Category Archives: Morality

Chickens Coming Home to Roost (Psalm 55; 2 Samuel 16)

Scripture reading – Psalm 55; 2 Samuel 16

Our daily Scripture readings continue to focus on the life and reign of David, king of Israel. 2 Samuel 16 continues the narrative with David’s hasty flight from Jerusalem, as Absalom, his thirdborn son, had stolen the hearts of the people and led an insurrection against his father. Psalm 55, the second half of today’s Scripture reading, is believed to have been written by David during this heart wrenching time in the king’s life. Today’s devotional will focus upon 2 Samuel 16.

2 Samuel 16

David’s heart was grieved when he learned Ahithophel, a trusted counselor and the grandfather of Bathsheba, had joined Absalom’s rebellion (15:30-31). To counter Ahithophel’s counsel, David commanded Hushai the Archite, a faithful friend and servant, to return to Jerusalem and join himself to Absalom and serve in his court as a spy (15:32-34, 37).

An Act of Deceit (16:1-4)

As David, his family, and entourage of warriors fled Jerusalem, they encountered “Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth” (16:1). You might remember that Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan, and the grandson of king Saul. Though Mephibosheth had cause for a legal claim to the throne, he had recognized David as king, and he had extended to him the lands and properties that would have been his as Jonathan’s heir (2 Samuel 9:1-13). Ziba had been commanded by the king to serve Mephibosheth as the caretaker of his master’s estate (9:9-13).

Coming alone, and bearing a large amount of food and wine, seemed suspicious to David, who asked Ziba, “where is thy master’s son?” (16:3) Ziba went on to betray his master, suggesting Mephibosheth had planned to use Absalom’s insurrection as an occasion for him to usurp the throne (16:3). Hasty in his response, and failing to investigate the sincerity of Ziba’s answer, David bequeathed to him the lands and properties of Mephibosheth (16:4). We will see that the king would later reverse his decision when he heard Mephibosheth’s account (2 Samuel 19:24-30).

The Insanity of a Bitter Spirit (16:5-9)

Time and space do not permit a full exploration of the deplorable scene when Shimei, a man kin to Saul and a Benjamite, confronted David at one of the lowest points of the king’s life (16:5-14). Hurling curses at David, and casting stones from a safe distance at him and his entourage, Shimei called the king a murderer, and a worthless man (16:7). Shimei contended the humiliation David had suffered was the justice he rightly deserved (16:8). While David suffered the insults in silence, Abishai the son of Zeruiah, and brother of Joab, required the king’s blessing to defend his honor: “let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head” (16:9).

David’s Gracious and Humble Response (16:10-14).

Trusting in God’s sovereignty, David refused to seek revenge, and accepted Shimei’s abuse as from the LORD (16:10). In his sorrow, he reflected on his shame and saying to Abishai, “Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him” (16:11).

David determined to accept his humiliation, saying, “12It may be that the Lord will look on mine affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day” (16:12). Only when the king crossed the Jordan River did he, “and all the people that were with him…[refresh] themselves” (16:14; 17:22).

Absalom’s Seizes His Father’s Throne, and His Gross Wickedness (16:15-23)

Absalom wasted no time in crowning himself king, and it seemed all Israel came to honor him (16:15), among whom was Ahithophel, Bathsheba’s grandfather (16:15). Hushai, David’s friend and spy, presented himself to Absalom saying, “God save the king, God save the king” (16:16). Flattering the youthful impudence of Absalom, Hushai convinced him that he had taken leave of David to serve him (16:17-19).

Ahithophel, desiring to heap greater sorrow and shame upon David and bearing bitterness for the king’s adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband Uriah, counseled Absalom to disgrace his father further (16:20-21). Ahithophel suggested Absalom would endear himself to Israel, by the young man entering his father’s harem, and committing incest with the king’s concubines (16:20-21). Heeding the detestable counsel of Ahithophel, Absalom went into his father’s harem “in the sight of all Israel” (16:22).

Closing thoughts – For a season, it seemed Ahithophel’s counsel “was as if a man had inquired at the oracle [sanctuary; the holy place] of God” (16:23). The old counselor was indeed wise, but his counsel would soon be spurned by Absalom (17:14). Ahithophel was a wise man, but bitterness had poisoned his soul. His days were numbered, and knowing he had committed treason against God’s anointed, he would commit suicide, rather than face the consequences of his treason (17:23).

In conclusion, consider David’s response to Shimei’s curses and abuse (16:11-12). Though he was king, he accepted with humility that there was truth in Shimei’s accusations. He was a “bloody man” (16:7), and his hands were stained with the blood of Uriah. As none other, he understood the sorrows, and humiliations he had suffered were the consequence of his own wickedness, and a fulfillment of God’s judgment (2 Samuel 12:7-12). He had committed sins in secret, but they were now the catalyst for public sorrow and shame.

In the words of a poet, “the chickens had come home to roost.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Thou art the man!” (Psalm 51)

Scripture reading – Psalm 51

Psalm 51 is a prayer of brokenness.

Biblical brokenness is contrition of heart, and always involves confession, seeks forgiveness, and offers a plea for restoration.

Psalm 51 introduces us to a man brought low by sin.  David’s adultery with Bathsheba, her conception of his son, and his failed attempt to conceal his sin had led to the death of Uriah the Hittite.  David’s sins were secret no more, and the prophet Nathan’s bold condemnation exposed his depravity before all in his court.

Lord Acton, the late 19th century British historian, made the observation, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Such is true of monarchs, politicians, leaders, teachers, and yes, pastors. The same, however, is also true of men and women who, in their own little fiefdoms, find themselves in roles that go unchecked. David found himself at the pinnacle of success and power, and accountable to no one. Though the words of the prophet, “Thou art the man!”  (2 Samuel 12:7) had humiliated him, they were the words that awakened in the king a godly sorrow to repentance.

Be forewarned: If given the right provocation, the potential of egregious wickedness lies within us all.

When David wrote, “I was shapen in inquity: and in sin did my mother conceive me” (51:5), he acknowledged the nature of sin that is present within us all. A millennium later, the apostle Paul wrote the same, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).

David had maintained his cover of sin for nearly a year, and though in the throes of guilt, he proudly maintained a regal façade, passing judgment on other men’s sins.

One wonders how long David might have continued his charade if God had not commanded his prophet to confront the king.  Remembering oriental monarchs held absolute authority, and the power of life and death rested with them, we appreciate the tenuous position in which Nathan found himself.

The words, “Thou art the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7), echoed in the king’s hall, and resonated in David’s heart.  He cried to the Lord, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness… 2  Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:1-2). David acknowledged that only God can remove the guilt and stains of sin. He confessed his sins, praying, “3  For I acknowledge my transgressions…4  Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight…” (51:3-4a). He was haunted by his guilt, and his sins against Bathsheba and Uriah paled in comparison to his sins against God.

A Petition for Forgiveness and Renewal (51:10-12)

David prayed, “10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me… 12  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (51:10, 12a). He longed for that which God alone could give—not only to be forgiven, but to have his happiness and joy restored.

A Passion for Serving the LORD (51:13-17)

With his sins forgiven, David’s thoughts turned to teaching others the ways of a loving, merciful, just, and holy God (51:13). He prayed for that which only grace might impart: Deliverance from guilt (51:14a), a desire to praise God’s righteousness in song (51:14b), and for the LORD to bless the words of his mouth (51:15). He acknowledged, the LORD does not desire a multitude of sacrifices, but a “broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart” (51:16-17).

Closing thoughts – As king, David found himself insulated from accountability. He had neglected his duties (2 Samuel 11:1), and his moral failure occurred when was alone. He had been too proud to acknowledge, confess his sins, and accept the consequences of his moral failures (2 Samuel 11:6-22). God, however, loved the king, and sent his prophet to confront him, that David might be restored.

Truth – If you are concealing sin, be forewarned: You are living on borrowed time before the consequences of sins catch up with you, and affect your loved ones (Galatians 6:8; Psalm 32:3-4). Won’t you humble yourself before God, confess your sins, knowing He has promised, “whoso confesseth and forsaketh [his sins] shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

How Far Will a Man Fall? (2 Samuel 11-12)

Daily reading assignment: 2 Samuel 11-12

2 Samuel 11 – “And it came to pass, after the year was expired”

“Came to pass” is an apt description of the passing of life. No one knows what a day may bring forth, but each day presents us with an array of choices and consequences that leave their mark on our existence.

Events were about to unfold in David’s life that would inevitably follow him to his grave, and forever cast a shadow over his reign as king. If it were possible, we might strike this tragic moment from David’s life. What sin! What sorrow!

2 Samuel 11 challenges all believers to consciously abide in the presence of the LORD.

We have followed the king from his humble beginnings as a shepherd, and witnessed the surprise of his father and brothers when Samuel anointed him to be the next king of Israel. When he slew Goliath, the Philistine giant, he had become a household name in Israel. His transition from boyhood to manhood, brought a string of victories, as the fugitive of Saul emerged to become Israel’s warrior king, for “the LORD preserved David whithersoever he went” (1 Chronicles 18:13b).

Israel had celebrated David’s victories in 2 Samuel 10; however, 2 Samuel 11 introduced a sad foreboding of tragedy that would befall him. We read, “at the time when kings go forth to battle…David tarried still at Jerusalem” (11:1).

Probably in his fifties, and having served twenty years as Israel’s king, David’s exploits on the battlefield had inspired songs that celebrated his valor (1 Samuel 18:7); however, he was but a man. There are many spiritual lessons we could take from 2 Samuel 11-12, and some should serve as a sobering warning to all believers.

Grave consequences inevitably befall a man who underestimates the sinful bent of his nature (Psalm 51:5).

Disobeying the law (Deuteronomy 17:16-17), David had given rein to the pleasures of the flesh and taken to himself “more concubines and wives” (2 Samuel 5:13). He had foolishly indulged in carnal pleasures, and neglected his duty to the nation.  He was at the pinnacle of his success, and enjoying God’s blessings. Israel was strong and prosperous. However, when his army went to war, David remained behind in the comfort of his palace (11:2). The king’s idleness and lack of accountability became the catalyst for a tragic series of decisions that would forever scar his life, and unravel his reign (2 Samuel 11:3-15).

How far will a “man after God’s own heart” fall?

I will not take the time to outline the obvious in the story of David’s sins recorded-in 2 Samuel 11, but lust, adultery, deceit, guile, and murder are all found here (11:4-17).  Those were the sins that haunted David to his grave.  The consequences of his sins, for himself, his family, servants and Israel were incalculable (11:18-25). Guilt, shame, sorrow, and humiliation shadowed David to his grave. We read:

“The thing that David had done displeased the LORD” (11:27).

David attempted to maintain a facade of routine for nearly a year as he sat on his throne, and conducted the affairs of state.  On the outside, things might have appeared as usual; however, David was conscious of God’s displeasure and later wrote:

Psalm 32:3-4 – “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.  [4] For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.”

2 Samuel 12 – “The LORD sent Nathan unto David” (12:1a).

In God’s timing, He sent a man of courage and integrity to speak to the king. Evidencing both wisdom and caution, the prophet Nathan approached David with a story that contrasted a rich man’s abuse of a poor man (12:1-6). Intrigued by the story and incited to anger, David passed sentence against the rich man, proclaiming, “As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: 6 And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity” (12:5b-6).

Having pronounced sentence, David and his attendants fell silent when Nathan pointed his finger, and raised his voice, boldly confronting the king, saying, “Thou art the man” (12:7).

David’s heart was smitten with conviction; he was indeed the man: adulterer; murderer; hypocrite and a wretched, miserable soul (12:8-12). His heart was convicted, and his proud, hypocritical façade crushed (12:13). David soon realized the sorrow his sin would bring on his family (12:15-17).  The king then prayed,

Psalm 51:3-4For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.  [4] Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

Closing thoughts – I invite you to turn the spotlight of truth on your heart. Realize the danger of idleness, and the tragedy that comes when we trifle with sin and temptation. I challenge you, “Flee also youthful lusts” before it is too late (2 Timothy 2:22)!  Solomon would later warn his son, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper” (Proverbs 28:13a).  When it comes to sin, the question is not “if,” but “when” the consequences of secret sins will befall you. I close with a blessed promise:

Proverbs 28:1313He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Guiding Principles for Life and Friendships (Psalm 101; Psalm 105)

Scripture reading – Psalm 101; Psalm 105

Singing and thanksgiving remain our theme as we continue in the Book of Psalms for the Scripture reading. Psalm 101 is ascribed to David as the author. Although the writer of Psalm 105 is unnamed, many believe it may also be attributed to David. Today’s devotional will focus on Psalm 101.

Psalm 101 – A Resolution of Thanksgiving and Dedication

Imagine living under a ruler whose passion was not his career or legacy, but foremost his love and gratitude for the LORD. Such were the “golden years” of David’s reign in Jerusalem. The date and setting of this psalm is not known, but I believe it was in the early years, if not the beginning of the king’s reign over Israel.

While the purpose and overriding theme of Psalm 101 is a song of praise for the “mercy and judgment” of the LORD (101:1), you will notice the assertions of the king concerning his personal life and choices (101:2-8). There are nine assertive “I will” statements, and six “shall” statements.

David Purposed to Live a Righteous Life (101:2-3)

David determined as a matter of conviction that he would act in a “perfect way” [blameless], and conduct his life with a “perfect [innocent] heart” (101:3). The king set for himself an intolerance for observing or tolerating a “wicked thing before [his] eyes.” He was resolute, saying, he would “hate” the sins he observed in others (101:3).

Think about it: How much would your life and family change if you dedicated yourself to David’s standard of personal holiness and righteousness? Will you set your heart to walk a higher moral road, even if it means walking alone? Remember, what you tolerate, and the influences others have, will inevitably affect your life choices.

David Adopted Guiding Principles and Convictions (101:4-5, 7)

Though penned 3,000 years ago, the guiding principles we observe in the king’s psalm should resonate in the hearts of all believers. David’s “I will” and “I shall” statements leave no room for ambiguity. David was a man of conviction, and as king, there were always those who desired his favor and sought for power and position in his administration. David realized those closest to him would influence him with their counsel, and their character.

Psalm 101:4-5, 7 lists the manner of men the king would not tolerate in his emissaries. The following were cause for disqualification in the king’s court: “A froward [crooked, deceitful] heart,” and a “wicked [evil] person” (101:4). Slander [gossip], and proud and self-indulgent servants had no place in his household (101:5). Liars and deceivers were also unwelcomed in the king’s court (101:7).

Spiritual Qualifications for Servants to the King (101:6)

The psalm has so far focused on qualities the king determined were undesirable, and cause for disqualification. Psalm 101:6 states two qualities the king required in his servants: “6 Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me.”

The men David desired in his fellowship and company were faithful, tried and true men of conviction. He required men “that walketh in a perfect way” (101:6) to serve him and the people. The word “walketh” in the King James Bible gives an accurate insight into the character of those who served the king. Regardless of a man’s talents, none would serve the king who fell short of a blameless testimony when measured by God’s laws and judgment.

Closing thoughts – It was not enough for the king to declare the qualifications and disqualifications of those closest to him. He determined he would actively oppose wickedness: “8 I will early destroy [silence] all the wicked of the land; that I may cut off [exterminate] all wicked doers from the city of the LORD” (101:8).

An invitation: Guiding principles and convictions must be weighed, and determined for our lives and families. If you follow David’s pattern, you must establish and state your personal convictions (101:3). Will you determine to live a blameless life, and keep your heart pure and innocent?

You must also decide the influences in your life (101:4-5, 7). The king determined he would not tolerate liars, gossips, the proud, or deceivers. In fact, he stated he would actively oppose the sin and wickedness of evil men.

He also set a spiritual standard for the character of those closest to him (101:6). They were to be faithful: faithful to the LORD, to His Law and Commandments. Their lives were to be a “perfect” testimony.

An application – Have you adopted guiding principles for your friendships? I encourage you to examine your personal convictions (“I will” and “I shall”), and the character of those closest to you. What manner of people are your friends?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Character Traits of the Righteous (Psalm 15)

Scripture reading: Psalm 15

Our preceding devotional considered five characteristics of the “blessed” man’s life (1:1-3). Today’s devotional will observe seven character traits that define the hearts of those whose citizenship is with God (15:1-5). The brackets within the following verses are by the author, and present a broader application of word definitions.

Remembering the psalms were worship songs, and not merely poems, David invites the congregation of Israel to ponder two questions in the opening stanza (15:1).

Psalm 15:11 LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah], who shall abide [dwell] in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell [remain; continue] in thy holy hill?

In essence, the psalmist asks: Lord, what manner of man or woman, desires to “abide in [dwell in] thy tabernacle [i.e. where the Ark of God was located]? David had prepared a new tent (1 Chronicles 16:1) to shelter the Ark as it arrived in Jerusalem, and it remained there throughout his reign. The king expressed in other psalms, his preference to worship the LORD in His sanctuary, over the opulence and comforts of his palace.

“Who shall dwell [abide; remain; continue] in thy holy hill? (15:1b) What manner of man seeks, and longs to abide on Mount Zion, where the Ark was located? (The Ark represented the throne of God, and His presence in the midst of His people.) David answered those questions, and stated seven characteristics of those who sincerely seek, worship, and enjoy the presence, and favor of the LORD.

1) The lives of the righteous are defined by integrity. They are trustworthy, sincere, and morally upright (15:2a).

Psalm 15:22  He that walketh uprightly [blameless; with integrity], and worketh righteousness [lawful; just], and speaketh [declare] the truth in his heart.

2) The righteous speak the truth, for it resides in their hearts and thoughts (15:2b; Ephesians 4:15).

3) Those who abide in the presence of the LORD are neither mean-spirited, or vengeful. Their words and deeds are loving (15:3).

Psalm 15:33  He that backbiteth [gossips; slanders] not with his tongue, nor doeth evil [sin] to his neighbour [friend; companion], nor taketh up [bear; carry] a reproach [contempt] against his neighbour [lit. near; nearest kinsman].

4) The sins of the wicked are loathsome to the righteous, and the godly have no desire for their company (15:4a;Psalm 1:1). The righteous give honor and respect to those who fear the LORD, and walk according to His Law and in the likeness of Christ (15:4b; Philippians 2:2-8).

Psalm 15:44  In whose eyes [sight of the righteous] a vile person [loathsome; reprobate] is contemned [despised; disdained]; but he honoureth [glorify] them that fear [revere] the LORD. He that sweareth [makes an oath] to his own hurt [affliction], and changeth not [.e., does not vacillate].

5) The righteous are promise keepers (15:4c). They keep their word, and honor their vows (and contracts), even at the sacrifice of themselves, and their own interests.

6) The righteous have compassion for the poor, and do not charge them excessive interest they can ill afford (15:5a; Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:35-37).

Psalm 15:55  He that putteth not out [gives] his money [silver] to usury [high interest; i.e. indebtedness], nor taketh [accepts] reward [bribe;a gift] against the innocent [guiltless]. He that doeth [make; perform; do] these things shall never be moved [waver; fall; slide; slip].

7) The righteous are above reproach. They cannot be bribed, nor swayed in their judgments (15:5b; Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19; Proverbs 17:23).

The summary answer to the questions that introduced Psalm 15, (“1Lord, Who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?”), are satisfied in the last phrase of Psalm 15:5.

“He that doeth these things shall never be moved” (15:5c). Those who dwell in the presence of the LORD have integrity, speak truth, hate the sins of the wicked, are not vengeful, keep their promises, have compassion for the less fortunate, and live above reproach. Are those traits true of you?

An Application – Do you have integrity in what you say and do? Do you speak the truth, and never lie? Do you hate the sins of wickedness, and find them loathsome? Are you forgiving? Do you keep your word? Do you make a vow, sign a contract, and commit yourself even at the sacrifice of your own interests? Do you show compassion for those less fortunate than yourself? Are you above the influence of a bribe?

An Invitation – If your answer to any of those questions raises a sense of guilt, and brings conviction: Confess your sins to the LORD, and vow to make right with others where you have failed.

1 John 1:9–109If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

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

Samson and Delilah (Judges 16-17)

Scripture reading – Judges 16-17

Today’s study in the Book of Judges brings us to an event in the life of Samson that is as dramatic, as it is tragic.

Samson’s super-strength exploits, his infatuation with Delilah, her betrayal, and the tragic finale of his life has filled childhood imaginations, and been the inspiration for plays, operas, and Hollywood films. It might be said, never has a man been born with such promise, and died with such infamy. He was the hope of Israel, and his strength was legend; however, his moral failures shadowed his life, and ended inglorious.

This final chapter of Samson’s life opens with a reminder of his flawed character. Though set apart by the LORD, and dedicated by his mother when he was yet in her womb (13:3-5), Samson’s lusts eclipsed his calling as the judge of Israel (15:20+). While his physical acts of valor were renown, his unbridled lusts were ultimately his demise.

Judges 16 – Samson, Delilah, and the Philistines

The early verses of Judges 16 placed Samson in Gaza, a Philistine town fifty miles southwest of Jerusalem, and was only a short distance from his home. Unafraid of the Philistines, Samson visited with a harlot of Gaza (16:1), and the men of that city waited at the gate, plotting to kill him (16:2). Sensing the danger, he arose at midnight, and stormed out of the city, pulling the great gate up by its posts, and carrying them a distance of nine miles where he sat them at “the top of an hill that is before Hebron” (16:3).

Delilah, the Temptress, and Vixen (16:4-21)

The story of Samson and Delilah is well known, and I feel no need to be detailed in my commentary; however, let it serve as a warning to any who might trifle with sexual immorality.

Samson came to love Delilah (16:4), with whom he not only indulged his lusts, but trifled with his Nazarite vow, under which he had been born. When the Philistines offered Delilah a bribe of “eleven hundred pieces of silver” (16:5), she began to entice, and plot to betray Samson into the hands of his enemies (16:6-14). Three times she urged Samson to reveal the secret of his strength, and three times he deceived her, and foiled the plot to capture him (16:6-14).

Delilah’s unrelenting pleas for him to trust her with his secret, weakened Samson’s resolve, until he confessed “all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man” (16:17).

Knowing his secret, Delilah betrayed him, and as he slept she sent for a man to shave his head (16:18-19). With the locks of his hair shaved, Delilah awoke Samson, and “his strength went from him” (16:19). She lifted up her voice as she had in the past, and said, “The Philistines be upon thee, Samson” (16:20), and when he rose from his bed to face his enemy, “he wist not that the Lord was departed from him” (16:20).

Seized, Enslaved, and Scorned (16:21-31)

With the Spirit of the LORD no longer upon him, Samson was bound by the Philistines, his eyes gouged out, and like a dumb beast, he was forced to push the mill wheel to “grind in the prison house” (16:21). Days and weeks passed, and Samson’s hair began to grow (16:22). We know the disgrace he endured in prison; however, it was the humiliation he suffered when he was taken from prison that turned his thoughts to the LORD. Led by a boy to the temple of Dagon, the once mighty Samson become an object of buffoonery for the Philistine men and women (16:23-25).

Samson asked the boy to guide him to the main pillars that supported the roof of the temple, and there he prayed, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes” (16:28). Standing in the midst of the two pillars, Samson pushed against them, and prayed, “Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life” (16:30).

The story of Samson’s life ends with a sad scene, as his brethren (the tribe of Dan), and those of his father’s house, claimed his body from the rubble of the temple of Dagon, and buried him with his father (16:31).

Judges 17 – Wickedness, and Idolatry in Israel

To illustrate the wickedness and depravity that had taken hold in Israel, we are introduced to a man of the tribe of Ephraim named Micah.  Micah was a wicked sort, for he is introduced as one who had stolen eleven hundred shekels of silver from his mother! When he learned his mother had uttered a curse on the thief, he returned her silver, and excused his theft on the pretense of religious piety, claiming it was his desire to have an idol shaped from the silver and revered in his “house of gods” (17:3).

Micah’s mother, no doubt deluded by her son’s pretext of spirituality, rewarded him with two hundred shekels of silver, which he melted at a foundry, and poured into a mold of the image that would serve as one of his idols (17:4-5).  Increasing his wickedness further, Micah employed a Levite priest to serve him and his gods (17:7-13).

I close today’s devotional with a revelation of the sin problem that was present in Israel, for 6in those days there was no king [no ruler, no judge] in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes”(17:6).

Samson had been the hope of his nation, but his moral failures overshadowed his life, and ministry as Israel’s judge.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Third Generation: A Tragic Rejection of Spiritual Leadership (Judges 3)

Scripture reading – Judges 3

Today’s Scripture introduces the beginning of a new era in Israel’s history, as the LORD began to raise up judges to rule the nation. Why judges, and not a king? Because the LORD Himself was to be the Sovereign Ruler of His people, and Israel, was bound by covenant to the LORD, and the people were to be ruled by His Law and Commandments.

After Joshua died, and the generation that followed had passed (2:6-10a), Israel turned from the LORD, and “knew not the Lord…[and] did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2:10-11). In His mercy, “the Lord raised up judges, which delivered [the children of Israel] out of the hand of those that spoiled [made spoil, or plundered]them” (2:16); however, when the judge died, the people “corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them” (2:19a).

Judges 3 – The LORD Raised Up Judges

Because Israel had broken covenant with Him, the LORD determined He would not drive out the enemies of His people, and left them in their midst to “prove [test; try] Israel by them” (3:1).

To what end was this testing? It was to test, and prove a generation that did not know the hardships, and trials of war as had their fathers before them. Longing for Israel to turn to Him, and obey His commandments, the LORD did not drive out those enemies with whom His people had compromised (3:2-7).

How far, and how wretched had the third generation become?

They allowed their sons and daughters to intermarry with idolaters, until they “served their gods…and forgat the LORD their God,” and committed whoredom in their groves (3:6-7). Thus, the sins of Israel provoked “the anger of the LORD” (3:8), and “He sold “them into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushan-rishathaim eight years” (3:8).

Othniel, the First Judge in Israel (3:9-11)

When the people began to cry to the LORD, He heard their cry, and raised up “Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother” (3:9) who served as Israel’s first judge, and delivered the nation from their enemy (3:10). God blessed Othniel’s rule as judge, and Israel was at peace forty years (3:11).

Ehud, the Second Judge in Israel (3:12-30)

Judges 3:12-30 records a fascinating series of events. “The children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord: and the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they [Israel] had done evil in the sight of the Lord” (3:12). Israel had strayed far from the law and commandments, and found themselves humbled, and enslaved by an enemy (3:12-13). For eighteen years, “the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab…15But when [they] cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded” (3:14-15). (The men of Benjamin were known as an ambidextrous people, and skilled marksmen, Judges 20:16; 1 Chronicles 12:2).

It was Ehud’s skill with his left hand, that gave him an advantage when he plotted, and carried out his attack on Eglon, the king of Moab (3:16-22). Thrusting the dagger into the obese king, the blade went so deep that Ehud left the knife in the king’s intestines, when he fled the palace (3:21-22). Returning to mount Ephraim, Ehud blew the trumpet, and rallied Israel to go to battle against Moab, and they slew “about ten thousand men” (3:27-29).

Shamgar, the Champion of Israel (3:31)

Judges 3 concludes with the heroism of a man named Shamgar (3:31). He is not identified as a judge; however, he is noted for slaying six hundred Philistines “with an ox goad [a sharp metal point on the end of a pole]” (3:31).

An Invitation

You will observe the emerging of a spiritual cycle as you study the Book of Judges. A cycle that was not only true of Israel, but is also true of believers through the ages: Sin leads to Servitude [enslavement], that leads to Sorrow, and moves the hearts of men to turn to the LORD for Salvation (3:11-19).

Sin…Servitude…Sorrow…Salvation: We are, as the songwriter penned, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; Prone to leave the God I love.”

Where are you in that spiritual cycle?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Choices Always Have Consequences (Deuteronomy 26-27)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 26-27

Moses continues his charge to Israel, with laws and spiritual principles that were to guide the people as they became a nation in their own land (26:1).

Remembering the blessing of the harvest comes from the LORD (26:1-11), the first-fruits offering was to be taken to the place of worship (Tabernacle), and given to the LORD, thus supporting the priests, the Levites, and their households.

A special tithe was given in the third year, and one that coincided with the tither’s confession that he had honored the LORD’S commandments and obeyed them. The tithe of the third year, was used locally to meet the immediate needs of one’s own 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).

The Benefit of Obeying the LORD, and Keeping His Commandments (26:16-19)

Beginning with Deuteronomy 26:16, and continuing to Deuteronomy 31:13, Moses expounded the benefits of obeying the LORD and keeping His commandments. Reminding the people that God had chosen Israel “to be His peculiar people…and to make thee high above all nations…” (26:16-19), Moses admonished the nation to “be an holy people unto the LORD thy God” (26:19b).

Renewing the Covenant (Deuteronomy 27)

Lest the people forget all the LORD had done for them, the elders of Israel were commanded to build a pillar of uncut stones on the west side of the Jordan River (27:2-8). The stones were to be plastered, and engraved upon them was to be the Commandments of the Lord, serving as a lasting memorial of the LORD’S promises and commandments.  An altar was to be built to sanctify the place (27:5-8).

Reminding the leaders of Israel that “Choices have Consequences,” Moses charged the people to remember that obedience to the Law would bring the LORD’S blessings (27:11-12), and disobedience would invite His judgments (27:14-26).

Should the people disobey the LORD, and reject His Law and Commandments, a series of twelve curses was pronounced (27:15-26), and all the people gave their assent by an oath:

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

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

3) Stealing the property and possessions of another by deceit was cursed, a violation of the sixth commandment (27:17; Ex. 20:15).

4) Taking advantage of one infirmed or disabled was cursed (27:18).

5) The fifth curse was upon one who would treat “the stranger, fatherless, and widow” unjustly (27:19; Ex. 22:21-24).

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

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

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

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

9) Incest with one’s mother was cursed (27:23).

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

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

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

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

Deuteronomy 27:26 – “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.”

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