Category Archives: Family

The Conception, Birth, and Life of Samson (Judges 13-15)

Daily Reading Assignment – Judges 13-15

The story of Samson, the judge and champion of Israel (Judges 13-16), is a familiar one to the majority of Bible students. For that reason, I am focusing on the less known details of his conception and the revelation of his person to his mother and father (Judges 13).

The national cycle of sin, suffering, repentance, and restoration continues in our study of the Book of Judges. Israel had been oppressed by the Philistines, and the people had suffered the consequences of their sin and rebellion for forty years (13:1). Hearing the cries of His people, the “angel of the LORD” appeared to a barren woman who was the wife of Manoah, of the tribe of Dan.

Manoah’s wife was told she would bare a son, but not just any son. From the moment of his conception, his mother was to set herself and her son apart for the LORD (13:3-5).

She and her son were to follow Nazarite guidelines (Numbers 6:1-8) and its three prohibitions: She was not to drink wine or any strong drink (13:4, 7), nor eat anything unclean (13:4, 7), and her son’s hair was not to be cut (13:7).

Telling her husband she had been visited by “a man of God” (13:6), Manoah prayed to the LORD, “teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born” (13:8). God answered his prayer and the “angel of the LORD” appeared a second time (13:9-11). Manoah asked, “How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?” (13:12)

Eager to be a good host by Eastern traditions and not understanding his guest was no ordinary man (13:16), Manoah desired to prepare a meal for his visitor (13:15). The “angel of the LORD” refused his invitation, but encouraged Manoah, “offer a burnt offering” (13:16).

Still blind to the identity of his guest, Manoah asked, “What is thy name?” under the pretense that when his son was born he would honor his guest (13:17).

The “angel of the LORD” answered Manoah with a question that was in fact a revelation saying, “Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?” (13:18) The word “secret” might better be translated, “Wonderful.” In other words, too “Wonderful” to speak, one of the names of the Messiah revealed by Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 9:6.

Isaiah 9:66  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

A flame suddenly came from within the rock and consumed the “kid” (young goat) Manoah offered as a meat offering. Revealing He was more than a man, “the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar” (13:20).

When Manoah realized his visitor was not a man, he said to his wife, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God” (13:22).  Manoah’s wife, having a greater understanding of the LORD’s character than her husband, replied, “If the LORD were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands” (13:23).

Manoah’s wife gave birth to Samson and we read, “the child grew, and the LORD blessed him” (13:24) setting the stage for Samson to be moved by the “Spirit of the LORD” (13:25).

Judges 14-15 are familiar chapters for most, and I encourage you to read those passages in the absence of an extended commentary.

A Closing Thought: A Model of Godly Parenting

Consider the significant responsibility of child-bearing and child-rearing that were impressed upon the hearts of Samson’s mother and father. While he was in her womb, Samson’s mother was instructed to live a sanctified life and follow the same Nazarite guidelines her son would live under (13:4, 7).

Manoah, Samson’s father, understood the significance of the prophetic announcement of his son’s conception and birth. He desired to know what he was to teach his son (13:8) and his responsibility to prepare Samson for the LORD’S calling on his life (13:12).

All parents should bear the privilege and responsibility for their child’s spiritual and physical well-being.

Set a godly example by your lifestyle and choices. Search the Scripture to know not only how you should “order the child,” but also how you should “do unto him” (13:12).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Put a Smile On Your Face! It’s Contagious!” (Proverbs 15:13)

Proverbs 15:13- A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Readers, I am blessed to have a loving family, great co-workers, and a loving church family whom I have served for nearly 35 years. I have dear friends whose friendships encourage laughter and remind me to make my physical health and well-being a priority. 

There are many not so fortunate and I am writing to encourage you with a devotional reminder taken from Proverbs 15:13. Don’t fall victim to an assault of negative news! Take charge of your health and well-being during the Coronavirus Crisis..

Today’s proverb gives us a lesson on matters of the heart and challenges us to take note—a man’s countenance is often a reflection of his heart. Solomon writes:

Proverbs 15:13 – “A merry [glad; joyful] heart maketh a cheerful [pleasing, good] countenance: but by sorrow [hurt, emotional wounds] of the heart [mind, thoughts, emotions] the spirit [breath, courage] is broken [afflicted; wounded].”

I remember visiting Myrtle Beach, SC as a child and walking though the old pavilion where full-length mirrors were configured to distort the image of the ones who took time to pose.  The exaggerated images reflected in the carnival mirrors were hilariously funny–extremely tall and skinny, squat and plump, a gargantuan head supported by a pea-size body—all distortions of reality.

I have also found family photos, especially when displayed in a succession of years, to be a fascinating study in the dynamics of a family’s life.  Old black and white photos bear the image of childhood faces reflecting the purity, trust and innocent abandon of youth.  However, that same child in later photographs may reveal a countenance that is altogether different—bright, cheerful eyes replaced by hollow, lifeless eyes.  A happy, youthful grin had fallen prey to a sneer and smirking glare.  One wonders, what dynamics in that child’s life and family had altered their countenance in so dramatic a form?

Capture the countenance of a man or woman in a sincere, unguarded moment and you will have a proof test of the emotional and spiritual inclination of their heart.  A joyful heart will reflect itself in a happy countenance!

The countenance that can be a mirror capable of reflecting a merry heart, can also be a canvas that bears the image of a broken heart, burdened with sin and depression.  Sorrows, disappointments and unresolved conflicts weigh heavy on a man’s heart and can break his spirit.  An unforgiving spirit can proverbially, “suck the wind out of your sails”.

Feel like you need a facelift? Take the following principles and I promise you—they will improve your countenance!

Ephesians 4:26-27, 31-32  “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27  Neither give place to the devil…31  Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Daily reading assignment: Joshua 12-15

Joshua 12 – Taking Possession of the Promised Land

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

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

Joshua 13 – Too Old to Go On

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

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

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

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

Joshua 14 – Caleb: Aged Man with a Burning Passion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

An Explanation of the Continuing Ministries of “Heart of A Shepherd, Inc.”

Dear Heart of a Shepherd followers, and Hillsdale family and friends,
Greetings on this Monday morning, March 23, 2020. Please be assured of our continued prayers for both your good health and God’s blessings in these confusing times.
I plan to continue my daily devotional commentaries during this crisis and pray my effort will prove to deepen your love of the scriptures, spiritual understanding, and your faith walk with the Lord.
I will sometimes publish devotions dedicated to the current crisis; however, I want to insure that we together continue to grow deeper in our understanding of not only the Word of God, but also the God of the Word.
For that reason, I plan to continue the chronological scripture reading schedule HBC Reading Plan 2020 we began this year and I invite you to print out a copy and do the same. Since January 1, 2020, I have published nearly ninety devotional commentaries that cover Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and the Book of Job. Yesterday marked the beginning of our study of the Book of Joshua and today’s reading was the second post in that incredible book of new beginnings!
I will continue to post an abbreviated video version of each day’s devotional, but I encourage you to read the full commentary as you read your Bible.

Finally, because I am concerned that the Truth of the Scriptures will invariably clash with the “political correctness” of social media, I urge you to subscribe to http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com.”  In the right column of website is a place where you can subscribe with your email address and insure the daily devotions are sent directly to you. I cannot subscribe for you.

I close encouraging you with the words of David from Psalm 31 where we read:

Psalm 31:1a,15a – “1 In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust… let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness…15  My times are in thy hand…”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith, Senior Pastor

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Virtual Invitation to Hillsdale’s Sunday Services and Today’s Devotional

You are invited to join Hillsdale’s Virtual Sunday Services at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.
Youth Pastor Justin Jarrett will present a Bible study for teens titled “Finding the Cure for Cabin Fever” at 9:45 AM.

At 10:30 AM, Pastor Smith will be sharing Three Principles for Overcoming Fear and Anxiety in a message titled, “The Sanctuary and Security of the Saints” at 10:30 AM.

Please click on this link to view a video invitation and recording of today’s Devotional Commentary (feel free to share).

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Choices Always Have Consequences (Deuteronomy 24-27)

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 24-27

Moses continues his final challenge to Israel in today’s scripture reading, and his speech covers nearly every aspect of life in the new land.

Deuteronomy 24

Marriage and divorce are the subject of the opening verses of Deuteronomy 24, and we are reminded that divorce was never God’s will. God’s plan from creation was that man would be the husband of one wife (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:8). The principles on divorce stated in this passage were given to stress the solemnness of marriage and the sobriety of divorce (24:1-5).

Various life principles follow (24:6-22)

1) Never take a pledge of indebtedness against a man’s “millstone,” meaning his means to grind wheat and provide bread for his family (24:6). Stated in a different manner: Don’t take from a man his livelihood and means to provide for his family.

2) Don’t engage in “man stealing” (the 21st century describes this as “human trafficking” and its victims are often children). The penalty of such is death (24:7).

3) Never oppress the poor by taking advantage of their impoverished state (24:10-15). In ancient times, the sole possession of a poor man might have been nothing more than the robes he wore. Explanation: While a poor man might offer his outer robe to secure a loan and the lender take possession of it during the day, the debtor was not to be denied the warmth and comfort of his robe at night.  That principle is timeless!  While people should not assume debts, they cannot pay; neither should lenders be harsh in charging usury, seeking justice, and restitution.

4) Employers are to pay employees their due (24:16).

5) Everyone was to bear the punishment for their own sin and not another in their stead (24:16).

6) Compassion for the poverty of the orphan, widow, and foreigner was a burden shared by Hebrew society (24:19-22).

Deuteronomy 25

Because justice is essential for the peace and well-being of a society, corporal punishment that fit the crime was to be administered, but within reason and without excessive harshness (Deut. 25:1-4).

Even the ox that labored in the field was to be an object of compassion and allowed the reward of eating some of the grain as it labored (25:4; 1 Timothy 5:18).

Hebrews were expected to be men of integrity in business, and weights and measurements used in commerce were to be “perfect and just” (Deut. 25:13-16).

Though commanded to have compassion on a foreigner in other passages, Israel was not to appear weak or trivialize offenses an enemy’s (25:17-19).

Deuteronomy 26

Because the LORD had chosen Israel and blessed the people, Moses reminded them they were to demonstrate their gratitude by bringing the first fruits of the harvest to the sanctuary (26:1-15).

A special tithe was given every third year accompanying the tither’s confession he had honored the LORD’s commandments and obeyed them. The third-year tithe was used to meet immediate needs in one’s community and to support “the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled” (26:12-15).

Reminded of their covenant with the LORD, Israel was to promise to “walk in his ways, and to keep His statutes, and His commandments” (26:16-17). In response, the LORD promised to promote Israel above all the nations of the earth (26:19).

Deuteronomy 27

Lest the people forget, a memorial pillar of stones was to be inscribed with the law and raised up on the west side of the Jordan River as a reminder of the LORD’s promises and commandments (Dt. 27:1-2).  An altar was to be built to sanctify the place and the LORD’s covenant with Israel (27:2-10).

Admonishing the people “Choices have Consequences”, the elders of the twelve tribes were charged to remind them obedience to the Law brought the LORD’s blessing, and disobedience His curse and judgments (27:14-26).

A series of twelve curses were pronounced, and the tribes affirmed they accepted the LORD’s covenant (Dt. 27:15-26).

1) Idolatry, a violation of the first and second commandments is cursed (27:15).

2) Dishonoring one’s parents is cursed (27:16), a violation of the fifth commandment (Ex. 20:12).

3) Stealing the property and possessions of another is cursed, a violation of the eighth commandment (27:17; Ex. 20:15).

4) Taking advantage of the infirmed or disabled is cursed (27:18).

5) Unjust treatment of “the stranger, fatherless, and widow” is cursed (27:19; Ex. 22:21-24).

The sixth through ninth curses address sexual impurity, a violation of the seventh commandment (27:20-23; Ex. 20:14).

6) Incest with one’s stepmother is cursed (27:20; Lev. 18:8-9, 17; 20:11).

7) Bestiality is cursed (27:21; Lev. 18:23).

8) Incest between siblings and parents is cursed (27:22).

9) Incest with one’s mother-in-law is cursed (27:23).

The sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Ex. 20:13), is the subject of the tenth and eleventh curses (Dt. 27:24-25).

10) Intentional murder of one’s neighbor is cursed (Dt. 27:24).

11) Hiring an assassin to kill another is cursed (Dt. 27:25).

The twelfth and final curse is addressed to any child of Israel who failed to affirm God’s Law and Commandments (Dt .27:26).

When the people were asked to affirm they accepted the LORD’s covenant, they answered, “Amen” (27:26).

In case you are tempted to believe the law and commandments have no application to you, I remind you:

1 Peter 1:15-16 – “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16  Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Moral Foundation of Societal Laws (Deuteronomy 21-23)

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 21-23

We find in today’s scripture reading the basis from which we derive our societal views on the sanctity of life, compassion, and decency. Signs of moral decay are around us; however, there are glimpses of compassion, rightness, and a sense of justice that continues to prevail.

Our neighbors may be ignorant of the source of their outrage when animals are mistreated, the weak are abused, or women are victims of violence. In today’s scripture you will discover the moral basis of justice and our conviction that demands kindness and fairness.

Moral Decency and Compassion (Deuteronomy 21)

Deuteronomy 21 sets forth various laws Israel was to follow. The sanctity of human life is demonstrated in the regard of a slain man whose body was discovered with no witnesses to identify his killer (21:1-9).

The just treatment of an alien woman taken as the spoil of war is addressed and the dignity of womanhood was demanded (21:10-12). Should a Hebrew man take a foreign woman as his wife, she was to be given a season of mourning (21:13). Should the husband later declare he did not desire her, she was to be treated with dignity and not to be sold as a slave. She was to be granted her freedom (21:14).

The birthright of inheritance as a firstborn son was established (21:15-17). The firstborn son’s right of a double inheritance could not be diminished, even if he was born to a least favored wife. He was his father’s firstborn and his privilege could not be reduced.

The nation was to be intolerant of rebellion in its youth (21:18) and a rebellious, stubborn son given to gluttony and drunkenness was to be put to death by the men of the city after due process (21:19-21).

Love Thy Neighbor (Deuteronomy 22)

There are many life principles we follow as a nation that originate in the Old Testament scriptures. What we consider civil behavior has its roots in Old Testament laws.  For example, your neighbors might try to find and return a stray pet to its owner. That compulsion is founded in the Israelite law that a man was required to preserve his neighbor’s property, have compassion on stray livestock (22:1-2), and hold a lost object until it was claimed by its owner (22:3).

A militant movement in the 21st century has attempted to normalize “transsexualism,” but God’s law addressed this aberration of His divine order and demanded the dress and fashion of the male and female to be distinctive (22:5).

Remembering God is Creator and life is sacred, the Israelites were to value and preserve life; even the smallest bird and her nestlings were to be treated with compassion (22:6-7).

Traditional homes in the Middle East were flat roofed and families would escape the interior heat of a home by seeking refuge on the roof at night. Demonstrating the sacred nature of human life, a “battlement” or low wall was required on the roof to prevent accidental falls that would result in injury and death (22:8).

Unlike the heathen, Hebrew women were given protections and the right of due process should their purity and testimony be called into question (22:13-21).  Practical laws and guidelines regarding the sanctity and purity of marriage were stated and adultery and rape were condemned (22:13-30). Incest was prohibited and was an abomination to God (22:30).

Deuteronomy 23

Males who underwent sexual mutilation (23:1), such as what you and I might identify as “sex change” in the 21st century, were to be put out from God’s people.

The rights of inheritance and those prohibited to have any inheritance in Israel are listed (23:2-8). Principles concerning hygiene and sanitation are enumerated, even the use of a shovel to cover human waste was endorsed (23:12-14).

A slave fleeing a foreign master was to be given safe haven in Israel (23:15-16) and female whores and sodomite men were to be excluded from the nation (23:17-18).

A Hebrew was forbidden to charge interest (usury) on a loan to another Hebrew; however, interest was allowed when loaning to a non-Hebrew (23:19-20).

Principles concerning vows are stated: 1) Making a vow is binding and is not to be entered into lightly and when failed is a sin (23:21). 2) In fact, it is better to not make a vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it (23:22-23).

Finally, we notice a lesson in civility and an expression of compassion for others: Strangers were permitted to eat fruit in vineyards and fields as they passed by; however, they were forbidden to employ a vessel to carry more than they could eat at one time (23:24-25).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith