Category Archives: Elderly

Part 1 – An Introduction to the Gospels of Luke and John: The Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ (Luke 1; John 1)

Daily reading assignment: Luke 1; John 1

As we begin our journey through the Gospels, I feel as though I am facing an impossible task: How to write a daily devotional that is brief enough to not be cumbersome, but enriching enough to be enjoyed. I invite you to consider the eternal truths God, in His sovereignty, has inspired and preserved through the words of the Gospel writers (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21). Today’s devotional commentary will focus on the Gospel of Luke.

Luke 1 – A Credible Account of History Received from Eyewitnesses

The apostle Paul identified Luke as, “Luke, the beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14). Luke’s secular occupation was that of a physician. Bible scholars believe he may have been a Gentile covert, and was no doubt an educated man. He was also a traveling companion of Paul on his missionary journeys (Acts 16:10). Luke’s writings reveal he was a man who had a passion for history, especially that of the person and life of Christ, and the history of the early Church. The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts were historical letters penned by Luke to a friend he identified as Theophilus, “friend of God” (Luke 1:1-3; Acts 1:1).

We can identify Luke as the author of the Gospel of Luke, knowing that his Gospel and the Book of Acts were written to the same man, “most excellent Theophilus” (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1). Luke introduced himself as a historian, one who was privileged to receive an accounting of the person and life of Christ from “eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word” (Luke 1:1-2). His purpose for writing his Gospel is stated to his friend Theophilus: “4That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed” (Luke 1:4).

Luke 1 introduces us to the miraculous birth of John the Baptist, the long-awaited forerunner of the Messiah (Luke 1:5-25).  From his conception, John was destined for greatness; however, it was not the greatness men thrust upon a child because of his lineage (his father Zacharias was a simple priest who lived in relative obscurity). No, John was prophesied to be “great in the sight of the LORD” (Luke 1:15), because he was called to be the messenger of the LORD and his life was dedicated to heralding the coming of Jesus Christ, the “Lamb of God” (John 1:36).

Luke 1:26-38 records the miraculous incarnation of Jesus Christ, conceived in the womb of the virgin named Mary of Nazareth, a child of the Holy Ghost, the only begotten Son of God (Luke 1:35).

Luke 1:39-56 is the record of the expecting Mary’s retreat from Nazareth, to the home of her elder cousin Elisabeth, whom Mary found to be great with child as the angel Gabriel had spoken (Luke 1:36).  The birth of John the Baptist, his divine mission, and his preparation in the desert conclude our study (Luke 1:57-80).

I close today’s devotional commentary with the prophetic words of Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, who being filled with the Holy Ghost blessed his son saying,

Luke 1:76 – “And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: For thou shalt go before the face of the Lord To prepare his ways.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Overcoming Your Critics! (Ezra 4-6; Psalm 137)

Scripture reading – Ezra 4-6; Psalm 137

Seventy years after Nebuchadnezzar had taken the first Jews captive to Babylon, God had moved on the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia, to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and restore the people to their land (Ezra 1:1-2).

Mount Moriah, the place where the Temple was being rebuilt, had been strewn with the rubble of Solomon’s Temple for nearly fifty years. That glorious place, once called the “house of the LORD” (Psalm 122:1) and served as a physical reminder of God’s presence among His chosen people; had become a testimony of God’s judgment against Israel for breaking covenant by disobeying God’s Laws and Commandments.

As we come to today’s Scripture reading (Ezra 4-6), we find the first remnant of Jews who had returned to Jerusalem, encountering both disappointment and discouragement. “The ancient men, that had seen the first [Temple],” perhaps remembering the glory of the previous Temple, “wept with a loud voice” (3:12). There were also enemies without who were determined to stop the effort to rebuild the Temple (4:1).

Reminding us only two of the Twelve Tribes of Israel had accepted King Cyrus’ proclamation that they were free to return to their homeland, we read, “the adversaries [enemies; foes] of Judah and Benjamin heard [took notice] that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel” (4:1).

Under the pretense of friendship, non-Israelite enemies who had been resettled in Israel by Assyria, came to Zerubbabel (perhaps identified in Ezra 1:8 by his Babylonian name, “Shesbazzar, the prince of Judah”) and said, “Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither” (4:2).

Evidencing godly wisdom and discernment, Zerubbabel and other leaders of Israel, answered, “Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us” (4:3).

Undeterred in their opposition, those same enemies continued their antagonism for sixteen long years (Ezra 4:7-23; Haggai 1:1) and “weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building” (4:4).

Ezra 4 reminds us that when God’s people are doing God’s work they will face opposition.  Israel’s enemies employed four methods of discouraging and hindering God’s work.

The first, they suggested Assimilation, an unholy alliance, a partnership that God would not have blessed (4:2-3). Zerubbabel recognized his enemies for who they were, “the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” (4:1)! In his letter to believers in Corinth, the apostle Paul stated the principle Zerubbabel employed: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)

Aggravation was a second means Israel’s enemies employed in opposing the work on the Temple. Ezra and the leaders of Israel were strong and confident when they first confronted their adversaries (4:3); however, as time passed, “the people of the land weakened [made them weak and feeble] the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled[terrified; paralyze with fear] them in building, 5And hired counsellors [advisers; consultants; conspirators] against them, to frustrate [to cause to cease; bring to an end] their purpose” (4:4-5).

The enemy discouraged Israel with Adjudication, challenging the legality and legitimacy of the work on the Temple (4:6-10).

Fourthly, Israel’s adversaries prepared Accusations: Deception, suggesting the Jews were “building the rebellious and bad city” (4:12); Distortion, attacking the character and integrity of God’s people (4:13); and Deceit, questioning their motives (4:15).

Dear friend, there will always be critics. Some people have a negative, critical outlook on life. They can become a constant source of discouragement and if you allow them, they will hinder your service and God’s work. There are many who are spectators, not participators; they are watchers, and not workers.

Take a moment and reread Ezra 3:12-13 and notice the ones who were weeping as they remembered the past, and those who were shouting for joy and living in the triumph of the moment.

It was the “ancient men” (3:12), the “priests and Levites and chief of the fathers,” who were looking back and weeping. Old friend, memories can be cherished and pleasing; however, they can also turn you into nothing more than an old critic.

I challenge you who are faithfully serving the LORD, Be Not Discouraged!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Tragedy: When We Forget the Kindness of Others (2 Kings 12-13; 2 Chronicles 24)

Scripture Reading – 2 Kings 12-13; 2 Chronicles 24

Our Scripture reading focuses on two parallel accounts of the life and times of Joash (i.e. Jehoash), the young king of Judah, who began to reign when he was seven years old, and Jehoiada who served as the chief priest in the Temple and was the spiritual mentor for the king until his death at 130 years old.

2 Kings 12

Jehoash ascended to the throne of Judah when he was seven years old (2 Kings 11:3-4, 12) and under the influence of the chief priest Jehoiada, the young king began a revival of worship in the Temple (12:2). The Temple had been neglected and fallen into disrepair during the reign Queen-mother Athaliah (2 Chronicles 24:7).

The king, therefore commanded that offerings be collected and dedicated to repairing the “house of the LORD” (12:4-6). When he realized the repairs were not being made as he had commanded (2 Chronicles 24:5), the king demanded a report on the state of the offerings (12:7-8) and ordered that the money given by the people would be secured and the repairs a priority (12:9-16; 2 Chronicles 24:8-13).

2 Kings 13 – Death of Elisha

There is an interesting dynamic recorded here between the great prophet Elisha and Joash, the king of Israel (13:14). Although we read that the king “did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD” (13:11), he nevertheless respected the old prophet and his ministry in Israel. King Joash came to Elisha’s death bed and “wept over” the venerable prophet saying, “O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof” (2 Chronicles 24:11).

Elisha left the king with one final prophecy, that Israel would defeat Syria in three battles (13:15-19); however, the nation would fail to completely destroy their adversary (13:19).

To complete today’s devotional, I invite you to turn your attention to 2 Chronicles 24 and the record of the death of the chief priest Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24:15-16), and the assassination of Jehoash (i.e. Joash) who reigned forty years over Judah (2 Chronicles 24:1, 24-25).

2 Chronicles 24 – The Death of the Priest Jehoiada and the Conspiracy to Kill King Joash

Jehoiada, the chief priest and mentor of King Joash (i.e. Jehoash), died at the age of 130 (24:15). Without his godly, aged mentor, the king was soon encouraged by younger leaders in Judah to tolerate idol worship in the kingdom (24:17-18).

Having turned to idols, Judah provoked the LORD’S wrath against the nation. Restraining His judgment for a season, the LORD mercifully sent prophets to call the people to repent (24:19). One of those faithful prophets was Zechariah, the son of the late chief priest Jehoiada (24:20), who had been the king’s spiritual mentor.

Zechariah confronted the sins of the nation and warned of the LORD’s judgment (24:19-22). Rather than heed the words of the prophet, the king conspired with the young leaders and killed the son of the man who had spared his life when he was an infant (2 Kings 11:3).

Zechariah was stoned to death, even as he warned the LORD would avenge his death (24:21-22). Fulfilling Zechariah’s dying prophecy, the stage was set for Jehoash to be wounded in battle against the King of Syria (24:23-25a). Recovering from his wounds suffered in battle, the king was slain by his servants (24:25b-26).

Having forgotten the kindness of Jehoiada the high priest, who had saved his life as an infant and made him king, Joash was complicit in the prophet Zechariah’s death, whom the people rose up and stoned.

A quote of the late evangelist Dr. Bob Jones Sr. comes to mind as I read, “Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son…” (2 Chronicles 24:22a).  Dr. Bob, as he was affectionately known by students of then, Bob Jones College, reminded the students, “When gratitude dies on the altar of a man’s heart, that man is well-nigh hopeless.”

Indeed, there was no hope for Joash when he turned from the LORD and “remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him” (24:22a).  How could a man whose life was spared by the selfless act of another, not only fail to remember his kindness, but be guilty of the cruel death of his son?

Bitterness! When Joash’s sin was exposed and confronted, rather than repent, the king became enraged! You and I can avoid the same folly if we will heed Ephesians 4:31-32.

Ephesians 4:31-32 – “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
32  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Fame, Infamy, and Finale of King Solomon (1 Kings 10-11; 2 Chronicles 9)

Scripture assignment – 1 Kings 10-11; 2 Chronicles 9

With the Temple built and his palace complete, Solomon’s fame became an international sensation (1 Kings 10). The king’s wisdom, wealth, the grandeur of his kingdom, and God’s blessings on his reign became known far and wide.

We read, “When the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions (i.e. riddles)” (10:1).

There are many fables and legends that surround the visit of the Queen of Sheba; however, we will consider the only reputable source that we have, the Word of God (1 Kings 10:1; 2 Chronicles 9:1; Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31).

The kingdom of Sheba is believed to have been in the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula in the area we know today as Yemen. The Queen of Sheba, having received news of Solomon’s remarkable wisdom and the wonders of his kingdom, set out on a journey from her kingdom in the south to Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel.  Rather than travel via ship on the Red Sea, the Scriptures indicate she came with a “very great train (caravan), with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones” (10:2a).

The purpose of the queen’s visit is summed up in, “she communed with him of all that was in her heart” (10:2b; 2 Chronicles 9:2).

Solomon answered all the questions she proposed to him (10:3). We read, “There was no more spirit in her” (10:5) when she gazed on the vast riches of his palace, enjoyed feasts at his table, admired the rich robes of his servants, and viewed from a distance the King’s ascent to the Temple. Breathless at the sight of all she observed, the Queen exclaimed, “the half was not told” (10:7; 2 Chronicles 9:3-6).

Consider the lavish wealth detailed in Solomon’s palace: The tributes paid to him by other nations, the shields of gold, his throne overlaid with ivory and gold (10:18-20; 2 Chronicles 9:17-19), vessels of gold (2 Chronicles 9:20), exotic animals, chariots and champion horses were all part of the king’s legacy (10:21-29; 2 Chronicles 9:21-28).

1 Kings 11 – Solomon’s Spiritual and Moral Failures

The magnificence of Solomon’s kingdom is overshadowed in 1 Kings 11 when we read, “Solomon loved many strange women” (11:1).  Having disregarded the LORD’s admonition concerning the danger of marrying foreign, idol worshiping women, Solomon’s “wives turned away his heart” (11:3).

The king’s sins provoked God’s wrath (11:9) until his family and the nation suffered for his apostasy (11:10-13). When God removed His blessings, the peace and prosperity of Israel failed as the nation faced enemies without (i.e. Pharaoh and Egypt – 11:14-25), and enemies within (i.e. Jeroboam, a “mighty man of valour” who Solomon recognized too late as a threat to his kingdom – 11:26-40).  Jeroboam fled to Egypt where he stayed until he received news that Solomon was dead and “Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead” (11:40-43; 2 Chronicles 9:29-31).

I close inviting you to consider the great and tragic end of Solomon’s reign.  Though the wisest man who ever lived, yet in his old age he disobeyed the LORD and “his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God” (11:4).  He “did evil in the sight of the LORD” (11:6).

Notice the statement, “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old” (1 Kings 11:4).

How old is “old?” Knowing he reigned forty years (11:42), I deduce Solomon was in his mid-fifties. In other words, he was old enough to know better! Old enough to understand the consequences of sin. Old enough to know his wicked choices would invariably affect his family and kingdom.

Solomon’s failure to have a “perfect heart with the LORD” (11:4) led him, his household, and the nation down a path that ended in God’s judgment. Oh that the king would have heeded his own proverbs:

Proverbs 3:5-75  Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. 7  Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Wise Pour Themselves into Those Who Will Eventually Succeed Them (2 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles 21-22; Psalm 30)

Scripture Reading – 2 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles 21-22; Psalm 30

Today’s Scripture reading brings us to the conclusion of our study in 2 Samuel and is a parallel of the same events recorded in 1 Chronicles 21-22. (The record in the chronicles gives us additional details.)

2 Samuel 24

We find David as an old man, and the shepherd boy of Bethlehem was only a memory. The king is now in the latter years of his life and reign as the king of Israel.

The opening verses of 2 Samuel 24 will no doubt challenge some to wonder why the LORD would be angry with Israel, move David to take a census of his army, and then turn about and be angry with David for doing so (24:1-10). Remember the LORD never tempts man to sin (James 1:13), but He does use the natural inclination of a man’s heart to providentially accomplish His will and purpose.

General Joab, the captain of David’s army, cautiously questioned the king’s motive, “Why doth my lord the king delight in this thing?” (24:3) Joab knew the king’s command for a census was an act of pride that might prove to be a provocation of God’s judgment.

As soon as the sum of the fighting men of Israel was delivered, David’s heart was convicted, and he confessed, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly” (24:10). God is just, and the consequences of David’s sin would not be dismissed by the LORD. We read, “the word of the LORD came unto the prophet Gad, David’s seer” (24:11).

Gad was given a message that demanded the king choose one of three judgments that would come upon Israel because of David’s sin: seven years of famine, three months pf being overrun and pursued by adversaries, or three days pestilence (24:12-13). David chose three days of pestilence, reasoning he would rather trust in God’s mercies than be pursued by an enemy (24:14).

2 Samuel 24:15 – “So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men.”

Seventy thousand were dead, but had the LORD not been restrained by His mercy, even Jerusalem would have suffered His wrath (24:16). David had prayed as the angel of the LORD approached Jerusalem and made intercession for his people praying, “Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father’s house” (24:17).

Bearing the weight of his guilt and realizing the consequences of his sin had befallen the nation, David interceded and asked for God’s judgment to fall upon him and his household rather than His people (24:17).

The prophet Gad returned with a message from the LORD instructing David to buy the “threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite (the Jebusites being the original inhabitants of Jerusalem)” and build an altar there (24:18). [Note – 1 Chronicles 21:18 names one “Ornan” as the owner of the threshingfloor; they are the same man.]

Seeing the king and hearing his desire to buy his threshingfloor, Araunah offered not only the land, but also his oxen and threshing instruments as a gift to David (24:20-23).

The king refused Araunah’s offer and confessed, “I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing” (24:24).

David purchased the threshing floor of Araunah, and sacrificed to the LORD the oxen he had purchased. According to 1 Chronicles 21:26, the LORD sent fire from heaven and consumed the oxen as a sign David’s offering was accepted and God’s wrath was satisfied (1 Chronicles 21:26).

You might wonder what became of the land David purchased. The threshingfloor of Araunah was the same place where Abraham had offered his son Isaac (Genesis 22). It would also be where Solomon will build the Temple (1 Chronicles 22:1; 2 Chronicles 3:1).

1 Chronicles 22

David, knowing the years of his life were drawing to a close, devoted himself to preparing workmen and materials that would be required for Solomon to build the Temple (1 Chronicles 22:1-19). David instructed Solomon and imparted to his son his duty to embrace God’s promises and build the Temple in Jerusalem (22:6-16).

Leaving no doubt who should be his heir and the next king, David “made Solomon his son king over Israel” (23:1) and set forward an organization of the priests and Levites who were to serve in the Temple (23:2-32; 24:1-31).

There are many lessons we can take from today’s study; however, I will leave you with one:

David had accepted that his earthly life would soon be passed, and not only  prepared his son to be king, but also charged Solomon with the privilege for which God had chosen him… “build an house for the LORD God of Israel” (1 Chronicles 22:6-11).

Psalm 90:10 – “The days of our years are threescore years and ten [70 years]; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years [80 years], yet is their strength [i.e. pride] labour [toil; grief; misery] and sorrow [mourning]; for it is soon [i.e. hurry; too soon] cut off [passed], and we fly away [i.e. our years take flight].”

Wise men and women pour their lives into those who will eventually succeed them!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

When the Wrath of God Falls Upon His Servants (1 Samuel 1-3)

Daily reading assignment: 1 Samuel 1-3

Our “Chronological Read-thru the Bible” schedule brings us to 1 Samuel.  The history, personalities, and principles found in 1 Samuel are too rich to summarize in brief devotional commentaries, but, that is my challenge.  Please do not rush your reading or overlook the treasure trove of spiritual truths found in 1 Samuel 1-3.

1 Samuel 1 – Several historic names come to the forefront in our introductory reading.

Elkanah (1:1), whose lineage was Levite through Kohath a son of Levi.  Elkanah had two wives (1:2): Peninnah, who had given him several sons and daughters, and his favored wife Hannah, who was barren (1:2-8).

Hannah was the object of abuse from Peninnah and she grieved her barrenness (1:7-8). Every year at the time of their pilgrimage to Shiloh where the Tabernacle was located, Hannah prayed with tears asking the LORD to give her a son, promising to dedicate him to the LORD and consecrate him as a Nazarite (1:9-11).

The LORD heard and answered Hannah’s prayers (1:19), and she gave birth to a son she named Samuel, meaning “heard of God” (1:20). I am sure there are mothers reading today’s scripture whose hearts resonate with Hannah’s when she prays:

1 Samuel 1:27-28 – “For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him: 28  Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD…”

1 Samuel 2 – From Joy to Tragedy

Hannah broke into a song of praise and thanksgiving (2:1-10) after dedicating Samuel to the LORD.  Scholars suggest he was three years old when she left him to serve in the Tabernacle at Shiloh, while she and Elkanah went home to Ramah.  There the LORD remembered Hannah’s sacrifice and honored her with “three sons and two daughters,” in addition to Samuel (2:21).

1 Samuel 2:12-17 takes on an ominous tone, and I wonder if Hannah did not struggle entrusting Samuel to Eli’s care. Eli, who was high priest and judge in Israel, had two sons serving as priests, Hophni and Phinehas. We read, they “were sons of Belial [lit. wickedness; worthless; ungodly]; they knew not the LORD” (2:12). Those sons were notoriously wicked and abused their priestly office, not only provoking the people who brought sacrifices (2:12-17), but inviting God’s judgment on their father and his lineage (2:22-36).

Old is No Excuse (2:22-36)

Don’t dismiss the mutual burden Eli shared with his sons and their wickedness as priests. Some might argue, “Eli was very old, and we should not be hard on the man” (2:22). Such was not the case in the LORD’S judgment.

Eli was aware of the sins committed by his sons (2:22-23) and his weak, emasculated rebuke of them was not only despicable, it was tragic (2:23-24). No wonder we read of his sons, they “hearkened not unto the voice of their father” (2:25). They had no fear of God and no respect for their father.

Here is a spiritual lesson leaders and board members of churches and institutions should heed before it is too late.

Eli compromised the priesthood by failing to rebuke and restrain his sons’ wickedness. Is that not the sin that is haunting ministries in our day? Might it be the spiritual decline of our churches, schools, and Bible colleges has its roots in the same failures we observe in Eli?

Warning: Spiritual leaders may be tempted to sacrifice the spiritual integrity of their institutions as an accommodation of their own children’s sins.

The LORD set Himself against Eli for his failure as a father and high priest.  He determined to slay Eli’s sons because Eli had honored his sons above the LORD (2:29). Eli was told his household would be disgraced (2:30) and his sons would die before they were old, and on the same day (2:32, 34).

1 Samuel 3“Speak, For Thy Servant Heareth” (3:10)

Never to leave His people in want, God was preparing Samuel to be His servant (2:26; 3:1a). Still in his youth, Samuel’s heart was tender, and when the LORD called him he was ready to hear and obey (3:1-10).

The first revelation to Samuel is distressing. God revealed His judgment on Eli and his sons would cause Israel to tremble (3:11).  Because he had known the wickedness committed by his sons in the priesthood and had failed to restrain them (3:12-13), Eli had been warned God’s judgment would not be satisfied until his lineage was cut off forever (3:14).

The next morning, Eli asked Samuel, “What is the thing that the LORD hath said unto thee?” (3:17) Samuel told him everything, and Eli resigned himself to God’s judgment, saying, “It is the LORD: let Him do what seemeth Him good” (3:18).

1 Samuel 3 concludes reminding us that God honors and rewards faithfulness to His Word (3:19-21).

1 Samuel 3:19 – “And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and did let none of His words [words and instructions of the LORD] fall to the ground [perish or be despised].”

The LORD was once again present in Shiloh, “for the LORD revealed Himself to Samuel” (3:21).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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