Category Archives: Marriage

“Seek Ye the LORD While He May Be Found” (Isaiah 54-58)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 54-58

Today’s devotional commentary will be limited to Isaiah 54-55.

Isaiah 54Who is Our God?

Following the prophetic portrait of a suffering, dying Savior in chapter 53, Isaiah 54 opens with a call for the people of Israel to “break forth into singing” (54:1) in a prophetic picture of Israel’s return from captivity.

Using the familiar marriage portrait of a husband and wife (54:5), the LORD is pictured in this passage as the husband and Israel as a barren wife (54:1). When her years of tears and sorrows in captivity are fulfilled, Isaiah prophesied that Israel would be invited to turn to the LORD.

Looking to the Millennial Kingdom, Israel was promised when that nation is restored to the land that her presence and shadow will be greatly enlarged, “on the right hand and on the left.” We who are Gentiles by birth are children of God by faith and no longer Gentiles, but spiritual heirs (54:2-3).

Who is the God of the Scriptures? Isaiah 54:5 reveals He is “thy Maker” (Creator), “thine husband” (Master), the “LORD of hosts” (God of war), “Redeemer” (Savior), the “Holy One of Israel” (Holy God), “The God of the whole earth” (Sovereign God). What a great God we serve!

Isaiah 55 – A glorious invitation from the LORD to the Gentile nations.

The “servant” of God Who suffered and died in Isaiah 53 is revealed in Isaiah 55 to have offered Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Israel had been invited to break forth into singing in Isaiah 54, but in Isaiah 55 the invitation is given to “every one that thirsteth” (55:1), Israel and other nations (55:5).

Isaiah 55:6-13 is one of the great invitations in all Scripture. Seek the LORD”, turn to Him confessing your sin before it is too late (55:6).  Repent, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD” (55:7).

Warning: Only fools presuppose their thoughts and ways are right apart from God’s revelation (55:8-9).

Isaiah 55:8-9 – “8  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

I close with an observation concerning the emphasis and preeminence the Word of God is given in Isaiah 55:11.

Isaiah 55:11 – “So shall my word [truth; revelation] be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void [ineffectual; empty; i.e. having no effect], but it shall accomplish [do; make] that which I please [take pleasure or delight in], and it shall prosper [succeed] in the thing whereto I sent it.

“My Word…shall not return unto me void!” (Isaiah 55:11)

What a great promise for those who teach God’s Word! Indeed, to all who share God’s Word, the LORD promises His Word, will accomplish what He pleases and “it shall prosper.” (Isaiah 55:11)

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“God’s Longsuffering Love” (Hosea 1-7)

Scripture reading – Hosea 1-7

Today’s Scripture reading is the first seven chapters of the Book of Hosea. Written by the prophet Hosea, he was the first of the “minor prophets” in the Old Testament (minor in the sense their writings are much shorter than those of the major prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel).

There is a general consensus that Hosea’s public ministry spanned 60 years or more, beginning in 748 B.C. His ministry concluded about the time Assyria conquered Israel and led the people away into captivity.

Hosea’s preaching, though sometimes mentioning Judah, was predominately concentrated on the northern ten tribes known as Israel. While maintaining some outward form of worshipping the LORD, Israel had rejected God’s commandments and turned to worshipping and sacrificing to idols.

The Book of Hosea records the ministry of one faithful man who courageously warned His people of God’s imminent judgment should they continue in their wickedness and rebellion. I will limit today’s commentary to Hosea 1-3.

Hosea 1

The book of Hosea opens with the LORD commanding the prophet to, “Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms” (1:2a). Why such an incredulous command to His prophet?

The LORD was using Hosea’s marriage to a woman who would commit adultery as an illustration of His unfailing love for Israel whom He said had “committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD” (1:2b).

There is some debate if the woman named Gomer (1:3), whom Hosea took as his wife, was a prostitute before he married her. Regardless, the fact is that the prophet took a wife, who after bearing three children (1:3-4, 6, 8-9), left her husband, committed adultery, and became a prostitute.

For the sake of interpretation, Hosea, whose name means “Deliverer or Savior,” is a model of the LORD. Gomer, Hosea’s wife, is a picture of Israel who had broken her covenant with the LORD and turned to serve and worship idols.

Gomer gave birth to three children and their names were reminders of Israel’s broken covenant with God. The firstborn was a son named Jezreel (meaning “God will scatter”- 1:3-4), and foretold the scattering of Israel as a people among the nations of the earth. The second born was a daughter named Loruhamah (meaning “love withdrawn” or “not loved” – 1:6). Her name is a reminder that, while the LORD’S love for Israel was unconditional, when the people disobeyed and broke their covenant with Him, He withdrew His loving protection of them as a people. The third born was Loammi (meaning “not my people” – 1:9). As a nation, Israel had committed spiritual adultery and the LORD had determined to divorce His people.

Hosea 1 ends with the LORD promising that, though Israel had forsaken Him, He would not altogether reject them, and would one day gather them together in the land (1:11). In His grace, the LORD promised, “in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God” (1:10).

Hosea 2

Hosea was heartbroken when Gomer left him and he pled with his children, “Plead with your mother…let her therefore put away her whoredoms” (2:2). Gomer, like Israel, would not heed Hosea’s pitiful plea for her to return to her husband and children (2:3-23).

Hosea 3

Hosea 3 uses the prophet’s scandalous marriage to Gomer as a backdrop to a portrait of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. In the same way, Gomer had committed whoredom, breaking her marriage covenant and rejecting her husband’s love (3:1), Israel had left the LORD, broke her covenant with Him, and committed spiritual whoredom with the gods of her pagan neighbors.

In spite of her transgressions and the shame she had brought upon her household, God commanded Hosea to find his wife and bring her back to his home.  Incredibly, Hosea found Gomer wasted away and being sold in the slave market (3:2) where he purchased her for half the price of a common household slave: “fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley” (3:2).  Taking his adulterous wife home, Hosea promised to be her husband and renew their marriage covenant (3:3).

Hosea’s love for Gomer was a demonstration of God’s forgiving, unconditional love and compassion for Israel (3:4-5). Israel had forsaken the LORD and committed spiritual whoredom; however, Hosea prophesied that though Israel would be without a king for many days, God would restore the people to the land “in the latter days” (3:5).

The “latter days” of Israel’s restoration, not only as a nation (which took place briefly after the Babylonian captivity, and then again in 1948 as a modern state), is still future. Though the Jews are back in their land, yet Israel as a believing people is not. In the future they will come to “seek the LORD their God” (3:5a) with all their heart and devotion and come to “fear [revere] the LORD and His goodness” (3:5b).

The “latter days” or the “last days” (Acts 2:17; Hebrews 1:2) are still future; however, the day is coming when the LORD Jesus Christ will sit on David’s throne as Judge and King of kings (Matthew 19:28; Luke 1:32-33).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Wisdom’s Appeal to Sinners (Proverbs 7-9)

Scripture Reading – Proverbs 7-9

We are continuing our daily reading in the Proverbs of Solomon with Proverbs 7-9 being the subject of today’s devotional commentary.

Proverbs 7 – The Calamity of Sexual Immorality

“Thou shalt not commit adultery,” the Seventh Commandment, states clearly God’s plan for humanity’s sexuality and the posterity of the human race.  From the beginning, the companionship of one man and one woman for life has never been in doubt (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:18, 20-25).

Human history, however, reveals not only a rejection of marriage, but also the tragic toll of sexual immorality. Crushed dreams, divided hearts, broken families, physical disease, and despair has been the haunt of all who reject the sanctity of marriage. The lesson is indisputable:

Give rein to lusts that cannot be righteously satisfied and you will be consumed by them.

Proverbs 7 serves as a graphic tale of a young man’s folly. Whether a personal observation of the sorrows that followed in the wake of his father’s adultery or a consequence of his own sinful choices, Solomon gives us a portrait that serves as a warning to all who reject godly wisdom and choose the path of immorality. The king warned his son, the house of an adulterer is “the way to hell” (7:27).

Proverbs 8 – Wisdom Anthropomorphized

My theme for Proverbs 8 is expressed in a word consisting of seventeen letters and five syllables. What is the definition of anthropomorphized? It means to take on human characteristics. Wisdom does that in Proverbs 8, and is in my interpretation, the embodiment of the pre-incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Solomon introduces us to Wisdom in the first three verses of the chapter (8:1-3), and then she (Wisdom) begins to speak throughout the balance of the chapter (8:4-36). You will notice the personification of Wisdom expressed in personal pronouns throughout Proverbs 8.

Proverbs 8:4 – “Unto you, O men, I call.”

Proverbs 8:7 – “My mouth shall speak truth.”

Proverbs 8:12 – “I wisdom dwell with prudence.”

Proverbs 8:17 – “I love them that love me: and those that seek me early shall find me.”

Proverbs 8:34 – “Blessed is the man that heareth me.”

Proverbs 8 concludes with wisdom’s invitation and warning:

Proverbs 8:35-36  For whoso findeth me [Wisdom personified in Jesus Christ] findeth life [spiritual and eternal life – 1 John 5:11], and shall obtain [get] favour [acceptance; good pleasure; goodwill] of the LORD. 36 But he that against me [Christ the Lord] wrongeth [violates] his own soul [life; person; mind; spirit]: all they that hate [to reject; are enemies or foes] me [wisdom] love death [pestilence; ruin; hades].”

Proverbs 9 – Wisdom’s Invitation

Solomon continues his personification of Wisdom in chapter 9 and we find her building a house described as having “seven pillars” (9:1). [In the Scriptures the number seven indicates completeness or wholeness.]

Consider this chapter as an offering of two spiritual scholarships to two opposing schools of thought and philosophy.

The first scholarship is to the University of Godly Wisdom (Proverbs 9:1-6) and the second to the School of Folly (Proverbs 9:13-18). You will notice that Proverbs 9:7-12 serve as transitional verses between the two schools.

As you read Proverbs 9, ponder this question: In what school of thought or philosophy are you enrolled?

Are you enrolled in the University of Godly Wisdom? Are you a student in the School of Folly where gullible, simple men dwell?  [The “simple” are those who lack godly wisdom, are slaves to sin, and follow a course of sorrow, destruction, and eventual death.]

It is not too late to become a student in the LORD’S University of Godly Wisdom by humbling yourself and accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior. Christ taught His followers, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst… All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:35, 37).

I invite you, enroll in the University of Godly Wisdom without delay by opening your heart to the Lord.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Is it Time to Put Honey Back into Your Honeymoon?

Scripture reading assignment – Song of Solomon

Today’s Scripture reading introduces the Song of Solomon.  As its name suggests, the author is Solomon, the son of King David and Bathsheba, and God’s chosen successor to his father’s throne.

In answer to his prayer, God blessed Solomon with wisdom that exceeded that of any man of his day. As a young king, he enjoyed wealth beyond imagination, and his fortunes grew with each successive year of his reign.

Following the custom of his day, Solomon formed alliances with heathen kings through marriage and took their daughters who brought the idols of their homelands into his palaces (1 Kings 11:1-2).  Recalling his harem of 700 wives and 300 concubines, we are disappointed, but not surprised when we read,

“When Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father” (1 Kings 11:4).

The Song of Solomon is a book of romance, eight chapters long and written when he was a young king. There are various views on how the Song of Solomon should be interpreted.

Some suggest an Allegorical interpretation, stating the Song of Solomon describes God’s relationship with His people.  Some Jewish rabbis believed the Song of Solomon was an allegory [story or parable] describing God’s relationship with Israel.

Some scholars suggest a Typical interpretation and believe the Song of Solomon is a love poem written by the king to a young woman he loved.  Some scholars draw a parallel and suggest the book describes Christ’s love and relationship with the Church.

For the sake of our study, I suggest a Literal interpretation.  In other words, I believe the Song of Solomon is a story of romance.  A love story and a celebration of youthful love and romance between the king and a wife whom he loved and who adored him.

Time and space do not permit a full and detailed commentary on this book of romance; however, I trust today’s commentary will serve as a valuable outline for future studies.

Song of Solomon 1-2 – The Beginning of a Royal Courtship.

Song of Solomon 3-4 – A Portrait of Young Love

Song of Solomon 5-6 – Formula for a Happy Marriage: Two dedicated souls and a lifetime of patience and romance.

Song of Solomon 7-8 – “What Beautiful Feet You Have, My Love!”

I close with the apostle Paul’s exhortation to believers in Ephesus.

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.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Thou art the man!” (Psalm 32, 51, 86, 122)

Scripture Reading – Psalms 32, 51, 86, 122

Our previous devotional, 2 Samuel 11-12 and 1 Chronicles 20, is the background for two penitent psalms in today’s Scripture reading (Psalm 32 and Psalm 51). Today’s devotional commentary is focused on Psalm 51.

Psalm 51 is a prayer of brokenness, confession, repentance and a plea for forgiveness and restoration. The prophet Nathan’s dramatic confrontation with David (2 Samuel 12:7-13)  had exposed his adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of David’s mighty men. Added to the disgrace was the king’s attempt to conceal his sin that ultimately ended in the king’s directing Uriah’s death.

It is frightening to consider the depths of sin into which a man or woman might descend. At the zenith of success and power, the words of the prophet Nathan had echoed in the palace and resonated in David’s soul: “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.”  That is true of monarchs, politicians, business leaders, professors and, yes, pastors.

One should ponder how a man like David was befallen by sin. Considering the disgraced king, we can scarce remember the innocent shepherd or the young king humbled by the adulation of his nation. He has dishonored his crown and the servants of his kingdom revile him in private whispering, “adulterer” and “murderer.”

David acknowledged the nature and curse of hereditary sin, confessing, “I was shapen in iniquity: and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). The disposition to sin is bound in the heart of all men and women, for “there is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).

While I am dismayed by the depths of sin to which David descended, it is the length of time he tolerated the burden of such sins while acting as judge in other men’s affairs that surprises me. How long might David have continued his charade if it were not for God’s deploying his prophet to confront the king on his throne?

“Thou art the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7) echoed in the judgment hall and resonated in David’s heart who cried out to God for mercy and forgiveness (Psalm 51:1).  David prayed, “Wash me throughly,” because his heart and hands were dirty with his transgressions (51:2-3). He had sinned against many, but was acutely aware his foremost sin was against the LORD. The king prayed, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight” (51:4).

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

No more pretense. No more hypocrisy. No more vain worship. The king confessed, “For thou desirest not sacrifice…17  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart” (51:16a, 17a).

I close suggesting at least three factors contributed to David’s moral failure.

The first, he entertained lusts that inevitably led to a neglect of his duties and responsibilities as husband, father and king.

The second factor, his role as king had insulated him to accountability. His moral failure occurred when he was alone, far from the battlefield and separated from his wives and children.

Finally, though he was a man with a heart for God, he was nonetheless too proud to confess his sin (2 Samuel 11:6-22) and accept the consequences of his moral failures.

Lesson: If you are hiding sin, be forewarned: You are living on borrowed time. Be assured, the consequences of secret sins will inevitably catch up with you and your loved ones (Galatians 6:8; Psalm 32:3-4).

Invitation: The LORD is waiting to hear you pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God…Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (Psalm 51:10a, 12a).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Pity the Woman Married to a Fool (1 Samuel 25-27)

Daily reading assignment: 1 Samuel 25-27

1 Samuel 25 – Warning: Sin Can Rob You of Everything You Hold Dear.

“And Samuel died” (25:1) is arguably an understatement of an inevitable truth that is the haunt of all mankind. Samuel’s death comes as no surprise when we remember the scriptures stated years earlier that he was already “old” when he anointed Saul to be king (8:1). Nevertheless, the direct statement concerning Samuel’s death reminds us even the greatest of men face the inescapable reality: “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

David remains a man on the run from King Saul; however, great warriors are being gathered to him, and his realm of influence in the wilderness is expanding. One beneficiary of David’s protection was a wealthy man named Nabal who “had three thousand sheep, and a thousand goats” (25:2-3). “Fool” is the literal definition of Nabal’s name, and he disappointed no one in failing to live up to its meaning.

With an understanding that safeguarding his flocks would be valued when shearing season was come, David sent his men to collect the compensation they were due (25:2, 4-9). True to his name and consistent in his character, for he was “churlish (harsh, mean-tempered) and evil in his doings” (25:3), Nabal scorned David as a rebel (25:10) and scoffed paying what he owed (25:11).

Receiving news his character was slandered and the payment he was due had been refused (25:12-13), David was furious and determined he would kill every male “that pisseth against the wall” of Nabal’s household (25:22).

Though a fool in his ways, Nabal had somehow married a woman named Abigail who “was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance” (25:3). When she learned David was coming to exact revenge on Nabal, she interceded with an act of grace and humility as she sought mercy for his household (25:14-20).

Married to a fool was her affliction; however, Abigail, being a wise woman, recognized her husband was a fool (“Nabal is his name, and folly is with him” – 25:25) and had sought to mediate the consequences of his foolish ways (25:26-27). Her humble ways and wise counsel softened David’s heart and appeased his wrath ( 25:28-31).

Abigail’s counsel so impressed David, that when he learned Nabal was dead, he sent for her and took her to be his wife (25:32-42).

1 Samuel 26 – Integrity: Who You Are When No One is Watching.

Integrity, a rare virtue among men, is descriptive of David whom God described as “a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). Though he was not a perfect man, integrity was a dominant quality of his life. He was a man who loved the LORD and was a faithful son, loyal friend, and a great soldier. David was a courageous man, heroic in his deeds and humble in his walk.

When a second opportunity to kill King Saul presented itself in 1 Samuel 26; David, in spite of the appeal of his servant to take his enemy’s life, refused (26:8-10). He reasoned that to “stretch forth his hand against the LORD’S anointed” would be a grave sin (26:11-24).

1 Samuel 27 – A Spirit of Despair Gripped David’s Heart.

David had overcome the temptation to kill Saul in chapter 26, but we find him in chapter 27 struggling with a spirit of pessimism and anxiety (27:1).

Allowing his fear of Saul to become greater than his faith in God (Proverbs 29:25), David departed from Israel and encamped among the Philistines (27:1-3).  For sixteen months, David and his men appeared to prosper in the midst of the Philistines (27:8-11).

Parting Truth: Men of integrity are not driven by opinions or popularity; their foremost concern is to honor the LORD.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Here Comes the Bride! (Ruth 1-4)

Daily reading assignment: Ruth 1-4

The Book of Ruth is a beloved book of God’s people and of particular interest to Jews and Christians because it establishes the genealogy of David as a descendant of the tribe of Judah, the royal tribe of which Jesus Christ is born.  We read in Matthew 1:5-6, “And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth [the subject of today’s Bible reading]; and Obed begat Jesse; 6 And Jesse begat David the king…”

Ruth 1 – Far From God

The Book of Ruth is a bridge between two eras, from the time when judges ruled Israel but before kings reigned in the land.  It is a testimony of God’s sovereignty… overruling in the affairs of man and providentially working out His will through the frailty of human decisions.

The book of Ruth is often described as a book of “Redemption,” for it explains how Ruth, a Gentile Moabite woman who had no right of inheritance among the tribes of Israel, came to be named in the lineage of Christ when she became the wife of Boaz, a wealthy man who paid the price of her redemption.

The opening verses of Ruth introduce us to Elimelech and his wife Naomi. We find Israel in the midst of a crisis (“there was a famine in the land”) that demanded a response of faith and obedience.  Elimelech, however, failed to respond to the famine by faith and led his family to Moab…far from the LORD, his people, and the land of his inheritance (Ruth 1:2).

Elimelech’s fateful decision ended tragically when he and his sons, both of whom had married Moabite women, died in Moab leaving Naomi alone with the wives of her sons (1:3-5).

What a miserable fate Naomi had suffered during her ten-year sojourn in Moab!

She became a widow in a foreign land and was left in poverty and despair. A glimmer of hope ignited in Naomi when she heard, “the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread” (1:6).

Naomi determined to return to Israel, and, knowing Moabite women would have no place in Israel, she encouraged her daughters-in-law to find Moabite husbands (1:7-9).   When Orpah and Ruth, Naomi’s daughters-in-law, insisted on returning with her, she counseled them toward an unwise decision (1:10-12).

Orpah heeded Naomi’s counsel and returned to Moab (1:13-15); however, Ruth clung to Naomi, refusing to depart.  Ruth’s love for Naomi inspired one of the most beautiful confessions of faith in the Bible (1:16-17).

Ruth 1:16-17And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: 17  Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORDdo so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.

The trials and ten year sojourn in Moab had taken such a physical toll on Naomi’s appearance that when she returned to Israel, the people of Bethlehem looked on her and said, “Is this Naomi?(1:19) Ten-years of trials, troubles, and losses had dramatically changed her.

Naomi answered their inquiries and confessed her bitter spirit toward the LORD saying, “20b Call me not Naomi [pleasant], call me Mara [bitter]: for the Almighty [El Shaddai] hath dealt very bitterly with me…21b the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent One] hath testified [responded to her sin] against me, and the Almighty [El Shaddai—Eternal; All powerful; All Sufficient One] hath afflicted me?” (1:20b-21)

Ruth 2 – The Sovereignty and Providential Care of the LORD

Time and space do not allow me to carry this story of love and grace to a proper conclusion, but I urge you to read all four chapters in the Book of Ruth.

Ruth’s beauty and exceptional character captured the eye and the affections of Boaz, a wealthy kinsman of Elimelech, Ruth’s deceased father-in-law (2:5-17).   Although she was Moabite woman and stranger in the midst of God’s people, she changed her citizenship, and by faith became part of the house of Israel. The LORD sovereignly led Boaz to extend his grace to Ruth, and he loved her and acknowledged her faith saying, “the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust” (2:12).

Ruth 3Boaz proposed marriage and pledged his love to Ruth (3:10-12).

Ruth 4 – A Romance of Redemption

Boaz’s romance of redemption is completed in Ruth 4 when he purchased the right to take Ruth as his wife (4:9).   This amazing story of romance, grace, and God’s sovereignty ends stating that Ruth, a Moabite woman by birth, would be the great-great-grandmother of David, Israel’s future king (4:22).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Choices Always Have Consequences (Deuteronomy 24-27)

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 24-27

Moses continues his final challenge to Israel in today’s scripture reading, and his speech covers nearly every aspect of life in the new land.

Deuteronomy 24

Marriage and divorce are the subject of the opening verses of Deuteronomy 24, and we are reminded that divorce was never God’s will. God’s plan from creation was that man would be the husband of one wife (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:8). The principles on divorce stated in this passage were given to stress the solemnness of marriage and the sobriety of divorce (24:1-5).

Various life principles follow (24:6-22)

1) Never take a pledge of indebtedness against a man’s “millstone,” meaning his means to grind wheat and provide bread for his family (24:6). Stated in a different manner: Don’t take from a man his livelihood and means to provide for his family.

2) Don’t engage in “man stealing” (the 21st century describes this as “human trafficking” and its victims are often children). The penalty of such is death (24:7).

3) Never oppress the poor by taking advantage of their impoverished state (24:10-15). In ancient times, the sole possession of a poor man might have been nothing more than the robes he wore. Explanation: While a poor man might offer his outer robe to secure a loan and the lender take possession of it during the day, the debtor was not to be denied the warmth and comfort of his robe at night.  That principle is timeless!  While people should not assume debts, they cannot pay; neither should lenders be harsh in charging usury, seeking justice, and restitution.

4) Employers are to pay employees their due (24:16).

5) Everyone was to bear the punishment for their own sin and not another in their stead (24:16).

6) Compassion for the poverty of the orphan, widow, and foreigner was a burden shared by Hebrew society (24:19-22).

Deuteronomy 25

Because justice is essential for the peace and well-being of a society, corporal punishment that fit the crime was to be administered, but within reason and without excessive harshness (Deut. 25:1-4).

Even the ox that labored in the field was to be an object of compassion and allowed the reward of eating some of the grain as it labored (25:4; 1 Timothy 5:18).

Hebrews were expected to be men of integrity in business, and weights and measurements used in commerce were to be “perfect and just” (Deut. 25:13-16).

Though commanded to have compassion on a foreigner in other passages, Israel was not to appear weak or trivialize offenses an enemy’s (25:17-19).

Deuteronomy 26

Because the LORD had chosen Israel and blessed the people, Moses reminded them they were to demonstrate their gratitude by bringing the first fruits of the harvest to the sanctuary (26:1-15).

A special tithe was given every third year accompanying the tither’s confession he had honored the LORD’s commandments and obeyed them. The third-year tithe was used to meet immediate needs in one’s community and to support “the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled” (26:12-15).

Reminded of their covenant with the LORD, Israel was to promise to “walk in his ways, and to keep His statutes, and His commandments” (26:16-17). In response, the LORD promised to promote Israel above all the nations of the earth (26:19).

Deuteronomy 27

Lest the people forget, a memorial pillar of stones was to be inscribed with the law and raised up on the west side of the Jordan River as a reminder of the LORD’s promises and commandments (Dt. 27:1-2).  An altar was to be built to sanctify the place and the LORD’s covenant with Israel (27:2-10).

Admonishing the people “Choices have Consequences”, the elders of the twelve tribes were charged to remind them obedience to the Law brought the LORD’s blessing, and disobedience His curse and judgments (27:14-26).

A series of twelve curses were pronounced, and the tribes affirmed they accepted the LORD’s covenant (Dt. 27:15-26).

1) Idolatry, a violation of the first and second commandments is cursed (27:15).

2) Dishonoring one’s parents is cursed (27:16), a violation of the fifth commandment (Ex. 20:12).

3) Stealing the property and possessions of another is cursed, a violation of the eighth commandment (27:17; Ex. 20:15).

4) Taking advantage of the infirmed or disabled is cursed (27:18).

5) Unjust treatment of “the stranger, fatherless, and widow” is cursed (27:19; Ex. 22:21-24).

The sixth through ninth curses address sexual impurity, a violation of the seventh commandment (27:20-23; Ex. 20:14).

6) Incest with one’s stepmother is cursed (27:20; Lev. 18:8-9, 17; 20:11).

7) Bestiality is cursed (27:21; Lev. 18:23).

8) Incest between siblings and parents is cursed (27:22).

9) Incest with one’s mother-in-law is cursed (27:23).

The sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Ex. 20:13), is the subject of the tenth and eleventh curses (Dt. 27:24-25).

10) Intentional murder of one’s neighbor is cursed (Dt. 27:24).

11) Hiring an assassin to kill another is cursed (Dt. 27:25).

The twelfth and final curse is addressed to any child of Israel who failed to affirm God’s Law and Commandments (Dt .27:26).

When the people were asked to affirm they accepted the LORD’s covenant, they answered, “Amen” (27:26).

In case you are tempted to believe the law and commandments have no application to you, I remind you:

1 Peter 1:15-16 – “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16  Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Moral Foundation of Societal Laws (Deuteronomy 21-23)

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 21-23

We find in today’s scripture reading the basis from which we derive our societal views on the sanctity of life, compassion, and decency. Signs of moral decay are around us; however, there are glimpses of compassion, rightness, and a sense of justice that continues to prevail.

Our neighbors may be ignorant of the source of their outrage when animals are mistreated, the weak are abused, or women are victims of violence. In today’s scripture you will discover the moral basis of justice and our conviction that demands kindness and fairness.

Moral Decency and Compassion (Deuteronomy 21)

Deuteronomy 21 sets forth various laws Israel was to follow. The sanctity of human life is demonstrated in the regard of a slain man whose body was discovered with no witnesses to identify his killer (21:1-9).

The just treatment of an alien woman taken as the spoil of war is addressed and the dignity of womanhood was demanded (21:10-12). Should a Hebrew man take a foreign woman as his wife, she was to be given a season of mourning (21:13). Should the husband later declare he did not desire her, she was to be treated with dignity and not to be sold as a slave. She was to be granted her freedom (21:14).

The birthright of inheritance as a firstborn son was established (21:15-17). The firstborn son’s right of a double inheritance could not be diminished, even if he was born to a least favored wife. He was his father’s firstborn and his privilege could not be reduced.

The nation was to be intolerant of rebellion in its youth (21:18) and a rebellious, stubborn son given to gluttony and drunkenness was to be put to death by the men of the city after due process (21:19-21).

Love Thy Neighbor (Deuteronomy 22)

There are many life principles we follow as a nation that originate in the Old Testament scriptures. What we consider civil behavior has its roots in Old Testament laws.  For example, your neighbors might try to find and return a stray pet to its owner. That compulsion is founded in the Israelite law that a man was required to preserve his neighbor’s property, have compassion on stray livestock (22:1-2), and hold a lost object until it was claimed by its owner (22:3).

A militant movement in the 21st century has attempted to normalize “transsexualism,” but God’s law addressed this aberration of His divine order and demanded the dress and fashion of the male and female to be distinctive (22:5).

Remembering God is Creator and life is sacred, the Israelites were to value and preserve life; even the smallest bird and her nestlings were to be treated with compassion (22:6-7).

Traditional homes in the Middle East were flat roofed and families would escape the interior heat of a home by seeking refuge on the roof at night. Demonstrating the sacred nature of human life, a “battlement” or low wall was required on the roof to prevent accidental falls that would result in injury and death (22:8).

Unlike the heathen, Hebrew women were given protections and the right of due process should their purity and testimony be called into question (22:13-21).  Practical laws and guidelines regarding the sanctity and purity of marriage were stated and adultery and rape were condemned (22:13-30). Incest was prohibited and was an abomination to God (22:30).

Deuteronomy 23

Males who underwent sexual mutilation (23:1), such as what you and I might identify as “sex change” in the 21st century, were to be put out from God’s people.

The rights of inheritance and those prohibited to have any inheritance in Israel are listed (23:2-8). Principles concerning hygiene and sanitation are enumerated, even the use of a shovel to cover human waste was endorsed (23:12-14).

A slave fleeing a foreign master was to be given safe haven in Israel (23:15-16) and female whores and sodomite men were to be excluded from the nation (23:17-18).

A Hebrew was forbidden to charge interest (usury) on a loan to another Hebrew; however, interest was allowed when loaning to a non-Hebrew (23:19-20).

Principles concerning vows are stated: 1) Making a vow is binding and is not to be entered into lightly and when failed is a sin (23:21). 2) In fact, it is better to not make a vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it (23:22-23).

Finally, we notice a lesson in civility and an expression of compassion for others: Strangers were permitted to eat fruit in vineyards and fields as they passed by; however, they were forbidden to employ a vessel to carry more than they could eat at one time (23:24-25).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Gender Roles and Spiritual Synergy (Numbers 35-36)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 35-36

Twelve tribes have been assigned their portion in the Promised Land (34:16-29); however, the priestly tribe of Levi was not assigned an inheritance in the land.  Instead, forty-eight cities in the midst of the lands apportioned to the other tribes were allotted to the Levites (35:1-5).

Of the forty-eight cities assigned, six were to serve as cities of refuge to which a man accused of slaying another might flee to seek justice (35:6-34).

The Book of Numbers ends on an interesting note as a concern arises regarding the matter of inheritance when a man would die and have no son to be his heir.

Though often maligned by secularists and assailed by militant women, the Scriptures prove in Numbers 36 the LORD’s sensitivity to justice and fairness in a family, and in this instance, two unmarried daughters whose father had no son to be his heir (36:1-4).

There was concern what would become of tribal lands when a man had no son. It was argued the lands assigned to a tribe would be lost should a man’s daughters marry outside their tribal bloodlines. The dilemma was solved by requiring daughters who were heirs to marry within the tribe of their father (36:5-9), thereby keeping the land within the tribe.

Numbers 36 concludes with the “daughters of Zelophehad” being assured of their inheritance in the land and their submitting to the LORD’s will that they marry men within their tribal bloodline, securing the inheritance for future generations of their tribe (36:10-13). The context of the matter of a man’s heirs and the rights of his daughters began in Numbers 27 and concludes in Numbers 36

The decision that a daughter had a right of inheritance in the absence of a son was a radical one for ancient times since women were viewed as less than men in matters of culture and inheritance.

As late as the 20th and early 21st century, the majority of women lived in oppressive conditions in the world; however, such was not to be the case among God’s people.

Lesson – The church and believers must recognize that, though gender roles differ, there is to be a spiritual synergy between male and female, husband and wife.

When a man accepts that woman was created, not as his servant, but as his helpmeet (suitable helper), and companion (Genesis 2:18; Ephesians 5:25) and the woman recognizes her role is fulfilled in following her husband’s lead (Genesis 3:16; Ephesians 5:23-24), there is harmony, respect, and peace in the home and the church (Ephesians 5:31-33).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith