Category Archives: Law

“Moral Degeneracy, and Civil War” (Judges 20) – A Bonus Father’s Day Devotional Post

Scripture reading – Judges 20

Happy Father’s Day to fathers who follow http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com. Today’s Scripture reading is Ruth 1-2; however, I decided to post a bonus devotional from Judges 20. This passage was the subject of my Father’s Day message to Hillsdale Baptist Church, Tampa, FL. A recording of that sermon will be posted on Monday on my GabTV Channel

The Levite’s brutal actions, cutting the battered, and lifeless body of his concubine into twelve pieces, and sending them to the tribes, had the desired effect (19:29). The children of Israel were stirred and challenged to deliberate the deed that had been done, and speak to it (19:30). In the absence of a judge, ruler, or king (19:1), the elders of the tribes sent a summons for the children of Israel to gather “together as one man, from Dan [the northernmost tribe in Israel] even to Beer-sheba [the southernmost town in Canaan], with the land of Gilead[the tribes on the east side of the Jordan], unto the Lord in Mizpeh [probably a military outpost]” (20:1-2).

“Four hundred thousand footmen that drew sword,” gathered from “all the tribes of Israel, [and] presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God” (20:2). Though the tribe of Benjamin had heard how the tribes of Israel had gathered at Mizpeh, and was perhaps summoned, there was no man sent to represent the tribe in the matter.

A Plea for Justice (20:3-7)

The Levite, whose wife had been slain in Gibeah, was summoned by the tribal leaders, and questioned: “Tell us, how was this wickedness?” (20:3) The Levite then proceeded to give testimony of the horrific events that had taken place at Gibeah, and how he and his concubine had come to lodge there (20:4). He described how the house in which he sheltered was “beset…round about,” and the men of Gibeah would have slain him, and assaulted his concubine, leaving her dead (20:5).

He described how he had taken the body of his concubine, “and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the country…for they [the men of Gibeah, and Benjamin] had “committed lewdness [wickedness; evil] and folly[disgrace] in Israel” (20:6). The Levite then appealed to all Israel, “give here your advice and counsel” (20:7).

A Resolution to Exact Judgment (20:8-11)

All Israel was moved by the Levite’s testimony (20:8), and it was decided that judgment should not be delayed in the matter (20:8), and the men of Gibeah would answer for their evil deeds (20:9).

Men were chosen to search out provisions for the thousands of men who were prepared to go up against Gibeah, and deal with them “according to all the folly that they have wrought in Israel” (20:10). “All the men of Israel were gathered against the city [Gibeah], knit together as one man” (20:11).

Judgment, and the Punishment of the Men of Gibeah (20:12-19)

The elders of Israel sent messengers throughout the tribe of Benjamin, and they enquired, “What wickedness is this that is done among you?” (20:12). The messengers demanded, that “the children of Belial, which are in Gibeah,” (those ungodly, immoral men), be purged from their tribe, “that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel” (20:13).

In spite of the gross wickedness committed by the men of Gibeah, “the children of Benjamin would not hearken to the voice of their brethren the children of Israel[and they] gathered themselves together out of the cities unto Gibeah, to go out to battle against the children of Israel” (20:13-14). Benjamin made the decision to tolerate, and protect the sexual deviancy of Gibeah, and gathered “out of the cities twenty and six thousand men that drew sword, beside the inhabitants of Gibeah, which were numbered seven hundred chosen men” (20:15).

The children of Israel found themselves at a spiritual crossroads. (20:17-20)

Defy the law of God, and tolerate the wickedness that brought His judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), or confront the sin in its midst, and go to war with “four hundred thousand men that drew sword” (20:17).

Israel chose the LORD’S side, and “went up to the house of God [not the Tabernacle, but “Bethel”], and asked counsel of God, and said, Which of us shall go up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin? And the Lord said, Judah shall go up first” (20:18). The next day, “Israel rose up in the morning, and encamped against Gibeah. 20And the men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin; and the men of Israel put themselves in array to fight against them at Gibeah” (20:19-20).

The men of Benjamin came out of Gibeah, and won the first day’s battle, killing “twenty and two thousand men” of Israel (20:21). Although twenty-two thousand men had died, Israel’s men stirred themselves to prepare for the second battle (20:22), and wept before the LORD that same evening, “and asked counsel of the Lord, saying, Shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother? And the Lord said, Go up against him” (20:23).

On the second day, the army of Israel came near Gibeah, and the men of Benjamin once again rushed upon them, and eighteen thousand soldiers of Israel were slain (20:25). Israel retreated, and went up to Bethel, “and sat there before the Lord, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. 27And the children of Israel inquired of the Lord, (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days” (having been relocated to Bethel from Shiloh, perhaps for the battle, 20:26-27). “Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron” was the high priest,” enquired of the LORD for Israel, “Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease?” (20:28) The LORD assured Israel, “Go up; for to morrow I will deliver them into thine hand” (20:28).

With the assurance the LORD was with them, Israel “set liers in wait,” men who would ambush the soldiers of Benjamin when they gave chase out of Gibeah (20:29). On the third day of the battle, the men of Benjamin rushed out of the city as before, not knowing there were soldiers of Israel lying in wait to attack the city (20:29-30). Israel’s soldiers retreated, thus drawing the men of Benjamin away from the city (20:32). As Benjamin pursued Israel, ten thousand men of Israel overran the city of Gibeah (20:33-34). With the LORD on their side, Israel “destroyed of the Benjamites that day twenty and five thousand and an hundred men” (20:35).

When they saw the flames and smoke rising over Gibeah, the men of Benjamin realized “that evil was come upon them. 42Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel unto the way of the wilderness; but the battle overtook them; and them [other citizens of Benjamin] which came out of the cities they [Israel] destroyed in the midst of them” (20:41-42).

When the day’s battle was finished, Israel had killed all the people of Benjamin, burned their cities, and killed their beasts (20:42). There remained only six hundred men of Benjamin, who had fled and found safety “in the rock Rimmon four months” (20:47).

The tribe of Benjamin had tolerated, and protected the sodomite sins of Gibeah, and the toll of that decision brought the tribe nearly to extinction. Benjamin was decimated, and only six hundred men remained alive (20:47-48).

The final chapter in our study of the Book of Judges will find Israel bewailing all that had come to pass in Israel (21:1-3).

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

“Lawlessness Breeds Moral Degeneracy” (Judges 19-20)

Scripture reading – Judges 19-20

A familiar refrain in the latter chapters of the Book of Judges is: “It came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel” (19:1).

Consider the question, “When was there no king [literally, no ruler or judge] in Israel?” The answer gives us a different perspective for the events recorded in today’s Scripture reading. I believe Judges 17-21 falls chronologically between the death of Joshua (Joshua 24:29-33, Judges 1:1-2:15), and the beginning of the era of the judges (Judges 2:16), when “the Spirit of the LORD came upon [Othniel], and he judged Israel” (3:8-10).

A contemporary application: The tragic events that occur in today’s Scripture reading, Judges 19-20, are a reflection of the lawlessness, and moral degeneracy of a society when men reject the Law of the LORD, and His Commandments.

Lesson: When spiritual leaders fail to preach, and teach the Word of God, they not only fail the LORD, they fail their families, community, and nation. Consider with me a time of lawlessness, much like our day, “when there was no king [no judge, no ruler] in Israel” (19:1).

Judges 19 – The Levite, and His Unfaithful Concubine

A man of the priestly tribe of Levi, passed through Mount Ephraim (near the place where the Tabernacle was located), and took to wife “a concubine out of Beth-lehem-judah [Bethlehem of Judah]” (19:1). The woman was most likely a concubine, because she had come to the marriage without a dowry. She would have been considered a lesser wife, and her children would have had no right of inheritance.

Tragically, the Levite’s concubine played the harlot, and left the Levite and returned to her father’s house (19:2). Four months passed, and the Levite and his servant, determined to travel to Bethlehem, and with kind words, endeavor to “bring her again” to his home (19:3). The concubine’s father rejoiced when the Levite came to claim his daughter (19:3). The man pressed upon his son-in-law to accept his invitation to continue in his home, and “he abode with him three days: so they did eat and drink, and lodged there” (19:4).

For four days, the Levite, his concubine, and servant continued with his father-in-law, and on the fifth day, though the father protested, the Levite set out on his journey to Shiloh (where the Tabernacle was located, 19:18). Because the hour was late, the servant pressed the Levite to stay the night near “Jebus” (ancient Jerusalem, 19:10-11). The Levite, however, refused to spend the night in Jerusalem, for it was occupied by Jebusites, and not the children of Israel. Instead, they made their way to Gibeah, a city occupied by the tribe of Benjamin, and arrived in the city as “the sun went down upon them” (19:14).

The Tragedy of Depravity in Gibeah

Contrary to the Law’s injunction to show compassion to the sojourner, no man of Gibeah offered the Levite, and his concubine provision or lodging for the night, and he settled to spend the night in the city street (19:15). An old man, however, whose birthplace was Mount Ephraim, resided in Gibeah, and spied the Levite and his company. The old man offered them lodging for the night (19:16-20), and though the Levite resisted his invitation, he pressed upon him, saying, “lodge not in the street” (19:20).

The old man was entertaining his guests, when “the men of the city, certain sons of Belial [wicked, immoral men], beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him” (19:22).

Like Lot, who found his household beset by the wicked men of Sodom (Genesis 19:4-9), the old man’s endeavor to reason with the sodomites of Gibeah proved futile (19:23). Though he defined their passions as wickedness, and folly (19:23), their immoral desire, and lust would not be assuaged. Following the manner of Lot, and to save the Levite from the violence of the mob, the old man offered his virgin daughter, and the Levite’s concubine to “do with them what seemeth good unto you” (19:24). Even that shameless attempt to pacify the lusts of the sodomites failed, and did not deter them from their debased objective (19:24).

Tragically, choosing to save himself, and his host from the degenerate mob, the Levite thrust his concubine out of the house. The men of Gibeah raped, and “abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go” (19:25), and retreated to their households (19:26).

What a hideous thought, that a man would give his wife to a mob to be abused, while he sheltered in the security of a household! Nevertheless, we read, the Levite “rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold” (19:25).

Can you picture this tragic moment? With a callousness that defies love, the Levite opened the door, not to search for his wife, but to go on his journey (19:27). He knew the violence of the Sodomite culture, and what she would have suffered, and no doubt believed she would be dead. Instead, she had made her way to the threshold of the house; battered, bruised, bleeding, and demeaned, she found the door closed to her cries, and died (19:27).

What manner of man would give his beloved to suffer, and himself be spared? The same who would fail to stoop, and caress her, and say, “Up, and let us be going” (19:28). The abused woman did not stir, and she did not answer. Her life was gone, her soul departed. She had died from the violence of the mob that had made her the object of their lusts. Taking up her lifeless body from the threshold, the Levite placed her upon his donkey, and went to his house (19:28).

Remembering there was no king, judge, or ruler in Israel, the Levite had no place to appeal for justice.

The city of Gibeah, and the tribe of Benjamin had sheltered, and tolerated a great evil in their land, and the Levite determined to appeal to all Israel for justice. He “took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her [body parts] into all the coasts [boundaries, tribes] of Israel” (19:29). The Levite’s deed left Israel shaken, and the children of Israel gathered to weigh the spiritual state of their nation, and what must be done (19:30, 20:1).

Author’s note: In a later devotional, I hope to consider the events that follow in Judges 20, and their application to our own society, and world.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

There Was No King, No Ruler, And No Judge In Israel. (Judges 18)

Scripture reading – Judges 18

Judges 18 opens with a repeat observation in the last chapters of the book: “1In those days there was no king in Israel” (18:1; also Judges 17:6, 19:1, and 21:25). In a very literal sense, there was no king, no ruler, and no judge in Israel. There was no man of God to herald the word of the LORD; none to call on the people to repent of their wickedness, and turn back to the Law and Commandments.

The tribe of Dan is the subject of Judges 18, but as you will see, Micah, the Ephraimite to whom we were introduced in Judges 17 is a prominent figure as well.

Having not received an inheritance in the Land, the Danites (18:1) sent out five men to spy out their assigned territory in the northernmost part of Israel, near Mount Horeb. In their journey, they camped on Mount Ephraim, and lodged near the house of Micah (18:2). As the spies were near Micah’s house, they heard the voice of his Levite (18:7-13), and knew his dialect was not of that region (18:3). They questioned the young Levite, and learned he was hired by Micah to serve as his priest (18:3-4). They sought the counsel of the Levite, and were assured their journey to Laish would be prosperous (18:5).

The five spies arrived near Laish, and found the people were “careless…quiet, and secure” (18:7). The implication was that they had no enemies, and were therefore lethargic in their defense, and vulnerable to siege. Laish was distant from other cities, and the spies felt there would be no assistance when the Danites attacked the city. Returning to their brethren, the spies reported that the land was good, and they should move quickly to possess it (18:8-10).

Six hundred Danite men, “appointed with weapons of war” (18:11), “went up, and pitched in Kirjath-jearim, in Judah” (18:12), and then made their way to Mount Ephraim, “and came unto the house of Micah” (18:13). There, the five spies conveyed to their fellow soldiers that in Micah’s house there was “an ephod [a breastplate worn by a priest], and teraphim [idol], and a graven image, and a molten image” (18:14). Led by the five spies, those six hundred men stood at the gate of Micah’s house, as they stole the idols, and enticed the young Levite priest to come with them, and serve as priest to the tribe of Dan” (18:15-20).

The Danites then set out on their journey for Laish, putting their children, and cattle forward, and the strong men serving as the rearward guard for their families (18:21). After a great distance, Micah and the men he had stirred to come with him, came upon the tribe of Dan whose strong men confronted them saying, “What aileth thee, that thou comest with such a company?” (18:23)

Micah complained he had been slighted, for the Danites had taken his gods, and his priest (18:24). The Danites, mincing no words, threatened Micah saying, “Let not thy voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows run upon thee, and thou lose thy life, with the lives of thy household” (18:25). Perceiving he was outnumbered, Micah retreated, and returned to his home (18:26).

The Danites then came upon Laish, and finding the inhabitants of the city unprepared, “they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire” (18:27). There was none that did come to the aid of Laish (18:28). There the Danites built a city, and named it Dan, for the father of their tribe.

I close inviting you to realize the depth of depravity to which Israel had descended. Idols, and graven images in their households; Levites serving as priest of their false gods; and the LORD, and His Law and Commandments forsaken.

Tragically, “the children of Dan set up the graven image [which they had stolen from Micah]: and Jonathan [most likely the name of the Levite priest], the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land” (18:30). “31And they set them up Micah’s graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh” (18:31).

We will soon see how Israel’s decline into idol worship, did serve as the precursor of that nation’s plunge into moral depravity.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Life for a Life (Joshua 20-21)

Scripture reading – Joshua 20-21

After the Twelve Tribes of Israel were allotted their lands (Joshua 14-19), the LORD commanded Joshua to speak to the tribes, and require them to appoint “cities of refuge… 3That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be [a] refuge from the avenger of blood” (20:2-3).

The purpose for the cities of refuge has been discussed in earlier devotions, so suffice it to say we are again reminded of the sanctity of all human life (Genesis 9:4-6; Exodus 20:13), and the principle of capital punishment established by the LORD in Genesis 9:5-6. The cities of refuge afforded a safe place for those who had unintentionally taken the life of another (20:3-4). The cities provided a place where a man’s case could be judged by the elders of the city, and his life protected from those who felt compelled to avenge the death of a loved one (20:5).

Joshua 21 – Cities Designated for the Tribe of Levi

Having divided the land among the Twelve Tribes, the priestly tribe of Levi requested the cities they had been promised for their inheritance in the land (Joshua 21:1-3).  Each tribe was to give cities, and their surrounding lands, wherein the Levites would dwell (21:4-42). Forty-eight cities were given to the Levites, and assigned by family (21:41).

Joshua 21 concludes with three affirmations of the LORD (21:43-45): He had given Israel the land He had promised their forefathers (Genesis 12:7; 15:18; Joshua 1:3-4). He had given Israel victory over her enemies (21:44; Deuteronomy 12:9-10). Finally, He had not failed to fulfill “any good thing” of all that He “had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass” (21:45).

 A Lesson Regarding the Sanctity of Human Life, and Capital Punishment

 There are many who naively oppose capital punishment, and argue it is an act of barbarity, and is inhumane. The opposite is true! Because man was created an eternal soul, and in the image of God (Genesis 9:6), his life is sacred in the eyes of God. Willfully taking a human life, a life God deems sacred, demands the ultimate act of justice…the forfeiture of one’s own life (Genesis 9:5-6; Exodus 20:13).

Concerning abortion: The Word of God upholds the sanctity of life in a mother’s womb. Exodus 21:22 gives an example of where two men were fighting, and a mother with child was injured, and the baby was born prematurely. The law demanded, should the mother and her child live, the judgment was there was “no mischief,” and the man who injured the woman would need only pay a fine. However, should the mother or her infant die, the judgment was “give life for life” (21:23).

Imagine God’s judgment upon a 21st century mother, father, or abortionists who daily, and routinely kill the unborn!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Learning From Others’ Failures (Joshua 15-16)

Scripture reading – Joshua 15-16

Caleb had stated his claim to the land the LORD had promised him for an inheritance (14:6-13), and Judah, the most prominent of the tribes, received its land (15:1).

Joshua 15 – The Inheritance of the Tribe of Judah

The boundaries of Judah’s territories are given, beginning with the southernmost point of the Dead Sea (15:2-4), and extending northward along the eastern shore of the Dead Sea to the point where the Jordan River flows into the sea (15:5a). Judah’s territory extended north, northwest (15:5b-11) and included Jerusalem (15:8). The Mediterranean Sea was Judah’s western border (15:12).

A brief description of Caleb’s challenge to claim his inheritance is chronicled (15:13-19). True to his vow (14:6-15), he, along with other warriors of Judah (Judges 1:10), drove the sons of Anak out of his land (15:14-15). Caleb then enlisted men to assist him in claiming Kirjath-sepher as part of his inheritance, and promised to give his daughter Achsah to be the wife of the man who aided him. Caleb’s own brother, Othniel (15:16-17; Judges 1:13; 3:9), conquered Kirjath-sepher, and Achsah became his wife (Othniel became Israel’s first judge after Joshua’s death, Judges 3:9).

Listed by district are the names of the towns and cities of Judah: The cities in the south (15:21-32), in the lowlands (15:33-47), in the mountains (15:48-60), and in the desert (15:61-62).

Though stated only in a verse, and perhaps something that might seem inconsequential, we find a failure, in the midst of Judah’s successes: “63As for the Jebusites the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out: but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem unto this day” (15:63).

The LORD had commanded Israel to drive all the nations out of the land, and Judah’s failure would one day have grave consequences for the nation.

Joshua 16 – The Inheritance of the Tribe of Ephraim

Joseph, the eleventh of twelve sons born to Jacob, the father of Israel’s twelve tribes, had two sons born in Egypt. God had honored Joseph for his faithfulness, and Jacob blessed him with a double portion, by adopting his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and giving them an inheritance in the Promised Land (16:1-4). The inheritance of the tribe of Ephraim, is delineated (16:5-10). The population of Ephraim was large enough, that additional cities in Manasseh’s territory were bequeathed to the tribe for its people (16:9). In our next devotional we will consider the lands assigned to the tribe of Manasseh, Joseph’s firstborn son (17:1-13).

We have already considered Judah’s failure to drive the Jebusites out of Jerusalem (15:63). Unfortunately, Ephraim also failed to claim all the land that God had promised them for an inheritance, and “they drave not out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer: but the Canaanites dwell among the Ephraimites unto this day, and serve under tribute” (16:10).

The cause for Ephraim’s failure is not identified; however, regardless their reason, it was inexcusable and the effects of the failure would prove tragic for their children. The Canaanites were idol worshippers, and their influence would lead the children of Ephraim down a path of sin, and wickedness.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

To All Who Secured Our Freedoms, and to Those Whose Loved Ones Paid the Ultimate Sacrifice, THANK YOU!

“The American Experiment,” as some have described the founding of our union, began with a unanimous Declaration by thirteen colonies, who identified themselves as, “the thirteen united states of America.”

Thomas Jefferson, and fifty-five other patriots who represented their home states, declared and affirmed a foundational principle of liberty for which they were willing to lay down their lives, and sacrifice their wealth:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Jefferson went on to write, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government…”

I denoted the phrase, “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” for we have become a nation whose government is managed by self-appointed oligarchs, and that assert powers for which we, the American people, have not consented!

I have not consented that federal, state, or municipal governments have the right to limit my freedom of speech, freedom of the press, or freedom of religion. I have not consented to politicians the authority to define the sanctity of human life, or the definition of male and female. I have not consented to the right of the state to enforce laws, guidelines, and policies that restrict my “Life, Liberty, and pursuit of Happiness.”

Ronald Reagan, the late 40th president of the United States, once said: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” Unfortunately, the pandemic of 2020-2021 became a catalyst for politicians, judges, and bureaucrats to erode our freedoms, under the pretext that they are limiting our liberties in the interests of the citizenry.

Remember, whatever can be taken from you is effectively not yours. I fear we have lost many of the freedoms for which brave men and women have died in the service of our nation. I pray the membership of Hillsdale Baptist Church might remember our indebtedness to those who have lived, fought, and died, and in the words of Patrick Henry, declare: “Give me liberty, or give me death!”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
https://tv.gab.com/channel/HeartofAShepherd1
https://mewe.com/p/heartofashepherdinc

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

A Silent Enemy: Sin in the Camp (Joshua 7-8) – part 1 of 2 devotionals

Scripture reading – Joshua 7-8

With the fortress of Jericho defeated, and destroyed, the men of Israel set their eyes on the next city, Ai. Joshua had reminded the people that the LORD had accursed all that was in Jericho, and the gold, silver, brass, and iron was sanctified, and dedicated for the “treasury of the house of the LORD” (6:24, 26). Nevertheless, one man in Israel had disregarded Joshua’s oath, and had foolishly taken that which was accursed (7:1).

Joshua 7 – A Hidden Sin in the Camp

Joshua 7:1 reveals both the sin and the sinner, whose transgression would not be discovered until thirty-six soldiers of Israel had perished in battle (7:5).

Joshua 7:11But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the Lordwas kindled against the children of Israel.

Who was Achan? In the realm of two million citizens, we might assert he was nobody; however, he was a transgressor who committed a great sin against the LORD. Achan was a son of the tribe of Judah (7:1), and a father with sons and daughters (7:24). He was a man of possessions, for he owned ox, asses, and sheep (7:24). He was, however, a covetous man, and a thief (7:20-21).

Defeat at Ai (7:3-5)

Unlike the battle of Jericho, Joshua failed to consult the LORD before he ordered men to attack Ai (7:2). Joshua sent men to spy out Ai, and they returned, and advised, “Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few” (7:3). Confident, and presumptuous, Joshua heeded the advice of his spies, and sent three thousand soldiers into battle. Israel was defeated (7:4-5), leaving the nation confused, humiliated, and humbled by the deaths of thirty-six warriors of Israel.

Joshua’s Remorse (7:6-9)

Distraught by the defeat, Joshua “rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD” (7:6). He was joined by “the elders of Israel,” and they “they put dust upon their heads” as a sign of mourning (7:6). In dismay, Joshua cried to the LORD, “what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies?” (7:8) He appealed to the LORD, consider how Israel’s defeat will embolden our enemies, and they will encircle us, “cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?” (7:9)

The LORD’S Rebuke, and the Cause for Israel’s Defeat (7:10-14)

Joshua’s cry insinuated the LORD had failed Israel; however, such was not the case, for God had promised Joshua, “whithersoever thou goest” I will be with you (1:9).

The LORD rebuked Joshua, saying, “Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?” (7:10). He revealed, the cause for Israel’s defeat was not His unfaithfulness, but the sin of one man had troubled the whole nation (7:11-12). The LORD warned, He would not bless the nation until the sin was put out of the camp (7:10-13).

The Discovery of Achan’s Sin (7:14-21)

The next morning, Joshua made hast to begin searching out the sin in Israel, and he did as the LORD had commanded (7:14-16). It was revealed that the sin had been committed by a man of the tribe of Judah (7:16). When the tribe of Judah passed before Joshua, the “family of the Zarhites” was implicated (7:17). The Zarhites were examined, and the household of “Zabdi was taken, and [Joshua] brought [Zabdi’s] household man by man and; and Achan…was taken” (7:18).

Perhaps hoping his sin would go undetected, Achan held out until he was discovered. When Joshua confronted, and appealed for him to confess his sin (7:19), Achan answered, “Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done” (7:20).

Achan’s Confession (7:21)

Achan’s confession revealed the pattern of sin that men take when they sin against the LORD. He consideredthe opportunity to sin, and looked “among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight” (7:21a). He coveted them (7:21b). Achan then carried them to his tent (7:21c), and concealed them, hiding them “in the earth in the midst of [his] tent” (7:21).

The Effect of Achan’s Sin Upon His Household (7:22-26)

Joshua’s men searched, and discovered all Achan had confessed, but there was no appeal that would satisfy the LORD’S wrath. Because of Achan’s sin, thirty-six men had died in the defeat of Ai (7:4-5), and now the whole congregation passed judgment. Taking him, and all that he owned outside the camp, Israel stoned him to death, along with his sons and daughters, and livestock (7:24). All was destroyed, and the people “burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. 26And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of his anger” (7:25-26).

I close with two observations. 1) When God’s people are right with Him, their most powerful enemies will fall before them. 2) When we conceal our sin, we are powerless to face even our weakest enemies.

* Joshua 8 records the victory that followed the nation’s judgment against Achan.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Silent Enemy: Sin in the Camp (Joshua 7-8)

Scripture reading – Joshua 7-8

With the fortress of Jericho defeated, and destroyed, the men of Israel set their eyes on the next city, Ai. Joshua had reminded the people that the LORD had accursed all that was in Jericho, and the gold, silver, brass, and iron was sanctified, and dedicated for the “treasury of the house of the LORD” (6:24, 26). Nevertheless, one man in Israel had disregarded Joshua’s oath, and had foolishly taken that which was accursed (7:1).

Joshua 7 – A Hidden Sin in the Camp

Joshua 7:1 reveals both the sin and the sinner, whose transgression would not be discovered until thirty-six soldiers of Israel had perished in battle (7:5).

Joshua 7:11But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the Lordwas kindled against the children of Israel.

Who was Achan? In the realm of two million citizens, we might assert he was nobody; however, he was a transgressor who committed a great sin against the LORD. Achan was a son of the tribe of Judah (7:1), and a father with sons and daughters (7:24). He was a man of possessions, for he owned ox, asses, and sheep (7:24). He was, however, a covetous man, and a thief (7:20-21).

Defeat at Ai (7:3-5)

Unlike the battle of Jericho, Joshua failed to consult the LORD before he ordered men to attack Ai (7:2). Joshua sent men to spy out Ai, and they returned, and advised, “Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few” (7:3). Confident, and presumptuous, Joshua heeded the advice of his spies, and sent three thousand soldiers into battle. Israel was defeated (7:4-5), leaving the nation confused, humiliated, and humbled by the deaths of thirty-six warriors of Israel.

Joshua’s Remorse (7:6-9)

Distraught by the defeat, Joshua “rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD” (7:6). He was joined by “the elders of Israel,” and they “they put dust upon their heads” as a sign of mourning (7:6). In dismay, Joshua cried to the LORD, “what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies?” (7:8) He appealed to the LORD, consider how Israel’s defeat will embolden our enemies, and they will encircle us, “cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?” (7:9)

The LORD’S Rebuke, and the Cause for Israel’s Defeat (7:10-14)

Joshua’s cry insinuated the LORD had failed Israel; however, such was not the case, for God had promised Joshua, “whithersoever thou goest” I will be with you (1:9).

The LORD rebuked Joshua, saying, “Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?” (7:10). He revealed, the cause for Israel’s defeat was not His unfaithfulness, but the sin of one man had troubled the whole nation (7:11-12). The LORD warned, He would not bless the nation until the sin was put out of the camp (7:10-13).

The Discovery of Achan’s Sin (7:14-21)

The next morning, Joshua made hast to begin searching out the sin in Israel, and he did as the LORD had commanded (7:14-16). It was revealed that the sin had been committed by a man of the tribe of Judah (7:16). When the tribe of Judah passed before Joshua, the “family of the Zarhites” was implicated (7:17). The Zarhites were examined, and the household of “Zabdi was taken, and [Joshua] brought [Zabdi’s] household man by man and; and Achan…was taken” (7:18).

Perhaps hoping his sin would go undetected, Achan held out until he was discovered. When Joshua confronted, and appealed for him to confess his sin (7:19), Achan answered, “Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done” (7:20).

Achan’s Confession (7:21)

Achan’s confession revealed the pattern of sin that men take when they sin against the LORD. He consideredthe opportunity to sin, and looked “among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight” (7:21a). He coveted them (7:21b). Achan then carried them to his tent (7:21c), and concealed them, hiding them “in the earth in the midst of [his] tent” (7:21).

The Effect of Achan’s Sin Upon His Household (7:22-26)

Joshua’s men searched, and discovered all Achan had confessed, but there was no appeal that would satisfy the LORD’S wrath. Because of Achan’s sin, thirty-six men had died in the defeat of Ai (7:4-5), and now the whole congregation passed judgment. Taking him, and all that he owned outside the camp, Israel stoned him to death, along with his sons and daughters, and livestock (7:24). All was destroyed, and the people “burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. 26And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of his anger” (7:25-26).

I close with two observations. 1) When God’s people are right with Him, their most powerful enemies will fall before them. 2) When we conceal our sin, we are powerless to face even our weakest enemies.

* Joshua 8 records the victory that followed the nation’s judgment against Achan.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith