Category Archives: Marriage

You Can’t Take It With You (Psalm 45, 49)

Scripture reading – Psalm 45; Psalm 49

Psalm 45 – Here Comes the Bride

Psalm 45 is a fascinating and beautiful psalm, and is in my opinion a Messianic psalm. The central subject of the psalm is the king, whom I believe is the LORD Jesus Christ, the Messiah King.

Psalm 45:2-9 is a description of the Messiah King who is fair and beautiful (45:2), a warrior with sword, and arrows (45:3-5), a throne that represents a perpetual reign, and who is altogether righteous, and hates wickedness.

Psalm 45:10-14 describes the Messiah King’s bride, whom I believe is the congregation of believers, the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-27, Revelation 19:7-8; 21:2, 9). To be the bride of the king, the bride must leave her father’s house, and be devoted to her husband (45:10-11), even as believers are to separate themselves from the world, and be wholly dedicated, and a “living sacrifice” to the LORD (Romans 12:1-2).

Like gold that is pure, believers are to be to the LORD like a bride whose “clothing is of wrought gold” (45:13). As the bride comes to the king “in raiment of needlework” (45:14), the bride of Christ comes clothed in His righteousness (Philippians 3:9; Titus 3:5).

Psalm 49Money Will Not Buy You Happiness

Psalm 49 reflects the ponderings of a man who faces the reality many of us put off…his own mortality.  Regardless of what we amass in possessions, or how rich or poor we become, everyone will “leave their wealth to others” (49:10).

Some, by acts of charity, and others by calling “their lands after their own names” (49:11), go to their graves hoping their legacy will live on after they are gone. Yet, no man or woman can escape the final reality–death (49:12, 14).

After nearly 44 years of ministry, I have yet to see a U-Haul truck or trailer following a hearse to a cemetery.  A similar reality was noted by the psalmist: “For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him” (49:17). The apostle Paul reminded Timothy of those same truths when he wrote, and warned:

1 Timothy 6:7-10 – “7  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 9  But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10  For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Home Sweet Home: A Family Portrait (Psalms 128)

Scripture reading Psalms 128

Psalm 128 continues our study of the Psalms titled, “A Song of Degrees” (Psalms 120-134), and is a song of rejoicing for the LORD’S blessings.  The central focus of the psalm is the promise of the LORD’S blessings on the household of the man who fears the LORD, and walks in His ways.

Notice the promise of happiness found in the first two verses of Psalm 128.

Psalm 128:1–21Blessed [Happy] is every one that feareth [reveres; worships] the Lord; That walketh in his ways. 2For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: Happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well [pleasant] with thee.

Is there anyone who does not desire, and long for happiness? Some look for affirmation as a way to happiness, but trophies, medals, and applause never gratify. Some climb the ladder to success, pursue wealth and acquire possessions, but find happiness just isn’t there. Sadly, the happiness the world promises is temporal, and never satisfies!

To whom does the psalmist promise happiness? To those who fear the LORD, and walk in His ways (obeying His Laws, and Commandments). Such a man will be happy and satisfied, and has the promise he will enjoy the fruit of his labor. (128:2). The man who loves and serves the Lord is physically blessed through his seed.  His wife is compared to a fruitful vine, and in Scripture vines symbolize a life-giving force.

The psalm continues with how the blessing was given: “The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion [the mountain upon which the Temple was built]: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life” (Psalm 128:5).The Temple was a majestic symbol of God himself.  It represented life, and Israel’s prosperity.

We have observed two family portraits in our study of Psalm 128. The first was of a man and his wife who, under the shadow of her husband’s love and piety (128:1-3a), was like “a fruitful vine,” and a source of joy to her husband. The second portrait was of the couple’s children, sitting around the table. The children had not grown up to become wild weeds, but were like olive plants; trained and cultivated. They were growing up to be a blessing (128:3).

The third family portrait was one of contentment (128:5-6), and the concluding verses of Psalm 128 served as a benediction.

The man that had feared the LORD (128:1) was now old, and stooped in age. His body was weak, but his spirit was strong as he aspired to see God’s blessings on his nation (128:5). Because the LORD is the rewarder of them who love and fear Him, the old man was promised, “6  Yea, thou shalt see [look; discern] thy children’s children[grandchildren], and peace [Shalom; prosperity] upon Israel” (128:6).

Closing thoughts: There are some reading this devotional who long for their family to be a picture of happiness and joy. You long for the LORD to pour out His blessings on your marriage, and to see your “children’s children” living in a nation that enjoys “Shalom,” the peace and prosperity of the LORD (128:6).

Those are admirable desires; however, they are promised only to them who fear the LORD, and walk in His ways (128:1).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Here Comes the Bride! (Ruth 3-4)

Scripture reading – Ruth 3-4

Naomi had left Bethlehem during a time of famine (1:1), and ten years later returned from Moab as a widow, and childless. She buried her husband, and two sons in Moab, and her sojourn had proven bitter. In her words, “I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty” (1:21). Only a Moabitess named Ruth was with her, and she was Naomi’s daughter-in-law, and a widow herself.

From an earthly perspective, life had dealt some significant, harsh blows against Naomi, and Ruth. There are many details I could cite to justify that observation, but suffice it to say, that both these women faced deep sorrows, a feeling of destitution, and a loss that left them without a provider. Entering the Land, Ruth was a young widow, a stranger in Israel, far from her family, and country. She was the daughter-in-law of a widow, who was bitter (1:20-21). She was an outsider, and dependent upon the charity of those who were not her countrymen.

She was far from home; however, never far from the providence of the LORD, whom she confessed to be her God (1:16-17). In a testimony of the LORD’S sovereignty, Ruth found herself gleaning grain in the fields of Boaz, a mighty, and wealthy man, who was the kinsman of her mother-in-law (2:21-23).

Ruth 3 – Naomi, the Matchmaker

Sensing the providence of God at work in her, and Ruth’s life, Naomi declared she would not rest until she knew it would be well with her widowed daughter-in-law (3:1). Naomi revealed to Ruth that Boaz was their kindred. She knew he would not go home while the grain was being winnowed (culled out of its outer shell), and would sleep on the threshing floor to secure his harvest (3:2). Naomi instructed Ruth to bathe, put on a fresh robe, and make her way to the threshingfloor, where she was to lie down at the feet of Boaz unnoticed (3:3-4). Ruth agreed to Naomi’s instructions, and did as she was told (3:5-7).

Boaz aroused from his sleep at midnight, and discovered Ruth sleeping at his feet (3:8). When she declared he was her “near kinsman,” she had, in essence, made her plea to be his wife (3:9). Boaz praised Ruth’s godly character (3:10), and pledged he would honor his role as her kinsman, but only after one closer than himself disavowed his right to be her redeemer (3:11-12).

Ruth 4 – From Bitterness to Joy

Boaz set out early the next morning, and sat in the gate of the city, where he met the man who was the “nearer kinsman” of Ruth (4:1). With ten elders of the city as witnesses, Boaz offered to the “nearer kinsman” the right to purchase the land, but with a reminder that the responsibility would mean taking Ruth as his wife (4:1-5). Confessing it would complicate his “own inheritance” (meaning his will), the “nearer kinsman” deferred his right to redeem the land, saying, “redeem thou my right to thyself; for I cannot redeem it” (4:6).

With ten witnesses watching, the “nearer kinsman,” surrendered his right of ownership by taking off his sandal (as was the custom to transfer ownership of land), and gave it to Boaz as a sign of transfer. Boaz acknowledged his obligation to redeem the land from Naomi, and thereby redeeming Ruth to be his wife (4:10). All who witnessed the transaction, and Boaz’s pledge, blessed his union with Ruth, and prayed that she would bear sons to him, as had Rachel and Leah, the wives and mothers of Jacob’s sons (4:11).

Boaz took Ruth, “and she [became] his wife: and when he went in unto her…she bare a son” (4:13). Naomi’s shroud of bitterness was lifted, and the people rejoiced with her (4:14). They praised Ruth, the Moabitess, and outsider, and said she had been better to Naomi than had she given birth to seven sons (4:15).

A closing thought: The son born to Ruth and Boaz was named Obed, and he would be the father of Jesse, and the grandfather of David (4:17-22). David, would become the king of Israel, of whose lineage Jesus Christ would come. Ruth, the Mobaitess, became the great-grandmother of David, Israel’s beloved king (4:22). The romance of Ruth and Boaz will culminate in the birth of Jesus Christ!

What an amazing story of romance, grace, and redemption!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Ruth 1-2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ruth 2 – The Will of God, and Your Responsibility

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

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

Boaz, a Model of God’s Grace (2:8-23)

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Judges 21

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

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

Judges 21 – A Crisis in Israel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does that statement not describe our day?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“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

Moral Dilemmas: Divorce, Debt, and Human Trafficking (Deuteronomy 24-25)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 24-25

Our Scripture reading continues with Moses setting forward various laws that would guide Israel in matters of marriage, family, societal civility, business, and government.

Principles Regarding Marriage and Divorce (24:1-5)

The matter of divorce is raised, and it is indicative of the heart of man. Moses allowed for divorce in this passage; however, I remind you that was never God’s plan, or will. What is the will of the LORD? The sum of God’s will for marriage is this: “A man…shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

The Pharisees questioned Christ saying, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife [divorce] for every cause?” (Matthew 19:3) The LORD answered, citing the “one flesh” principle. and added, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6).

Displeased with His answer, the Pharisees pressed Him, asking, “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?” (Matthew 19:7). The LORD answered the matter of divorce, and diagnosed the moral basis for Moses permitting divorce in Deuteronomy 24.

Matthew 19:8–98He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered [allowed] you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
9And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

A Moral Guideline for the Borrower and Lender (24:6)

The matter of taking the upper millstone is foreign to most, until you understand Moses was talking of the stones used to grind grain into flour. A lender was warned, he could not take the “upper millstone,” for by it a family was able to grind grain into flour, and then bake bread for the family.

A Solution to Human Trafficking (24:7)

One of the great abominations of the 21st century is human trafficking. Forcefully taking children, women, and men and subjecting them to the darkness of moral depravity is an appalling wickedness. In the words of the Scripture, anyone found who “maketh merchandise…or selleth him” shall be put to death (24:7). Were the judgment of the Scriptures practiced today, innocent victims of human trafficking would receive justice, and human traffickers would be dispatched to swift judgment: “Thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deuteronomy 19:21).

Charitable Obligations (24:10-22)

False teachers have led many to believe the laws of the Old Testament were lacking in grace, and boast that we live in an “Age of Grace.” Indeed, we do, but to characterize the Law and Commandments as “graceless,” is to suggest the LORD was the same.

Deuteronomy 24:10-22 give evidence that God was sensitive, and compassionate concerning the condition of the poor, the weak, the orphan, and the widow. For example, in ancient times the poor often had nothing more than the “clothes on their backs.” Robes were the attire, and men generally had an inner, and outer robe. The inner robe afforded modesty, the outer robe protection against the elements, and warmth in the night. Should a poor man borrow, it was his outer robe that might serve as the security or pledge of his debt (24:10-11). The lender was not to humiliate the borrower, and forcefully take the robe of a poor man while he was in his house (24:10-11), and in the evening the lender was to return the outer robe, that the man “may sleep in his own raiment, and bless thee” (24:13).

Admonitions Against Injustices (24:14-18)

Day laborers were to be paid their due at the end of the day (24:14). Everyone was to bear the consequences, and punishment for their sins. Therefore, a father was not to be punished for the sins of his children, nor were his children to be punished for the sins of their father (24:16).

Charity Was the Law (24:19-22)

There was no welfare system for the poor in ancient times, and they were a perpetual presence on the earth. Widows were forsaken by their children, orphans suffered neglect, and foreigners found themselves homeless. Moses reminded the people how Israel had suffered bondage in Egypt; therefore, they were to remember, and allow the poor to glean the leftovers from their fields, olive trees, and grapevines.

Time and space prevent a commentary on Deuteronomy 25; however, I suggest the following for an outline: I. Principles for Capital Punishment, and Civil Justice (25:1-4); II. Principles for Family Posterity (25:5-12); III. Principles Regarding Business and Commerce (25:13-16); IV. Principles Concerning the Offence of an Enemy (25:17-19).

I close, inviting you to ponder the Grace of God: Not only the grace we find expressed in Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, but also the grace of God we have seen throughout His laws, and commandments.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Civility, Sexual Perversity, and Women’s Rights (Deuteronomy 21-22)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 21-22

Moses continues his charge to Israel in our Scripture reading. Found in Deuteronomy 21-22 are fundamental principles that establish the sanctity of human life, the fundamentals of civil decency and human kindness, and the practical application of the command, “love thy neighbor.”

Deuteronomy 21 – Fundamentals of Civil Duty

We have considered several passages of Scripture that explain the sanctity of human life, and the sixth commandment that reads, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). Capital punishment, a “life for a life,” was God’s judgment upon the man who willfully, and deliberately took the life of another (19:11-13, 21). Deuteronomy 21:1-9, addresses the loss of human life, should a victim’s body be discovered, but there are no witnesses to the murder.

Concerning a woman taken as a spoil of war (21:10-14)

Ancient cultures considered women who were taken prisoners to be nothing more than a possession, a spoil of war. The God of Israel, however, established laws to protect women. Should a man desire to take a female prisoner to wife, he was to allow her head to be shaved, an outward symbol of her purification, and give her thirty days to mourn the deaths of her parents, before taking her as his wife (21:12-13). Should the man later decide to reject her, he was to set her at liberty, and was commanded to neither sell, or humiliate her (21:14).

The Rights of a Firstborn Son (21:15-17)

Some suggest the reference to “two wives” (21:15) is a suggestion of polygamy; however, I believe it is not. In the beginning, God defined marriage as “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), the union of one man and one woman. The Mosaic Law did not redefine what God Himself had designed, and established.

I believe the explanation for the reference of “two wives” (one being described as “beloved,” and the other “hated”), implies the first wife to be dead. The first wife had given birth to a son, and being the firstborn son, he was to be heir of the man (21:15-16). The second wife, the stepmother of the firstborn son, would be tempted to influence her husband to disown his firstborn son, and choose her son to be his heir (21:16). The LORD condemned that practice, and declared the firstborn son was to be given “a double portion” of all that was his father’s (21:17).

Capital Punishment of a Rebellious Son (21:18-21)

The stoning of a rebellious son is no doubt an offense to our 21st century sensibilities. This son of shame, described as “stubborn and rebellious” (21:18), refused to hear and obey his father and mother. Such a son was to brought before the elders of the city, where his character was described as “a glutton, and a drunkard” (21:19-20).

Given the severity of the punishment, we can conclude that the stoning of a rebellious son was a rare event. Such a judgment required the consent of both the father and mother (21:19-20). If found guilty by the elders of the city, the son would have been stoned to death by the “men of his city” (21:21).

Deuteronomy 22 – Having a Good Conscience

Compassion for a Neighbor’s Livestock (22:1-4)

We are reminded that an Israelite was to love his neighbor, and that command was demonstrated in a man’s duty to his neighbor’s livestock, clothes, and any other possession that belonged to another (22:1-3). Should a man’s ox, sheep, or donkey be astray, a man was to restore them to their owner. Should the owner not be readily known, an Israelite was required to take the animal to his own home, until its rightful owner was found (22:2). Compassion for animals of God’s creation was commanded (22:4).

An Abomination: Transgender\Transexuals (22:5)

There is much ado about the “rights” of self-declared transexuals, who desire to blend, and distort the natural distinctions between male and female in both their dress, and manner. Such a blur of distinctives is not a “new woke” (as today’s society would have you believe), but was an ancient sin that God’s Word declared was an “abomination unto the LORD thy God” (22:5).

Compassion and Affection for Nature (22:6-7) – From the beginning, man was commanded to be the “keeper” of God’s creation (Genesis 2:15). It follows that even the smallest of animals should arouse in man a natural affection, and compassion (22:7).

Several other laws and guidelines are given in Deuteronomy 22, but I conclude by inviting you to notice the LORD’S protection of womankind (22:13-29).

Unlike their heathen neighbors, Israelite women were afforded protections, and shielded from abuses that are even prevalent in our own day. A woman had the right of due process, should her purity and testimony be questioned. Should a woman be forcefully taken, and raped, the severity of the law would fall upon the man, and he would forfeit his life (22:25-27).

Our world has rejected the LORD. The authority of God’s Word has been scuttled over the course of the past century. We have become a society with laws methodically divorced from unalterable principles, and been left a people given to the whims of wicked men.

Isaiah 5:20-21 – “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! 21  Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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Men, the Axe of God’s Judgment Hovers Over Your Head (Numbers 29-30)

Scripture reading – Numbers 29-30

We began a study of instructions regarding the Offerings in Numbers 28, and continue with the same through Numbers 29. Having considered the same sacrifices, and feasts in earlier devotionals (Leviticus 16 and Leviticus 23), I will limit my study of Numbers 29 to a summary of the offerings and feast days.

Numbers 29 – The Law of the Offerings (continued)

The “Feast of Trumpets” marked the beginning of a new year on the Hebrew calendar (29:1-6), and was followed by the holiest of days, the “Day of Atonement” (29:7-11).  Also known as “Yom Kippur,” the Day of Atonement was the only day the high priest entered the holy of holies with the blood of sacrifice (Leviticus 16). Of course, believers no longer need a high priest or the blood of a sacrifice, for Jesus Christ fulfilled the requirement of the sacrificial Passover, or paschal lamb, by His death on the cross (1 Peter 1:19; Hebrews 7:22-28; 9:11-28; 10:19-22).

The “Feast of Tabernacles” (29:12-34), also known as Sukkot, followed the “Day of Atonement,” and was observed by Israel as a celebration of the harvest. Lasting seven days, the Feast of Tabernacles began with a Sabbath rest (29:12), and ended with a Sabbath of Rest (29:35-38). The sacrifices were presented to the LORD for all the congregation of Israel (29:39-40).

Numbers 30 – The Making, and Breaking of Vows

In my lifetime, I have witnessed the character of our culture move from a time when a man’s word, and a handshake were binding, to today when contracts are breached, even by believers, without as much as an apology.

It may surprise you to learn the LORD’S judgment in the matter of promises and vows (Leviticus 27). King Solomon warned, “4When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. 5Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:4–5)

Vows and covenants were not to be treated lightly, and once a man made a vow, it was binding. There was no exception for men; however, God benevolently allowed for an exception in the matter of daughters, and wives who might have made hasty, ill-advised vows (30:3-8, 10-15).

Spiritual lesson – Fathers and husbands are accountable, and responsible for the protection, and care of the women in their lives.

Sadly, that reality has all but been lost in the 21st century. Consider the matter of vows, pledges, and contracts, and notice God’s compassionate care of the woman (Numbers 30:3-16).

An Unmarried Daughter’s Vow (30:3-5)

A daughter, living in her father’s household, was by law under his protection (30:3-5). Should a daughter bind herself with a vow, and her father learn, and say nothing, she could not be released from her vow (30:4). Should a daughter vow, and the father hear of it, he had authority to recant her vow, and her vow would not be binding (30:5).

A Young Wife’s Vow (30:6-8)

When a woman married, she was no longer under her father, but her husband’s authority. Should she make a vow, and her husband hear of it and say nothing, a wife was bound by her vow (30:6-7). A husband, hearing of a wife’s vow, had authority to cancel her oath, and “the LORD [would] forgive her” (30:8).

The Vow of a Widowed or Divorced Woman (30:9)

Women who were widowed, or divorced, were not under the authority of any man. They were bound by their vows to the LORD, and could not recant them (30:9). They were under obligation to fulfill their pledges.

A Wife’s Vows (30:10-15)

The law concerning the vows of a wife, serve as a reminder that a wife is not only under her husband’s authority, but she is also under his protection. A husband had authority to intervene, and terminate the vow of his wife, or allow it to stand (30:10-16). Once he learned of her vow, he carried the weight of determining whether or not he would intervene. Should the husband cause the wife to break her vow unadvisedly, he would do so bearing the weight of “her iniquity,” and therefore her judgment (30:15).

Summary lesson: A man is bound, and accountable to God for the care of his daughter(s) as long as they are in his household. When making decisions in life, a daughter, and wife should take comfort in this: The weight of the axe of God’s judgment is over the neck of their father, or husband.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith