Category Archives: Morality

The Trouble with Settling for Second Best (Genesis 19-21)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 19-21

Genesis 19 opens with two angels arriving at the gates of the city of Sodom.  Appearing in the physical form of men, the angels entered Sodom and were greeted by Lot whom they found sitting “in the gate” (the place where city leaders transacted business and made judgments in disputes).  Realizing the men were not citizens of Sodom, Lot urged them to find refuge for the night in his home (19:2-3).

As the darkness of night settled on the city, the wickedness and depravity of Sodom emerged when the Sodomites (i.e. homosexuals) of the city encircled Lot’s home demanding he turn his visitors out into the street to be sexually assaulted (19:4-6).  Describing their lusts as wicked (19:7), Lot pled with the men of Sodom, offering to sacrifice his own daughters to their lusts (19:8-9) to protect his guests.

Striking the wicked men of Sodom with blindness, the angels saved Lot  from their violent attack (19:10-11). Displaying God’s grace, the angels urged Lot to flee the city with his family, warning him the LORD would destroy the city for its wickedness (19:12-13).  Sadly, Lot’s married sons and daughters refused his plea to flee the city (19:14).  Warned to not look back, only Lot, his wife, and two daughters fled the city (19:15-23).  Adding to his sorrow, Lot’s wife looked back and “became a pillar of salt” as God rained fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah (19:24-29).

One would hope Lot’s drifting from the LORD would end with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; however, he became drunk with wine and his daughters committed incest with him (19:30-36).  The eldest daughter conceiving a son she named Moab, the father of the Moabites (19:37).  The youngest daughter conceiving a son she named Ammon, the father of the Ammonites.  Both nations, the Moabites and Ammonites, would become a curse and perpetual trouble for the nation of Israel.

With the ash and salt from God’s judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah settling on the land, Abraham makes a fateful decision to journey from the land God had promised and traveled south to Gerar and the land ruled by the heathen king Abimelech (20:1-2).

Although ninety years old, Sarah is described as a beautiful, desirable woman and Abraham foolishly demanded she again conceal her identity and say she was his sister (20:2).  Once again putting at risk God’s covenant promise that Sarah would bear him a son, the LORD intervened and warned Abimelech in a dream (20:3) that should he would be a dead man should he violate Sarah (20:3-8).  Rising early, Abimelech confronted Abraham and sent him and his household out of his kingdom (20:9-13).

Continuing our study of the life of Abraham, we come to the conception and birth of Isaac, the long-awaited son fulfilling God’s covenant promise, “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee” (Genesis 12:2).  Abraham had received and believed God’s promise of a son when he was seventy-five years old (Genesis 12:4); however, 25 years passed before he saw that promise fulfilled (21:5).

Hagar, the Egyptian mother of Ishmael, greeted the celebration of Isaac’s birth with jealousy and animosity, knowing her son would not be Abraham’s heir (21:9).  In spite of her having initiated the faithless act of Abraham having a son with her handmaid, Sarah demanded that Hagar and her son be dismissed from their home (21:10).

We have seen in our study of the life of Abraham how he often allowed circumstances and doubt to shadow his confidence in God’s promises. In spite of his faithlessness, God renewed his promise that Sarah would bear him a son in her old age, she being 90 and he nearly 100 years old (17:15-19).

Understanding the weight of his transgressions was also borne by his family, Abraham was comforted by God’s promise to bless Ishmael (21:12-13) though he and his mother must be driven from his home (21:14-21).

A tragic reminder as I close today’s devotion is God’s promise that the effects of a father’s sins will fall “upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate” Him (Exodus 20:5).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Consequences of Faithlessness (Genesis 16-18)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 16-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 12-15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I close today’s devotional commentary with this promise:

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Troubles and Sorrows Got You Down? (Job 32-34)

Daily reading assignment – Job 32-34

Job 32 introduces us to Elihu, a fourth “friend” of Job and the youngest of the men.  Elihu has been deferentially silent to this point; however, he now joins the others by not only condemning Job, but also his “friends” who have failed to convince Job of his sin.

Job 32 marks the beginning of Elihu’s monologue and his judgment and condemnations will fill six chapters (Job 32-37).

Elihu’s introductory statements reflect the proud, zealous spirit of inexperienced youth (32:1-3, 5).  In his own words, he confesses, “I am full of matter…my belly is as wine which hath no vent; it is ready to burst” (32:18-19).

The young man boasts, though he is a man of clay like Job (33:6), he will nevertheless, offer insight that has so far not been introduced into the matter of Job’s suffering.  Rehearsing Job’s defense (33:8-11), Elihu accuses the poor man of striving against God (33:13).

Elihu contends that God not only stirs the conscience of sinners with dreams and visions (which He did in ancient times before the canon of scriptures was complete; ex. 1 Corinthians 13:10; Hebrews 1:1-2); He also employs sorrows and sufferings to awaken humility and conviction within the heart of man (33:19-22).

Before I rush pass this point, allow me to pause and take a moment to reflect on Elihu’s observation. While not all trials and troubles are indicative of sin and God’s chastening; believers should not dismiss them without honestly pondering…

Why is God allowing hurts and disappointments to assail my soul? (note – Hebrews 12:5-13)

We live in a sin-cursed world and trials and troubles are the lot of mankind and we can take heart knowing God is sovereign.  We are confident that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

However, let us not dismiss trials and fail to recognize they are often tools God employs to bring His child to humility and divert them from a path that could potentially bring them, their marriage, and family to ruin.

Elihu speaks truth when he reminds Job the LORD is gracious (33:24-25), merciful (33:28), and hears the prayer of repentant souls (33:26-27).  He invites Job to speak in his own defense (33:32); however, before he is able to do so, his young “friend” rushes on pressing his case against the old man (Job 34).

If you are shadowed by troubles and sorrows, search your heart and remember…

Psalm 34:17-19 – “The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. 18  The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. 19  Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Adultery is to a Marriage What Fire is to a Home” (Job 31)

Job 31 is the conclusion of Job’s defense against the accusations of his “friends” that his sufferings must be the consequence of unconfessed sin.

The opening verse of Job 31 is one every man should vow in his soul before God:

I made a covenant [a binding agreement] with mine eyes [i.e. within his soul]; why then should I think [consider; inquire] upon a maid [a virgin; an unmarried woman]?” (Job 31:1)

What a powerful vow for 21st century believers to embrace…purity in heart, thoughts and emotions! Pornography over the internet via computers, tablets, and phones is destroying the innocence of our youth and the pervasive nature of that sin has become a cancer to marriages and families. It is not an exaggeration to conclude…

Marital infidelity is epidemic in the 21st century church.  

Some might protest that pornography is not as “bad” as adultery; however, our Lord taught in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5:27-28 – “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: [Exodus 20:14 – 7th Commandment] 28  But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

Adultery was not to be tolerated among God’s people and under Old Testament Law was punishable by death: “the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 20:10).

Adultery destroys a man’s reputation, scars his life, and brings reproach he will carry to his grave.

Proverbs 6:32-33 – “But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding [without moral principle]: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul [life]. 33 A wound and dishonour [disgrace] shall he get; and his reproach [shame] shall not be wiped away.”

Asserting his innocence and marital fidelity, Job declared, let him suffer the consequences of his sin if he had lusted after another man’s wife (Job 31:9-12)!

Job 31:12 – “For it [adultery] is a fire that consumeth [eats; devours; burns up] to destruction, and would root out [pluck up; uproot] all mine increase [good; income].”

Too many learn too late the truth Job declares in verse 12—

Adultery is like a consuming fire and divorce will rob you of the fruits of your labor.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The Fear of the Lord, That is Wisdom” (Job 24-28)

Daily reading assignment: Job 24-28

Contrary to Eliphaz’s assertion that the trials Job has suffered are characteristic of the reward of the wicked, Job states the opposite has been his observation (Job 24:2-16).

Job 24:2-4 –  “2  Some [i.e. the Wicked] remove the landmarks [property boundaries]; they violently take away flocks, and feed thereof [upon what they have stolen]. 3  They drive away the ass [donkey] of the fatherless [orphan], they take the widow’s ox for a pledge [i.e. a surety; as an insurance guaranteeing repayment]. 4  They turn the needy out of the way: the poor of the earth hide themselves together [mistreat the poor and helpless].”  Indeed, sometimes the wicked seem to escape punishment!

“Bildad the Shuhite”, one of Job’s “friends”, pretends to speak words of wisdom concerning the person and nature of God in Job 25.  Only six verses in length, Bildad devotes the first three verses to God’s dominion and power (25:1-3), followed by verses 4-6 that focus on God’s justice and man’s natural, wretched state (25:4-6).

Job’s response to Bildad’s empty counsel begins in Job 26.   After answering his accuser (26:1-4), Job begins a discourse declaring not only the nature of God as Creator, but stating facts about creation that were not fully proved until the emergence of modern science.

Consider the following revelations found in Job 26: 1) The earth hangs on nothing (26:7); 2) God gives and withholds water in the clouds as it pleases Him (26:8-9); 3) God has determined the boundaries of the oceans (26:10, 12a; Proverbs 8:29).

Job’s defense to Bildad’s judgments continues through Job 28.

Professing he had searched his heart and found no sins that would invite God’s judgment, Job is at a loss to understand why God has allowed so great a sorrow to shadow his life.  Seeking answers, Job asks,

Job 28:12, 20 – “But where shall wisdom be found?… 20  Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?”

Friend, knowledge might be obtained for the excessive price of an Ivy League education; however, wisdom is priceless and cannot be purchased (28:15-19)!   In the words of Charles Spurgeon, the 19th century English Baptist preacher, “Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.”

What is the repository of wisdom and how might it be acquired?  The answer: “the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).

I am witnessing a generation of pastors, teachers, and evangelists who preach “GRACE” and “LIBERTY” to the neglect of instructing sons and daughters in the precepts of God’s Law and Commandments. I fear…

The failure to teach the statutes and judgments (Law and Commandments) of God has created a void of knowledge and fostered a liberty that has become a license to sin. 

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“In the Beginning” (Genesis 1-3)

Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

Chronological Bible Reading PlanThank you for joining me on what I pray will be an incredible journey of faith and spiritual enlightenment in 2020!  I invite you to embrace the challenge of reading through the Bible, following a chronological reading plan that will take you from the Beginning (Genesis 1:1) to Eternity (Revelation 22:21).

The Scriptures are often profound in their stately simplicity, while challenging us spiritually and intellectually to ponder the Creator’s revelation of Himself, His holy character, moral attributes, and redemptive plan for the highest being of His Creation…Man.

Caution: While we will explore timeless spiritual truths that are decidedly apolitical and immutable; be forewarned that this pastor\author will not shy from addressing both the sins of our churches and the societal lunacy of “political correctness” that has embroiled our world.

Scripture Reading for January 1, 2020 – Genesis 1-3

To understand the chaos and conflict in our 21st century world one must go back…back to the beginning.  Accepting the universe was created by God demands faith; however, no more faith than believing this world came about as a result of some cataclysmic event and evolved from some primordial swamp over eons and eons.  Rejecting the Scriptures account of Creation leaves man believing the order and delicate balance of life and undeniable evidences of organization somehow arose out of disorder…a scientific impossibility.

The Bible simply states, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  While a consciousness of the Creator is written on the heart of every man and woman, the beauty and expanse of the heavens give undeniable evidence of His existence.  The psalmist writes,

Psalm 19:1 – “The heavens [sky; realm above the earth where the birds soar] declare [tell; shew forth; proclaim] the glory [splendor; majesty] of God [El – Almighty God; ]; and the firmament [expanse of the sky] sheweth [makes known] his handywork [i.e. the product of His hands].”

In his letter to believers in Rome, the apostle Paul states,

Romans 1:20 – “For the invisible things [which cannot be perceived with the physical senses] of Him [God] from the creation of the world are clearly seen [manifest perceived], being understood by the things that are made [Creation is a display of God’s power and majesty; the grandeur of the heavens give testimony of His power and person], even His eternal power and Godhead [deity; divine nature]; so that they are without excuse.”

God has written on the heart and conscience of mankind a moral law; a universal sense of right and wrong (Romans 2:14-15). In the words of Paul, men show or evidence “the work of the law written in their heart, their conscience also bearing witness” (Romans 2:15).

Genesis 1 states with simplicity the facts and wonders of God’s creation. Genesis 2 offers insight into man’s uniqueness in creation (Genesis 2:7).  While Adam and Eve’s physical bodies were shaped and formed by God; their souls and spirits were brought to life by the breath of God giving man a consciousness of self and his Creator (Genesis 2:7, 21-22).

Adam was created to serve God as the steward (Genesis 1:28) and servant (laborer) of His creation (Genesis 2:15).  God commanded Adam to “dress” and “keep” the Garden [“dress” = to till the ground; garden; “keep” = to guard; to keep it beautiful and in order].

“Why did God put a tree in the midst of the Garden and then forbid Adam and Eve to eat its fruit?”  (Genesis 2:16-17)

Adam and Eve were not robots.  God created them with “free wills” and gave them an ability to choose to obey or disobey Him.  Adam had both liberty and limitation. He had liberty to eat “…Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: “ (2:16).  He had one limitation“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (2:17).

Think of it this way: The forbidden fruit was not a test of God’s love for Adam, but a test of Adam’s love and devotion for God.

Tragically, Adam and Eve chose to disobey God (Genesis 3).  Mercifully, the Lord extended salvation to them, sacrificing an innocent animal whose skin He used to hide the shame and nakedness of their sin (Genesis 3:21).

Revealing His plan of redemption, grace, and forgiveness, God promised the “enmity”, the hostility, between Lucifer (i.e. the serpent) and mankind would be settled when the devil bruised the “heel” of a man described as the woman’s “seed” and that same man would crush the head of the serpent.

Who was that man? Who was the “seed” of the woman? Jesus Christ!

1 Corinthians 15:21-22 – “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith