved. He and Isaac learned, in the moment of trial and testing, God is there, and He will provide.

The LORD renewed His covenant with Abraham, and said, “for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son… I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven…18And in thy seed [Isaac, and his lineage] shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” (22:16-18).

Genesis 23 – The Death of a Mother: “Sarah Died in Kirjatharba” (23:2)

Reminding us that we are all sojourners in this world, we read, “Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2 And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her” (Genesis 23:1-2).

To my knowledge, Sarah is the only woman in the Bible whose age is given at her death. She has served as a model for godly women who aspire to be wives and mothers down through the ages (1 Peter 3:1-6). In a figurative spiritual sense, she is the mother of all believers, and her loving submission to her husband as the head of her household, evidenced her enduring love and commitment not only to her husband, but to her God.

To honor his wife, with a proper burial, Abraham purchased land on which there was a cave (23:3-20).  That cave would serve as a tomb for Sarah, Abraham, Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and Abraham’s grandson Jacob, and his wife Leah.

Hebrews 11:11–1211Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. 12Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Tragic Consequences of Sin and One’s Father’s Sinful Choices (Genesis 19)

Scripture reading – Genesis 19

Abraham had interceded with God, and prayed that the city of Sodom might be spared “peradventure ten [righteous souls] shall be found there” (18:32a). The LORD honored Abraham’s request, and agreed saying, “I will not destroy it for ten’s sake” (18:32b).

Genesis 19 – The Tragic Judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Cities in the Plain

After separating from Abraham, Lot had inched his way from pitching his tent toward Sodom, to finally becoming one of its leaders and judges who “sat in the gate” (19:1), the gate of a walled city being a place where government and commercial business was transacted. The two angels that had appeared in front of Abraham’s tent (18:2, 16), arrived at the gate of Sodom, and were immediately greeted by Lot who “rose up to meet them…bowing himself with his face toward the ground” (19:1). Knowing those “men” were not like the wicked of Sodom, Lot urged them to accept refuge in his home (19:2-3).

Lot made his guest “a feast, and did bake unleavened bread,” (19:3), but “before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: 5And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them” (19:4-5).

The wickedness and depravity of the city was displayed that night as the sodomites (homosexuals) of the city encircled Lot’s house, and demanded that he turn his visitors out into the street to be violently, and sexually assaulted (19:4-6).  Lot pleaded with the sodomites, defining their lusts as wicked (19:7), and offered his virgin daughters to satisfy their lusts (19:8-9).

Though he had been a citizen of the city, and one of its leaders, his righteous judgment of their sinful desires infuriated the men who mocked and ridiculed his hypocrisy as a sojourner, an alien, and an outsider. The angels saved Lot when they “pulled [him] into the house, and struck the sodomites with blindness (19:10-11).

Displaying God’s grace, the angels pressed on Lot to go to his married sons and daughters, and urged them to flee Sodom before the LORD destroyed the city for its wickedness (19:12-13). His family refused to heed his pleas, and despised him (19:14).

As the morning light crested the mountains surrounding the cities in the plain, “the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city” (19:15).  Though knowing the judgment of God was imminent, Lot “lingered,” and the angels mercifully took hold of him, his wife, and daughters and “brought him forth, and set him without the city” (19:16).

Though admonished to “escape for [his] life; [and] look not behind…escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed” (19:17), Lot protested God’s place of safety and pleaded that a nearby city, “a little one” (19:20), might be spared as his refuge (19:19-20). The LORD heeded Lot’s request (19:21), and spared the city called Zoar (19:22).

With the sun risen, and Lot safely removed from Sodom, the fire of God’s judgment “rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; 25And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground” (19:24-25). It was as though hell itself rained from heaven upon the wicked.

Tragically, Lot’s “wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt” (19:26). She had deliberately disobeyed God’s command. Why did she look back? Was it a look of disbelief? Did she look with longing upon all that she was leaving behind? Perhaps it was a look of sorrow, for her sons and daughters were suffering the consequences of Lot and she moving their family into a city of such great wickedness.

Abraham rose early that morning, and he went “to the place where he stood before the LORD” (19:27). There he “looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah…and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace” (19:28). Perhaps anxious that Sodom might have been spared, he saw the severity of God’s judgment upon that wicked city and its inhabitants.

Why was Lot, and his daughters spared God’s judgment? Because “God remembered Abraham,” and honored him by sparing his family (19:29).

One would hope Lot’s straying from the LORD would end with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; however, he became drunk with wine and his daughters committed incest with him (19:30-36).  The eldest daughter conceived a son she named Moab, the father of the Moabites (19:37).  The youngest daughter conceived a son she named Ammon, the father of the Ammonites (19:38).  Both nations, the Moabites and Ammonites, would become a curse and perpetual trouble for the nation of Israel.

We are once again reminded of the tragic consequences of one’s man’s sinful choices.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

God Keeps His Promises (Genesis 14-15)

Scripture reading – Genesis 14-15

Genesis 13 – Review

Lot, the nephew of Abram (Abraham), had separated from his uncle, and had chosen the “plain of Jordan” (13:10), and “dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom” (13:12). Giving us a tragic indication of the direction Lot was leading his family, we read, “13But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly” (13:13).

Genesis 14 gives us a brief history of the nations and people that inhabited the land of Israel in ancient times.

Genesis 14 records the age-old drama of war and politics as nine kings were named, and each king ruled a walled “city-state” with its own governance (14:1-3). The lesser kings had been in servitude to the stronger, and paid tribute to them for twelve years, “and in the thirteenth year they rebelled” (14:4). To put down the rebellion, a coalition of kings led by Chedorlaomer king of Elam, invaded and defeated the smaller city-states. Numbered among those that were defeated was the city of Sodom and its inhabitants (14:8-11).

Lot, no longer content to pitch “his tent toward Sodom” (13:12b), had moved his family into that wicked city, and he and all his goods had been taken as spoils of war (14:10-12). Learning of Lot’s capture, Abram gathered 318 armed men of his household, and pursued and defeated the kings that had conquered Sodom and taken Lot captive (14:13-16).

Abram returned victorious, and was greeted by a king identified as “Melchizedek king of Salem” [scholars identify “Salem” as the ancient name for Jerusalem] (14:18).  This Melchizedek was described as “the priest of the most high God” (14:18), and he pronounced a benediction upon Abram who rewarded him with a tithe (14:19-20), a tenth of the spoils that had been taken in battle.

The king of Sodom came, and acknowledging Abram as victor, proposed that he should retain all the goods he had retrieved in battle (14:21), with the exception of the citizens of his city. Abram, however, refused the spoils of Sodom, less that wicked king boast one day that he had enriched Abraham (14:22-24).

Genesis 15 – God’s Covenant Promises Renewed

God came to Abram in a vision and revealed to him that He was his “Shield” (his protector), and “exceeding great reward” (15:1). Abram, however, protested that he had no son, and therefore no heir (15:2-4). The LORD once again assured Abram that he would have a son born to him and his wife Sarai (15:2-4), and his lineage would be as great in number as the stars in the heavens (15:5). We read of Abram’s faith, “he believed the LORD; and He [the LORD] counted it to him [Abram] for righteousness” (15:6; Romans 3:25; 5:18).

God revealed to Abram in the closing verses of Genesis 15, that his heirs would one day be “strangers,” aliens, foreigners, in another country (15:13), but they would return to the land with great possessions (15:14).  This prophecy would be fulfilled when the Twelve Tribes of Israel departed Egypt after 400 years of servitude (Exodus 12-14).

Genesis 15 concluded with the LORD rehearsing His covenant promise to give Abram’s heirs the land, and stating the boundaries of that land (15:18-21).

A Closing Thought: God had assured Abram he had no cause to fear, for the LORD was his “Shield,” his protector and defender (15:1). Abram not only had God’s promises, he also had His assurance that He was with him!

My friend, God keeps His promises!

A Bonus Study: An Introduction to the First Mention Principle

Genesis is a book of “Firsts,” and serious Bible students follow the “First Mention Principle” for Biblical interpretation. In his book, Principles of Biblical Hermeneutics, J. Edwin Hartill wrote, “God indicated in the first mention of a subject, the truth with which that subject stands connected in the mind of God…The first occurrence of a word, expression, or utterance, is the key to its subsequent meaning, or it will be a guide to ascertaining the essential truth connected with it….The first time a thing is mentioned in Scripture it carries with it a meaning that will be carried through the Word of God.”

There are several “firsts” found in Genesis 14-15. There is the first mention of war (14:2), and the first mention of “the word of the LORD” (15:1). There is the first mention of the LORD described as a Shield (a protector), and Rewarder (15:1) for His people.

Faith is first defined, when we read that Abram “believed in the LORD” (15:6a). Justification is described as the LORD counted it [Abram’s faith] to him for righteousness (also the first mention of righteousness in the Bible, 15:6). Those great doctrines will occur again and again throughout the Scriptures, and are rooted in today’s Scripture reading.

Copyright – 2021 – Travis D. Smith

THE END: “Job Died Old, and Full of Days” (Job 42)

Scripture reading – Job 42

Job had remained silent since he had confessed, “I am vile” (40:4), and being reminded of the majesty of God, he “answered the Lord, and said, 2I know that thou canst do every thing, And that no thought can be withholden from thee” (42:1-2). He had complained, but now he resigned himself to God’s sovereignty. He acknowledged he had spoken in ignorance (42:3), and accepted that the LORD was not obligated to answer his questions.

We find a wonderful expression of Job’s humility when he confessed, 5I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: But now mine eye seeth thee(42:5). Though dreadful to have experienced the afflictions, the experience had moved Job from a theoretical knowledge (“hearing of the ear”), to a personal and practical knowledge (“now mine eye seeth thee”) of his God and Creator. Job confessed, 6Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes (42:6).

Job 42:7-10God Rewards Faithfulness

After accepting Job’s repentance, the LORD turned His focus to his foolish “friends” (42:7-9). “Eliphaz the Temanite” had been the first to challenge Job, and “the Lord said to [him], My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath” (42:7).

God commanded Eliphaz and his peers to “take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job” (42:8).

What an astonishing turn of events! Job had been the object of his friends’ scorn and judgments. It was their unkindness, and false arguments that had so provoked the LORD that He commanded them to humble themselves, and appeal to Job to intercede for them.

Job, evidencing the grace of a humble man, “prayed for his friends,” and the LORD rewarded him with “twice as much as he had before” (42:10). 

Closing Thoughts

We have studied forty-two chapters in the life of Job, and with the exception of his wife who had suggested he curse God and die, and four “friends” who proposed to be his counselors but became his critics, Job’s acquaintances have been strangely absent.

With the hard times past, and Job enjoying God’s blessings and financial prosperity, we read: Then [i.e. after God prospered Job “twice as much”] came there unto him all his brethren [kindred], and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance [i.e. friends and neighbors] before [before Job’s trials]” (42:11).

Where were these “brethren” and “sisters” when Job lost everything?  Where were his acquaintances when he lost his sons and daughters, servants, home, health and possessions?  Why appear now to show sympathy and comfort?  Why wait to bring Job “a piece of money” and gold earrings? After all, he had need of nothing (42:12-15)!

We conclude our study of the Book of Job, and my heart rejoices when I read that God had prospered him, and he “died, being old and full [satisfied] of days” (Job 42:10, 17).

Job had suffered much, and his afflictions were as severe as any we might imagine. He had borne the sorrow of his sons and daughters’ deaths. He had lost his house, possessions, and servants. Finally, he lost his health, and was afflicted from head to foot with painful sores. His friends had condemned him, and his family and neighbors had forsaken him, but God remembered him! When Job humbled himself before God, he was restored to His favor, and died very old, and content with his life (42:17).

Is that not what we all want? To not only live a long life, but be content, and satisfied when we draw our last breath!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

What is Man? (Job 40-41)

Scripture reading – Job 40-41

The LORD continued interrogating Job in today’s Scripture reading (Job 40-41), giving that man an opportunity to respond to the question:

2Shall he that contendeth [strives with; complains] with the Almighty [Shaddai] instruct [find fault; rebuke] Him? He that reproveth [rebuke; corrects] God, let him answer it (40:2).

God challenged Job, Will you dare instruct your Shaddai? Frightened by the reality of God’s majesty, power, and sovereignty, Job replied:

Behold, I am vile [cursed; despised]; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth [i.e. silent; have nothing to say]. 5  Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further” (Job 40:4-5).

Humbled, Job began to yield to the LORD. He no longer attempted to justify himself, and had nothing more to say.

The LORD questioned, “8Wilt thou also disannul [dispute; challenge] my judgment [justice]? Wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be [i.e. appear to be] righteous?” (40:8) Will you dare question the ways of the LORD as less than just (40:6-14)? Will you challenge God’s majesty? (40:10)

To demonstrate His power, and sovereignty over nature, God illustrated His dominion over creation with two great beasts that roamed the earth in Job’s day: The behemoth (40:15-24), and the leviathan (41:1-34).

Job 40:15-24 – The Behemoth, and God’s Sovereignty Over Nature

The exact identity of the “behemoth” (40:15) is uncertain; however, the prevailing opinion among scholars is that the behemoth was either the hippopotamus, elephant, or water buffalo. I am of the opinion the behemoth might be an extinct beast, perhaps a dinosaur that might have roamed the earth or the seas following the flood.

The Scriptures reveal some physical characteristics of the behemoth (40:15-24). It was a vegetarian, for “he eateth grass as an ox” (40:15b). He was a powerful beast, with great “strength…in his loins [hips, and] …his belly” (40:16). The behemoth also moved “his tail like a cedar” (40:17a). Perhaps the movement of his tail was like the movement and swaying of a cedar tree.

The description of the behemoth continues (40:18-24), describing his bones like brass and iron (40:18), and his voracious appetite for mountain pastures (40:20), and water which is said to “drinketh up a river” (40:23). The behemoth was “the chief [greatest] of the ways [works; creatures] of God,” yet the Creator had power over him (“can make his sword to approach unto him,” 40:19).

What did this mean to Job, and why should it matter to us?

Job 41 – The Leviathan, and God’s Sovereignty Over Nature

The second great beast that LORD invited Job to consider was the “leviathan” (41:1). The identity of this great creature is uncertain; however, some scholars suggest it to be a giant saltwater crocodile, perhaps one that is extinct today. Whatever its identity, the analogy was meant to draw Job to conclude that he was foolish to question his Creator when he paled in size and strength to the majestic leviathan that God had created (41:1-9).

Job was asked, if man cannot tame the “leviathan,” what right does he have to question or stand before God (41:10-33).  The leviathan “beholdeth [considers; sees] all high things [no man is his master]: He is a king over all the children of pride [he withdraws from none](41:34). Having considered the beauty and majesty of creation, and the great creatures over which God reigns supreme, “What is man?” 

Job 7:1717  What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?”

Job 15:1414  What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?”

Psalm 8:4 – “4  What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?”

Psalm 144:3 – “3  LORD, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him!”

Hebrews 2:6aWhat is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?”

What is man?

We are eternal souls, created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27; 2:7, 18-20). We are physically feeble, born sinners by nature (Romans 3:10, 23), and the curse of sin is upon us (Romans 6:23). In spite of our sins and failures, God loved us and demonstrated His love “in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

God, our Creator, is majestic in His glory, sovereign of creation, omnipotent, holy, just, and forgiving; He is willing to save all who come to Him by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), and accept His offer of salvation through Jesus Christ (John 3:16; 1 John 5:13).

Hebrews 2:9 – “9But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

You Have No Right to Question God! (Job 38-39)

Scripture reading – Job 38-39

Elihu had waxed eloquent in his observations that the God of creation is Sovereign, and Master of nature. He had urged Job to consider the majesty of God evinced in thunderstorms (Job 37:1-5), snow and ice (37:6-10), the winds, clouds, and rain (37:11-18). He challenged Job, “Stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God” (37:14), and disputed his audacity to question God’s providence in his life (37:15-22).

When Elihu finished speaking, the LORD appeared suddenly, and His voice was heard “out of the whirlwind [great storm]” and He questioned Job: “2Who is this that darkeneth [obscures] counsel [God’s plans or matters] by words without knowledge [discernment]? (38:2) The LORD’s thunderous voice asked Job, who are you to question my providences in your life? Stand up, justify your right to question Me (38:3)!

Job 38:4-41 – Job Had No Grounds to Contend with God.

A series of questions fills the balance of Job 38, and the implication of the questions and their answers is that Job had no right to question or argue with God. The questions proposed by the LORD were meant to convince Job that he was ignorant of God’s ways, and therefore had no right to query Him.

The LORD asked Job, where were you when I created the earth? (38:4-5). Where were you when I laid the foundations? (38:6) Where were you when I set the boundaries of the sea? (38:8-11) Where were you when I created light, and divided the day and the night? (38:12)

Job knew nothing of the depths, or the darkness of the sea (38:16). He did not know from where light originated, nor how far it had traveled (38:19-21). He could not explain the origin of snow or hail (38:22-23). He did not understand the wind currents, described in Job 38:25 as “a watercourse for the overflowing of waters.”

Four constellations of stars are mentioned (38:31-32), and Job was asked, “33Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? Canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?” Job, can you command the course of the stars? (38:33) Can you command the rain to fall (38:34), or control the lightnings? (38:35) Job, can you feed the lions, or provide food for the ravens? (38:36-41).

Job 39 – If Job Could Not Understand the Course of Nature, He Surely Could Not Understand the Providences of God.

The LORD proposed to Job a series of questions, proving His sovereign care of the animals of His creation. The first question, “1Knowest thou [Job] the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth [give birth]? Or canst thou mark when the hinds [deer] do calve [give birth]?” (39:1)

God knows the exact moment that wild goats give birth, and deer go into labor (39:1). He knows when their months of gestation are fulfilled (39:2), and when their offspring are old enough to “go forth, and return not” unto their parents (39:4).

The LORD asked, “5Who hath sent out the wild ass [donkey] free? Or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass?” (39:5) Think of it: God takes care of wild donkeys, providing them a home in the wilderness, and pasture in the mountains (39:6-8).

Job was asked regarding the unicorn (39:9-12). There has been much debate on the identity of the unicorn; however, it is certainly not the mythical creature of man’s imagination. Scholars identify the unicorn as a two-horned animal, perhaps a wild ox or an antelope. They are wild beasts, and cannot be tamed, or serve as domesticated beasts of burdens.

The LORD questioned Job if he had given the peacock or ostrich beautiful feathers (39:13). The description of the ostrich is notable, for she is an ignorant bird that buries her eggs in the earth (39:14), and “forgetteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them” (39:15). God declared that He had “deprived her [the ostrich] of wisdom, neither hath He imparted to her understanding” (39:17).

The horse, its beauty, and courage was proposed to Job, and the LORD asked, “19Hast thou given the horse strength? Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?” (39:19-25)

The hawk and the eagle were proposed to Job, and he was asked where they derived their instincts? “26Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom, And stretch her wings toward the south? 27Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, And make her nest on high?” (39:26-27)

What was the summation and purpose of the LORD interrogating Job?

It was to demonstrate that Job had no right to complain that he was treated unfairly, or to strive against God. The LORD is God, and He is sovereign of not only creation, but He is man’s absolute authority. Man has no right to question the ways of God!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith