Category Archives: Family

God Demands Holiness for His Ministers, and His People! (Leviticus 22)

Scripture reading– Leviticus 22

Leviticus 22:1-9 addresses the conduct of God’s ministers, and reminds us that the LORD requires those who serve Him to be holy in person and in practice (22:1-2). It has been said that, “familiarity breeds contempt,” and there was a danger that the ministry of offering sacrifices could become routine for priests. Rather than a sacred trust, offerings might be mishandled, and treated as less than holy.

Discerning Between the Clean, and the Unclean (22:1-9)

Unclean priests were not allowed to touch, nor to eat anything that was dedicated to the LORD (22:3). Several matters could render a priest unclean, and not only unfit for service, but also prohibited to partake of sacrifices reserved for their consumption (22:4-9). A priest with leprosy, or an open sore (“running issue”), was unclean, and could not “eat of the holy things, until he [became] clean” (22:4). Touching a dead animal, or an unclean animal, would render a priest unclean (22:5).

To be clean, a priest was to bathe with water, and wait until the even, “when the sun is down” (22:6-7). When declared clean, the priest could eat the portion “of the holy things; because it is his food” (22:7).

We are reminded that an animal that had died of natural causes (whether sickness or disease), or was torn and maimed, must not be eaten (22:8). Failure to keep God’s ordinances was a capital offence (22:9).

Eligibility to Eat the Priest’s Portion of the Sacrifices (22:10-16)

The “stranger,” one who was not of the priest’s family or household, was not to eat a portion of the sacrifice reserved for the priest and his family (22:10). Slaves, and servants of the priest, were allowed to “eat of [the priest’s] meat” (22:11).

While the daughter of a priest could eat a portion of the sacrifice reserved for her father, a daughter married to a man who was not a priest, was excluded from his table (22:12). Should the daughter of a priest return to his home, she would be allowed to partake at her father’s table (22:12-13).

In the case one unknowingly ate a portion of the priest’s sacrifice, he was required to restore the portion he had taken, and give an additional “fifth part” (20%) to the priest (22:14-16).

Acceptable Sacrifices (22:17-33)

Sacrifices offered to the LORD were to be of the highest standard (22:17-25).  There was the temptation to offer animals for sacrifice that were deformed, ill or injured; however, God’s standard for an acceptable sacrifice was “a male without blemish” (22:19-20). “Peace offerings,” whether cow or oxen, sheep or goat, were to “be perfect to be accepted” and with “no blemish” (22:21).  The LORD accepted only the best (22:22-25).

To remind us that God is compassionate, no firstborn bull, sheep, or goat, was to be taken from its mother and sacrificed until it was at least eight days old (22:27). Furthermore, it was never acceptable to sacrifice a cow or sheep on the same day her young would be sacrificed (22:28). No explanation is given for the law, but the very thought of killing two generations in one day would seem callous, and even barbaric (Exodus 23:19; Deuteronomy 22:6,7).

Freewill offerings of thanksgiving were to be sacrificed, and then eaten “on the same day” (22:30).

The chapter closes reminding us that the LORD is holy, and He commands His people to keep His “commandments, and do them” (22:31). God had saved Israel from slavery, and He demanded they remember He had chosen to be their God, for He is the LORD” (22:33).

A Closing Application – Because Christ is the believer’s sacrifice, Savior, and Redeemer (Hebrews 9:14, 28), we no longer offer blood sacrifices.

So, what does God require of the believer?

Romans 12:1–21I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

The Ten Commandments – Part 2 (Exodus 19-20)

Scripture reading: Exodus 19-20

The sound of the trumpet, and the smoke and fire that engulfed Mount Sinai, reflected an outward manifestation of God’s heavenly glory, and no man, woman, or beast dared approach the mount and live (19:12-13). Out of the midst of the thunder, lightning, and the fire and smoke, the LORD spoke, saying,

“I am the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] thy God [Elohim], which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (20:2).

Exodus 20 – The Ten Commandments were part of the LORD’S covenant with Israel, and the people were to hear, heed, and obey them (20:1-17).

The first commandment: “3Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (20:3). Unlike the neighboring nations who worshipped innumerable gods, Israel was to worship one God—Yahweh, Elohim, the True, Eternal, Self-existent One.

The second commandment: “4Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (20:4-6). Unlike their neighbors, Israel was not to worship idols, or images, of Israel’s God. The guilt for violating the second commandment would be borne by the family, and invoke God’s judgment “upon the children” (20:5).

The third commandment: “7Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (20:7). God’s name was to be honored, and not spoken of lightly or in vain. The name and meaning of Israel’s God was hallowed, and identified with His character.

The fourth commandment: “8Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (20:8-11). The Sabbath Day, the seventh day of the week, was dedicated to the LORD as a day of worship, and rest (31:16-17).

The fifth commandment: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (20:12). Because fathers and mothers represented God’s authority, sons and daughters of Israel were to honor and revere their parents. The elderly were to be honored, and revered; any who failed were condemned (Deuteronomy 27:16). To honor one’s parents carried a special promise—long life (20:12b; Ephesians 6:1-3).

The sixth commandment: “Thou shalt not kill” (20:13). Because Adam was created in God’s image, the life of man and woman were to be thought as sacred (Genesis 1:27; 2:7, 21-22).

The seventh commandment: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (20:14). God established marriage as a covenant between Himself, and the man and woman (Genesis 2:24). Marriage is a picture between Christ’s love for the church, and the husbands bond, and union with his wife (Ephesians 5:30-32; Matthew 5:27-29).

The eighth commandment: “Thou shalt not steal” (20:15). This commandment established the right of property ownership, and to take that which belonged to another (whether by theft, or deceit), was a sin (Ephesians 4:28).

The ninth commandment: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (20:16). God’s people were to speak the truth (Ephesians 4:15, 25, 29), and libel, slander, or bearing false witness was a grievous sin.

The tenth commandment: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s” (20:17). Covetousness is a sin that desires what belongs to another. It is only perceived outwardly, after it has taken root in the heart.

Exodus 20:18-26 – The Manner of Worship Required By a Holy God

The LORD not only forbad idols or images of Himself (20:4-6; 23-25), He was also concerned about the manner of those who approached His altar to worship and offer sacrifices. To preserve a modest, respectful decorum, steps were forbidden at the altar, lest those who worshipped be perceived as immodest (20:26).

A closing thought: The LORD’S expectations for Israel’s altar, and the demand for modesty, should be instructive. The priests were to conduct themselves according the instructions given, in a manner befitting the holiness of God, and never allow any “nakedness” to distract those who worshipped the LORD (20:26). I fear 21st century worship has degenerated into “anything goes,” and little thought is given regarding the manner or style of worshiping God who is holy.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Family Reunion, and Essential Qualities of a Spiritual Leader (Exodus 18)

Scripture reading: Exodus 18

With the defeat of the Amalekites (17:13-16), the LORD magnified the standing of Moses and Joshua, and news reached the nations of “all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel his people, and [how] the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt” (18:1). Soon after, Jethro, “the priest of Midian,” and the father-in-law of Moses, journeyed to Israel’s encampment (18:1), reuniting him with his wife and sons (18:1-5).

Although he had proved himself to be a great leader, when Moses learned his father-in-law had come, he honored him and “went out to meet [him]… and did obeisance [bowed before him], and kissed him” (18:7a).

What a great reunion, as Jethro and Moses “asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent” of Moses (18:7b). We do not know the number of hours that passed as Moses rehearsed “all that the Lord had done unto Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake” (18:8a). Remembering the timidity of Moses when the LORD had first called to him from the midst of the burning bush, I am sure Jethro took pride in the man who was his son by marriage.

Moses shared not only the victories, but the trials “that had come upon them by the way, and how the Lorddelivered them” (18:8) from thirst, and hunger, and given Israel success over the Amalekites (17:8-16).

Jethro rejoiced in the LORD’S goodness, and how He had delivered the nation out of slavery (18:9-10). He testified, “11Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them” (18:11). Though he was a Midianite, and not numbered among the children of Israel, he was a man of faith in the God of Israel, and “took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God” (18:12), and invited Moses, his brother Aaron, “and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread…before God” (18:12).

The celebration was short lived, for the next day Moses did what he did every day, with the exception of the Sabbath: He “sat to judge the people” (18:13). Jethro looked on, as the people gathered “from the morning unto the evening” (18:13), waiting for Moses to weigh their concerns, and pass judgment. He enquired of Moses, “What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even?” (18:14)

Moses explained that his role was not to make laws, but to make “the statutes of God, and His laws” known (18:15-16).

Jethro suggested there was a better way to judge the people, and that was to “teach [the people] ordinances and laws, and [show] them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do” (18:20). He suggested that Moses should choose “able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them…22And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee” (18:21-22).

I close inviting you to notice how Moses heeded his father-in-law’s counsel (18:21-22), and “chose able [capable] men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people…and they judged the people at all seasons [as the need arose]: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves (18:25-26). They were men who feared God; pious, godly men (18:21). “Men of truth,” who were worthy of trust, and did “hate covetousness;” they were men of integrity and were above reproach (18:21).

What about you? Would you have the spiritual qualities God seeks in a man or woman who serves Him?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“I AM hath sent me unto you.” (Exodus 3-4)

Scripture reading: Exodus 3-4

Moses was forty years old when he fled Egypt into the wilderness (2:11), and he spent the next forty years of his tending his father-in-law’s sheep. He had been safe from the reign of Pharaoh, and lived far from the travail of the children of Israel. In fact, he might have contentedly lived out his days with his wife Zipporah (2:21), and his sons, Gershom (2:22) and Elizer (18:4).

Though the children of Israel were far from the thoughts of Moses, they were never beyond God’s loving compassion. When the “king of Egypt died” (2:23), and the people found no relief from their sorrows, they “cried, and their cry rose up to God by reason of the bondage [slavery; forced labor]” (2:23b).

“God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.25And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect [acknowledged] unto them” (2:24-25).

Exodus 3 – Called and Commissioned (3:1-14).

God found Moses tending his father-in-law’s sheep on the backside of the desert (3:1). He had providentially made his way to Horeb, “the mountain of God” (3:1). [This same mount, also named Sinai, would become the base camp for Israel when Moses received the Ten Commandments, Exodus 19:10-11.]

At Horeb, “the angel of the Lord appeared unto [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush… and the bush was not consumed” (3:2).

The sight of a burning bush in the desert was not unusual; however, when it was not consumed–that’s when God got Moses’ attention. He turned aside to see the sight (3:3), and God called him by name from the burning bush (fire being a symbol of God’s presence in the Scriptures, Exodus 19:18).

Instructing Moses to remove his shoes, the voice said, “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (3:6a).

What did Moses, a prince of Egypt, know about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? His knowledge of the God of Israel was not acquired in the palace of Pharaoh’s daughter, but instead, he was taught from the loving arms of his Hebrew mother, Jochebed (2:2, 8-10; 6:20).

God awakened in Moses a memory of the sufferings of the children of Israel (3:7), and He announced He would deliver His people out of bondage (3:8). God then commanded Moses, “10Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt” (3:10).

Moses asked, “Who am I?” (3:11). No longer the proud prince of Egypt, his question evidenced a humility that had been born in the solitude of the desert. No doubt the LORD had prepared Moses; however, the matter of his calling was not who he was, but who had called and commissioned him. God assured him, “I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain” (3:12).

Moses wondered aloud, “Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?” (3:13)

“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you” (3:14).

God promised, not only would the children of Israel heed his voice (3:15-18a), but the king of Egypt would bow to his will. The LORD promised He would smite Egypt until that great nation bowed to His will (3:18b-22).

Exodus 4 – God Overcame Moses’ Objections

Overwhelmed by the task he had been given, God provided Moses with three miraculous signs to prove the LORD was with him. The first sign, his shepherd’s staff became a serpent (4:2-5). The second sign showed his skin turning leprous, and then completely healed (4:6-8). Turning water into blood was the third miraculous sign (4:8-9).

When Moses objected that he lacked the eloquence or language needed to stand in Pharaoh’s court (after being exiled from Egypt forty years, 4:10), God rebuked him saying, “Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord?” (4:11) The LORD overcame Moses’ objection, promising to send Aaron on his behalf (4:12-16).

Moses departed for Egypt, but along the way became deathly ill (4:18-24). He might have died, but his wife Zipporah, intervened by circumcising their son (4:24-25). She then returned to her father’s house (4:24-26), and did not reunite with Moses until Israel encamped at Sinai (18:2-3).

Arriving in Egypt, Aaron gathered the elders of Israel, and Moses demonstrated the power of God was upon him (4:30). When the people witnessed the signs of God’s power, they believed, and worshipped the LORD (4:31).

The stage is set for the contest between the most powerful king on the earth, and a shepherd whom God had anointed to lead His people to the Promised Land.

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 Father’s Hope Revived: Joseph is Alive! (Genesis 46 – Part 1)

Scripture reading – Genesis 46-47

Jacob had charted an astonishing journey in life. His spiritual walk had been so transformed that God had changed his name from Jacob (“trickster”), to Israel (“God wrestles,” 32:28), and a man who had power with God.

Though blessed by the LORD, Jacob’s life had not been without disappointments and sorrows that invariably afflict us all. He was in his twilight years, and his life had been shadowed by the deaths of his wives, and the loss of two sons (Joseph whom he believed had been killed by a wild beast, and Simeon who had been left as a prisoner in Egypt). Famine had forced Jacob to send his sons back to Egypt, with the demand that Benjamin, his youngest son must accompany them. Jacob resigned himself to the worst outcome (43:14).

Waiting for word from his sons; hope returned when Jacob caught the first sight of their caravan in the distance. His sons’ greeting, and the news they had brought from Egypt caused his heart to nearly cease: Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt” (45:26-27)!

Though old and frail, the news that Joseph was alive, revived his spirit (45:27). The journey to Egypt would be hard for an old man, but the anticipation of being reunited with Joseph had so stirred him that he looked forward to death with the contentment of a man whose life has been satisfied (45:28).

Genesis 46:1-7 – Journey from Beersheba

Located at the southernmost point of Canaan before crossing into the Arabian Peninsula, Beersheba held a significant place in Jacob’s life. Israel (Jacob) began his journey to Egypt, but not before going to Beersheba, where he “offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac” (46:1; 21:30; 22:19; 26:23, 32-33). There God appeared to Israel (Jacob), and quieted his fears saying, “I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation: 4I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes” (46:3-4). Knowing the LORD’s leading, Jacob, and all his family made their way from Beersheba, and arrived in Egypt (46:5-7).

Genesis 46:8-27 – Jacob’s Family Roster: The Twelve Sons of Jacob

Altogether, sixty-six men were identified among those who traveled to Egypt (46:8-26). Including Jacob, Joseph, and his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, Jacob’s lineage numbered seventy souls (46:27).

Genesis 46:28-34 – Jacob’s Reunion with Joseph

Traveling with a large family, including all their livestock and belongings, had made for a slow, difficult journey. When they arrived in Egypt, Jacob sent Judah, his fourth born son, to Joseph who “made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen, and presented himself unto him; and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while” (46:29).

Imagine the moment Joseph embraced his father, and the tears of joy that coursed down their cheeks as twenty-two years of separation were bridged by a father and son’s love. “Israel said unto Joseph, Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive” (46:30). The son he had believed was dead, was not only alive, he was the second ruler of Egypt!

We learn that Egyptians looked upon shepherds with loathing (46:34), and Joseph wisely prepared his family for their interview with Pharaoh (46:31). Because his brothers had also tended cattle, Joseph counseled them to answer questions concerning their trade: “Thy servants’ trade hath been about cattle from our youth even until now, both we, and also our fathers: that ye may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians” (46:32-34).

Joseph’s love, and care for his father was commendable, and is as it should always be. Though he was a ruler of Egypt, there was no greater privilege than to be the son of Israel, a man who had power with God!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Genesis 45

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith