Category Archives: Hope

Whom or What are You Serving? (Joshua 22-24)

Daily reading assignment: Joshua 22-24

Joshua 22 – A Misunderstanding Led to a Threat of Civil War

The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half of the tribe of Manasseh had requested of Moses to grant them the pasture lands on the east side of the Jordan River (Numbers 32; Deuteronomy 3:12-20).

Seven years had passed before the new land was at peace and the warriors of Israel were allowed to lay down their swords and shields. With Israel at rest and the lands assigned by tribe, the warriors of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh were discharged from their duties and allowed to return to their families and lands on the east side of the Jordan (22:1-9).

Joshua challenged the men returning to their families to be diligent to observe the Commandments and the Law given by Moses. He urged them to cleave to the LORD and serve Him with all their hearts. (22:5).

Erecting a memorial to their covenant with the other tribes, the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an altar on the east side of the Jordan that nearly became a provocation for war (22:10).  A threat of civil war soon followed as the western tribes misunderstood the purpose of the altar and feared the other tribes had departed from the God of Israel (22:11-12).

Wisely, before blood was shed, a delegation was sent to investigate the intent of the structure. Rather than a place of worship and sacrifice as they feared, they found the altar was a memorial for future generations to remember their covenant with the LORD and the Twelve Tribes of Israel  (22:13-34). The investigation embodies a spiritual principle for us all:

Proverbs 18:13 – “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.”

Joshua 23-24 – Joshua’s Final Challenge and Address

“Old and stricken in age,” Joshua gathered the leaders of Israel for a parting exhortation before his death (23:1-2).  Like the great leader he was, he foresaw the challenges Israel would face in the years ahead when he was departed. Joshua’s words echo 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 and never forsook them (23:4-10).  He challenged them to keep God’s Word (23:6), cleave to the LORD (23:8), and love the LORD (23:11).  He warned: Compromise with the heathen and you will invite God’s judgment (23:12-16).

At Shechem (24:1), the same place Abraham had received God’s promise that his lineage would inherit the land (Genesis 12:6-7), Joshua began to rehearse God’s promises and providences.

He recalled God had chosen Abraham (24:2-4), delivered Israel out of Egypt (24:5-7), and guided them through the wilderness (24:7-10).  He reminded the people that God had given them the land as He had promised (24:11-13) and challenged them to revere and serve the LORD (24:14-28). Lastly, Joshua exhorted the people to declare their devotion to the LORD with a covenant to memorialize their vow to serve Him (24:25-28).

The Book of Joshua closes with the death of a generation of leaders and three burials.  Joshua, the successor of Moses died at 110 years old and was buried (24:29-30).  Fulfilling Joseph’s request (Genesis 50:25), his bones were buried on the land owned by his father Jacob (24:32).  Finally, Eleazar the high priest and the son of Aaron, died and was buried (24:33).

Like it was with Israel, so it is with every man and woman reading this devotional:

We must individually decide whether or not we will serve the LORD with our whole heart (24:14-24).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Three Affirmations Concerning the Faithfulness of God (Joshua 19-21)

Daily reading assignment: Joshua 19-21

Joshua 19 – A selfless, godly leader

The business of dividing the Promised Land and assigning portions to the seven tribes (18:2-3) that had not yet taken possession of their inheritance continues in Joshua 19.

After dividing the land according to tribe, Joshua was the last to receive his inheritance. Honoring him for his years of faithful service, the “children of Israel gave an inheritance to Joshua… [and]they gave him the city which he asked, even Timnathserah in mount Ephraim: and he built the city, and dwelt therein” (19:49-50).

A word of caution: Don’t make the mistake of glibly passing over the names of cities and territories listed in Joshua 19 and miss an important lesson. Although the names of the cities may be foreign and difficult to pronounce, they remind us of an important truth: God fulfilled His promise, and Israel was settled in her land.

Joshua 20 – Cities of Refuge for the Innocent Accused of Murder

The LORD commanded Joshua to establish six “cities of refuge” in the land (20:1-2). Moses had already assigned three cities on the east side of the Jordan River (20:8; Deuteronomy 4:41-43). To those three remaining Joshua designated three cities west of the Jordan (20:7).

Reflecting the sanctity of human life and the principle of capital punishment established by God (Genesis 9:5-6; Exodus 20), the cities of refuge afforded a safe place for those who had unintentionally taken the life of another man (20:3-4).  Because there was no law enforcement, the cities of refuge provided a place where a man’s case could be judged by the elders of the city and his life protected from those who felt compelled to avenge the death of a loved one (20:5).

Two regulations governed who might find refuge from an avenger (20:6). The first was the responsibility of the inhabitants of the city to determine if a man was guilty or innocent of murder. If guilty, the accused would be turned over to the avenger. If innocent of murder, but guilty of manslaughter, the accused must remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest.

Joshua 21 – Cities Assigned to the Tribe of Levi

We have been reminded on several occasions that the priestly tribe of Levi would not receive its own land.  Serving the LORD and the congregation, the Levites’ physical needs were to be met by the sacrificial gifts of God’s people.

The tribe of Levi requested the cities they had been promised for their inheritance in the land (Joshua 21:1-3) and were assigned forty-eight cities, by family, and scattered throughout the tribal lands (21:4-42).  It was the ministry of the Levites to minister to the people and teach them the Word and Law of God (2 Chronicles 17:9).

I invite you to consider three affirmations concerning the faithfulness of God as we close today’s commentary.

1) The LORD gave Israel “all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers” (21:43).

2) He gave the nation victory over her enemies and “gave them rest” (21:44).

3) Not one “good thing” the LORD had promised failed (21:45).

What a great and faithful God we serve!

2 Corinthians 1:2020  For all [every one of] the promises of God in him [Christ] are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.

Copyright 2020– Travis D. Smith

Slackers Stumble, but the Faithful Claim God’s Promises (Joshua 16-18)

Scripture Reading – Joshua 16-18

Today’s devotional reading does not have the drama of battle or the clash of personalities we have observed in earlier chapters. For the Twelve Tribes of Israel, this begins the division of the Promised Land after the heathen, idolatrous people were driven out of Canaan.

We have considered the land assigned to the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and the half-tribe of Manasseh on the east side of the Jordan River (Joshua 12:6, 13:8, 15, 23-32). Of course, the Levites would receive no land for an inheritance, but the tribes would allot them cities and land in their midst for their service to the LORD (13:33; 14:3-5). The tribe of Judah was assigned its land (14:6; 15:1-63).

Joseph, the eleventh born son of Jacob, was abundantly blessed for his faithfulness to the LORD in Egypt, and his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, born in Egypt, were each given their own inheritance in the land (Joshua 16:1-4). The inheritance of the tribe of Ephraim, Joseph’s younger son, is outlined (16:1-10) as well as the failure of the tribe to drive out “the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer” (16:10).

Joshua 17

The tribe of Manasseh, Joseph’s eldest son, received a double portion, not only a portion of the land on the east side of Jordan, but also on the west side of Jordan (17:1-18). Two daughters, born to a father who had no sons and therefore no male heir, had petitioned Moses, and Joseph was reminded they ought to receive an inheritance in the absence of a male heir (17:3-4). Like Ephraim, we notice the failure of Manasseh to “drive out the inhabitants” of the land (17:12-13).

A humorous exchange takes place between Joshua and Ephraim and Manasseh when those tribes complained they were not receiving a rightful portion of land based on the size of their tribes (17:14-18). Joshua challenged them to go to war against the “Perizzites” and the “giants” in the land and claim the land for their children (17:15). Joshua refused to accept their protests and challenged them a second time, “Thou art a great people, and hast power” (17:17-18).

Joshua 18

The LORD commanded the Tabernacle to be erected in Shiloh where it would remain throughout the era of the Judges (18:1). The narrative concerning the dividing of the land among the twelve tribes continues in Joshua 18.  Seven tribes had failed to claim their land and Joshua confronted them saying, “How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which the LORD God of your fathers hath given you?” (18:3)

Joshua then set forth a plan for dividing up the remaining territories among the seven remaining tribes (18:4-28).  He challenged them to survey the land and come back with a description of the towns and the land to be divided up at the Tabernacle in Shiloh (18:10).  The tribe of Benjamin was also assigned its land with its boundaries stated (18:11-28).

Half-hearted (18:2-3), what a tragic flaw of humanity we see in the seven tribes that we too often see in ourselves! The land was at peace and theirs to claim and settle, and yet they were slackers. They failed to take and possess what the LORD had given them!

Let us not be numbered among the spiritually half-hearted slackers.  May we, like Joshua, be diligent in following the LORD’s commands, claim the blessings that come from faithfulness, and rest in His love, promises, and bountiful care.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Joshua: Finishing Strong (Joshua 9-11)

Daily reading assignment: Joshua 9-11

Joshua 9 – Failure to Seek the LORD’S Counsel

With Jericho destroyed (Joshua 6) and Ai utterly defeated (Joshua 8), word of the conquests went throughout Canaan. The city of Gibeon, fearing they would be the next to fall, sent a delegation to Joshua who disguised themselves as a people who lived a great way off (9:3-13).

Joshua and the elders of Israel, without seeking wisdom from the LORD, made a treaty with the Gibeonites (9:14-15). Three days passed when Joshua realized he and the elders of Israel had been duped, learning Gibeon was a neighboring city (9:16-17). The foolish league with Gibeon gave occasion for the children of Israel to murmur against the leaders of their tribes (9:18).

Accepting the treaty as binding, it was determined that the Gibeonites would become servants doing menial tasks in the midst of Israel (9:19-27).

Joshua 10 – Strategy for Success

Israel’s ill-advised peace treaty with the Gibeonites was a violation of the LORD’S command for Israel to not seek ties with the heathen. The decision made without “counsel at the mouth of the LORD” (9:14), soon drew Joshua and Israel into battles with neighboring city kingdoms in the land (Joshua 10).

In making an alliance with Israel, the Gibeonites had betrayed their former alliance of five city-states whose kings gathered to make war against Gibeon (10:1-5).  God used the gathering of the heathen kings and their armies as an opportunity for Joshua and Israel to defeat the whole confederation in one swift blow.

Facing a great foe, the LORD assured Joshua, “Fear them not: for I have delivered them into thine hand” (10:8).  Joshua believed God and he rallied Israel to march through the night (10:9) to come upon the enemy suddenly (10:10). The LORD intervened for Israel and sent hailstones slaying the enemy (10:11).

Joshua called out to the LORD, and said “in the sight of Israel, ‘Sun, stand thou still’…and the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies” (10:12-14).

How could God stop the rotation of the earth and extend the length of a day? Because He is God. The prophet Jeremiah observed,

Jeremiah 32:17 – “Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:”

The LORD answered, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27).

Joshua 11 – Lesson Learned

After Israel defeated the southern kings in Canaan (10:28-41), Joshua set his eyes on completing the task of conquering Canaan by attacking the northern kingdoms (11:1-23).

A string of successes in battle under Joshua’s leadership raised the ire of Israel’s enemies and became the catalyst of a gathering of adversaries against God’s people (Joshua 11:1-5).

Having learned well the lesson of not presuming upon the LORD’s blessing or moving ahead of His leading (11:6), Joshua went to war obeying God’s plan for the battles (Joshua 11:6-23).  We read, Joshua “left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses…Joshua took all the land [and] made war a long time” (11:15-18).

What a great example Joshua is for all leaders. He believed the LORD, and his faith and example inspired Israel until we read, “the land rested from war” (11:23).

Joshua’s failure to seek the LORD’S counsel (9:14) was one he regretted; however, he learned from his mistake and did not repeat it!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Rahab: A Testimony of Saving Grace (Joshua 5-8)

Daily reading assignment: Joshua 5-8

Having crossed the Jordan River, Joshua and Israel faced the challenge of waging war with the inhabitants of the land God had promised He would give to Abraham and his lineage.

The first great city of the land was the ancient city of Jericho, whose walls made it the strongest fortress in the land, but one that had to be conquered for the people to pass on and take possession of their inheritance.

The two men Joshua had sent to spy out Jericho had, after finding refuge in the home of Rahab (Joshua 2), returned and gave a report, stating that the citizens of Jericho feared the God of Israel and her armies (Joshua 2:11-12).

Joshua 5 – Circumcision, Now?

Circumcising all males born during Israel’s wilderness sojourn was Joshua’s first task after leading Israel into the Promised Land (5:1-9).  While the generation that had departed Egypt had been circumcised, the succeeding generation who were born during the forty years of wandering had not been circumcised (5:5).

Why did Joshua wait until crossing the Jordan into “enemy territory?” Circumcision was a sign of the LORD’S covenant and it was His desire that it be administered in the land He had promised to give the sons and lineage of Abraham. Egypt was in the past and a new land was before them (5:9).

The first Passover was also observed in the new land and the people remembered how the LORD had delivered them out of the hand of Pharaoh and slavery in Egypt (5:10-12). The daily manna the LORD had provided during their sojourn ceased as the people would begin consuming “the fruit of the land of Canaan” (5:12).

The appearance of the angel of the LORD, a theophany of God’s physical presence, confirmed to Joshua that LORD was with him and Israel (5:13-15).

Joshua 6 – The Fall of Jericho

Joshua 6 is the record of the overthrow of the ancient city of Jericho. Jericho was not defeated by a force of arms nor a well-planned siege of ancient military engines. God delivered the city into Israel’s hand, and all perished with the exception of Rahab and her household.

Joshua 7 – The Humiliating Defeat at Ai

Joshua 7 reminds us the sin of one man can invite the judgment of God on a family and a nation. Achan had allowed covetousness to take root in his heart. Seeing the wealth and riches in the ruins of Jericho, he set his heart on them and took into his heart and tent the gold, silver, and elaborate clothing God had forbidden (7:21).  Achan’s decision proved to be a disaster for the nation and was the ruin of his household (7:24-26).

Joshua 8 – Faith is the Victory!

After learning the dreadful consequences of sin and the presumptive failure to seek God’s direction and blessing, Joshua 8 records Israel’s great victory over the city of Ai.

I close today’s devotional commentary inviting you to consider Rahab and the astonishing testimony of God’s grace she represents (Joshua 6:17, 22-25).  Why did God, out of all who perished in Jericho’s destruction, spare a harlot and her family?  The answer to that question is found in Hebrews 11:31.

Hebrews 11:31 – “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.”

Rahab’s character garnered no merit with God or Israel. She was a heathen and a prostitute.  Why was she spared?

She believed Israel’s God was the One True God and Israel was His chosen people (Joshua 2:8-13).  She had welcomed the spies into her home and when the army of Israel surrounded the city, the scarlet rope tied in her window was a testimony and symbol of her faith.

Rahab’s faith was rewarded by God! She was spared the destruction of Jericho, she became the mother of Boaz and was the great-great grandmother of David. Rahab is named in the lineage of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5) and is a lasting testimony of God’s saving grace.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The End is the Beginning (Joshua 1-4)

Scripture Reading Assignment: Joshua 1-4

In his book on Spiritual Leadership, J. Oswald Sanders observes concerning the death of great leaders:

“When a movement develops around a dominant personality, the real test of the quality of his leadership is the manner in which that work survives the crisis of his removal.” [Moody Press, 1967, p. 210]

The death of God’s servants never takes God by surprise. The leader’s family will be shaken and mourn. His co-laborers may be dismayed at the loss. His followers, no doubt, shaken by his sudden removal. God’s work is not built upon dominant personalities and no leader is indispensable. Ministries will be blessed as long as God’s purposes are accomplished.

When Moses died, Joshua, his successor, and Israel acutely felt the loss of their leader (Deuteronomy 34:7-9). Some might have despaired. Others may have panicked and asked: “What will we do without Moses?” Many were dismayed that God would remove Moses just as they faced the greatest test of their nation’s life – crossing the Jordan River and taking possession of Canaan.

Joshua 1 – God’s Work Did Not End with the Death of Moses

Alexander Maclaren writes, “No man is indispensable. God’s work goes on uninterrupted. The instruments are changed but the Master’s hand is the same, and lays one tool aside and takes another out of the tool-chest as He will.”  [Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Southern Baptist Convention, p. 87]

For thirty days Israel had mourned the death of Moses, but when that time was passed the LORD wasted no time and commanded Joshua: “2  Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel” (1:2).

God described the borders of Israel’s Promised Land as the mass of land between Lebanon in the north and the “wilderness” or desert of Arabia in the south; from the river of Euphrates in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west (1:4).  The land was inhabited by the “Hittites,” an ancient people known elsewhere as the Canaanites. They were eventually driven out of the land and became assimilated into the nomadic tribes of Arabia.

An indisputable sign of God’s person and sovereignty over the nations is the existence of an ancient, distinct people, not limited to, but known today as Jews. While tribes and nations of ancient times are little more than a footnote in history; the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob continues.

The LORD reminded Joshua that Israel’s existence as a nation was dependent on the people obeying God’s Law.

Joshua 1:88  This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

With the assurance of His blessing, God promised Joshua, “the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (1:9). The order to prepare being given (1:10-11), Joshua reminded the two and one-half tribes that had requested the lands on the east side of the Jordan for an inheritance, of the obligation of their men to cross over the Jordan and battle beside the other tribes until the land was secured (1:12-18).

Joshua 2 – A Harlot’s Step of Faith

Two spies were sent over to view the land and investigate the city of Jericho and its defenses. Providentially taking refuge in the lodge of a harlot named Rahab (2:1), their presence in that ancient city was soon noticed (2:2-3). Fearing rumors she had heard of all God had done for Israel, Rahab hid the spies on her rooftop and requested they remember her and show grace to her household when Jericho fell to Israel (2:4-14).

Lowering the spies by means of a scarlet rope from a window of her home on the wall, Rahab was instructed to tie the rope in that same window as a sign that she and her household were to be spared (2:15-22).

Delivering the report that the inhabitants of Jericho were terrified, the spies affirmed to Joshua, “Truly the LORD hath delivered into our hands all the land” (2:24).

Joshua 3 – The Order Given to Break Camp

Commanding the tribes to encamp for three days on the shores of the Jordan, Joshua ordered the people to prepare to cross the river (3:1). The Ark of the Covenant, a symbol of the LORD’s presence in their midst, would be carried by priests and lead the way across the Jordan River (3:3-11).  Joshua commanded the people to not only prepare for war, but more importantly, to be sanctified, meaning they were to be ceremonially cleansed and purified before the LORD (3:5).

As the waters of the Red Sea parted before Moses, the waters of the Jordan parted when the priests carrying the Ark stepped into the water (3:12-16). The waters stood up as a wall as Israel crossed to the other side (3:17).

Joshua 4 – A Memorial of Stones in the Midst of the Jordan

When Israel had passed over, Joshua commanded one man from each tribe to take up a stone and establish a memorial to of the dividing of the waters as “a sign among you,” a lasting testimony of what the LORD had wrought (4:1-12).

Safely over the Jordan and for the first time encamped in the Promised Land, forty thousand men were ordered to prepare for battle (4:13).

Though the memory of Moses’ death was still fresh, “the LORD magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him (revered; respected, reverenced), as they feared Moses, all the days of his life” (4:14).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The Sanctuary and Security of The Saints” (Part 1) – Student outline in PDF

Good morning from the Pastor’s office at Hillsdale Baptist Church!

This has been a “learning-curve” week for me as it has for many of you. In addition to my first video-podcasts, I have prepared to preach to an empty auditorium for this morning’s service, post numerous updates, and upload a PDF to my daily http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com blog.

My life verse is Philippians 4:13, and I have embraced that for our ministry in the days ahead, believing in the LORD… “Together, We Can Do This!” The pastoral staff and Hillsdale’s IT team are committed to reach out to our community and the people we love in every way we can!

In addition to my daily devotional commentaries (today’s will be posted this afternoon), Family Pastor Eric Peterman and ministry intern Thomas Simpson are posting brief video clips for children on Hillsdale’s Facebook page and you are invited to check them out!

This morning at 9:45 AM, youth pastor Justin Jarrett will teach a teen Bible study for the family titled, “Coping with Cabin Fever,” on www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

The pastoral staff and I will follow at 10:30 AM with a regular Sunday morning worship service. Although abbreviated in your absence and missing our choir and musicians, we will give updates on our ministry, have a time of prayer as a “virtual congregation,” and teach the first of two messages from Psalm 91.

If you are unfamiliar with our ministry, you will find Hillsdale is a “traditional worship church” and I invite you to have your Bible in hand as we study God’s truths. Our philosophy of worship and ministry is foremost to glorify the LORD, preach His Word verse-by-verse with practical application of its truths, and invite sinners and saints to turn to the LORD.

I am attaching a link for a PDF copy of today’s student outline and invite you to print it out for use during the 10:30 AM service at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

01 – The Sancturary and Security of the Saints – Psalm 91 – March 22, 2020 AM – student blank

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith