Category Archives: Family

“Speak, For Thy Servant Heareth” (1 Samuel 2-3)

“Speak, For Thy Servant Heareth” (1 Samuel 2-3)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 2-3

Before she conceived, Hannah promised the LORD she would give Him her first born son. Her prayers were answered, and she gave birth to a son, “and called his name Samuel” (1:20). Hannah did not forget her vow, and when Samuel was no longer nursing (1:22-23), she took him to Shiloh, and presented him to the high priest (1:24-27). There she confessed, “I have lent [given, offered] him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord” (1:28).

1 Samuel 2  – Hannah’s Prayer of Thanksgiving and Praise (2:1-11)

After dedicating her only son to the LORD, Hannah prayed with a overflowing joy and thanksgiving. Her prayer was full of imagery, revealing a knowledge of the LORD that was both personal, and perceptive. The LORD had answered her prayers, and she exulted that He was her strength (“mine horn”), and salvation (2:1). She declared, the LORD is holy, and there is none like Him; He is a Rock, strong and mighty (2:2).

Though she had been mocked, and scorned by Elkanah’s other wife, she took comfort knowing the LORD was wise, and sovereign (2:3). He is to be praised, for by Him strong men are made weak, and the weak are made strong (2:4). He is sovereign over death, and life, and chooses whom He will bless, and who will be abased (2:6-8a). The LORD is the Creator, and Sustainer, and “the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he hath set the world upon them” (2:8).

When Hannah’s prayer of praise concluded, Elkanah, and his family went home to Ramah, leaving Samuel at Shiloh where he “did minister unto the LORD before Eli the priest” (2:11). He had been taught the Scriptures as soon as he could speak (Deuteronomy 6), and though a child, he exhibited his parent’s love, and passion for the LORD.

Year after year, Hannah returned to Shiloh, and there she found Samuel ministering “before the Lord, being a child, girded with a linen ephod” (2:18). As his loving mother, she “made [Samuel] a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.” (2:19). Eli prayed Hannah would be blessed, for her sacrifice, and rewarded for giving her son to the LORD.  “The Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the Lord” (2:21), “and was in favour both with the Lord, and also with men” (2:26),

The Wickedness of Eli’s Sons (2:12-17)

Amid the backdrop of Samuel’s innocence, and service to the LORD, we are introduced to the sons of Eli the high priest, and read of them: “12Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord” (2:12).

How could this be? They were not only the sons of the high priest; they were by birth of the priestly order. Tragically, they were illustrative of “the sons of Belial,” godless, wicked, and immoral (2:12), and “they knew not the LORD” (2:12).

It has been observed that, “familiarity breeds contempt,” and surely it did for the sons of Eli. They grew up in the cloistered life of the priesthood, and did not fear, and obey the LORD’S Law and Commandments. They profaned the sacrifices and demanded for themselves, the choice portions of burnt offerings. They lacked restraint, taking portions of fat, which was forbidden in the Law (2:13-16). Their disdain for the LORD, and the sacrifices gave cause for men to abhor “the offering of the LORD” (2:17).

A Father’s Failure, and a Tragic Prophecy (2:22-36)

The Scriptures do not reveal how many years passed from the time Samuel began service in the Tabernacle, and the blatant wickedness perpetuated by the sons of Eli in the priesthood. Old and weakened, Eli heard of the wicked, immoral acts committed by his sons, but he did nothing to restrain them (2:22-24). His feeble attempt to reason with his sons fell woefully short (2:25), for they demonstrated calloused hearts with no respect for him as father, nor fear of the LORD. So great was their wickedness, the LORD determined He “would slay them” (2:25).

The LORD sent “a man of God,” a prophet to Eli, who foretold the imminent judgment that would befall his sons (2:27-28). The LORD rebuked Eli, admonishing him for putting his sons above His God (2:29). Eli’s lineage would be cut off, and die in their youth (2:31-33). “Hophni and Phinehas [Eli’s sons]; [would] in one day die both of them” (2:34).

1 Samuel 3 – The LORD Calls Samuel

The LORD never leaves His people without His Word, and though Eli’s sons had disgraced the priesthood, and caused the people to abhor the offerings of the LORD (2:17), He was preparing Samuel to be His servant, and prophet (1 Samuel 3).

It was a tragic time in Israel, for “the word of the Lord was precious [rare] in those days; there was no open vision [no prophet]” (3:1), and the “lamp of God” in the Tabernacle was neglected, and “went out…where the ark of God was” (3:3).

Although he was a child, the LORD was ready to speak directly to Samuel (3:2-6, 3:7). Three times the LORD called to Samuel while he slept, but Samuel did not know it was the voice of the LORD. Eli comprehended the LORD was calling upon the young boy, and instructed him, “Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth” (3:9).

When the LORD called upon Samuel the fourth time, he answered as he had been instructed, and the LORD revealed the tragedy that would soon befall the house of Eli, and his sons (3:11-14). Samuel was stunned by the revelation the LORD had given him, and “feared to show Eli the vision” (3:15). Eli, however, demanded he reveal all the LORD had shown him, and Samuel told him everything, “and hid nothing from him” (3:18a).

Samuel’s reputation grew throughout Israel, and the people realized there was a prophet among them, and “the LORD was with him… all Israel from Dan even to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord” (3:19-20).

Though Eli, and his sons had failed the LORD, Israel knew there was a prophet in the land, for “the Lordappeared again in Shiloh: for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord” (3:21).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Hannah: A Testimony of Faith, Love, and Sacrifice (1 Samuel 1)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 1

Our chronological devotional schedule brings us to 1 Samuel; one of my favorite books of the Old Testament.  In this volume we will find a rich history that marks the beginning of a monarchy in Israel.

1 Samuel 1 concludes an era when judges ruled Israel, and introduces an age when kings reign. Let us recall, it was God’s desire to rule His people through His Law and Commandments. The role of the judges had been to instruct the people, by communicating the Word of the LORD, through the Law that was given in the Covenant at Sinai (Exodus 20). It will be the failure of the priesthood, that will provoke the people to demand a king. Tragically, Eli, the high priest, and his wicked sons, Hophni and Phinehas (1:3; 2:12-17; 4:10-18), will disgrace the priest’s office. Their sins would stir up the people to demand “a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5-6).

Several notable names come to the forefront in today’s study: Elkanah (1:1), who was of the tribe of Levi, descended from Kohath, the son of Levi. He was a godly man, and observed the law, going up “yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord of hosts in Shiloh” (1:3), where the Tabernacle was located.

Elkanah had two wives, “the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah” (1:2). “Peninnah had children,” and had borne to her husband sons and daughters (1:2, 4). “Hannah had no children” (1:2), and though her husband loved her (1:5), she carried the shame, and sorrow of a barren woman, and was treated spitefully by Elkanah’s other wife (1:5-7).

Year after year, Hannah went up to Shiloh with her family, and wept and fasted before the LORD, praying He would open her womb (1:5), and give her a son (1:7). She vowed, if the LORD would give her a son, she would dedicate him to serve at the Tabernacle, and promised he would be a Nazarite, and “there shall no razor come upon his head” (1:10-11).

Hannah prayed to the LORD, speaking to Him from her heart; “only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken” (1:13). Eli, the high priest, rebuked her, judging she had too much wine, and commanded her to “put away thy wine from thee” (1:14). Hannah, replying to the high priest, said, “No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord. 16Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial [worthless, immoral, wicked]: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto” (1:15-16).

Judging the sincerity of Hannah’s confession, Eli assured her the LORD had heard, and would answer her prayer (1:17). Hannah went from the Tabernacle, no longer despondent, but believing the LORD would show her grace, and grant her a son (1:18). Elkanah and his family returned to their house in Ramah, and the LORD remembered Hannah’s prayer. In God’s perfect time, she conceived a son “and called his name Samuel [lit. “heard of God], saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord” (1:19-20).

The next year, Elkanah prepared to go up to Shiloh on his annual pilgrimage (1:21); however, Hannah requested she be allowed to remain at her home, and not go up to the Tabernacle, until her son was no longer nursing, for she knew the day would come when she would leave Samuel to minister at Shiloh with Eli, the high priest (1:22-23).

A woman of faith, and one who honored her vow to the LORD, Hannah “weaned” her son (probably around three years old). The day came when she took her son and went up with Elkanah to present offerings and sacrifices, at the Tabernacle. Hannah “brought [Samuel] unto the house of the Lord in Shiloh: and the child was young” (1:24). After sacrificing a bullock, Elkanah and Hannah brought their son to Eli, and she reminded the high priest, “I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the Lord. 27For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him” (1:26-27).

In an act of faith, and sacrificial love, Hannah confessed, “I have lent [given; claimed] him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord” (1:28a). Elkanah and Hannah’s example of faith, prayer, and sacrifice has inspired the saints of the LORD down through the centuries. Before Samuel was conceived, Hannah offered him to the LORD, and the LORD heard, and answered her prayer.

Perhaps only mothers can imagine the pull of the heart strings when Hannah left her son at Shiloh (especially knowing the wickedness of Eli’s sons). Hannah fulfilled her vow to the LORD, and He honored her faith and sacrifice, blessing her with three sons, and two daughters, in addition to Samuel (2:21).

I invite parents and grandparents to take a moment, pray and dedicate your children, and grandchildren to the LORD.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Reject God’s Law, and Man Will Do That Which Is Right In His Own Eyes” (Judges 21)

Scripture reading – Judges 21

Today’s Scripture marks the conclusion of our study in the Book of Judges. The era known as the “Judges,” began with the death of Joshua (Judges 1), and concluded with the death of Samson (Judges 16). As I mentioned in an earlier commentary, it is my opinion that the events in Judges 17-21, fall chronologically between the death of Joshua, and the appointment of Othniel (Judges 3:9-10), as the first judge in Israel.

Judges 21 concludes the time when judges ruled in Israel, and soon after the love story of Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 1-4), we will see the prophet Samuel step onto the stage of Israel’s history. As Samuel begins ministering in Israel, the tribes will come to demand a king to rule over the nation. Remember, it was God’s will to rule His people as the benevolent King of Israel, and His Law and Commandments serve as their guide. Yet, Samuel will anoint Saul to be king, and following him the LORD will establish the Davidic lineage through whom Jesus Christ will be born the rightful heir to the throne of Israel (Matthew 1:1).

Judges 21 – A Crisis in Israel

Though victorious, the tribes of Israel were broken over the sin and wickedness that had taken hold in the land, and left one of the twelve tribes nearly destroyed (21:2-6). The tribe of Benjamin was decimated by its battle with the children of Israel (Judges 20), and the sin of that tribe had been so dreadful, “the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh [most likely a military outpost], saying, There shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife” (21:1).

Though bound by their oath, the people sought the LORD, wept (21:2), “and said, O Lord God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that there should be to day one tribe lacking in Israel?” (21:3). Israel lamented the devastation of Benjamin’s population, as a judgment for the sins of Gibeah. The thought that one of the twelve tribes would cease to exist, and be cut off forever was surely beyond the demands of the Law. And so the people went up to Bethel, “the house of God,” and they “built there an altar, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings” (21:4).

A Resolution to Seek Wives for the Tribe of Benjamin (21:5-7)

A survey was taken, and the question asked, what tribes in Israel had failed to go up to Mizpeh, and therefore not vowed that their daughters would not marry any man of the tribe of Benjamin? (21:4) Any who had failed to join Israel at Mizpeh, and meet the LORD there, were to be put to death (21:5). It was decided that the virgin daughters of any who had failed to come to Mizpeh would become the wives of the men of Benjamin who had survived the battle, and retreated to “the rock of Rimmon” (20:47-48; 21:5-7).

Attendance was taken, and it was discovered that no man of Jabesh-gilead had come to Mizpeh (21:8-9). Israel then sent “twelve thousand men of the valiantest, and commanded them, saying, Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the children” (21:10). All the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead were killed, but “four hundred young virgins [were spared], that had known no man by lying with any male: and they brought them unto the camp to Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan” (21:12).

Messengers carried a word of peace to Benjamin, and the six hundred survivors of the tribe of Benjamin, came to Israel and were given “wives which they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead: and yet so they sufficed them not [there were six hundred Benjamites, but only four hundred virgins of Jabesh-gilead]” (21:14). The people then contemplated what more could be done to give wives to the men of Benjamin, for they had sworn an oath not to give them their daughters (21:15-18).

Catch a Wife, and Flee (21:19-23)

A decision was made, and an invitation given to the men of Benjamin who did not have a wife, to go up to Shiloh for an annual feast (either the feast of the Tabernacles, or the Passover, 21:19). The Benjamites were instructed to lie in wait in the vineyard, and when the virgin “daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances” (21:20), they were to “catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin” (21:21). Should the virgins’ fathers protest, the leaders of Israel assured the men of Benjamin, they would intercede for them (21:22). And so, Benjamin returned to their territory, claimed their inheritance, and began to rebuild their cities (21:23). With the future of Benjamin assured, the children of Israel returned to their land and families (21:24).

I close with a reminder of what becomes of a nation when men refuse to hear, and heed God’s Law and Commandments:  “Every man [will do] that which [is] right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25b)

Does that statement not describe our day?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Lawlessness Breeds Moral Degeneracy” (Judges 19-20)

Scripture reading – Judges 19-20

A familiar refrain in the latter chapters of the Book of Judges is: “It came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel” (19:1).

Consider the question, “When was there no king [literally, no ruler or judge] in Israel?” The answer gives us a different perspective for the events recorded in today’s Scripture reading. I believe Judges 17-21 falls chronologically between the death of Joshua (Joshua 24:29-33, Judges 1:1-2:15), and the beginning of the era of the judges (Judges 2:16), when “the Spirit of the LORD came upon [Othniel], and he judged Israel” (3:8-10).

A contemporary application: The tragic events that occur in today’s Scripture reading, Judges 19-20, are a reflection of the lawlessness, and moral degeneracy of a society when men reject the Law of the LORD, and His Commandments.

Lesson: When spiritual leaders fail to preach, and teach the Word of God, they not only fail the LORD, they fail their families, community, and nation. Consider with me a time of lawlessness, much like our day, “when there was no king [no judge, no ruler] in Israel” (19:1).

Judges 19 – The Levite, and His Unfaithful Concubine

A man of the priestly tribe of Levi, passed through Mount Ephraim (near the place where the Tabernacle was located), and took to wife “a concubine out of Beth-lehem-judah [Bethlehem of Judah]” (19:1). The woman was most likely a concubine, because she had come to the marriage without a dowry. She would have been considered a lesser wife, and her children would have had no right of inheritance.

Tragically, the Levite’s concubine played the harlot, and left the Levite and returned to her father’s house (19:2). Four months passed, and the Levite and his servant, determined to travel to Bethlehem, and with kind words, endeavor to “bring her again” to his home (19:3). The concubine’s father rejoiced when the Levite came to claim his daughter (19:3). The man pressed upon his son-in-law to accept his invitation to continue in his home, and “he abode with him three days: so they did eat and drink, and lodged there” (19:4).

For four days, the Levite, his concubine, and servant continued with his father-in-law, and on the fifth day, though the father protested, the Levite set out on his journey to Shiloh (where the Tabernacle was located, 19:18). Because the hour was late, the servant pressed the Levite to stay the night near “Jebus” (ancient Jerusalem, 19:10-11). The Levite, however, refused to spend the night in Jerusalem, for it was occupied by Jebusites, and not the children of Israel. Instead, they made their way to Gibeah, a city occupied by the tribe of Benjamin, and arrived in the city as “the sun went down upon them” (19:14).

The Tragedy of Depravity in Gibeah

Contrary to the Law’s injunction to show compassion to the sojourner, no man of Gibeah offered the Levite, and his concubine provision or lodging for the night, and he settled to spend the night in the city street (19:15). An old man, however, whose birthplace was Mount Ephraim, resided in Gibeah, and spied the Levite and his company. The old man offered them lodging for the night (19:16-20), and though the Levite resisted his invitation, he pressed upon him, saying, “lodge not in the street” (19:20).

The old man was entertaining his guests, when “the men of the city, certain sons of Belial [wicked, immoral men], beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him” (19:22).

Like Lot, who found his household beset by the wicked men of Sodom (Genesis 19:4-9), the old man’s endeavor to reason with the sodomites of Gibeah proved futile (19:23). Though he defined their passions as wickedness, and folly (19:23), their immoral desire, and lust would not be assuaged. Following the manner of Lot, and to save the Levite from the violence of the mob, the old man offered his virgin daughter, and the Levite’s concubine to “do with them what seemeth good unto you” (19:24). Even that shameless attempt to pacify the lusts of the sodomites failed, and did not deter them from their debased objective (19:24).

Tragically, choosing to save himself, and his host from the degenerate mob, the Levite thrust his concubine out of the house. The men of Gibeah raped, and “abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go” (19:25), and retreated to their households (19:26).

What a hideous thought, that a man would give his wife to a mob to be abused, while he sheltered in the security of a household! Nevertheless, we read, the Levite “rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold” (19:25).

Can you picture this tragic moment? With a callousness that defies love, the Levite opened the door, not to search for his wife, but to go on his journey (19:27). He knew the violence of the Sodomite culture, and what she would have suffered, and no doubt believed she would be dead. Instead, she had made her way to the threshold of the house; battered, bruised, bleeding, and demeaned, she found the door closed to her cries, and died (19:27).

What manner of man would give his beloved to suffer, and himself be spared? The same who would fail to stoop, and caress her, and say, “Up, and let us be going” (19:28). The abused woman did not stir, and she did not answer. Her life was gone, her soul departed. She had died from the violence of the mob that had made her the object of their lusts. Taking up her lifeless body from the threshold, the Levite placed her upon his donkey, and went to his house (19:28).

Remembering there was no king, judge, or ruler in Israel, the Levite had no place to appeal for justice.

The city of Gibeah, and the tribe of Benjamin had sheltered, and tolerated a great evil in their land, and the Levite determined to appeal to all Israel for justice. He “took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her [body parts] into all the coasts [boundaries, tribes] of Israel” (19:29). The Levite’s deed left Israel shaken, and the children of Israel gathered to weigh the spiritual state of their nation, and what must be done (19:30, 20:1).

Author’s note: In a later devotional, I hope to consider the events that follow in Judges 20, and their application to our own society, and world.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

There Was No King, No Ruler, And No Judge In Israel. (Judges 18)

Scripture reading – Judges 18

Judges 18 opens with a repeat observation in the last chapters of the book: “1In those days there was no king in Israel” (18:1; also Judges 17:6, 19:1, and 21:25). In a very literal sense, there was no king, no ruler, and no judge in Israel. There was no man of God to herald the word of the LORD; none to call on the people to repent of their wickedness, and turn back to the Law and Commandments.

The tribe of Dan is the subject of Judges 18, but as you will see, Micah, the Ephraimite to whom we were introduced in Judges 17 is a prominent figure as well.

Having not received an inheritance in the Land, the Danites (18:1) sent out five men to spy out their assigned territory in the northernmost part of Israel, near Mount Horeb. In their journey, they camped on Mount Ephraim, and lodged near the house of Micah (18:2). As the spies were near Micah’s house, they heard the voice of his Levite (18:7-13), and knew his dialect was not of that region (18:3). They questioned the young Levite, and learned he was hired by Micah to serve as his priest (18:3-4). They sought the counsel of the Levite, and were assured their journey to Laish would be prosperous (18:5).

The five spies arrived near Laish, and found the people were “careless…quiet, and secure” (18:7). The implication was that they had no enemies, and were therefore lethargic in their defense, and vulnerable to siege. Laish was distant from other cities, and the spies felt there would be no assistance when the Danites attacked the city. Returning to their brethren, the spies reported that the land was good, and they should move quickly to possess it (18:8-10).

Six hundred Danite men, “appointed with weapons of war” (18:11), “went up, and pitched in Kirjath-jearim, in Judah” (18:12), and then made their way to Mount Ephraim, “and came unto the house of Micah” (18:13). There, the five spies conveyed to their fellow soldiers that in Micah’s house there was “an ephod [a breastplate worn by a priest], and teraphim [idol], and a graven image, and a molten image” (18:14). Led by the five spies, those six hundred men stood at the gate of Micah’s house, as they stole the idols, and enticed the young Levite priest to come with them, and serve as priest to the tribe of Dan” (18:15-20).

The Danites then set out on their journey for Laish, putting their children, and cattle forward, and the strong men serving as the rearward guard for their families (18:21). After a great distance, Micah and the men he had stirred to come with him, came upon the tribe of Dan whose strong men confronted them saying, “What aileth thee, that thou comest with such a company?” (18:23)

Micah complained he had been slighted, for the Danites had taken his gods, and his priest (18:24). The Danites, mincing no words, threatened Micah saying, “Let not thy voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows run upon thee, and thou lose thy life, with the lives of thy household” (18:25). Perceiving he was outnumbered, Micah retreated, and returned to his home (18:26).

The Danites then came upon Laish, and finding the inhabitants of the city unprepared, “they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire” (18:27). There was none that did come to the aid of Laish (18:28). There the Danites built a city, and named it Dan, for the father of their tribe.

I close inviting you to realize the depth of depravity to which Israel had descended. Idols, and graven images in their households; Levites serving as priest of their false gods; and the LORD, and His Law and Commandments forsaken.

Tragically, “the children of Dan set up the graven image [which they had stolen from Micah]: and Jonathan [most likely the name of the Levite priest], the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land” (18:30). “31And they set them up Micah’s graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh” (18:31).

We will soon see how Israel’s decline into idol worship, did serve as the precursor of that nation’s plunge into moral depravity.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Samson: The Legend, and the Man (Judges 13)

Scripture reading – Judges 13

Today’s Scripture brings us again to the cycle we have observed throughout our study in the Book of Judges: Sin, leading to Servitude, leading to Sorrow, and leading to Salvation (Repentance). Judges 13 begins with a sad, and all too familiar condition: for “the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord” (13:1).

Faithful to His promise, “the Lord delivered [Israel] into the hand of the Philistines forty years” (13:1). The LORD, merciful, and forgiving, had not forgotten Israel, and we find Him sending a man who would be the judge, and deliverer of His people.

The focus of Judges 13 is the angelic announcement of Samson’s conception, and his unique dedication in his mother’s womb. His father’s name was Manoah, of the tribe of Dan, and one whose wife was barren. Though barren, Manoah’s wife gives evidence that she was a woman of faith.

The LORD sent one described as “the angel of the LORD” to Manoah’s wife (13:3), and she received the news, “thou shalt conceive, and bear a son” (13:3). Because her son was chosen of the LORD, she would live under special prohibitions, and was to drink no wine, strong drink, nor eat anything unclean (13:4). The son she would bear would be “a Nazarite unto God from the womb,” and his hair was never to be cut (13:5; Numbers 6:1-8). He was destined to be the champion of Israel, and would “begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines” (13:5).

Manoah’s wife came to him with the news that “a man of God” had appeared to her, whose “countenance was like the countenance of an angel of God, very terrible: but I asked him not whence he was, neither told he me his name” (13:6). She told her husband what had been prophesied to her, and that her son was to be “a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death” (13:7).

Manoah did not discount his wife’s tale of her visitor, nor of his prophecy; however, he longed for the “man of God” to appear to him, and he asked the LORD to send the messenger again. He prayed, “teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born” (13:8). What a wonderful request, and prayer for every parent. “Lord, ‘teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born!’”

The LORD heeded Manoah’s prayer, and “the angel of God came again unto the woman as she sat in the field: but Manoah her husband was not with her” (13:9). It was in her solitude, that the heavenly messenger returned, and she ran to her husband and said, “Behold, the man hath appeared unto me, that came unto me the other day” (13:10). Manoah, assured this was the “man of God” who had announced his wife would bear a special son (13:11), asked, “How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?” (13:12)

The “angel of the LORD” repeated those things that were prohibited of his wife (13:14). Desiring to be a gracious host, Manoah asked the man to stay for a meal, not realizing “he was an angel of the Lord” (13:16). His guest declined, but urged Manoah to “offer a burnt offering…unto the LORD” (3:16). Manoah asked for the name of his guest, that he might honor him when his son was born (13:17), but the “angel of the LORD said unto him…it is secret [literally, “It is Wonderful]” (13:18; Isaiah 9:6).

Manoah then prepared, and offered a young goat to the LORD (13:19), and suddenly a “flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, [and] the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground” (13:20). In that moment, Manoah and his wife realized their guest had been more than “a man of God,” and Manoah confessed, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God” (13:22). He feared they would die, but his wife expressed her faith, and said, “If the Lord were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands, neither would he have shewed us all these things, nor would as at this time have told us such things as these” (13:23).

True to God’s promises, Manoah’s wife conceived “a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him” (13:24). “25And the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times in the camp [tribe] of Dan” (13:25).

If you are a father or mother, I urge you to follow the example of Samson’s parents, and pray daily to the LORD…

“Teach us what we shall do unto the child” (13:8).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Son of a Harlot Becomes a Hero, and a Trophy of Grace (Judges 11-12)

Scripture reading – Judges 11-12

Our ongoing chronological study of the Book of Judges brings us to Judges 11-12. Judges 10 concluded with Israel turning to the LORD in a time of repentance. The people put away their idols, and committed themselves to serve the LORD (10:15-18).

With the Ammonites gathering against Israel, and in the absence of a judge, the people who lived in Gilead (the land on the east side of Jordan), asked one another, “What man is he that will begin to fight against the children of Ammon? he shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead” (10:18).

Judges 11 – The Rule of Jephthah the Gileadite

There was a man living in Gilead named Jephthah. He was known among his people as “a mighty man of valour,” and was the son of a man named Gilead; however, his mother was a harlot (11:1). Gilead also had sons of his lawful wife, and when they were grown, they rejected Jephthah as an illegitimate son. They thrust him out of their household, thus giving him no claim to an inheritance (11:2). Jephthah then retreated to the desert, and was joined by “vain,” lawless men (11:3).

When the Ammonites began to “war against Israel,” the leaders of Gilead sought for a leader among themselves (11:4-5), and sent a message to Jephthah, saying, “Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon” (11:6). Jephthah did not immediately accept the leadership role over the men of Gilead (the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh). It is possible some of his own brothers, the ones who had cast him out as an illegitimate son, were among the elders that requested his leadership (11:7-10). The elders vowed an oath to the LORD that Jephthah would be their head if he was victorious (11:10), and he acknowledged God’s providence, and assumed the leadership of his people (11:11). Thus, Jephthah became the eighth judge of Israel.

After assuming his role as captain of Gilead’s army, Jephthah endeavored to negotiate a treaty of peace with the king of Ammon (11:12-24). He rejected the Ammonite king’s claim to the land (11:25), noting that Israel had possessed the land for three hundred years. He asserted; the LORD had given the children of Israel the land for their inheritance (11:26-27). With the assurance that the “Spirit of the LORD” was with him, Jephthah vowed, if the LORD would “deliver the children of Ammon into [his] hands…whatsoever [came] forth of the doors of [his]house to meet [him]…[he would] offer it up for a burnt offering” (11:30-31).

The LORD gave Jephthah, and Israel a great victory (11:32-33). When he returned from the battle he was met by his daughter, and remembering his vow to the LORD, was overcome with sorrow (11:34-35). He accepted his sacrifice to the LORD would be his own daughter (11:35). Loving, and humble, Jephthah’s daughter accepted the consequences of her father’s vow, and requested two months to mourn that she would never bear children (11:36).

In his zeal, Jephthah had made a rash vow to give as a burnt offering, the first one who came out of his house to meet him (11:31). While human sacrifice was the way of the heathen, it was contrary to God’s nature. I believe the sacrifice of Jephthah, was that his daughter would live a celibate life, never know a man, and therefore never bear a son or daughter to be her father’s heir (11:39-40).

Judges 12 – The Tribe of Ephraim, a Fool Twice Over

You may remember that the tribe of Ephraim had confronted Gideon when he returned victorious from battle. They had complained, they had been slighted, and not been invited to go to war against the Midianites (Judges 8:1). We find the same disingenuous protest in Judges 12, when Jephthah returned victorious from his battle with the Ammonites!

Grieving his daughter’s celibacy, Jephthah was confronted by the men of Ephraim who, staying true to their nature, complained they had been slighted. Ephraim gathered to war against Jephthah, and threatened to burn down his house for not having chosen them to go to war (12:1). Jephthah’s answer revealed the men of Ephraim had been summoned to war, but refused (12:2-3). Calling his army to arms, he warred against Ephraim, and forty-two thousand men of that tribe died (12:4-7).

What an unlikely hero! Jephthah, the son of a harlot, and rejected by his brothers, with the Spirit of the LORD, became a hero in Israel. What an amazing story of God’s grace, and power! Like Joseph, he had suffered the rejection of his brethren, but when God called him, he rose to the challenge, and God used him mightily!

What is keeping you from serving the LORD?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Broken Covenant, and a Path to Forgiveness (Judges 9-10)

Scripture reading – Judges 9-10

The last years of Gideon’s rule as judge left Israel ill-prepared for the years that followed his death (Judges 8:29-35). Upon Gideon’s death, Israel forsook their covenant with the LORD (8:34).

Judges 9 – The rise of Abimelech, son of Gideon

We remember how Gideon had many wives, and “threescore and ten sons” (8:30); however, there was another son, not numbered with the seventy sons born to Gideon’s wives. His name was Abimelech, a son of Gideon born of a concubine (and not a wife). After Gideon died, he aspired to claim his father’s leadership in Israel, and stirred the men of Shechem, his mother’s people, to make him king (9:1-2).

Abimelech plotted to murder the seventy sons of Gideon, and his mother’s people reasoned they would be better off with one of their own ruling Israel, rather than one of Gideon’s other sons (9:3). With seventy pieces of silver, Abimelech hired wicked mercenaries, described as “vain and light persons” (9:4), and they “slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal…notwithstanding yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left; for he hid himself” (9:5). Imagine the breadth of depravity present in Israel, that men in their midst would slay the sons of Gideon!

Jotham, Gideon’s youngest, and only surviving son, stood upon “the top of mount Gerizim,” towering eight hundred feet about the plain. Lifting up his voice against the men of Shechem who had made Abimelech king (9:6-21), he told a parable (9:8-15) how the olive trees, fig trees, and vines invited a bramble bush to be king, saying, “Come thou, and reign [i.e. be king] over us” (9:14).

A prickly, thorny bramble is a wild bush, and lacks the majesty, beauty and height of other trees. The parallel Jotham drew with his parable, was that his brothers had been great men, like the cedars of Lebanon (9:15), and Abimelech was nothing more than a bramble bush, and yet they had chosen him to be their king. Jotham cursed the men of Shechem (9:15), and they would come to hate Abimelech, and he would hate them, to their destruction (9:17-49).

Three years passed, and the men of Shechem’s plot to kill Abimelech failed, forcing them to flee into a tower. Abimelech set fire to the tower, and “a thousand men and women” died (9:46-49). He then went to Thebez, and the men of the city fled into their strong tower, and Abimelech would have burned the tower, but “a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and all to brake his skull” (9:53).  Realizing he was dying from his wounds, Abimelech commanded his armorbearer to slay him with his sword, lest it be said of him, “A woman slew him” (9:54).

Judges 10 – The LORD Sends Revival in Israel

Two judges ruled in Israel after Abimelech died (10:1-5). If we assume that Shamgar was the third judge (3:31), Deborah the fourth judge (4:4), and Gideon the fifth judge (6:12; 8:28), Tola would have served the LORD as the sixth judge, and he judged Israel twenty-three years (10:1-2). After Tola, Jair judged Israel twenty-two years (10:3-5).

Following Jair’s death, Israel turned from the LORD, and “did evil again in the sight of the Lord,” and served many gods; however, they “forsook the LORD” and did not serve Him (10:6). Then the LORD turned Israel over to her enemies, to be chastened by them eighteen years, until they cried out to Him (10:7-10). Humbled, broken, and oppressed by their enemies, Israel confessed, “We have sinned against thee” (10:10).

The LORD answered their cry, and rebuked Israel’s ingratitude, and reminded them of the times He had delivered them out of the hand of their enemies (10:11-12). He admonished Israel, saying, “14Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation” (10:14).

The children of Israel, however, cried out the more, and not only confessed their sins, but surrendered to the LORD to do with them as He pleased (10:15). Israel repented, and destroyed the idols they had worshipped, and set their hearts to serve the LORD (10:16).

Judges 10: 6-16

What a wonderful lesson in repentance we have in today’s devotional! Israel realized it was not enough to confess they had sinned. They knew their fellowship, and covenant with the LORD could not be restored until they put away their idols. Then, in a beautiful act of God’s grace, we read, the LORD “was grieved for the misery of Israel” (10:16). With their sins forgiven, and the covenant restored, Israel was ready to go to war, knowing the LORD was on their side (10:17-18).

Observe the cycle: Sin, leads to Slavery, that leads to Sorrow, and leads back to the LORD for to Salvation.

God takes no pleasure in the sorrows that befall us because of our sin. He is gracious, merciful, and longs to forgive, and restore us.

1 John 1:99If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Third Generation: A Tragic Rejection of Spiritual Leadership (Judges 3)

Scripture reading – Judges 3

Today’s Scripture introduces the beginning of a new era in Israel’s history, as the LORD began to raise up judges to rule the nation. Why judges, and not a king? Because the LORD Himself was to be the Sovereign Ruler of His people, and Israel, was bound by covenant to the LORD, and the people were to be ruled by His Law and Commandments.

After Joshua died, and the generation that followed had passed (2:6-10a), Israel turned from the LORD, and “knew not the Lord…[and] did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2:10-11). In His mercy, “the Lord raised up judges, which delivered [the children of Israel] out of the hand of those that spoiled [made spoil, or plundered]them” (2:16); however, when the judge died, the people “corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them” (2:19a).

Judges 3 – The LORD Raised Up Judges

Because Israel had broken covenant with Him, the LORD determined He would not drive out the enemies of His people, and left them in their midst to “prove [test; try] Israel by them” (3:1).

To what end was this testing? It was to test, and prove a generation that did not know the hardships, and trials of war as had their fathers before them. Longing for Israel to turn to Him, and obey His commandments, the LORD did not drive out those enemies with whom His people had compromised (3:2-7).

How far, and how wretched had the third generation become?

They allowed their sons and daughters to intermarry with idolaters, until they “served their gods…and forgat the LORD their God,” and committed whoredom in their groves (3:6-7). Thus, the sins of Israel provoked “the anger of the LORD” (3:8), and “He sold “them into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushan-rishathaim eight years” (3:8).

Othniel, the First Judge in Israel (3:9-11)

When the people began to cry to the LORD, He heard their cry, and raised up “Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother” (3:9) who served as Israel’s first judge, and delivered the nation from their enemy (3:10). God blessed Othniel’s rule as judge, and Israel was at peace forty years (3:11).

Ehud, the Second Judge in Israel (3:12-30)

Judges 3:12-30 records a fascinating series of events. “The children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord: and the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they [Israel] had done evil in the sight of the Lord” (3:12). Israel had strayed far from the law and commandments, and found themselves humbled, and enslaved by an enemy (3:12-13). For eighteen years, “the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab…15But when [they] cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded” (3:14-15). (The men of Benjamin were known as an ambidextrous people, and skilled marksmen, Judges 20:16; 1 Chronicles 12:2).

It was Ehud’s skill with his left hand, that gave him an advantage when he plotted, and carried out his attack on Eglon, the king of Moab (3:16-22). Thrusting the dagger into the obese king, the blade went so deep that Ehud left the knife in the king’s intestines, when he fled the palace (3:21-22). Returning to mount Ephraim, Ehud blew the trumpet, and rallied Israel to go to battle against Moab, and they slew “about ten thousand men” (3:27-29).

Shamgar, the Champion of Israel (3:31)

Judges 3 concludes with the heroism of a man named Shamgar (3:31). He is not identified as a judge; however, he is noted for slaying six hundred Philistines “with an ox goad [a sharp metal point on the end of a pole]” (3:31).

An Invitation

You will observe the emerging of a spiritual cycle as you study the Book of Judges. A cycle that was not only true of Israel, but is also true of believers through the ages: Sin leads to Servitude [enslavement], that leads to Sorrow, and moves the hearts of men to turn to the LORD for Salvation (3:11-19).

Sin…Servitude…Sorrow…Salvation: We are, as the songwriter penned, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; Prone to leave the God I love.”

Where are you in that spiritual cycle?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Joshua – Strength and Courage (Joshua 22-23)

Scripture reading – Joshua 22-23

Proving the propensity of humanity is often war, and little peace, Israel’s victories over the nations that had occupied Canaan, and the division of the land among the tribes, was immediately followed by a misunderstanding that brought the nation to the brink of civil war (Joshua 22).

Joshua 22 – A Misunderstanding, and a Threat of Civil War

With the battles over, and the nation secure, Joshua summoned the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half of the tribe of Manasseh (22:1). Those tribes had chosen the land of Gilead, on the east side of the Jordan River (Numbers 32; Deuteronomy 3:12-20) as their inheritance. Their families had remained behind, while their men went to war with their brethren, as they had promised Moses and Joshua (Joshua 1:12-18). With the nation at rest, and the land divided, the warriors of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh were discharged, and allowed to return to their families and lands on the east side of the Jordan (22:1-9).

Acting as the shepherd leader, Joshua challenged the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh to take “diligent [highly disciplined] heed [observe; keep; obey] to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave [abide in His presence] unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul” (22:5).

A Provocation of War (22:10-20)

Crossing the Jordan, the tribes on the east side determined to memorialize their relationship with the LORD and Israel, and built an altar as a testimony to the generations that would follow (22:10).

Misunderstanding the purpose of the altar, some in Israel feared the tribes on the east side had departed from worshipping the God of Israel at His altar in Shiloh, and determined to go “to war against them” (22:11-12). Fortunately, a delegation of leaders that included Phinehas, the son of the high priest, were sent to investigate, and question the purpose of the altar (22:13-14).

Learning the altar was a monument, and meant to serve as a testimony of their relationship with the LORD and Israel, and not as a place of worship (22:21-29), the tribes on the west side accepted the explanation, and made peace with Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh (22:30-34).

Joshua 23 – Joshua, “Old and Stricken in Age”

This chapter is the first of two final assemblies called by Joshua as he recognized his life was numbered, not in years, or months, but in days and hours. We are reminded, Joshua is “waxed old and stricken in age” (23:1).

Summoning the leaders of the nation, Joshua said, “I am old and stricken in age” (23:2). He then reminisced all the LORD had done for Israel, how He had driven the nations out of Canaan, and given them their inheritance as He had promised (23:3-4).

Like the great leader he was, Joshua foresaw the challenges Israel would face in the years after his death. His words herald the passion of every godly leader who longs to see God’s people walk in the ways of the LORD.  He reminded them how the LORD had fought for Israel, and never forsook His people (23:4-10). He challenged them to be “very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left” (23:6). He admonished them to separate themselves from the heathen who continued to live in parts of the land (23:7). He promised, as the LORD had driven out nations greater than Israel, He would bless them and do the same if they would love, and obey His Law and Commandments (23:8-11).

Joshua warned: should the people fail to love the LORD, keep His law, and separate themselves from the heathen and their ways, “the anger of the Lord [would] be kindled against [them],” and they would perish (23:16).

What a tragedy! The LORD longs to bless His people, but His blessings are conditioned upon us loving, and obeying Him.

Joshua 22:55But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the Lord charged you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith