Category Archives: Elderly

Sometimes Saying, “I’m sorry,” is Not Enough! (Exodus 21-22)

Scripture reading: Exodus 21-22

Moving forward with the Ten Commandments as the basis of God’s Law for Israel, believers should identify the Commandments, and the precepts that follow in today’s Scripture reading, as the foundation of democratic law, and our sense of justice and fairness.

Exodus 21 – Precepts for Slavery, Manslaughter, Rebellion, and Injury

In ancient times, there was the practice of slavery, and indentured servitude (21:1-11). Some might object to the inclusion of this institution in the Bible; however, it was a common, and accepted practice and the LORD instituted principles that were prudent, forbidding the injustices that have been a shameful practice of slavery down through the centuries.

For example, a Hebrew man reduced to slavery, was only to serve seven years; after the seventh year was accomplished, he would be freed from his indebtedness (21:1-2). Should a man become a slave, and was married at that time he was enslaved, he, his wife, and children would be freed after the seventh year.

Should a man marry during his servitude, only he would be set at liberty after the seventh year (21:3-4). Though freed from obligation, should he love his wife, children, and master, and not want to depart alone, a Hebrew was permitted to choose to continue voluntarily as a slave (21:5). Such a man would have his ear bored through (21:6), and would serve either till the death of his master, or be set free with his family in the year of jubilee (every 50 years).

Parents who found themselves in poverty, and lacked the means to provide for a daughter, might sell her as a young maiden (21:7), hoping the man who purchased her might take her as his wife when she was of age. Should the man or his son refuse to marry her, they were under obligation to provide food, and clothing for her (21:8-11).

The sixth commandment stated, “Thou shalt not kill” (20:13); however, the law recognized a difference between murder and manslaughter (taking a life without intent, 21:12-14).

The fifth commandment demanded, “Honour thy father and thy mother” (20:12). Cursing one’s parents was a capital offense and death was mandated (21:17).

In the matter of accidental injuries that did not result in death, but left the victim unable to provide for himself or his family, the innocent victim was to be fairly, and properly compensated (21:18-32). The law demanded, “24Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (21:24). Losses that were caused by one’s negligence, were to be compensated (21:28-36).

Exodus 22 – Theft, and endangerment of one’s likelihood, were not tolerated.

In an agricultural society where a man’s livelihood, and his family’s well-being, were dependent on farming and husbandry, the theft of ox, or sheep was a serious offense (22:1-4), as was the damage to a man’s crops (22:5-6). Personal responsibility and liability were important issues among God’s people, and fair compensation for losses, whether by theft or neglect, was mandated (22:7-15).

Exodus 22:14-15 stated the obligation a borrower assumed when borrowing another man’s property.  For the sake of illustration, if a farmer borrowed another man’s ox to plow his field, and the ox was injured or died, the borrower was under obligation to “make it good” (22:14); in other words, repay or replace the ox.  The exception was when the owner of the ox was plowing another man’s field “for his hire” (22:15).

Exodus 22 concludes with various laws that address moral and societal issues (22:16-23:19), including rape (22:16-17), witchcraft (22:18), bestiality (22:19), and idolatry (22:20).  The matter of borrowing, and indebtedness were addressed, and charging excessive interest that imposed an unnecessary hardship on the poor was condemned (22:25-27).

The Law, and its application to daily life, demanded honesty and integrity.

A borrower was under obligation to make right any damage, and loss. We need to restore this principle of justice, and fairness. If we want our children to have integrity, then we need to teach them to be responsible, and make another whole when their actions have cause loss or injury.

Lesson – Saying, “I’m sorry,” is just not enough!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“God Meant it Unto Good” (Genesis 50)

Scripture reading – Genesis 50

“[When] Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people” (49:33).

Named Jacob when he was born, he fulfilled the definition of that name in the early years of his life, for he had been a trickster and deceiver. His life, however, was changed at a brook named Peniel (32:27-30), and God changed his name to Israel. Transformed into a man of faith, he became a man upon whom the power of God rested.

He had borne the weight of great sorrows, but he died surrounded by his family, and was comforted in the embrace of his son Joseph, the second ruler of Egypt (50:1). Embalmed in the manner of Egypt, even “the Egyptians mourned for [Jacob] threescore and ten days” (50:3). Joseph requested, and received, Pharaoh’s blessing for his father’s body to be taken up to Canaan and buried in the ancestral tomb of his father Isaac, and his grandfather Abraham (50:4-6).

Imagine the funeral procession that came out of Egypt, and made its way to Jacob’s tomb (50:7-13). His body, borne in an Egyptian coffin, was escorted by “all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, 8And all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father’s house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen (50:7-8).

The Canaanite people of the region observed the royal procession of mourners, and named the place Abel-mizraim, meaning a “mourning or meadow of Egypt” (50:11). Arriving at the tomb, the sons of Jacob buried their father (50:12-13), and then returned to Egypt (50:14). Understanding the evil they had committed against Joseph, his brothers feared in their father’s absence, he might exact revenge for their wrongs against him (50:15-17).  Instead of revenge, however, “Joseph wept” (50:17b).

Though abused and rejected in his youth, Joseph had looked past the trials with eyes of faith, and rested in the providence of God. He comforted his brothers, and said, “Fear not: for am I in the place of God? 20But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (50:19-20). He went on to assure them, “fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them” (50:21).

Sold as a slave when he was seventeen, Joseph lived the rest of his life in Egypt. Though a ruler in Egypt, his heart longed for the land God had promised, and in death he assured his brethren: “God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (50:24). Joseph, repeated the promise, and requested, “ye shall carry up my bones from hence” (50:25). “So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt” (50:26).

A Concluding Thought: I close this commentary, thanking you for accompanying me on this journey through the Scriptures.

Beginning with, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), and closing with Joseph’s death and the request that his bones be taken up and buried in Canaan (50:25-26), we have witnessed God’s sovereignty and loving devotion to those who turn from sin to Him. Joseph confessed to his brothers, “ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (50:20).

It was God who worked to save Jacob, his sons, and the Tribes of Israel that He might fulfill His Covenant Promise to Abraham, that “in [him] shall all families of the earth be blessed,” (a promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ who died for the sins of the world, 12:3; John 3:16). It is God who desires all men would be saved, and “is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

God is working, and He invites you to “confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus,” and “believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9).

You are invited to share your decision of faith, or your thoughts with this author by emailing: HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Jacob’s Last Will and Testament (Genesis 48-49)

Scripture reading – Genesis 48-49

His father’s strength had been waning, and when Joseph received news his father was sick, he hastened with his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to Jacob’s bedside (48:1). Learning Joseph was approaching, Jacob (Israel) “strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed” (48:2). Joseph is about 56 years old when he comes with his sons to his father’s bedside.

Raising himself up from his bed, Jacob began to remind Joseph of the covenant promises God had imparted to him in Canaan, and said: “Behold, I [God Almighty] will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession” (48:4). [The third of the covenant promises, that of being a blessing to all people, will be related to Judah of whom Jesus Christ would be born, 49:8-12; 12:3.]

Jacob’s thoughts then turned to pronouncing God’s providential inclusion of Joseph’s sons among his own (48:5-6). Ephraim, the younger, and Manasseh the older, were foretold to be equal to Jacob’s sons, and would therefore inherit a portion of the birthright blessings in the place of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi who forfeited their portion through sinful choices (48:5b; 1 Chronicles 5:1; Numbers 26:28-37; 1 Chronicles 7:14-29; Hebrews 11:21). Reuben had morally sinned against his father (35:22), and Simeon and Levi had brought shame upon the family by their anger and violence (34:25-31). Though these sons were loved by their father, their sins had been so egregious that they were rejected from their full blessing.

Joseph put forward Manasseh, his oldest son; however, Jacob took Ephraim in his right hand, and insisted that the blessing of the firstborn would fall on him (48:8-19). Though he would die in Egypt, Jacob foretold that Joseph and his sons’ inheritance would not be in Egypt, but in Canaan (48:21). Thus, Joseph’s faithfulness to the LORD, and his care of his father and family were rewarded, and he would receive through his sons a double portion of the inheritance (48:22).

 

Genesis 49 – A Parting Blessing

Jacob’s final words to his sons, and his prophetic insight into the future of their lineages, are recorded in Genesis 49. The words of that dying man were both a blessing and sobering (49:3-15).

The Six Sons of Leah (49:3-15)

Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, was a strong leader; however, the shame of his lying with his father’s concubine shadowed his life (49:3-4). Simeon and Levi, the second and third born sons, were reminded of their angry, vindictive spirits, and their lineages would be scattered among the tribes in the Promised Land. The tribe of Levi would be priests to the LORD (49:5-7). Judah, the fourth born son, would become a royal lineage, of whom David and Jesus Christ would be born (49:8-12). Zebulun’s lineage, the tenth born son of Jacob, would settle along the Mediterranean coast (49:13). Issachar, the ninth son, would become an agricultural people (49:14-15).

The Sons of Bilhah (49:16-18; 21)

Bilhah, one of Jacob’s concubines, gave birth to two sons of Jacob. Dan, the fifth born son, his name means “Judge,” and his lineage would be a judge of the tribes (49:16-18). Naphtali, Jacob’s sixth son, would father a lineage said to be like a “hind let loose,” a swift female deer, and gifted in words (49:21).

The Sons of Zilpah (49:19-20)

Gad, son of Bilhah, was Jacob’s seventh son, and his lineage would be known as great warriors (Joshua 22:1-6; 1 Chronicles 12:8). Asher, the eighth born, would become a rich tribe, and supply the other tribes with “bread…[and] royal dainties” (49:20).

The Sons of Rachel (49:22-27)

Rachel, Jacob’s first love, was the mother of Joseph, the eleventh son (49:22-26), and Benjamin, his twelfth son (49:27).

Jacob described Joseph as an overcomer who, though suffering the arrows of accusations from his brothers, had become a “fruitful bough” (49:22-23).  God had elevated him, and he had become the shepherd of his family, and the “stone (or rock) of Israel” (49:24). Though separated from his father and brothers, Jacob promised God would bless Joseph “with blessings of heaven above” (49:25-26).

Benjamin, Jacob’s twelfth son, was described as ravenous as a wolf (49:27). His tribe would be fearless warriors (Judges 20:15-25), and numbered among his lineage would be Saul, the first king of Israel, and the apostle Paul (Romans 11:1; Philippians 3:5). Benjamin’s tribe, along with the tribe of Judah, would be faithful to the LORD.

Jacob’s Death (49:28-33)

Jacob’s dying breaths repeated his request to be buried in Canaan, and in the ancestral tomb where Isaac and Abraham were entombed. “When Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people” (49:33).

Jacob’s death marked the end of an era, but not the end of our study. He would be given the burial honors of a ruler in death, and Joseph’s brothers feared he would exact revenge for the evils they had committed against him.

Our next devotional will reveal how the drama between Joseph and his brothers will end.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Promises Made; Promises Kept (Genesis 47 – Part 2)

Scripture reading – Genesis 46-47

Genesis 47:1-10 – Pharaoh’s Provision, and His Meeting with Jacob

With his family established in Goshen, a place known for its lush grazing land, Joseph chose five of his brothers, “and presented them unto Pharaoh” (47:2). As he had expected, Pharaoh questioned the men concerning their occupation, and they answered, saying, “Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and also our fathers” (47:3).

Jacob’s sons made it clear that their business in Egypt was temporal, for they were there “to sojourn in the land…for thy servants have no pasture for their flocks; for the famine is sore in the land of Canaan” (47:4a). Showing themselves men of humility, they asked, “let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen” (47:4b).

When his interview with Joseph’s brothers concluded, Pharaoh granted Joseph and his father Jacob a private audience (an indication of Pharaoh’s respect for Joseph). Pharaoh questioned Jacob, and asked, “How old art thou?” (47:8).

Jacob answered the king’s inquiry, giving not only his age, but his testimony: “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage” (47:9).

One hundred thirty years was a long life; however, not nearly as long as his grandfather Abraham, who lived to be one hundred seventy-five, or his father Isaac who lived to one hundred eighty years old (47:9). When his meeting concluded, Jacob parted with a blessing before he “went out from before Pharaoh” (47:10). The form of that blessing is not known; however, I believe it was a verbal one, and perhaps a prayer of praise and thanksgiving for Pharaoh’s kindness.

Genesis 47:11-12 – Joseph’s Loving Care for His Family

Exercising the privilege of his office, Joseph insured his family would enjoy “the best of the land…as Pharaoh had commanded” (47:11). While all Egypt suffered famine, he “nourished his father, and his brethren, and all his father’s household, with bread, according to their families” (47:12).

Genesis 47:13-26 – Famine Enslaved the Egyptians to Pharaoh

The famine continued seven years, and inevitably caused the people to become impoverished. With no crops to harvest, the people spent all their money to purchase grain (47:13-15). When the famine continued, the Egyptians were forced to part with their livestock, and sold their cattle to Pharaoh (47:16-17). When the second year of famine was finished, the people came to Joseph, offered their lands, and finally themselves as Pharaoh’s servants (47:18-20, 23-26b).

There were two exceptions to the ravages of famine. The priests, a politically powerful presence in Egypt, were given grain by Pharaoh, and exempted from selling their lands (47:22, 26b). The second was Joseph’s family, his father, brothers, and their households, “had possessions therein, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly” (47:27).

Genesis 47:28-31 – Israel’s Longing for Home

God blessed Jacob, and he enjoyed the company of his son Joseph another seventeen years after moving to Egypt (47:28). When he was an hundred forty and seven years old, and knowing his death was imminent, Jacob summoned Joseph to his beside. The private conversation that passed between them is recorded. Though he was Joseph’s senior in age, Israel’s (Jacob) manner deferred to his son’s office, and he made his parting request.

Genesis 47:29b–31 – “If now I have found grace in thy sight, put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt:
30But I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their buryingplace. And he [Joseph] said, I will do as thou hast said.
31And he [Jacob] said, Swear unto me. And he [Joseph] sware unto him. And Israel bowed himself upon the bed’s head.

Joseph would honor his father’s request, and vowed he would return Jacob’s body to Canaan where he would be buried with his father Isaac, and his grandfather Abraham. (47:31).

Genesis 48 records Jacob’s parting words, and his caution and counsel to his sons and their families. I am reminded that wise men and women plan for death, and the inevitability of God’s judgment.

James 4:14 14Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

How about you, are you ready? “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Not So Happy Family (Genesis 27-28)

Scripture reading – Genesis 27-28

When we concluded our study of Genesis 26, we found Isaac, his wife Rebekah, and his family living in Gerar, a Philistine area of Canaan, that he named Beersheba (26:32-33). Knowing he was 60 years old when Rebekah conceived twin sons, we can assume Isaac was one hundred years old at this time, for his sons were forty years old. Esau the older son, had committed bigamy, by taking two Hittite women to be his wives (26:34). Those heathen wives were from a lineage of idolaters, and “were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah” (26:35).

Genesis 27 – “Esau the Carnal, and Jacob the Conniver”

Time marches on for all, and Genesis 27 opens with a sad statement: Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see” (27:1a). Nearly blind, perhaps due to cataracts from the effect of the desert sun and sand, he had determined it was time to put his household in order, and prepare for his death. Calling for his oldest son, Esau came to his father and said, “Behold, here am I” (27:1b).

Isaac engaged Esau to take his bow, and go out “to the field, and take some venison” (27:3), stating his purpose was to eat, and then bless Esau before he died (27:4). Now, the father’s blessing in ancient times carried a far greater meaning, than it does today. The blessing was essentially a statement of the father’s “Will and Testament,” the passing of the torch of leadership, and the dispensing of his possessions.

Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, had overheard Isaac’s instructions to Esau, and she realized her husband’s plans were contrary to God’s will (25:23). Rather than trust the LORD to providentially work His will according to the divine promise that Jacob, the second born son was his chosen heir (25:23), Rebekah determined to deceive her husband (27:6-10). She readied Jacob to masquerade as his brother Esau (27:11-17), and prepared a meal for him to present to his father. Isaac, although he had his doubts, nevertheless gave his blessing to Jacob, and not his oldest son (27:18-29).

When Esau returned from the hunt, and came before his father (27:30-32), Isaac physically trembled when he realized he had been deceived (27:33). Esau, overcome with grief, bewailed the loss of his father’s blessing (27:34).

The consequences of Jacob’s scheming had infuriated Esau. Jacob had not only taken his birthright (i.e. the spiritual priesthood of the family which Esau had despised and sold for a bowl of soup, 25:33-34), but now his inheritance. Learning of Esau’s threat to kill Jacob (27:41), his mother appealed to Isaac, and requested that Jacob be sent away to her family in Haran, not only for his safety, but also to find a wife among her people (27:42-46).

Genesis 28 – On the Run, and Alone: When God Speaks—Listen!

Knowing the blessing he had bestowed upon Jacob was irrevocable, Isaac confirmed God’s covenant blessing on his youngest son, and commanded him to flee to “Padan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother” (28:2).

Jacob’s flight from Beersheba to Bethel, where he stopped for rest, was a distance of some forty miles (28:10). Physically and emotionally exhausted, Jacob went to sleep, and the LORD came to him in a vision of a ladder that reached from heaven to earth, and upon the ladder he beheld “the angels of God ascending and descending on it” (28:11-12).

The LORD confirmed to Jacob that He had been chosen by God, and the promises of the Abrahamic covenant would pass through him to his heirs (28:13-14). With the promise, “I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (28:15), Jacob awoke, and recognized that as God had been with Abraham, and his father Isaac, he would be with him (28:16).

Fearing God, and revering the place where the LORD had appeared to him, Jacob dedicated the place, calling it Bethel, “the house of God” (28:17-19). Jacob then dedicated himself to the LORD (28:20-21), promising. “I will surely give the tenth unto thee” (the “tenth” being a tithe, 28:22).

The next chapters in our study will follow God’s work of grace as Jacob, the deceiver, is transformed into the man whom God will call Israel, the man who had “power with God.”

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 God Who Hears, and Answers Prayer (Genesis 20-21)

Scripture reading – Genesis 20-21

Genesis 20 – Post-Sodom Excursion from the Promised Land

After witnessing the devastating judgment of God upon Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19, Abraham and Sarah made their journey south “and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar” (20:1). We are not told why he departed from the land where he had sojourned; however, I speculate it was to put a distance between himself and the ruins of Sodom and the other cities that had been destroyed in the plains. Whatever his reason, Abraham made a fateful decision to journey from the land God had promised, and traveled to Gerar and the land ruled by the heathen king Abimelech (20:1-2).

Upon arriving in Gerar, Abraham fell back into a faithless pattern he had followed when he went down into Egypt (Genesis 12:11-16), and urged Sarah to tell others that she was his sister, and not his wife (20:2). Although she was 90 years old, God had evidently preserved her beauty, and Abraham was concerned that he might be killed, that she might be taken (20:2). Once again, Abraham’s deceit not only put his wife at risk, but God’s promise that she would bear him a son.

Providentially, God intervened, and warned Abimelech in a dream that he was a dead man should he violate Sarah, for she was Abraham’s wife (20:3-8).  Rising early the next morning, Abimelech wasted no time in putting his household in order, and confronted Abraham who excused his dishonesty by explaining that Sarah was indeed his half-sister (20:9-13).

Abimelech extended kindness, and grace to Abraham and restored Sarah to him, extending an invitation to live where they pleased in the land (20:15), and paying to Abraham the restitution of a “thousand pieces of silver,” assuring that Sarah’s had not been dishonored (20:16).

Abimelech’s kindness was a rebuke to Abraham and Sarah, for he had demonstrated greater integrity than they. In humility, “Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children” (20:17).

Genesis 21 – Promise fulfilled: Isaac is born!

Fulfilling God’s covenant promise, “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee” (Genesis 12:2), we read the news of the miraculous conception and birth of Isaac, the son of Abraham born to Sarah (21:1-3).

Genesis 21:1–31And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken. 2For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, [when she was 90 years old, and he 100 years old] at the set time of which God had spoken to him. 3And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac.

Abraham had waited twenty-five years for God’s promise of a son to be fulfilled (Genesis 12:4). The thought of a 90-year-old woman conceiving a son of the seed of a 100-year-old man seemed impossible; however, nothing is impossible with the LORD and “at the set time of which God had spoken,” Isaac was born (21:5).

The happiness of Isaac’s birth, his circumcision and identity as Abraham’s heir, and the feast that celebrated his being weaned from his mother’s milk turned to sorrow (21:6-9). Ishmael, Abraham’s son born to the Egyptian Hagar, was observed mocking Isaac (21:9), and Sarah demanded, “Cast out this bondwoman [slave] and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac” (21:10).

Abraham, understanding the weight of his transgressions was also borne by his family, yet, comforted when God said unto him, “Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. 13And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed” (21:12-13).

Heartbroken, but trusting God, Abraham arose early the next day and sent Hagar and his son into the wilderness with “bread, and a bottle of water” (21:14), and God’s promise that Ishmael would be the father of a nation. There, in the wilderness when all seemed lost, God heard the cry of Hagar and her son, and “the angel of God” spoke to hear, reminding her of His promise, “I will make him a great nation” (21:18).

I close, being reminded again that, God hears the cries, and the prayers of His people.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Too Late!” (Genesis 17-18)

Scripture reading – Genesis 17-18

Genesis 17 – The Temptation to Settle for Second Best

God had renewed His covenant promise that He would give Abram a son and heir in Genesis 15, and we read, “Abram believed in the LORD” (15:6). Thirteen years would pass, and when Abram was 99 years old and Sarai was 89 years old, God rehearsed his covenant with Abram, reminding him, “I am the Almighty [El Shaddai] God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. 2And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly” (17:1-2).

Realizing a covenant is a binding agreement between two parties, Abram was bound by two responsibilities: “walk before me, and be thou perfect” (17:1). To satisfy God’s covenant expectations, Abram was to “walk before” the Lord; he was to be conscious of God’s abiding presence, as a servant is conscious of his master’s supervision. The perfection God commanded was a conformity to God’s will. God’s expectation was for Abram to be an upright man; a man of integrity (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Now, “Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, 4As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations” (17:3-4). As an assurance of His covenant with Abram, God honored him by changing his name to Abraham, meaning “the father of a multitude” (17:5).

Another confirming sign of God’s covenant was His command for Abraham, and all the males of his household, to be circumcised (17:9-14). While circumcision did not make a man a part of the covenant, it did serve as a physical reminder, an outward sign of a son’s identification with God’s covenant promise to Abraham and the sons of his lineage.

A third reminder of God’s covenant promise was to be fulfilled with Abraham’s wife, Sarai. Her name would become Sarah, meaning princess, for she was to be the mother of the heir of God’s covenant promise.

When God announced that 90-year-old Sarah “shall be a mother of nations” (17:15-17), Abraham “fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, “Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?” (17:17)

Betraying his lack of faith, and willing to content himself with less than God’s best, Abraham protested and suggested that Ishmael should be his heir (17:18). God, however, renewed His covenant with Abraham, and stated that Sarah would bear him a son and his name would be Isaac (17:19).  While God refused Ishmael as Abraham’s heir, He comforted him promising Ishmael would be father to a “great nation” (17:20).

God repeated His assurance that Sarah would bear the son who would be Abraham’s heir (17:21), setting the time for the child’s birth “the next year” when Abraham would be 100 years old, and Sarah 90 years old. Abraham accepted God’s will, obeyed His command, and circumcised every male of his household (17:22-27).

Genesis 18 – A Heavenly Visitation (18:1-15)

A “theophany,” the LORD appearing in the form of man, occurs in Genesis 18 when He and two angels appeared as men before Abraham’s tent, and bringing news within Sarah’s hearing that she would bear a son. Sarah “laughed within herself” at the thought that she, a woman “waxed old” (past child-bearing years) should bear Abraham’s son (18:12).

The LORD questioned Abraham, “Wherefore did Sarah laugh?” (18:13).

Sarah was surprised that Abraham’s visitor not only knew she scoffed at the promise that she would bear a son in her old age, but that she laughed at the thought of it!  The LORD asked Abraham, “Is any thing too hard for the LORD?” (18:15), and asserted that He would return when the promised son was born (18:14).

Sarah, perhaps fearing the visitor who knew her thoughts, denied she laughed at the birth announcement, and the LORD rebuked her for lying (18:15).

Genesis 18:16-33 – Standing on the Precipice of God’s Judgment

The closing verses of Genesis 18 contain the fateful message that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were to be judged, and destroyed for their wickedness (18:20-22).  Knowing his nephew Lot, and his family lived in Sodom; Abraham interceded that the LORD might spare the city (18:23-33). Six times Abraham entreated the LORD for His grace and mercy, and requested that the cities might be spared for the sake of the righteous souls who lived there. When Abraham proposed that the city of Sodom be spared if only ten righteous souls be found there, the LORD mercifully agreed.

Ten righteous souls; perhaps the size of Lot’s own family, would have spared a city of lost, hell-bound souls. Lot’s presence in Sodom was not the leading of the LORD, nor was Lot’s interest the lost souls of his neighbors. Abraham, however, cared for the inhabitants and interceded for the city. Sodom, however, was doomed when Lot failed to stir the hearts of his family members to flee before God’s judgment (Genesis 19).

I close by suggesting that you and I have a sphere of influence, a providential presence, among mankind.  While the fate of a whole city does not rest within our realm of influence, I wonder who might?

Compare Abraham and Lot and consider which of the two you most resemble?  Abraham, who made passionate intercession for that wicked city, or Lot who waited too late to plead even for the souls of his children?

Copyright 2020 – 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