Category Archives: Elderly

Setting Boundaries and Finishing the Job (Joshua 12-15)

Daily reading assignment: Joshua 12-15

Joshua 12 – Taking Possession of the Promised Land

Joshua 11 closed with the statement, “And the land rested from war” (11:23). With the conquest of Canaan complete, the next task was to divide the land by tribe.  Joshua 12 gives us a record of the Canaanite kings Israel had defeated on the east side of the Jordan River (12:1-5). This was the land Moses had promised would be the inheritance of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh (12:6).

On the west side of the Jordan under Joshua’s leadership, we find a list of thirty-one kings conquered by Israel and named in order of their defeat beginning with Jericho (12:9-24).

Joshua 13 – Too Old to Go On

The first verse of chapter 13 reminds us that all men and women have their day, but the passing of years inevitably take its toll. We read,

Joshua 13:11  Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the LORD said unto him, Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.

Most likely one hundred years old or more, Joshua was reminded he still had a job to do (13:1). Five Philistine kings are named who had not yet been conquered (13:2-6).

The LORD commanded Joshua to divide the lands among the tribes and direct the tribes to drive out the inhabitants of the land God had given them for an inheritance (13:2-33).  We are reminded that the priestly tribe of Levi was given no inheritance because God promised He would provide for them through the sacrifices of His people (13:14, 33).

Joshua 14 – Caleb: Aged Man with a Burning Passion

Israel had waited over four centuries to claim the land God had promised Abraham for an inheritance. Trusting the division of the land to the providence of God, the tribes were assigned their geographical territories by lot  (Joshua 14:1-5).  Caleb, one of only two faithful spies (Joshua being the other) who believed the LORD had given the land to Israel forty-five years earlier, petitioned Joshua to remember he had been promised a specific inheritance in the land (14:6-9).

What an inspiration Caleb is to all who face the inevitable reality of old age, but can be passionate in their faith.

Though 85 years old, God had preserved his strength, and the fire of a young warrior still burned in his soul (14:10-13).  Caleb declared, “Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day” (14:12)!

Joshua 15 – The sum and boundaries of the Promised Land.

Joshua 15 identifies the boundaries of the Promised Land, as well as the great narrative of Caleb’s conquest of his inheritance (15:13-19). The eighty-five-year-old claimed his land, but only after driving out enemies identified as giants (Numbers 13:28, 33).  We are also reminded that this giant of the faith was also a mortal man. Caleb promised the man who would assist him in battle would win the hand of his daughter in marriage (15:16-20).

Two prominent failures are exposed in today’s scripture reading.

Jealous for the affection of the people He had chosen, and concerned for their sanctification (separation, dedication, and holiness), the LORD had commanded Israel to drive the heathen nations out of the land.

Two examples of Israel’s failures are identified. The first failure revealed that “the children of Israel expelled not the Geshurites, nor the Maachathites”  (Joshua 13:13).  The second failure of the same is stated in Joshua 15:63,  “As for the Jebusites the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out.” Israel’s failure to obey the LORD would one day have grave consequences for the nation.

Ponder Caleb’s inspiring example as we close today’s devotional commentary.

Six times the scriptures state that Caleb “wholly followed the Lord” (Numbers 14:24; 32:12; Deuteronomy 1:36; Joshua 14:8-9, 14). Born a slave in Egypt, he was obedient. He had faith in the LORD when all others fainted. When he was eighty-five years old, not even the passing of years had quenched his desire to claim God’s promise!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Gender Roles and Spiritual Synergy (Numbers 35-36)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 35-36

Twelve tribes have been assigned their portion in the Promised Land (34:16-29); however, the priestly tribe of Levi was not assigned an inheritance in the land.  Instead, forty-eight cities in the midst of the lands apportioned to the other tribes were allotted to the Levites (35:1-5).

Of the forty-eight cities assigned, six were to serve as cities of refuge to which a man accused of slaying another might flee to seek justice (35:6-34).

The Book of Numbers ends on an interesting note as a concern arises regarding the matter of inheritance when a man would die and have no son to be his heir.

Though often maligned by secularists and assailed by militant women, the Scriptures prove in Numbers 36 the LORD’s sensitivity to justice and fairness in a family, and in this instance, two unmarried daughters whose father had no son to be his heir (36:1-4).

There was concern what would become of tribal lands when a man had no son. It was argued the lands assigned to a tribe would be lost should a man’s daughters marry outside their tribal bloodlines. The dilemma was solved by requiring daughters who were heirs to marry within the tribe of their father (36:5-9), thereby keeping the land within the tribe.

Numbers 36 concludes with the “daughters of Zelophehad” being assured of their inheritance in the land and their submitting to the LORD’s will that they marry men within their tribal bloodline, securing the inheritance for future generations of their tribe (36:10-13). The context of the matter of a man’s heirs and the rights of his daughters began in Numbers 27 and concludes in Numbers 36

The decision that a daughter had a right of inheritance in the absence of a son was a radical one for ancient times since women were viewed as less than men in matters of culture and inheritance.

As late as the 20th and early 21st century, the majority of women lived in oppressive conditions in the world; however, such was not to be the case among God’s people.

Lesson – The church and believers must recognize that, though gender roles differ, there is to be a spiritual synergy between male and female, husband and wife.

When a man accepts that woman was created, not as his servant, but as his helpmeet (suitable helper), and companion (Genesis 2:18; Ephesians 5:25) and the woman recognizes her role is fulfilled in following her husband’s lead (Genesis 3:16; Ephesians 5:23-24), there is harmony, respect, and peace in the home and the church (Ephesians 5:31-33).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Standing Between the Living and the Dead” (Numbers 16-17)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 16-17

Korah and his followers, convinced they were equals to Moses, challenged his spiritual authority in their lives. 

Moses warned the young men, “Ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi…seek ye the priesthood also?” (Numbers 16:7, 10).

Undaunted by the question, Moses invited Korah and his company of rebels to take up fire in censers and on the next day approach the LORD to see whom He would choose (16:5-7, 16-18).

Indulging the young men, we read, “Korah gathered all the congregation against” Moses and Aaron (16:19a). Why? How did the people come to turn against Moses and follow their youth?

I suggest proud parents and grandparents saw in their young men the beauty and strength of youth. They foolishly listened as those young men dared to accuse Moses of failing the nation (16:13-14). The next day, those young men and their families stood outside the doors of their dwellings, and the “glory of the LORD appeared” (16:19, 27).

The LORD stated His intention to bring judgment upon the whole congregation; however, Moses, standing with the elders of the tribes against the young men, interceded with the LORD to not “be wroth with all the congregation” (16:22).

Seeing the LORD’s glory, the people withdrew from the rebels (16:25-27), and Moses declared a test:

Should the young men die a common, natural death (perhaps in their old age), then the people would know, “the LORD hath not sent me [Moses]” (16:29).  However, should the earth open up and swallow the rebels, the people would know they had provoked the LORD to wrath (16:30).

Displaying the His wrath and affirming the leadership of Moses and Aaron, we read, “the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up, and their [families]” (16:31-33). As the congregation fled God’s judgment, the LORD sent a fire and “consumed the two hundred and fifty men” who had followed Korah (16:35).

Incredibly, the next day the people, grieving the deaths of their young men, gathered against Moses and Aaron, and accused them of being the cause for their deaths (16:41-42).

Once again, “the glory of the LORD appeared,” and He sent a plague in the congregation that consumed them until Moses interceded and Aaron ran through the midst of the congregation with a censer of burning incense seeking to placate the wrath of God (16:44-49).

In Numbers 17, the LORD determined to leave no doubt the priesthood would descend from Aaron’s lineage and no other, in a simple, but visible sign.  The LORD commanded Moses to instruct the heads of each tribe to bring a wooden rod, a symbol of authority, to the tabernacle with the names of the elders of the tribes inscribed on them (17:2). Aaron’s name was inscribed on the rod for the tribe of Levi (17:3).  A visible testimony of God’s favor was the rod of the man whom God had chosen would blossom (17:5-7).

On the next day, of the thirteen rods that represented the twelve tribes and the tribe of Levi, only the rod of Aaron miraculously budded and “bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds” (17:8-9).  Moses displayed Aaron’s rod to the children of Israel as a sign his lineage alone was chosen to lead the priesthood (17:10-13).

There are many lessons and cautions we might derive from Numbers 16.  One is, while this passage is instructive, it does not suggest the LORD will swiftly judge critics of His ministers.  I have known too many pastors who aspire to pedestals and presume to be above accountability.

The same might be said of some in the church who are all too ready to level veiled criticisms at spiritual leaders and not give them the respect due their office.  If your minister is called by the LORD, examined, confirmed by an ordaining assembly, and chosen by a body of believers whom he faithfully serves…his office and role is to be respected.

Pastors are far from perfect, and some engaged in ministry lack the Biblical qualifications of the pastor\shepherd (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9); however, those ministers who are qualified and faithful should be honored for their sacrifices and endeavors.

As purveyors of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, pastors stand “between the dead and the living” (16:48).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The Character of a Holy People” (Leviticus 19-21)

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 19-21

* This is the first of two devotionals for today’s scripture reading.

Leviticus 19 introduces a detail review of the commandments of the LORD beginning with the sum of all the commandments: Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2).

From that command flows a series of laws that define the essence of what it means to be a holy, sanctified, people. For brevity, I will offer a summary of three series of commandments (19:9-37).

Leviticus 19:9-18 – Moral Guidelines Concerning One’s Neighbor

A holy people will:

19:3 – Fear and revere father and mother and keep the Sabbath holy.

19:4 – Not worship idols

19:9-10 – Be compassionate to the poor

19:13 – Pay day laborers their earned wages at the close of a work day

19:14 – Show kindness to the disadvantaged (deaf and blind)

19:15 – Be impartial in judgment

19:16-17 – Not gossip, slander, or hate another

19:18 – “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Leviticus 19:19-32 – Natural Laws

A holy people will:

19:20-22 – Not disgrace a slave

19:29 – Shelter and protect a daughter’s virtue

19:32 – Stand in reverence and honor the elderly

Leviticus 19:33-37 – Judicial Matters

A holy people will:

19:33-34 – Be compassionate and loving to a stranger and a foreigner

19:35-36 – Be fair and just in business and commercial matters

God’s command for His people to be holy is practical, instructive, and clearly stated. 

21st century believers would do well to recognize the LORD’S command for His people to be holy touches every area of life…marriage, family, neighbor, employee\employer, even business principles of just and fairness.

How do you measure up to God’s holy standard?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Silver-haired” Saints and “Silver-tongued” Youth (Exodus 7-9)

Daily reading assignment: Exodus 7-9

Of Pharaoh we read, But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and stubborn and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said” (Exodus 7:13).

The stage is set for ten judgments identified as ten plagues sent by the Lord, the God of Israel, to gradually move the heart of Pharaoh to bow his stubborn will to the will of the LORD (7:14-12:36).

Today’s scripture reading identifies seven of the ten plagues that befell Pharaoh and Egypt in quick succession. The first three of the ten plagues envelopes the whole land of Egypt, affecting even the land of Goshen where the Hebrews lived (7:19-8:19).  Starting with the fourth plague, the LORD “severs” the land of Goshen and spares His people from its sorrows.

Avoiding a long discourse, allow me to simply list the seven plagues that Pharaoh and Egypt suffered, remembering with each the king failed to humble his heart and set the Hebrews free.

1) Nile – water turned to blood; fish die (7:19-25)

2) Frogs and the stench of their dead carcasses (8:1-15)

3) Lice – most likely gnats or other biting insects (8:16-19)

4) Flies – Egypt is said to have biting “dog flies”; Israel is spared. (8:20-32)

5) A pestilence taking the lives of the Egyptian’s livestock (9:1-7)

6) Boils and blisters on man and beast in Egypt (9:8-12)

7) Hail and lightning destroying flax and barley crops in the fields (9:13-35)

Rather than closing today’s text with our focus on the hardened heart of Pharaoh; allow me to invite you to consider the character of Moses and his brother Aaron who stood in the LORD’s place before the king and delivered warnings of the plagues that would follow.  We read concerning Moses and Aaron:

Exodus 7:6-76 And Moses and Aaron did as the LORD commanded them, so did they. 7 And Moses was fourscore years old [80 years old], and Aaron fourscore and three years old [83 years old], when they spake unto Pharaoh.

Eighty years old and serving the LORD!  What an inspiration these men are; not because they were octogenarians (in their eighties), but because they were still doing everything “as the LORD commanded them” (7:6-7)!

Is there a lesson we should take from this?

Absolutely! The sum of a spiritual leader is not his academic credentials, but whether or not he has a heart for the LORD, is skilled in His Word, humble enough for God to use, and bold enough to unapologetically declare the Word of the LORD.

I fear many churches dismiss “silver-haired” saints in favor of “silver-tongued” youth.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Be sure your sin will find you out! (Genesis 27-29)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 27-29

“Esau the Carnal; Jacob the Conniver” (Genesis 27)

The strife between Jacob and Esau continues in our study of Genesis with Jacob and his mother scheming to steal his brother’s birthright (Genesis 27).  Benefiting from his father’s blindness, Jacob posed as Esau and successfully stole his brother’s birthright (27:18-29).

Learning his birthright was mistakenly given to Jacob, Esau vowed vengeance and determined to murder him (27:41).  Before Esau was able to make good on this threat, Rebekah interceded with Isaac and requested that Jacob be sent away to seek safety and find a wife among her people (27:42-46).

Jacob’s flight from home is recorded in Genesis 28.  Cut off from his parents, family, and land (28:1-5);  Jacob is at the end of himself.  In his flight to Haran, the ancestral home of Abraham (11:31; 28:10), the LORD appeared to Jacob in a dream and assured him he was heir to the covenant promises God made to his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac (28:11-15).

Traveling east, Jacob came to Haran, and there he met Rachel, the beautiful young woman who would become his wife (29:9-12).  [As a side note, Rachel was Jacob’s cousin and their marriage in our day would be genetically ill advised; however, nearly 4,000 years ago the bloodlines of humanity were free from many of the genetic disorders that plague our day].

Falling in love with Rachel, Jacob soon realized he had met his match in her father Laban who was a notorious schemer in his own right!  Laban required Jacob labor seven years for the right to take Rachel as his wife (29:15-20).  In a beautiful poetic portrait of love, Jacob agreed to the father’s terms and we read the seven years he labored for Rachel’s hand “seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her” (29:20).

The seven years being ended, Jacob demanded his right to marry Rachel (29:21), but was beguiled by Laban into marrying her elder sister Leah (29:17).  Veiled as a bride, Jacob discovered the morning after his wedding that he had been deceived and had married Leah and not his beloved Rachel (29:24-25).  Demanding his right to marry Rachel, Laban forced Jacob to agree to another seven years of labor for her hand (29:26-30).

A passing phrase in this story forewarns us to the troubles that will follow Jacob’s household in the years ahead: Jacob “loved also Rachel more than Leah” (29:30).

An old idiom reads, “Chickens come home to roost!”  As it is the nature of chickens to roost in their coop each night, it is also true that sinful choices invariably catch up with us all.

Although he was hundreds of miles from home, Jacob fell victim to his father-in-law’s schemes and was reminded of the consequences of his own scheming ways;  Be sure your sins will find you out!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Remember the Good Old Days? – part 1 (Job 29-31)

Today’s devotional reading assignment is Job 29-31.

Do you remember the “Good Old Days”?   You know, the days when you were young, strong, carefree, deluded and naïve?  Remember what life was like before you learned how much life could hurt?

In today’s scripture reading (Job 29-31), Job continues his defense against his “friends” insinuations that his sorrows and losses are indicative of unconfessed sins. Job began his defense in chapter 27 and continues his sad monologue through chapters 29, 30 and 31. (Note – I will address the length of today’s Bible reading assignment in two devotional thoughts).

Preacher and author Warren Wiersbe writes of Job’s defense:

He “climaxed his speech with sixteen ‘if I have…’ statements and put himself under oath, challenging God either to condemn him or vindicate him. It was as though Job were saying, “We’ve talked long enough! I really don’t care what you three men think, because God is my Judge; and I rest my case with Him. Now, let Him settle the matter one way or another, once and for all.”  [The Bible Exposition Commentary – Wisdom and Poetry].

Like many who grow frail in age or because of trials, Job began to reflect on “the good old days”.  He recalled the blessings and joys he had taken for granted before trials and troubles robbed him of his family, possessions and health. He remembered his youth and how God had favored him (29:2-4a).   He considered the fellowship he had with God and the joy his children brought to his life (29:4b-5).

He looked back on the standing he once had in life; how young men retired from his presence, old men stood to honor him (29:5-8), and nobles weighed his counsel with gravity (29:9-11, 20-25).  He cherished the opportunities he had to bless those less fortunate (29:12-16).

Job 30 marks a decided turn from cherished reflections of his past to the horrid reality of his present circumstances.  Though his character had remained unaltered, he had lost everything that once defined his outward man.   Job confronted the choice we might all face… live in the past and entertain bitterness or honestly and humbly assess his present condition.

Job’s life had become the fodder of fools. He encountered derision from men who once honored him (30:1-15).  He had been charitable to many, but now faced his own poverty (30:16-25).  In need of pity and compassion (30:26-31), sorrows threatened to drowned Job’s soul in tears (30:27-29). He was well-nigh hopeless.

Hopelessness is an intolerable place; for when hope is lost, all seems lost.

Paul challenged believers in Rome, be “fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope” (Romans 12:11-12a).  To believers in Corinth, Paul wrote, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20  But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept”  (1 Corinthians 15:19-20).

Believer, never lose hope!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith