Category Archives: Hope

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

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Ruth: A Testimony of Sovereignty and Providence (Ruth 1-2)

Scripture reading – Ruth 1-2

The Book of Ruth is a bridge between two eras: Its historical context is in the time, and “days when the judges ruled Israel” (1:1), but before kings reigned in the land. It is a book beloved by Jews, and Christians alike. It establishes the ancestry of King David, and also the genealogy of Jesus Christ in the lineage of David, and a descendant of the tribe of Judah (Ruth 4:17-22; Matthew 1:5-6).

We will see in our brief study of this book, a testimony of God’s sovereignty, for He overrules in the affairs of man, and providentially is ever working out His will through the infirmity of human decisions. The Book of Ruth is also a testament of the LORD’S redemption, for it reveals how Ruth, a Moabite, who had no right of inheritance among God’s people, came to be named in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

Ruth 1 – A Prodigal Family, and A Journey from Death to Life

The introductory verses of Ruth introduce us to a family that is facing a crisis of faith, “there was a famine in the land,” and the decision was made to leave “Bethlehem-judah” (Bethlehem, a village of Judah), and travel to “the country of Moab” (1:1).  To escape the famine in Israel, Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and sons Mahlon and Chilion, descendants of Ephraim, moved to Moab where they would live ten years (1:4). Tragedy followed Elimelech’s decision to leave Bethlehem, and he died in Moab leaving Naomi a widow, and her two sons (1:3). Continuing to live in Moab, Naomi’s sons took wives of the Moabites, and continued in the land. Mahlon took Ruth as his wife (4:10), and his brother Chilion married a woman of Moab named Orpah.

Tragedy again struck Naomi’s life, when both of her sons died, leaving her in desperate straits as not only a widow herself, but with daughters-in-law who were also widows (1:5). Remembering the culture of the day would have provided no welfare for widows, the three faced a future that would prove desperate, especially for Naomi who was not living among her own people. Naomi, facing a dismal future living outside of Israel, and hearing the famine was past, set her heart to return to Bethlehem (1:6). Naomi urged her daughters in law to return to their parents, with hopes of marrying Moabite men (1:8-9). Yet, Ruth and Orpah set their hearts to accompany Naomi, but she blessed and encouraged them to go home, and seek a husband (1:9).

The bond of love between Naomi and her daughters-in-law was strong, and as they parted “they lifted up their voice, and wept” (1:10-14). “Orpah kissed her mother-in-law [and departed]… back unto her people, and unto her gods” (1:14-15); however, Ruth refused to go back. In one of the great confessions of faith in the Scriptures, Ruth said to Naomi, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: 17Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me” (1:16-17).

Although Ruth was a Moabite, and outside God’s covenant with Israel (1:18), Naomi accepted her promise, and they journeyed together to Bethlehem (1:19). As they entered the village of Bethlehem, the people were stirred, and began questioning, “Is this Naomi?” (1:19)

Ten years of sorrows had taken their toll, and no doubt Naomi’s physical appearance revealed the hardships and disappointments she had suffered. Naomi, evidencing the sorrows of her sojourn from the Promised Land to Moab, answered their inquiries, confessing, “20b …Call me not Naomi [pleasant], call me Mara [bitter]: for the Almighty [El Shaddai] hath dealt very bitterly with me…21b the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent One]hath testified against me, and the Almighty [El Shaddai—Eternal; All powerful; All Sufficient One] hath afflicted me?” (1:20b-21).

Naomi and Ruth’s arrival in Bethlehem coincided with the time of “the beginning of barley harvest,” and about the month of April (1:22).

Ruth 2 – The Will of God, and Your Responsibility

Although Ruth was a Moabite woman, and a stranger in the midst of God’s people, the LORD used the wisdom of Naomi to sovereignly direct her daughter in law to the fields of Boaz, “a mighty man wealthy,” and “kindred” of Naomi and Elimelech, her deceased husband (2:1). True to her character, Ruth went out to glean grain in the fields belonging to Boaz (2:2-3). When he came to visit the workers in his field, Boaz found a stranger among them, and asked, “Whose damsel is this?” (2:5)

The servant supervising the field workers, identified Ruth as “the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab” (2:6). He went on to explain how Ruth had requested to join the poor and “glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves” (2:7a). More than a pretty face, she was a woman of exceptional character, and the servant commented, “she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house” (2:7b).

Boaz, a Model of God’s Grace (2:8-23)

Boaz, understanding Ruth was a widow of his kindred, typified God’s grace and love for sinners, spoke kindly to her, and insisted she labor only in his field, and among his maidens where she would find not only provision, but also safety (2:8-9). Humbled by his favor, Ruth fell before Boaz, and asked, “Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?” (2:10)

Boaz acknowledged Ruth’s testimony in Bethlehem, and how she had left her country, and kindred, and accompanied Naomi to a land and people she did not know (2:11). He realized she was a woman of faith, and prayed she would be rewarded by the LORD, and enjoy His favor (2:12). Ruth accepted Boaz’s expression of grace with humility (2:13), and he displayed his affection by inviting her to his table (2:14). She instead, took her place with the “reapers,” the hired servants, and ate enough to not only satisfy her hunger, but leaving some leftovers to bring home with her to Naomi.

I close, encouraging you to consider three ways Boaz displayed grace to Ruth. He offered her protection, and charged the men they were not to touch her (2:9). He made provision for her by leaving behind handfuls of grain (2:15-16). She was promoted, and was the object of Boaz’s attention and affection (2:14).

That evening, when Ruth came home to Naomi, she revealed to her how she had been blessed by Boaz (2:18-19). When Naomi realized the probability of the LORD’S leading, she rejoiced, and encouraged Ruth, thereby dispelling her own bitterness by the hope of redemption! (2:21-23)

As you will see, this book that began with famine, death, sorrow, and bitterness, is emerging to be a wonderful story of love and redemption.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Judges 21

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

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

Judges 21 – A Crisis in Israel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does that statement not describe our day?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Gideon: Gone, and Forgotten (Judges 8)

Scripture reading – Judges 8

I invite you to return with me to Judges 7, as we continue our study in the Book of Judges. Gideon had obeyed the LORD’S command, and in return, his army was reduced to three hundred men (7:7). Humanely, the task before Gideon was an impossible one; Israel was about to face an army that numbered one hundred thirty-five thousand men (8:10).

The night before the battle, the LORD came to Gideon and “said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand” (7:9). Knowing Gideon’s heart, the LORD gave him an opportunity to assuage his fear, and invited him to go with his servant, Phurah to the host of Midian, to “hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host” (7:11).

Providentially, Gideon overheard the telling of a soldier’s dream, and the interpretation that predicted how God had “delivered Midian, and all the host” into his hand (7:14). Gideon then worshipped the LORD, and returned to his soldiers, and exhorted them, “Arise; for the Lord hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian” (7:15).

Dividing his army into three companies of one hundred men, Gideon gave each man a trumpet, a pitcher, and a lamp whose light would be concealed within the pitcher (7:16). Under the cover of darkness, Gideon commanded his men to encircle the encampment of the Midianites. He instructed his men, when they heard him blow his trumpet, they were to blow their trumpets, break the pitchers that concealed the light of their lamps, and cry with one voice, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon” (7:20).

The sudden blaring of the trumpets, the shouts of the soldiers, and the piercing lights of their lamps made Israel’s army appear to be a great force. In the confusion, the Midianites turned “every man’s sword against his fellow” (7:22). They fled toward the waters of the Jordan, and Gideon sent messengers to the tribe of Ephraim, whose men pursued them, and slew “two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb…and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side Jordan” (7:25).

Judges 8

What a glorious moment in Israel’s history; however, though the armies of Midian were routed, Gideon would not be satisfied until all the leaders of Midian were slain.

One would think all Israel would have rejoiced with Gideon, but that was not the case. The men of Ephraim came to Gideon, and complained that he should have invited them to the battle against Midian. According to Judges 6:35, he had summoned only the tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali. How shallow, and self-centered was this protest! For seven years, Ephraim had suffered the Midianite invasion, and there is no evidence that tribe had made any effort to stand against their foe. Rather than chiding Gideon out of their wounded pride, they should have shown gratitude for his leadership!

Pursuing a remnant of the Midianite army, Gideon and his men crossed the waters of the Jordan, and entered the territory of the tribe of Gad. Passing by Succoth, Gideon appealed to its men, saying, “Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they be faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian” (8:5). The men of Succoth were of the tribe of Gad, and brethren of Israel; however, they refused to give Gideon’s men bread. He vowed to return after the battle, and warned he would “tear [their] flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers” (8:7).

Gideon went next to Penuel, another city of the tribe of Gad, and they refused his request. Angered by their heartlessness, Gideon vowed he would return, and break down their strong tower (8:9).

God blessed Gideon, and he captured the “two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and discomfited [terrified] all the host” (8:12). Faithful to his oath, he returned to Succoth, and fulfilled his promise, and “took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught [punished, disciplined them]” (8:16). Gideon continued to Penuel, and there “he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city” (8:17).

Following his victory over the Midianites, there were some in Israel who would have made Gideon king, and said to him, “Rule thou over us…for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. 23And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you” (8:22-23)

I conclude today’s devotional, on a sad note. Though Gideon was used greatly by the LORD, he was a man who made foolish decisions in the later years of his life. He raised up a memorial to his victory over Midian, overlaid it with gold, and it became an idol to some in Israel, and “a snare unto Gideon, and to his house” (8:27). He took “many wives,” and had seventy sons (8:30). When he “died in a good old age…as soon as Gideon was dead…the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim” (8:32-33).

Gideon’s life serves as a warning to any who desire to build a name, or raise up a monument to themselves. In spite of his heroism, and the adulation of the people, “the children of Israel remembered not the Lord their God…35Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel” (8:34-35).

Gideon, gone, and forgotten! If you want to have a lasting legacy; remember, it is not in what you build, but whom you serve!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“GIVE ME THIS MOUNTAIN” (Joshua 14)

Scripture reading – Joshua 14

The tribes on the east side of Jordan had been given their inheritance, as Moses had promised (Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua 13). Joshua now addressed the task of giving the other tribes their inheritance, by lot, and according to the instructions that had been established in the Book of Numbers (Numbers 34:2-12, 16-29).

We are reminded the sons of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, had been adopted by Jacob as his own sons (Genesis 48:5), and would become tribes of Israel in their own right. The tribe of Levi had been chosen by the LORD to serve as priests; therefore, the Levites would receive no inheritance in the land, with the exception of cities, and “their suburbs [lands around the cities] for their cattle and for their substance” (14:4).

Before the lots were cast, and the lands divided by tribes, an inspirational event occurred.

Caleb, Joshua’s fellow spy and warrior (they were the only men, twenty-years and older to come out of Egypt, and enter the Promised Land), came before him. Accompanied by representatives of the tribe of Judah (14:6) who came as his witnesses, Caleb reminded Joshua, that Moses had promised him an inheritance in Canaan (14:6-7).

Caleb compelled Joshua, Thou knowest the thing that the Lord said unto Moses the man of God concerning me and thee in Kadesh-barnea” (14:6).

Caleb was forty years old when he searched out the Promised Land, and he had brought back a report of all that was in his heart (14:7). While the other spies discouraged the people with their faithless report, Caleb, like Joshua, determined to trust, and “wholly followed the Lord” (14:8).  Tragically, Israel believed the unfaithful spies, and refused to trust the LORD and enter Canaan (14:8a).

For his faith, and faithfulness, Moses had declared to Caleb, “Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children’s for ever, because thou hast wholly followed the Lord my God” (14:9). Though forty-five years had passed, and he was now eighty-five years old, Caleb was determined to claim his inheritance as the LORD had promised (14:10).

We remember that Joshua “was old and stricken in years” (13:1), but such was not the case with Caleb. He had been through the hardships of the wilderness, and the battles in Canaan, but neither his spirit, nor his strength had been diminished. Caleb testified, “I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in” (14:11).

What an amazing declaration. Caleb’s passion, faith, and physical strength had not waned. He was not ready to retire, retreat, or spend out his days in a rocking chair. He was ready to take by faith what the LORD had promised him for his inheritance.

Caleb asserted, “GIVE ME THIS MOUNTAIN, whereof the Lord spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims [who were giants, and by Egyptian records were seven to nine feet tall] were there, and that the cities were great and fenced” (14:12).

What was Caleb’s inspiration? Why would an eighty-five-year-old man claim, what others had feared and fled? Caleb revealed the source of his passion and faith, saying, “If so be the Lord will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the Lord said” (14:12).

The fire of a warrior still burned in Caleb’s soul. Though chronologically old, he was ready to claim his inheritance, and go to war, knowing the LORD was with him!

How did Joshua respond to his old friend’s faith?

Joshua 14:1313And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Joshua: Finishing Strong (Joshua 11)

Scripture reading – Joshua 11

With the confidence that the LORD was on his side, Joshua’s military campaign in the southern hills of Canaan was finished. Israel had “utterly destroyed all [the kings of the south] that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel commanded” (10:40).  Joshua had been victorious, “because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel” (10:42).

Joshua 11

An Enemy Offensive (11:1-5)

The focus of Joshua 11 is upon the kings of northern Canaan (11:1-5). The news of Joshua’s military successes had reached Jabin, king of Hazor (which appears to be a great fortified city), and he determined to form a coalition of kings and their city-states to face Israel’s inevitable invasion of the northern country (11:1-3). Rather than wait for Israel to invade the north, the alliance of kings took the offensive, and “came and pitched together at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel” (11:5).

The LORD’s Assurance (11:6-9)

Though Joshua had proved himself a warrior and leader, the size of the armies arrayed against Israel was no doubt disconcerting (11:4). The LORD came to Joshua, assuring him, “Be not afraid because of them: for to morrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel: thou shalt hough [hamstring] their horses, and burn their chariots with fire” (11:6).

True to his character, Joshua wasted no time in obeying the LORD, and facing the enemy (11:7). He assembled “all the people of war with him, against them by the waters of Merom suddenly; and they fell upon them” (11:7). With the LORD on Israel’s side, the armies of the alliance fell, and their kings fled from before Israel (11:8-9).

A Glorious Victory (11:10-14)

The king of Hazor is particularly noted in the record, for it was he who had formed the alliance against Israel (11:10), and Israel burned Hazor to the ground (11:11). Joshua obeyed the LORD, and all the kings of the alliance were killed as He had been commanded (11:12).

With the exception of Hazor, the other cities in the north had been spared destruction (11:13), and “all the spoil of these cities, and the cattle, the children of Israel took for a prey unto themselves; but every man they smote with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them, neither left they any to breathe” (11:14).

What manner of man was Joshua?  (11:15-23)

Joshua, in my estimation was a giant among men! He was a man of faith. He was obedient, and dedicated to the task God had called him. He was disciplined, and strong. His fighting spirit was indomitable, and he did not rest until he had finished the battle. He is a model for husbands, fathers, and sons who aspire to greatness in the eyes of the LORD.

Joshua 11:15b–18 – “[Joshua] left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses. 16So Joshua took all that land, the hills, and all the south country…17b and all their kings he took, and smote them, and slew them. 18Joshua made war a long time with all those kings.”

Closing thoughts:

Some modern-day critics have assailed the Scriptures, the LORD, and Israel’s conquest of Canaan, as proof that the God of the Bible is violent, threatening, merciless, and irrepressible. I assure you; such is not the case. The LORD is just, and holy; forgiving, and compassionate. He is sovereign, and omniscient. Knowing the wickedness of men’s hearts, He providentially works through the hearts of men to accomplish His purpose for His people.

In His mercy, the LORD honored Israel’s treaty with Gibeon, and spared them (11:19). The LORD, however, knowing the bent of nations, allowed them to “harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly” (11:20).

The Canaanite kings, and their cities were utterly destroyed because their hearts opposed the LORD, and His people.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Forgiven, and Ready (Joshua 8)

Scripture reading – Joshua 8

The focus of this devotional is Joshua 8, the second chapter of today’s assigned Scripture reading, Joshua 7-8.

With the sin of Achan, and his family purged from Israel, the nation was ready to continue its conquest of Canaan. There was no time to look back, or wallow in regret. The sin of one man had been addressed, the nation had corporately passed judgment, and put the sin out of their midst (7:25-26). And so, the LORD came to Joshua, and commanded, “Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land”(8:1).

Let us pause, and ponder an important spiritual lesson from this event. Like many sinners, Achan only confessed his sin, when it was discovered. He had opportunity to repent, come forward, and confess his sin after Israel was defeated at Ai, and thirty-six of his countrymen had perished (7:5). Instead, his heart was hardened, and his confession offered only after his sin was exposed. Such sin could not be tolerated by God’s people, and the LORD bless them. The LORD had warned Joshua, “neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you” (7:12).

Israel’s prompt judgment of the sin in their midst, moved the LORD to forgive, and restore the people to His favor (8:1). Indeed, the LORD promised to go to war with Israel, and to give them the spoils of Ai (8:2).

Personal application: Some reading this devotional, bear the guilt of a sin that is yet to be exposed. I encourage you; don’t hide your sin, and wait for it to be discovered. The LORD is patient, and longsuffering, but the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The apostle John admonished believers, “8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).

The Battle of Ai, and Bethel (8:2-29)

Unlike the presumption that was evidenced in the first battle of Ai (7:2-4), Joshua received not only his orders to go to battle against Ai, but also the strategy for the fight (8:2-13). Unlike the siege of Jericho that lasted seven days, and was conducted in silence until the walls of the city fell down; the attack on Ai employed an entirely different scheme.

Dividing the army into two companies, Israel was to lie in ambush, and draw out the king of Ai who was emboldened by his first victory (8:3-8). With thirty thousand men sent out into the night before him, Joshua “lodged that night among the people” (8:9). True to his character, the next day, “Joshua rose up early in the morning” (8:10), and lured both the men of Bethel (a city some two miles from Ai), and the king of Ai out of the city (8:12-13).

Arrogantly presuming he would send the warriors of Israel scurrying as before, the king of Ai took all of the men of the city to pursue Joshua (8:14), and leaving the city vulnerable. Ai’s king realized, too late, that he had been drawn into the midst of Israel’s armies. The king beheld “the smoke of the city…[and he and his army] had no power to flee this way or that way” (8:20). All was lost, and Israel turned “and slew the men of Ai” (8:21).

Like Moses before him (Exodus 17:8-16), Joshua held his spear aloft during the battle, and Israel warred until the king of Ai was captured, and twelve thousand men of the city slain, along with “all the inhabitants of Ai” (8:22-26). The cattle, and spoils of Ai were Israel’s, and the city was burned (8:27-28). The king of Ai was “hanged on a tree until eventide,” and as the sun was setting, Joshua commanded his body be placed in the gate of Ai, and stones heaped upon it (8:29).

A New Commitment (8:30-35)

The battle being won, “Joshua built an altar unto the Lord God of Israel in mount Ebal,” as the law prescribed (8:30), and then he offered sacrifices (8:31). Upon the stones of the altar, Joshua inscribed “a copy of the law of Moses” (8:32), and he read aloud “all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law” (8:34).

Joshua 8 concludes with a reminder that every word of the LORD is sacred:35There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them” (8:35).

Don’t allow the obvious application of today’s Scripture to be lost! The consequences of one man’s sin, can prove disastrous for a family, church, and nation. Let the stoning of Achan, and his family serve as a warning: Be sure your sin will find you out!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Bold Faith; Wet Feet” (Joshua 2-3)

Scripture reading – Joshua 2-3

Joshua 2 – Two Spies, and a Harlot

With the affirmation and enlistment of the tribes that would settle on the land’s east of the Jordan (Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, 1:12-18), Joshua sent two spies to survey the city of Jericho (2:1).

The city of Jericho, like Egypt, serves as a picture or type of the world in the Scriptures. It was a place of wealth, commerce, idolatry, and all manner of wickedness, including harlotry. The city was also an obstacle to Israel invading the land, and Joshua knew it must be destroyed.

Arriving in Jericho, the spies providentially entered an inn, located on the walls of the city, and one identified as “an harlot’s house, named Rahab” (2:1b). Why the house of a harlot? There are many reasons I might suggest, but the one most important is, the LORD knew Rahab’s heart was moved to faith by all she had heard about Israel, and their God.

Rahab hid the spies, at the risk of her life (2:2-6), and lied when the king’s men came seeking them. Some might argue the moral grounds for her lies, but we must remember she was ignorant of God’s Laws, and Commandments, and her conscience was probably unstirred by her sin. Rahab professed her faith in the LORD, when she appealed to the spies that she, and her family be spared the destruction of Jericho she believed was certain.

Consider the faith of Rahab: “9And she said unto the men, I know that the Lord hath given you the land10For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed (Numbers 21:21-24, 33-35). 11And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt…for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath” (2:9-12).

The spies gave Rahab a sign, a token of her faith, and instructed her, “bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household, home unto thee” (2:18). The spies returned to Israel’s’ encampment, and assured Joshua, “Truly the Lord hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us” (2:24).

Joshua 3 – Stepping Out by Faith, and Into the Jordan

Wasting no time to muster the people to trust the LORD (3:1), Joshua commanded the nation to relocate to the shores of the Jordan, whose waters they must cross to enter the Promised Land (3:2). For three days, an estimated two million people stood looking at the flood waters, and questioning, “What now?”

Joshua then commanded the priest to carry the “Ark of the Covenant of the LORD” before the people, and warned them to stand at a distance from that which represented the LORD’S throne, and His presence in the midst of Israel (3:3-4). One senses the joy, and anticipation of Joshua, as he tells the people, “Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the Lord will do wonders among you” (3:5).

For forty years, the people had heard how the LORD had opened the Red Sea for Israel to pass through on dry ground. The LORD now promised He would magnify Joshua’s name. “The Lord said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee. 8And thou shalt command the priests that bear the ark of the covenant, saying, When ye are come to the brink of the water of Jordan, ye shall stand still in Jordan” (3:7-8).

The dividing of the waters of the Jordan, assured the people “that the living God is among you” (3:10a), and He would drive the heathen nations from the land (3:10). Bearing the “Ark of the Covenant of the LORD,” the priests stepped into the flood waters, and as they did, the waters divided “and the people passed over right against Jericho. 17And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan” (3:16-17).

The “Ark of the Covenant” was a symbol of God’s presence, and power. It served as a testimony that the LORD would go before His people, and Israel passed through the dry bed of the Jordan, confident the LORD who had parted the waters was with them.

Faith, is the Victory!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Moses, the Man Whom the Lord Knew Face to Face, is Dead (Deuteronomy 34; Psalm 91)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 34; Psalm 91

The psalmist writes in Psalm 116, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (116:15), and certainly the death of Moses would be numbered among the most splendid of believers. Having finished his parting blessing to the congregation of Israel, Moses “went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo” (34:1a). From Pisgah, one of the peaks of Mount Nebo, “the Lord shewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan” (34:1). Gilead encompassed the land on the east side of Jordan, which Moses had promised the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, would be their inheritance (the “Dan” that is mentioned is not the Dan that was located on the west side of the Jordan River).

Standing on the peak of Pisgah, Moses beheld all the land the LORD had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as their inheritance (34:2-4). There was the land of Naphtali in the north, and “the land of Ephraim, and Manasseh” in the central region of Canaan (34:2a). To the west, he could see “all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea [the Mediterranean Sea],” and to the south, the Jordan Valley, that reached “the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar” (34:3), the region that laid near to Sodom and Gomorrah.

How might Moses have scanned so great a vista from Mount Nebo? The LORD revealed that miracle in these words: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes” (34:4). Additionally, the LORD had preserved Moses’ eyesight, for though he was one hundred and twenty years old, “his eye was not dim” (34:7).

“Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the Land of Moab.” (34:5)

Moses had been described as, “the man of God” (33:1) in the preceding devotional. In this final devotional, this giant of the faith is lovingly remembered as, “the servant of the LORD” (34:5). Moses died, but not because he was old, frail, or suffering failing health. He died “in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord” (34:5). He was “an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated” (34:7). Moses was dead, because it was “according to the word [and the will] of the LORD” (34:5).

The LORD had permitted Moses to see the land, but he was not allowed to “go over thither” (34:4). With humility and meekness “the servant of the LORD,” accepted the consequences of his failure to obey the LORD at Meribah-Kadesh (32:51-52; Numbers 20). He died, and the LORD “buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day” (34:6).

Israel mourned the death of Moses, “in the plains of Moab thirty days” (34:8). When the days of mourning were past, Joshua, “full [filled] of the spirit of wisdom” (34:9), became the man whom “the children of Israel hearkened” (34:9).

Now, there was no man like Moses, “whom the LORD knew face to face” (34:10-12), and Joshua did not need to be like his predecessor. He was the man for the hour, and the one whom God had chosen to lead Israel, and claim the Promised Land.

Psalm 91

Ancient scholars attribute Psalm 91 to Moses, and I believe there is much about the psalm that would arguably be the work of Moses; for his fellowship with the LORD was intimate, and he was one “whom the LORD knew face to face” (Deuteronomy 34:10).

Simple, beautiful, and inspiring; rather than give commentary, I encourage you to read Psalm 91, and meditate on its promises, and truths.

* Thank you for following me on this journey through the Scriptures, Today’s devotional marks the completion of my study of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. I invite you to become a subscriber to www.HeartofAShepehrd.com, by entering your email address in the right column of this website.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

www.HeartofAShepherd.com
https://tv.gab.com/channel/HeartofAShepherd1
https://mewe.com/p/heartofashepherdinc

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Law of the LORD is Gracious (Deuteronomy 15)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 15

In today’s world, some suggest the Laws of the Old Testament were cold, oppressive, and lacking in grace. They are wrong! In their historical context, and understanding their application, you will find the Law and Commandments of the LORD not only just, but fair and judicious. For example, consider the guidelines for the borrower and lender (15:1-11).

Debtors, Lenders, and the Sabbatical Year (15:1-6)

The Sabbath Year, occurred every seven years, and was the year the LORD commanded the land to rest. Fields were not worked, seeds were not planted, and any vegetation that volunteered and gave fruit, were committed to poor, and the grazing animals.

What about a man’s debt, in the seventh year when they were not permitted to plant seed, harvest crops, and use a surplus to pay one’s debt? Because there was no harvest in the seventh year, lenders were not to press the poor for payment. The lender, in the Sabbath Year, was to suspend payment of a debt for the year (a non-Hebrew was not released of his obligation to pay his debt in the seventh year, 15:3).

If Hebrew lenders would show grace to their debtors, God promised He would bless the nation (15:4), and Israel would become a lender, not a borrower to other nations (15:5-6).

Lending to the Poor (15:7-11)

The poor are ever among us (15:11), and the LORD required His people to be charitable to them, especially those who were “one of the brethren,” meaning a Hebrew (15:7). God’s people were commanded to open their hand, and their heart when they looked upon those who were poor and needy (15:7). The lender was not to be miserly in giving to those in need, and was to “lend him sufficient for his need” (15:8).

In the matter of lending in the proximity of the Sabbath Year, it was probable some lenders might refuse to lend to the poor, knowing the seventh year might suspend repayment of a debt (15:9). Such reasoning was a sin in the eyes of the LORD (15:9b), and lenders were exhorted to give, and trust “the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto” (15:10).

Slavery, and the Release of Slaves (15:12-18)

Slavery was a cultural reality in the ancient world, and poverty was often the catalyst for one to become a slave. A Hebrew man or woman, unable to pay their debts, would become slaves to the lender (15:12). Unlike the abuses afflicted by the heathen upon their slaves, the LORD provided that His people would not become perpetual slaves (15:12). A Hebrew might serve six years, but on the seventh year they were to be released of their debt, and “go free” (15:12b).

When a slave was set free, a master was to ensure the slave would not “go away empty” (15:13). It was required that a master honor the one being set free, giving to “him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him” (15:14).

Some masters were so kind, and gracious, that some slaves would elect to continue as a slave for life, and have a hole pierced through their ear, marking them as such (15:17).

Dedication and Consecration of the Firstborn (15:19-23)

Remembering the tenth plague in Egypt, and how the LORD had spared the firstborn of Israel where the blood had been applied to the doorposts; that deliverance was forever memorialized by dedicating the firstborn male in Israel to the LORD (Exodus 13:2, 15).

The firstborn of cattle, and sheep, were to be unblemished, and offered as a sacrificial meal (15:19-20). Firstborn oxen were not to be worked in the fields, nor were firstborn sheep to be sheared, for they were the LORD’S. Should the firstborn be blemished, it was not a worthy sacrifice, and would therefore be eaten like ordinary meat (15:21-23; 12:15).

I close inviting you to consider how the Law of the LORD was gracious, and it protected the poor from harsh lenders, slaves from cruel taskmasters, and extended seasons of hope, and relief to the people.

Remember, all offerings were a type of God’s final, and perfect offering for our sins. Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the firstborn of Mary, was the perfect, sinless, unblemished sacrificial Lamb of God (John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith