Category Archives: Israel

A Lesson in LAW and GRACE (Genesis 22-24)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 22-24

Genesis 22 puts the faith of Abraham to the test as God proves his faith by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac, the son of God’s covenant promise.  Isaac’s question, “Where is the Lamb?” (22:7) is answered 2,000 years later when John the Baptist says concerning Jesus, “Behold the Lamb” (John 1:29, 36).

Reminding us God’s people are sojourners in this world of sin, we read, “Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2  And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her” (Genesis 23:1-2).

I close this historical crossroads in Abraham’s life inviting you to consider spiritual lessons concerning Law and Grace illustrated in the births of Ishmael and Isaac (Galatians 4:21-31). 

Ishmael, born a slave of a slave woman, was the fruit of Abraham’s effort to have a son and heir apart from God (Galatians 4:22a, 23a).   Isaac, born a free man of a free woman, was the son of promise whose birth was miraculous and the work of God (Galatians 4:22b, 23b).

The mothers, Hagar and Sarah, represent two covenants: Hagar, the LAW, the covenant between God and man (Galatians 4:24-25) reminding us the impossibility of man fulfilling the demands of the Law (Romans 3:19-20).  Sarah, represents God’s covenant of GRACE, His provision and unmerited favor (Galatians 4:26-27) extended to man.

Ishmael’s birth is a tragic reminder of man attempting in his own efforts to do and fulfill what only God can do.  Isaac’s birth, fulfilling God’s covenant promise to Abraham and Sarah, is a portrait of GRACE, God doing what only He could do.

My friend, that is why salvation is not by works that merit God’s favor, but is an act of God’s grace alone.

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

My theme for Genesis 24 is “Here Comes the Bride”.   Following the death of his beloved Sarah (23:1-2), Abraham was burdened that Isaac, his son and heir of God’s covenant promises, should have a fitting wife.

Fearing Isaac might be tempted to take a wife of the heathen tribes that dwelled in Canaan, Abraham determined to send his “eldest servant”  (24:2-4) to his kindred residing in “Ur of the Chaldees” (11:27-31).  Reflecting the faith of his master, Abraham’s servant prayed for the LORD to make His will clear in choosing the young woman who would become Isaac’s wife  (24:12-14).

God heard and answered the servant’s prayer even as he was praying (24:15-26).  In a prayer of praise that should comfort all who call upon and desire the will of the LORD, the servant prayed, I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren” (24:27).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Consequences of Faithlessness (Genesis 16-18)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 16-18

Today’s Bible reading brings us to not only a crisis of faith in the lives of Abram and Sarai, but also to a crossroads for humanity as we realize the failure of one man’s faith in God’s promises bears consequences that shadow the world in our day…twenty-three centuries after Abram’s sojourn on this earth.

Years passed and Abram’s longing for a son went unfulfilled.  Abram complained, “I go childless…to me thou hast given no seed” (15:2-3).  God patiently assured him his posterity would be in number as the stars of heaven (15:5).

Genesis 16 introduces a crisis of faith for Abram when we read, “Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children” (16:1).  Eighty-five years old (16:16) and his wife seventy-five years old, Abraham’s faith waned and the complaints (the word “voice” in Genesis 16:2 indicates a constant complaining, like the bleating of sheep) and barrenness of his wife Sarai moved the man to make a faithless decision.  Contrary to God’s will, Abram turned his back on the LORD’s promises and yielded to Sarai’s proposal that he have a son by her Egyptian servant Hagar (16:1-3).

Hagar conceived Ishmael (16:4); however, instead of joy, the conception and birth of Ishmael brought division and sorrow into Abram’s household (16:4-10).  Ishmael, the son of Abram born of Hagar, would become the father of the people of Arabia, many of whom are followers of Mohammad and Islam.

The character of Ishmael and his lineage is described as “a wild man [lit. “wild donkey”]; his hand will be against every man [i.e. a man of hostility], and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren” (Genesis 16:12).  The fulfillment of that prophecy is evidenced in today’s world as we see the perpetual turmoil afflicted on Israel and the world by Ishmael’s lineage.

God renewed His covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17 and ten years later when he was nearly one hundred years old, God announced the impossible: His ninety year old Sarah “shall be a mother of nations” (17:15-17).  Abraham laughed, saying in his heart, “Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?” (17:17)

Willing to content himself with less than God’s best, Abraham suggested Ishmael should be his heir (17:18); however, God refused the son of Hagar.   Comforting Abraham with the promise that Ishmael would be father to a “great nation” (17:20), God renewed His covenant and assured Abraham that Sarah would bear him a son and his name would be Isaac (17:19).

Genesis 18 contains the fateful message from the LORD that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were to be judged and destroyed for their wickedness (18:20-22).  Knowing Lot, his wife, and their sons and daughters lived in Sodom; Abraham made intercession to the LORD that Sodom be spared if ten righteous people would be found living in the city (18:23-33).

Of course, the rest of the story will be found in Genesis 19 and we will consider its lessons tomorrow.  I close with a reassuring quote concerning God’s promises.  Some has observed:

Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible, and receives the impossible.”  (Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations: Signs of the Times)

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God is Faithful, His Promises Are Sure (Genesis 12-15)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 12-15

Genesis 11 closed with Abraham (Abram) departing from “Ur of the Chaldees” (located in the vicinity of what would become Babylon) with his father Terah (Genesis 11:27-32). Journeying north from Ur, Abram stopped in Haran where he remained until his father’s death (11:32).

Genesis 12 is one of the great pivotal crossroads in history and God’s plan of redemption.

The LORD commanded Abram, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (12:1).  The LORD set a covenant of seven promises He would fulfill in and through Abram’s lineage (Genesis 12:2-3) if he obeyed.

Although he was elderly (“seventy-five years old” – 12:4) and childless, Abram believed God’s promises and obeyed; departing from Haran, he traveled to Canaan.  Arriving at Bethel, he built an altar and there he worshipped the Lord (12:7-8).

Soon after Abram faced a crisis of faith when we read, “there was a famine in the land” (12:10). Abandoning the land and his faith in the LORD to provide and keep His promises, Abram journeyed to Egypt; a decision that put in jeopardy God’s covenant promise of a son (12:10-13).

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, was a beautiful woman.  Fearing for his own life, Abram requested she to tell others she was his sister (12:11-13).  Sarai’s beauty was soon noticed and Pharaoh took her into his harem putting into jeopardy God’s covenant promise of an heir she was to bear to Abram. The LORD mercifully intervened and sent a plague of judgment on Pharaoh’s household and revealed to the ruler he had been deceived by Abram (12:17-20). Sarah was spared and Abram led his household out of Egypt and back to Canaan.

The vastness of their wealth and possessions soon provoked a conflict between Abram’s servants and those of his nephew Lot (13:1-7).  To avoid strife, Abram suggested they divide their households and possessions, graciously offering to Lot the first choice of the land (13:8-9).  Rather than defer to his elder, Lot revealed the covetousness of his heart and chose the best part of the land that included the cities in the plain; among them the wicked city of Sodom (13:10-13).  Lot departed and God again renewed His covenant promises with Abraham (13:14-18).

Genesis 14 gives us a history of the nations that inhabited the land of Israel in ancient times; in the midst we read, “the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled…And they took Lot…and his goods” (14:10-12).  Abram had become rich and powerful; arming 318 servants (14:14) he led a mission that saved Lot, his household, and the citizens and material possessions of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (14:15-16).

Genesis 15 begins a narrative regarding Abram’s longing for a son and heir.  The LORD assured Abram he would have an heir, a son born to his wife Sarai (15:2-4) and his lineage would be as great in number as the stars in the heavens (15:5). In spite of their age, Abram “believed the LORD; and He (the LORD) counted it to him [Abram] for righteousness” (15:6).

God also revealed to Abraham that his heirs would be “strangers”, foreigners, in another country for 400 years (15:13); however, when the 400 years were fulfilled, they would return to Canaan with great possessions (a prophecy fulfilled when the Twelve Tribes of Israel departed Egypt after 400 years of servitude – Exodus 12-14).  Genesis 15 sets the boundaries of the land the LORD promised to give Abram and his heirs (15:18-21).

I close today’s devotional commentary with this promise:

God assured Abraham he had no cause to fear, for the LORD was his “Shield”…his protector and defender (15:1). 

Friend, you may be at a time in your life that is a place of “spiritual famine.”  You are tempted to resign to fear or plan and plot your own course…Don’t abandon your faith.

Trust God to be your “Shield”, your protector and Savior.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Whatsoever a Man Soweth, That Shall He Also Reap” (Numbers 25-26; Galatians 6:7)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 25-26, Psalm 52, and Luke 8. Our devotional is from Numbers 25-26.

Today’s reading assignment (Numbers 25-26) sets the stage for the beginning of the end of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness.  

Reminding us “evil communications (companions) corrupt good manners (morals)” (1 Corinthians 15:33), Numbers 25 opens with a tragic decision made by some in Israel.  We read, “the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab” (25:1).  The influence of the Moabite women did not stop with the lust of the flesh, for we read in the next verse they invited the men of Israel to share in sacrificing, eating, and bowing down to their gods (25:2).

Consider three spiritual lessons from today’s Bible reading.

The first, familiarity with the ways of the wicked leads inevitably to the Temptation of Sin.  Having cast aside all moral restraint (Numbers 25:1-3), the people provoked the LORD to wrath, worshipping Baalpeor, the Canaanite god of fertility represented as a bull (25:3).

A second lesson is the Tragic Consequences of Sin (25:3b-5, 9).  The sins of the people were so egregious they provoked the LORD to anger and He demanded justice (25:3b-4).   Placing the responsibility for the sins upon the “heads of the people” (25:4), the LORD demanded they be slain and their bodies hanged in the sun as a warning to the nation (25:5).

One sin led to another until one man was so brazen in his sin he “brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel” (Numbers 25:6, 14-15).  Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, and grandson of the late high priest Aaron, was so moved with godly zeal, he rose up and slew the man and the woman, and the LORD stopped the plague leaving 24,000 dead in Israel. (25:10-13).

Numbers 26 opens with a reminder of the plague that had taken 24,000 lives (26:1; 25:9) and closes with a review of an entire generation that perished in the wilderness, save two men, Caleb and Joshua (26:65).

The LORD commanded Moses and Eleazar to take a second census of the males, 20 years and older, by tribe and household, before they crossed the Jordan River.  The census served two purposes: The first, to number men by tribe who were old enough to go to war (25:2).  The second, to use the count of each tribe as the basis for assigning geographical territory in the Promise Land (Numbers 26:52-56).  With the exception of the tribe of Levi, twelve tribes of Israel are named and include a total of 57 families (26:5-50).

The priestly tribe of Levi and its households is also named and numbered (26:57-62).  Unlike the other tribes that will be assigned lands, the Levites were assigned forty-eight cities in the Promise Land (Numbers 35:1-8).

A third lesson from today’s Bible reading is, the LORD is faithful to His Word and promises.

“The LORD had said…They shall surely die in the wilderness” (14:29; 25:65a).  Murmuring, faithlessness, and a love for the sins and idols of Egypt had dominated the affections of the first generation and all had died with the exception of two men, Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 26:65).  I close with a timeless truth:

Galatians 6:7 – 7  Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

“Thou art the man!” (Psalm 51; 2 Samuel 12:7-13)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 21-22 and Psalm 51. Our devotional is from Psalm 51.

Psalm 51 is a prayer of brokenness, confession, repentance, and a plea for restoration.

Written after the prophet Nathan’s dramatic confrontation with king David (2 Samuel 12:7-13), Psalm 51 introduces us to a man brought low by sin. David’s adultery with Bathsheba, her conception of his illegitimate son, and his failed attempt to conceal his sin had led to the murder of her husband Uriah the Hittite on the battlefield.  David’s hush-hush sins were secret no more and the king’s disgrace was exposed in his court.

Many a great man and woman have found themselves in the unenviable position we find king David…at the pinnacle of success and power and unaccountable to any who might mercifully and lovingly warn, “Thou art the man!”  (2 Samuel 12:7).

Late 19th century British historian Lord Acton made the observation, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”   Such is true, not only of monarchs, politicians, business leaders, teachers, and pastors; but also, men and women who, in their own little fiefdoms have roles that go unchecked.

One should ponder how David falls from the innocence of a boy tending sheep in his teens, a national hero in his young-adult years (1 Samuel 18:7; 21:11), crowned king by age 30, but at 50 years of age descends to become an adulterer and murderer.

Be forewarned: Given the right provocation, the potential of such egregious sins lies within us all.   David acknowledged the nature and bent of sin within us when he writes, “I was shapen in inquity: and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).  Indeed, the inclination for sin is within the heart of all, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).

Even more disconcerting, while in the throes of sin David continued to act as judge in other men’s matters while tolerating the curse and burden of his own sins.  One wonders how long David might have continued his charade if God had not commanded his prophet to confront the king.  Remembering oriental monarchs like David held absolute authority and the power of life and death rested with them, we appreciate the tenuous position Nathan found himself.

The words, “Thou art the man!”(2 Samuel 12:7) echoed in the king’s judgment hall and resonated in David’s heart who cried out to the Lord, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness… 2  Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3  For I acknowledge my transgressions…4  Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done thisevil in thy sight…”(Psalm 51:1-4a).

David prayed, “10Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me… 12  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (Psalm 51:10, 12a).

I find three failures in David’s life that are the haunt of men and women. 

The first, David entertained unbridled passions that inevitably led to a neglect of his duties and responsibilities as husband, father and king. The second, David’s role as king had insulated him from accountability.  His moral failure occurred when he was alone.  Finally, until confronted by Nathan, David was too proud to confess his sins and humbly accept the consequences (2 Samuel 11:6-22).

Friend, if you are concealing sin, be forewarned: You are living on borrowed time before the consequences catch up with you and your loved ones (Galatians 6:8; Psalm 32:3-4).

I invite you to humble yourself before God knowing He has promised, “whoso confesseth and forsaketh [his sins] shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

A Sacred Trust: Standing Between the Dead and the Living (Numbers 16)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 15-16, Psalm 49, and Luke 5. Our devotional is from Numbers 16 .

The drama in Numbers 16 serves as a warning to any who sow discord and usurp the spiritual leadership of a congregation.

We are not told the reason for the rebellion, but given the assertions made against Moses and Aaron, we can venture pride leading to discontentment was the root issue.  Three men are named as leaders of the rebellion with the ringleader one named Korah, a Levite, but not a priest (Numbers 16:1). Incredibly, these three men were able to engage two hundred and fifty others, “princes…men of renown”, to join their band (16:2).

While the criticism of the rebels appeared sincere in motive and spiritual in nature, (“Ye take too much upon you”), their object was not for “they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron” (16:3).  Notice how the rebel’s veiled criticism of Moses and Aaron grew to open derision (16:3).  The object of the rebels was not to relieve Moses and Aaron; instead, they aspired to the dignity and duties of the priesthood (Numbers 16:10).

When Moses heard the criticism of the rebels and saw the crowd gathered against him, “he fell upon his face” (16:4); a visible sign of humility.  Rather than a hasty diatribe against his critics, Moses deferred to seek the LORD saying, “Even to morrow the LORD will shew who are his, and who is holy” (16:5).

On the next day, Moses called an assembly of the rebels and warned, “ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Levi” (16:7).  Two of the rebels refused to come before Moses (16:12) and sent an accusation that he had failed the nation in not leading them into “a land that floweth with milk and honey” (16:14).  The charge against Moses was a lie and stoked his anger (16:15) for it was the people, not Moses, who rebelled and turned away from the land the LORD had promised as an inheritance.

The LORD’s judgment against the rebels fell swiftly when “the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed [the rebels] and their houses…[who] went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them, and they perished from among the congregation” (16:31-33).  As the congregation fled from the LORD’s judgment, “there came out a fire from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense” (16:35). Unfortunately, the LORD’s judgment against the rebels did not quench their influence and on the next day another 14,700 were slain (16:41-50).

There are many lessons and cautions we might derive from Numbers 16.  One is, while this passage is instructive, it does not suggest the LORD must always swiftly judge the critics of His ministers.

I have known too many pastors who aspire to pedestals and presume to be above accountability.  The same might be said of some in the church who are all too eager to level veiled criticisms at spiritual leaders and not give them the respect due their office.

Pastors are far from perfect and some engaged in ministry lack the Biblical qualifications of the pastor\shepherd (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9); however, those ministers who are qualified and faithful should be honored for their sacrifices and endeavors.  After all, as purveyors of the Gospel of Jesus Christ they stand “between the dead and the living” (16:48).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Are You Standing at A Spiritual Crossroads? Trust in the LORD! (Numbers 13-14)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 13-14, Psalm 48, and Luke 4. Our devotional is from Numbers 13-14 .

Numbers 13:1-2 1  And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2  Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan…”

The fate of a nation rested in the hands of twelve leaders, one from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, chosen by Moses and charged with the responsibility of spying out the land (13:4-15) the LORD had promised Abraham would be an inheritance for his chosen seed (Genesis 12:1, 7; 13:14-17).

Forty days passed while Moses and the nation waited to hear the report of the land.  Returning with “a branch with one cluster of grapes ”that was so full of fruit the men “bare it between two upon a staff” (13:23-25), the twelve confirmed the land was all the LORD had promised saying, “surely it floweth with milk and honey” (13:27).

The spies report; however, did not conclude on a good note: “Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there” (13:28) along with the Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites and Canaanites” (13:29).

Realizing the obstacles the nation would face, the hearts of the people melted with fear until Caleb, one of the twelve spoke and said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (13:30).

Take a moment and reflect on the charge Moses had given the spies (13:17-20).  Their responsibility was to spy out the land; not assess Israel’s ability to take the land.  Focusing on obstacles and not the promises of the LORD, ten of the spies sowed seeds of doubt saying, “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we…we saw giants…and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (13:31-33).

Caleb urged the people “go up…we are well able”(13:30); however, ten of the faithless spies urged, “we be not able to go up”(13:31).

What made the difference in their assessments?  The report given by Caleb and Joshua was different from the other spies in two aspects: Focus and Faith.

FocusCaleb and Joshua focused, not on the size of the obstacles, but on the promises of the LORD.  They reported, the land was all He promised it would be… “surely it floweth with milk and honey” (13:27) and “we are well able to overcome it” (13:30).

FaithCaleb and Joshua’s faith was in the LORD.  They challenged the people, If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land… 9  Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land…the LORD is with us: fear them not” (Numbers 14:8-9).

Israel’s failure to take possession of the land was not due to giants or the heathen nations that dwelled in the land.  Israel’s impediment was her lack of faith in the LORD.

What about you? Are you facing giants? 

The LORD never fails to keep His promises; however, the fear of man and faithlessness has deprived many of His blessings (Jeremiah 17:5).

Jeremiah 17:7 – “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith