Category Archives: Israel

Lot: The Tragic Consequences of One’s Father’s Sinful Choices

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 19-20, Psalm 10, and Matthew 10. Our devotional is taken from Genesis 19-20.

We read in Genesis 18 that the LORD and two angels appeared to Abraham and Sarah as men.  That elderly couple soon realized the three visitors were not mere mortals, for the LORD revealed He knew Sarah’s private thoughts and how she scoffed and laughed within herself when she heard the promise she would bear a son in her old age (Genesis 18:11-15).

We are made privy to the LORD’s love for Abraham and His desire to not keep from the man the great judgment that would soon befall the cities of the plain, specifically Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-17, 20-21).

Abraham pled for Sodom, proposing if ten righteous souls be found there the city might be spared God’s judgment (Genesis 18:23-33).  The LORD heeded Abraham’s petition and promise to spare the city from destruction should ten righteous souls be dwelling among its citizens (Genesis 18:32).

After “the LORD went His way” (Genesis 18:33), the angels made their journey into the valley, arriving at Sodom that even (Genesis 19).   Entering the city, the angels found Lot sitting “in the gate” (Genesis 19:1) where city leaders transacted business and settled disputes.  Lot recognized the visitors were not like the wicked of Sodom and urged them to find refuge in his home for the night (19:2-3).

As darkness fell on the city, the wicked men of Sodom encircled Lot’s home demanding he turn his visitors out into the street to be sodomized (19:4-6).  Unable to prevail against them (19:7), Lot foolishly offered his daughters to satisfy their depraved lusts (19:8-9).  Refusing Lot’s offer, the citizens of Sodom pressed upon the man threatening to break down the door of his home.  Lot was saved when the angels drew him into the house and striking the sodomites with blindness (19:10-11).

Exhibiting grace, the angels urged Lot to gather his family and flee the city before God destroyed it (19:12-13).  A desperate Lot went out of the house into the night hoping to persuade his sons, daughters, and sons-in-laws to flee the city; however, they dismissed the man as “one that mocked” (19:14).

As the sun began to pierce the eastern horizon, the angels forced Lot, his wife and daughters out of the city, warning them to no look back upon its destruction (19:15-23).  Adding sorrow upon sorrow, Lot’s wife looked back and “became a pillar of salt” as God rained fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah (19:24-29).

One would hope the deaths of loved ones and the judgment that befell the cities might transform Lot and his daughters; however, such was not the case. Lot’s daughters enticed their father with strong drink and committed incest with him (19:30-36).  The eldest daughter conceiving a son she named Moab, the father of the Moabites (19:37).  The youngest daughter conceiving a son she named Ammon, the father of the Ammonites.

The tragic consequences of Lot’s sinful choices has shadowed God’s people as the lineages of Lot’s sons, the Moabites and Ammonites, became adversaries and a perpetual trouble for Israel to this day.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

“Too Late!” (Genesis 17-18)

* Today’s Bible reading assignment is Genesis 17-18, Psalm 7, and Matthew 7. Our devotional is from Genesis 17-18.

God renewed His covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17 and ten years later when Abraham was nearly 100 years old, God announced the impossible: 90-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)

Betraying his lack of faith and willing to content himself with less than God’s best, Abraham suggested Ishmael be his heir (17:18).   God, however, renewed His covenant with Abraham stating Sarah would bear him a son and his name would be Isaac (17:19). While God refused Ishmael as Abraham’s heir, He comforted him promising Ishmael would be father to a “great nation” (17:20).

A “theophany”, the LORD appearing in the form of man, occurs in Genesis 18 when He and two angels appeared as men before Abraham’s tent bringing news within Sarah’s hearing that she would bear a son.  We read how Sarah “laughed within herself” at the thought that she, a woman “waxed old” would bear Abraham’s son (Genesis 18:12).  The LORD questioned Abraham, “Wherefore did Sarah laugh?” (Genesis 18:13).

Sarah, was surprise Abraham’s visitor not only knew she scoffed at the promise she would bear a son, but laughed at the thought of it!  The LORD asked Abraham, “Is any thing too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:15) The LORD asserted He would return when the promise son was born (Genesis 18:14).  Sarah, perhaps fearing the visitor who knew her thoughts, denied she laughed at the birth announcement, and the LORD rebuked her lie (Genesis 18:15).

The closing verses of Genesis 18 contain the fateful message the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah would be judged and destroyed for their wickedness (18:20-22).  Knowing his nephew Lot and his family lived in Sodom; Abraham interceded that the LORD might spare the city (18:23-33).  The LORD mercifully agreed to Abraham’s request when he proposed if ten righteous people be found in Sodom the city would be spared God’s judgment.

Ten righteous souls; perhaps the size of Lot’s own family, would have spared a city of lost, hell-bound souls.  Of course, Lot’s presence in Sodom was not ordered of the LORD nor was Lot’s interest the lost souls of his neighbors. Abraham cared for the inhabitants and interceded for the city, but all was lost when Lot was unable to stir the hearts of his own children to flee before God’s judgment (Genesis 19).

Allow me to close by suggesting you and I have a sphere of influence, a providential presence, among lost souls.  While the fate of a city does not rest within our realm, I wonder how many might?

Comparing the two, Abraham and Lot, whom did you most resemble? Abraham who compassionately made intercession for the wicked of that city or Lot who lived in the midst, but waited too late to plead even for the souls of his children?

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

God is My Shield! (Genesis 15-16)

* Today’s Bible Reading is Genesis 15-16, Psalm 8, and Matthew 6.

God had assured Abram he would have an heir (Genesis 12:1-3), a son born to him and his wife Sarah (15:2-4) and his lineage would be as great in number as the stars in the heavens (15:5).   Though he oft faltered in his faith, we read, “[Abram] believed the LORD; and He counted it to him for righteousness” (15:6).

God revealed Abram’s heirs would be “strangers”, foreigners, in another country for 400 years (15:13) and would return to Canaan with great possessions (fulfilled when the Twelve Tribes of Israel departed Egypt after 400 years of servitude, Exodus 12-14).  Genesis 15 closes with God marking the boundaries of the land He would give Abraham and his lineage (15:18-21).

Genesis 16 introduces a crisis of faith for Abram when we read, “Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children”(16:1).  Eight-five years old (16:16) and his wife seventy-five, Abram’s faith waned. Sarai’s never-ending complaints (the word “voice” in Genesis 16:2 indicates they were constant), like the bleating of sheep) and her barrenness moved the man to make a faithless decision. Abram turned his back on God’s promises and yielded to Sarah’s proposal he have a son by her Egyptian servant Hagar (16:1-3).

Instead of joy, the news Hagar was with child by Abram, brought division and sorrow into the home (16:4-10). Rather than validate Saria’s failure to bear a son was Abram’s fault, Hagar conceived a son by Abram and looked upon Sarai’s barrenness with disdain. Sarai reproved Abram (Genesis 16:5) and then drove Hagar from the home (Genesis 16:6-7).

Ishmael, son of Abram born to Hagar, would become father to a great people (Genesis 16:8-11).  His character 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 evident in today’s world as we see the perpetual turmoil afflicted on Israel and the world by Ishmael’s lineage.

I close today’s devotion with an observation:  God assured Abram he had no cause to fear, for the LORD was his “Shield”, his protector and defender (15:1).  Abram not only had God’s promises, but His assurance He was with him!

My friend, God is no less to us.

Psalm 56:3– “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

God is Faithful, His Promises Are Sure (Genesis 12-14)

* Today’s Bible Reading assignment is Genesis 13-14.  Today’s devotional addresses events in Genesis 12-14.  Though longer than most, this devotional will give a representation of Abram’s faith and failures and God’s grace and faithfulness.

Genesis 12 is one of the great pivotal crossroads in the Scriptures’ narrative of God’s plan of redemption.  Genesis 11 closed with Abram (Abraham) departing from “Ur of the Chaldees” with his father Terah (Genesis 11:32).  [The site of Ancient Ur was in today’s Iraq, some 150 miles north of the Persian Gulf, in the vicinity of what became ancient Babylon].

God came to Abram in Genesis 12 and commanded him to separate from his country, his relatives, and his extended family (12:1).  If Abram obeyed, God promised to covenant with him and bless him (Genesis 12:2-3).  God promised Abram he would bless him with a son, make him great, his name famous, and he would be a blessing to all people through his lineage (a promise ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ).  Abram obeyed God and traveled to Canaan, the land God promised He would give him as an inheritance.  When he arrived at Bethel, Abram built an altar and worshipped the Lord (12:7-8).

Realize God had purposed to fulfill His promises to Abram, including giving he and his wife Sarai a son in their old age; however, Abram’s faith in the LORD was soon tested when we read, “there was a famine in the land” (12:10).  Rather than trust the LORD, Abram abandoned his faith in God’s promises, left Canaan and journeyed to Egypt, putting in jeopardy God’s covenant promises (12:10-13).

Sarai, Abram’s wife, was beautiful and, fearing for his life, he asked her to tell others she was his sister and not his wife (12:11-13).  Pharaoh noticed Sarai’s beauty and took her into his harem to become one of his wives, putting at risk God’s covenant promise of a son and heir to Abram.  In spite of Abram’s faithlessness, God spared Sarai, sending a plague of judgment on Pharaoh’s household and revealing to the king that Abram had deceived him (12:17-20).

Genesis 13 reminds us Abram was a mere mortal, though a man of faith and an object of God’s grace, he faced the consequences of his failure to leave all of his father’s household (12:1).  Contrary to God’s command, Abram had journeyed from Ur with Lot, his brother’s son.  Both men were wealthy, owning great flocks and servants to tend them, there arose a strife between the servants of Abram and his nephew Lot (13:1-7).  To avoid conflict, Abram suggested they divide their households, servants, and flocks, graciously offering his nephew the first choice of the land (13:8-9).

Failing to defer to his elder, Lot betrayed his covetousness and chose the best of the land for himself; 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 Abram (13:14-18).

Genesis 14 gives us a history of the nations that inhabited ancient Israel in Abram’s day (around 4,000 BC).  A conflict arose among those nations and we read, “the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled…And they took Lot…and his goods” (14:10-12).  Suggesting how rich and powerful Abram had become, we read he led three hundred and eighteen armed servants of his household (14:14) in a successful attack on the kings who had taken the citizens and material possessions of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (14:15-24).

Abram returns victorious and a king identified as “Melchizedek king of Salem” [Salem perhaps the ancient name of Jerusalem] greets him (14:18).  Melchizedek, described as “the priest of the most high God” (14:18), pronounced a benediction upon Abram and rewarded him with a tithe, a tenth of the spoils (14:19-20).

The king of Sodom, likewise, offered Abram the riches he had recovered in battle (14:21); however, Abram refused the wealth of Sodom.  Jealous of the name and testimony of “the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:22), Abram confessed he would take none of Sodom’s riches less the king of Sodom boast he had “made Abram rich” (14:22-24).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

“What Beautiful Feet You Have, My Love!”

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Song of Solomon 7-8

Today’s reading brings us to the close of our Old Testament “Read Thru the Bible” daily scripture reading assignments.  What a wonderful accomplishment on your part!  Not only did you persevere in your commitment to read the scriptures, many of you followed the daily meditational meanderings of this pastor’s daily devotional commentary.

As a reminder, there are three methods of interpretations for the Song of Solomon.   The Allegorical interpretation suggests the Song of Solomon describes God’s relationship with His people and is a story or parable meant to describe either God’s relationship with Israel or Christ’s relationship with His bride, the Church.  A Typical interpretation suggests the bride of Solomon is a type or picture of the Church and the groom is Jesus Christ.

The third, and the one I settled on for my devotional commentary, is a Literal interpretation.  In other words, I suggest the Song of Solomon is a true love story; the romance of Solomon as a young king and his love for a young Shulamite peasant girl who will become his queen.

The phrase, “Love is blind”, is often credited to William Shakespeare who employed it on several occasions in his plays; however, the phrase first appears in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Merchant Tale (1405) and states in the old English, “For loue is blynd alday and may nat see.” [i.e. “Love is blind all day, and may not see.”]

Author Pauline Thomason, perhaps more realistic than the previous quote, weighed in with her own observation: Love is blind, marriage is the eye-opener.”

An anonymous author states a sentiment for the state of blind love more fitting to the love expressed by Solomon in today’s scripture reading:

“They are wrong who say that love is blind. On the contrary, nothing – not even the smallest detail – escapes the eyes; one sees everything in the loved one, notices everything; but melts it all into one flame with the great and simple: I love you.”

I will not take the time to write an extensive commentary on Song of Solomon 7; however, anyone who has been in love will no doubt identify with the king’s words.  Solomon is “in love” and he takes no time to notice, let along number, the blemishes of his beloved wife.

Some might spin an interpretation of the opening verses of Song of Solomon 8:1-3, into an insidious attempt to suggest an incestuous love; however, I assure you it is not!

The Shulamite’s desire for Solomon to be as her brother, one whom she could show public affection, reminds us her husband is king and his office demands a certain reserve and decorum in public.  Of course, her’s is a young love and she yearns to shower her love upon Solomon; he is not only her king, he is her beloved husband (8:4)!

Song of Solomon 8:6-7 states what should be true of every marriage; the covenant of marriage is singular in nature… “forsaking all others”.  “Love is strong as death” (8:6b) and only death can quench its flame.  The love of husband and wife is a lifelong passion whose embers can never be quenched, save by death alone (8:7).

This wonderful portrait of love and romance between the young king and his queen concludes with a beautiful sentiment…

Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices” (8:14).

Hollywood’s portrayal of love and marriage is lust and a far cry from what the Creator intended for husband and wife.  Sadly, the Millennium generation’s demand for instant gratification and pleasure has embraced lust.  Having no moral boundaries, young men and women are sacrificing innocence, passion, and joy for empty, no commitment “one night stands” that inevitably leave them hollow and abandoned.

It is my observation the testimony of the 21st century church is hardly better.  I have known many portraits of lasting love and romance in the course of my ministry; however, this generation is a different story.  In fact, the rate of divorce in Bible-preaching churches rivals the world.  What a sad testimony of love and marriage we give the world.  After all, Christian marriages should be earthly portraits of Christ’ love for His Church…self-sacrificing, passionate, honorable, and enduring.

Ephesians 5:25, 33 – “ 25  Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it… 33  Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”

I close by taking liberty that comes with being the author of this devotional commentary… To the wife of my youth, who remains my joy after 40 years of marriage, “I love you more than ever!”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“He’s Got the Whole World, In His Hands”

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Esther 6-10

I introduced the Book of Esther last week stating, “Divine providence is one of the overriding themes of the Book of Esther.”   That observation is illustrated in a hilarious and tragic way in today’s scripture reading, Esther 6-10.

The world call its, “Instant Karma”; derived from an ideology attributed to Buddhism and Hinduism.  “Karma” represents a principle we might define as “Cause and Effect” suggesting, whether disparaging or showing grace, you should anticipate “instant karma”, in other words…payback!

“Instant Karma”, suggests a fatalism that belies, even belittles the “Providence of God”… that He is sovereignly directing the course of humanity to His purpose and end.  The apostle Paul summed up the doctrine of God’s sovereignty writing, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Solomon taught his son the same; “The king’s heart is in the hand [power; rule; authority; under dominion] of the LORD, as the rivers [streams] of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will [pleasure; desire; favor] (Proverbs 21:1).

Esther 6 is a beautiful example of God working in the heart of a king.  King Ahasuerus (also known as Xerxes), finds himself in a place many of us have found ourselves…enduring a sleepless night.  We know by revelation the king’s insomnia (Esther 6:1) was used by God to direct the thoughts and the heart of the king to His divine end; however, from the king’s perspective, it was a sleepless night and he determined to have his servants read historical records chronicling his reign.

Providentially, the name of Mordecai, the uncle of Queen Esther, came to the king’s attention and how he had intervened to foil a plot to assassinate the king.  Recalling that event, the king wondered, “What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this?” (6:3).  Realizing the Jew named Mordecai had not been rewarded for his service, the king determined to immediately correct that slight and reward him for his service.

Providentially, in that very moment, Haman, the adversary of the Jews who successfully plotted to have the king sign a decree for the extermination of all the Jews, entered the king’s court to request that Mordecai be hanged from the gallows he had constructed in his courtyard (6:4-5).

In a wonderful twist of what some might call “Instant Karma”, Haman listened as the king sought his advice on the means of honoring a servant in “whom the king delighteth to honour” (6:6).  Haman, believing he was the man to be rewarded, suggested a very public honor, parading the servant in “royal apparel”, riding on the king’s horse, and wearing the “crown royal…set upon his head” (6:8-9).  Ah, the irony when Haman was commanded to be the one to honor Mordecai, the man whom he was plotting to hang (6:10-11)!

The balance of Esther 6 and the remaining chapters (Esther 7-10) give testimony to the sovereignty of God as He providentially directs the thoughts, plots and plans of men to His divine purpose and end.  Haman’s wicked designs to annihilate the Jews was not only foiled, but he falls himself victim to the gallows he constructed to hang Mordecai (Esther 7:7-10).

Friend, man is a free will agent and not a robot; however, God can and does steer the course of human choices to accomplish His plan and purpose.  King, president, governor, judge, sheriff, employer, teacher, parent, son or daughter…none are beyond the sovereign purpose and reach of God.

Remember: “He’s Got the Whole World, In His Hands!”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The Devil is Behind the World’s Hatred of the Jews and Israel

Friday, December 22, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Revelation 12-17

Today’s scripture reading is a prophecy of the last half of the Tribulation years.  Because the length of the assigned reading is far too long for a brief devotional commentary, I will limit today’s devotional to Revelation 12.

From the time of his fall, Satan and the angels who followed his rebellion (described as “the third part of the stars” who were cast out of heaven – Revelation 12:4; Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-17), have warred against God.  Satan’s failed rebellion in heaven continued on earth when he, in the form of a serpent, tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God (Genesis 3).

Revelation 12 is a prophetic portrait of the war of the ages and is set in the second half of the Seven Years Tribulation (Matthew 24:21-22).

The woman described in Revelation 12:1 is the nation of Israel; identified by the twelve stars in her crown representing the twelve tribes of Israel.  It is this woman, symbolic of Israel, that is the focus of Satan’s final stand against God.  Israel, pictured as a woman with child suffering labor pains, is an image of persecution (12:2).  The birth of the child being delivered is symbolic of Israel’s coming  Messiah.

The “great red dragon” is Satan (12:3-4) and the “seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads” (12:3) represent nations and thrones that are confederates in the devil’s unrelenting attack on Israel.

Revelation 12:4 describes the rebellion Satan led among the angels in heaven when his heart was lifted up in pride (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-17).  After being cast out of heaven (12:7-9), the devil’s focus was to destroy God’s promise of a Savior Redeemer by annihilating the Hebrew people.

The woman (Israel) gives birth to a son in Revelation 12:5b, describing Christ’s birth (His virgin mother Mary being a daughter of Israel of the tribe of Judah) and His ascension to heaven, “caught up unto God”  (reminding us of Christ’s birth, death, resurrection, and ascension – Acts 1:9).

Revelation 12:7-12 turns our focus back to heaven and the rebellion of one-third of the angels led by the “great dragon…that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world” (12:9a).  The devil “was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (12:9b).

Adding to the Devil’s deviant resume’ is his title, “the accuser of our brethren” (12:10). We understand from Job 1-2 that Satan, although cast out of heaven, has access before the throne of God and is the persecutor of the Jews and believers.

The cross, rather than a symbol of defeat, became a symbol of victory and salvation with the resurrection of Christ from the dead (12:10b-12a).  Having failed to prevent Christ’s resurrection, the devil pours out his wrath on Israel and “persecuted the woman [Israel] which brought forth the man child” (meaning Christ, 12:13).

Israel’s flight from persecution during the Tribulation is described as “the woman …given two wings of a great eagle”, possibly drawing upon the picture of Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt “on eagles’ wings” (Exodus 19:4).  As the trials and troubles of the last years of the Tribulation increase, some of Israel will find a safe place in the wilderness and be spared (12:14); others will become the object of the devil’s wrath as the nations of the earth align against the Jews (12:15-17).

The Hebrew people have been, and continue to be, the object of hate and persecution in the world.  Anti-Semitism is increasing dramatically and its horrid head is visible in the Middle East, throughout Europe, and in the United States.  None of these facts should surprise us. Christ warned His Disciples The Great Tribulation would bring a time of trouble like the world has not seen (Matthew 24:21).   The spirit of anarchy, rioting, violence, and terrorist attacks we are witnessing in our society are ominous signs the Tribulation years are upon us.

Friend, take courage; we know the end of the story and the defeat of Satan’s rebellion is certain.  When Christ comes again, he will defeat Satan and crush the nation’s aligned with him (Rev. 19:11-21).  After the Millennial years, the devil and his demons will be condemned to the lake of fire for ever (Revelation 20:3, 7-10).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith