Category Archives: Morality

“Honor all men…” (1 Peter 2:17)

I observed in an earlier post that America cannot be great again if “We the People of the United States of America” fail to bind ourselves to the idea of “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.   

 For a half-century, “We the People” have pursued a path of self-destruction and I fear we might be nearing the tipping point of no return. Should we continue defying God’s Laws, we cannot with a sincere conscience pray, “God bless, America.”  Should we continue to sacrifice patriotism and love of country for partisan politics and political expediency, we will never be indivisible.  Should we entertain the demand, “equality for all” (equal pay, equal reward), we do so at the sacrifice of the individual and our liberties as a free people.  Should we make every man and woman a victim, we prejudice the judicial system and render justice for none.

How did America get to this sorry state? I believe Christians bear responsibility for this nation’s decline and its moral decay.  We have failed God and our nation.

The founders of our nation aspired to the highest ideals of self-rule and gave us a Republic to inspire the noblest qualities in her citizenry.  Should we desire our nation to become great again, we who call upon the LORD must dare embrace four mandates of Christian citizenship:

1 Peter 2:17 – “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.”

This is my second post on the first mandate, “Honour all men(1 Peter 2:17a).  “Honor” ascribes worth to an individual by one’s words and actions.  I made the following observations in my earlier posts: 1) “Honor” is universal in scope and blind to race and ethnicity; 2) Honor is not without discretion; 3) Honor another does not negate the fact some are more deserving of honor than others; 4) Finally, the nature of virtue calls for honor.

That brings me to another consideration.  While all men are to be honored, some are purposely and specifically honored.  Consider three instances where the scriptures charge God’s people to honor others.

The first, children are to honor their parents. The fourth commandment reads, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORDthy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12; Deut. 5:15).  Indeed, to honor one’s parents was so fundamental to Hebrew society that the penalty for dishonoring one’s parents was death (Mt. 15:4; Mark 7:10).  The command to obey and honor one’s father and mother comes with a conditional promise, “That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (Ephesians 6:1-3).

Husbands are commanded to honor their wives.  Men make much of the wives submitting to them; however, as much should be made of the husband’s duty to honor his wife.  Peter instructed believers, “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them [wives] according to knowledge [understanding]giving honourunto the wife, as unto the weaker [i.e. physical strength] vessel [because she is a complement to her husband]…”  (1 Peter 3:7a).  Wise is the husband who cherishes and honors his wife.

Thirdly, we are to honor our elders.  Too many families warehouse their Senior citizens in institutions and make too little effort to oversee the care of their loved ones.  The gray head (i.e. “hoary head”) saints are to be prized and valued.  Paul instructed Timothy to give particular attention to widows, especially those who are “widows indeed” (meaning those having no children, grandchildren, or family).

The honor due “widows indeed” was personal, practical, and even sacrificial.  In a day when there was no social welfare system, the cares and financial needs of the widows fell upon their families.

Another aspect of honoring one’s elders is the instruction to stand up in the presence of an elder.  The children of Israel instructed their chidlren, “Thou shalt rise up [lit. stand up; i.e. indicating value] before [in the presence of] the hoary head[old, gray-haired], and honour [favor; respect; defer; value] the face presence] of the old man, and fear [be afraid; revere] thy God: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:32).

I close today’s challenge to “Honour all men” with a story from the life of George Washington, the commander of America’s revolutionary army, father of our nation, and first president of the United States of America.

One morning while riding his horse on his plantation in the company of the French General Lafayette, a slave approached Washington on foot and greeted him with “Morning, Sir.” 

Washington, acknowledging the slave’s greeting, tipped his hat and said, “Good morning, my dear friend.”

Lafayette was astounded and asked, “Why is it that you, General and President George Washington would speak and tip your hat to a common slave? 

Washington replied, “Why sir, I could not allow him to be the better man!”

What an inspiring outlook on life; to live in such a way you aspire to be the better man or woman.

With a shepherd’s heart,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

“One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” (part 1)

I am afraid America is no longer that nation.  We have become a people who put politics before patriotism.  We have defied a Holy God with our sins and are divided by racism, prejudice, partisan politics, corruption and gross depravity. Our liberties are under assault and justice has faltered.

It is with sorrow I confess the Church has failed God and our nation.  We are commanded to be the “Salt of the Earth”, but we have become “good for nothing…”(Mt. 5:13).  We are to be the “light of the world” (Mt. 5:14), but we have abdicated the moral high ground for sinful pleasures.

While the political left assaults Biblical convictions and moral values, our pulpits retreat refusing to engage an enemy greater than flesh and blood politics.  The apostle Paul warned the Church, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).  Peter describes the enemy “as your adversary…a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Nothing has brought to the forefront the division we suffer as a nation more than the vitriol directed at a President who aspires to “Make America Great Again”. The unrelenting attacks of the media and the vicious assaults of the Left serve as a revelation that many of our leaders are enemies of the founding principles that made America great.

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), the great French statesman of the 19thcentury and author of Democracy in America, traveled these United States in search of the qualities that defined America’s greatness as a democracy. Tocqueville wrote:

“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce – and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” [emphasis added]  From Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Volume 1, Copyright 1945 and renewed 1973 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., a division of Random House Inc.

It is that last statement I find prophetic.  Christian friend, if we have any hope of seeing “America Great Again”, we must take up our role as the “Salt of the Earth” and “Light of the World”!

In his first epistle to the church, Peter challenged Christians with four mandates that define Christian citizenship: “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.”
 (1 Peter 2:17)

Let us focus only on the first mandate: “Honour all men(1 Peter 2:17a).

What a striking contrast this mandate of Christian citizenship is with 21stcentury American society.   A lack of civility, rudeness and crassness has become the way of our nation.  The President is cursed by a Congressional intern who receives a mere slap on the wrist and a brief suspension.  FBI agents write texts referencing the President in boorish terms while protestors march in the streets expressing all manner of vulgarities.  Civility, respect for authority, and humility are lost.

And yet, the church is commanded, “Honour all men…” (1 Peter 2:17a).  To honor is to ascribe worth to an individual by one’s words and actions. It is to treat another with dignity; to prize, value, regard, and respect.

Notice the command to “Honor all” is universal in scope.  There is no room for prejudices, knowing men and women are created in the likeness and image of God (Genesis 1:27).  “Honor” is blind to race and ethnicity. Honor does not discriminate based on skin color or physical characteristics.

“Honor” however, is not without discretion. For instance, though we are persuaded to “honor all”, we are not to lack discretion and honor the wicked in their sins.  Solomon urged his son, “…so honour is not seemly [fitting] for a fool [an immoral, insolent man]” (Proverbs 26:1). We have learned all too well, promoting the wicked to places and positions of influence will invariably “corrupt good manners (morals)” of a nation (1 Corinthians 15:33).

We also understand some are more deserving of honor than others. There are some who are like “vessels of gold and silver”; there are others like vessels “of wood and of earth (clay)” (2 Timothy 2:20).  In other words, we are for the most part common, ordinary men and women.  While “all men are created equal”, some are more talented, gifted, and honorable than others.

Finally, the nature of virtue calls for honor.  We might say of some, “He is a good man” or “She is a good woman.”  The implication is an individual possesses character qualities that are treasured and therefore honorable. Of such a one Paul writes, “Render therefore…honour to whom honour”is due (Romans 13:7).

My next post will invite you to consider: While all men are to be honored, some are to be purposely and specifically honored.

With a shepherd’s heart,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith

Prayer for Students and Families of Broward County, FL

The news of the senseless slaughter of innocent young lives in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, Wednesday afternoon, February 14, 2018 dominates the news this morning.  As of this morning, the death toll remains at 17 and the names of the dead, students and teachers, has not been released.

Like you, I am aware the tragedy of the loss of life reaches far beyond the dead…siblings, parents, grandparents, friends, classmates, teachers, administrators, neighbors, and yes, our state and nation…are all affected and scarred by the violence, suffering and death.

Liberal pundits will stand in their bully-pulpits and blame firearms for the loss of life.  The media and anti-liberty zealots opposed to the 2nd Amendment, will attack the NRA and conservatives, and advocate the need to limit, if not eliminate private ownership of guns and rifles.

Few will look deeper and honestly examine why this happened.  Why 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student expelled last school year from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, would plan and unleash a hail of gunfire on students of his former high school?

We are learning Cruz’s life is scarred as much as the wounds he inflicted on innocent lives Wednesday.  USA Today reports, “teachers and former classmates say [Cruz] had an angry disposition that led to him being expelled and flagged as a danger on school grounds.”

Former classmates describe Cruz as a troubled soul and many say they are not surprised he unleashed his fury in an act of violence. According to Fox News, an unnamed student told a news station, “kids joked around that the student [Cruz] would be the one to ‘shoot up the school.’”

Cruz is a troubled soul and tragedy seems to have been the haunt of his life.  Fox News reports Cruz and a younger brother were adopted and both his father and mother, Roger and Lynda Cruz, are dead.  Roger apparently died of a heart attack several years ago and Cruz’s mother, Lynda, died of pneumonia November 1, 2017.  Unhappy with family members who took him in, sometime after Thanksgiving 2017, Cruz moved into a mobile home with a high school friend who is a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Cruz’s anger, rage and violence are pandemic in a generation educated in classrooms and nurtured in a society with an irreligious view of human life.  The doctrine that human life is sacred and every life is to be cherished is lost on a generation that mocks God, denies the Creator, and is entertained with acts of violence in video games and television programs from early childhood.

I am not surprised a 19-year-old murdered 17 classmates; I am surprised it does not happen more often.  Look into the eyes of today’s youth and you will find many who appear soulless…unloved and unloving; desensitized by bitterness, rejecting authority, angry with God, and waiting to be triggered into an act of rage that will not only destroy their lives and future, but leave countless others broken and dismayed.

Remembering Cain, the first son of Adam, murdered his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8), we understand the problem is not guns and rifles; the problem is sin.  The invitation to this generation is the same as it was to Cain when God wrestled with his sinful soul and asked, “Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? 7  If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?…” (Genesis 4:6-7).

God warned Cain, “…if thou doest not well, sin lieth [crouches] at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire [sin drives our desires], and thou shalt rule over him [man will either master sin or sin will become his master](Genesis 4:7).

King Solomon taught his son the same truth, “[A sinner’s] own iniquities shall take [trap] the wicked himself, and he shall be holden [entrapped] with the cords [ropes] of his sins.”

Nikolas Cruz, and I am afraid many like him, is the personification of hopelessness.  Sinners have but two paths to choose in life…Remorse or Repentance.  Cruz followed the path of remorse and dejection and left in his wake 17 lost lives.

Repentance, on the other hand, assumes responsibility, admits guilt (Psalm 51:4), confesses sins, and seeks forgiveness (1 John 1:9).

Let us pray for the lives touched by the loss of 17 lives, but remember there are many Nikolas Cruz’s in our midst who feel unloved, act unloving, need to know the love of God, and our lives serve as the conduit of compassion for their lost souls.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith

A Portrait of True Love

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Song of Solomon 3-4

Today’s scripture reading continues in the Song Solomon, chapters 3-4.  As a reminder of my approach and interpretation of this book, I have chosen to take a “Literal interpretation”, meaning I believe Solomon penned this romantic book as a king to a young woman who had become the object of his love. For the sake of brevity, my focus will be Song of Solomon 3.

We find the young bride-to-be dreaming and longing for her unknown suitor in the early verses of chapter 3 (remember, she had first met Solomon when he was alone in the countryside dressed as a common shepherd). Allow me to suggest the following outline.

I. The Dreams of Young Love (3:1-3).

Solomon’s fair young maiden dreams of her groom “upon her bed” (3:1) and, because time has passed, she fears she has been forgotten by him (3:1).  She dreams she went out to seek her suitor (3:2-3) and when she finds him, she brings him to her “mother’s house” (3:4). Her dream continues in verse 5 with my second observation:

II. The Patience of Young Love (3:5).

Rejoicing she has found her beloved she encourages young maidens (“ye daughters of Jerusalem”) to Be Patient in the matter of love and marriage… “stir not up, nor awake my love” (3:5b) and Wait “till he please” (3:5c).

We have seen the dreams of youth and the exhortation that true love is patient and waits.  Notice thirdly, the romantic beauty of the maiden’s wedding day.

III. The Joy and Happiness of Young Love (3:6-11).

Our young maiden has dreamed about her mysterious shepherd. He has courted her lovingly and patiently and she dreams of the day he will come with his wedding party to claim her as his bride, but not knowing the day or the time of his coming.

One day she lifts her eyes towards the horizon and sees a cloud of smoke, coming “out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke” (3:6a).  The air is laden with the fragrance of burning incense, “perfumed with myrrh and frankincense” (3:6b).

In the midst, she sees the royal litter, the “bed, which is Solomon’s” (3:7) borne by sixty “valiant men”, war heroes, men of renown in Israel escorting the king with swords upon their thighs (3:8).

Our young maiden realizes her suitor is not a shepherd, but the king of Israel who is coming for her as his bride (3:9)!  The moment is filled with pageantry; while the soldiers bear the bed meant for his bride, the king is in their midst carried by a chariot made of the finest “wood of Lebanon” (3:9).

As with a bride of our day who plans her wedding down to the minutest detail, even the limousine that will carry her away, our young bride observes the beauty of the bed (or chariot) that will convey her and the king to his palace.  The canopy over the bed supported by beams overlaid with silver (3:10), the canopy of gold, and its cushions of purple, all adorned for the king by “the daughters of Jerusalem” (3:10).

Our young bride, overwhelmed by the joy her groom is Solomon the king, urges her attendants, “ye daughters of Zion” (3:11a), to behold their king wearing the crown given to him by his mother (3:11b), perhaps specially adorned by her on her son’s wedding day.

What an incredible story of love and marriage!  Was this not, in days past, the dreams of innocent young girls?  Stories like Cinderella abound with a fairy-tale storyline of a peasant girl who falls in love with a young prince or king and whose courtship with a stranger is rewarded with her own crowning as princess and queen.

Sad to say, but our society has robbed little girls of their innocence and discretion; and parents have failed to instill in their sons the qualities of a genteel, caring spirit.

I am afraid Christian homes have followed the same; unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices to guard the purity of sons and daughters, our youth know little about young, innocent, pure love that is patient and waiting.

Too many weddings in our churches lack innocence and tenderness because brides and grooms have indulged in lusts at the sacrifice of true love.

God has given us not only a portrait of love (the sacrifice of His Son for our sins – John 3:16; Romans 5:8; Ephesians 5:25), but also the definition of love in action

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 – “4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5  Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7  Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8  Charity never faileth…”

Young person, true love is patient, kind, serving, self-sacrificing, pure, honest, long-suffering, hopeful, lasting, and perpetual…never ending…and never stops loving.

 Wait…wait…wait…and you will never be sorry when true love finds you!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Is Your Child a Pedigree or a Mutt?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Nehemiah 10-13

Our scripture reading in the book of Nehemiah comes to a close today focusing on chapters 10-13.

Nehemiah 10 gives us the names of eighty-four men, spiritual leaders, politicians, husbands and fathers, who made a solemn oath and put their names to a covenant they made with the LORD (10:1-29).  Having sealed their covenant with the LORD, they “separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God” (10:28).

Israel’s dedication to the LORD was absolute, affecting every area of their lives…their families (10:28-30), businesses (10:31; 13:15-21), and finances (13:32-39). 

Having built the Temple and completed the walls of the city, the next need was for some to commit themselves to rebuilding and repopulating the city of Jerusalem; after all, you cannot have a great city without a great population.  Jerusalem was a “holy city” (11:1), a city dedicated to the LORD and the citizens of that city were to live stricter lives than their fellow Jews who lived outside the city.  With much of the city still in ruins, Jerusalem was more a place of poverty than it was a place of privilege.

Three segments of Israel’s populace were required to repopulate the city:  1) The “rulers of the people” (11:1); 2) A tenth of Israel’s population that was drafted by casting lots (11:1); 3) And others who volunteered and “willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem” (11:2).

Nehemiah 11-12 presents us with a great list of men, some named and others known only by their deeds; men whose names Nehemiah inscribed in his book lest they be forgotten. Four hundred and sixty-eight described as “valiant men” (11:6).  Eight hundred and twenty-two men who ““…did the work of the house” of God using their talents and gifts for the LORD’s work (11:12).  There were men who “…had the oversight of the outward business of the house of God.” (11:16); some serving as counselors, teachers, and others the general ministries of the Temple. Others described simply as “porters” (11:19); describing the menial nature of their ministries as doorkeepers and janitors,  but all important and noted by the LORD!

Friend, don’t make light of the menial tasks some bear in their service for the LORD and His church.  “Valiant men” and “porters” had their role and ministry in the Temple and were necessary to fulfill God’s purpose that Jerusalem be restored to her glory as the “holy city” (11:1).

Nehemiah 12 gives a chronicle of priests and Levites (12:1-26) and the worship service when the walls of Jerusalem were dedicated (12:27-47).

Nehemiah 13 closes with a reminder the work of ministry and serving the LORD and His people is never finished.  Nehemiah’s task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem was complete; however, he had no time to glory in his success!  Evidencing the character of a great servant of the LORD, Nehemiah began another phase of ministry…addressing and confronting the spiritual compromise already taking hold in Israel.

Consider four spiritual leadership qualities found in Nehemiah’s character in Nehemiah 13. 

The first leadership quality is courage; Nehemiah was a courageous leader (13:4-9).   As governor of Israel, Nehemiah traveled to Babylon to report to the king of Persia the state of affairs in Jerusalem; however, when he returned he found an “evil” allowed by the high priest Eliashib.

Nehemiah 13:7 – And I came to Jerusalem, and understood of the evil that Eliashib did for Tobiah, in preparing him [Tobiah] a chamber in the courts of the house of God.

Imagine finding Tobiah, an Ammonite and enemy who had opposed Nehemiah rebuilding the wall (Nehemiah 2:10, 19; 4:3) living in the Temple!  Nehemiah did not wait for a committee to make a decision or seek a diplomatic solution…He courageously confronted Tobiah, throwing him and his possessions into the street (13:8), and ordered the Temple rooms cleansed (13:9).

A second leadership quality is discernment (13:10-14).  Nehemiah writes,

 Neh. 13:10 – And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field.

A good leader gets the facts and ask questions when he perceives a problem.  Nehemiah rebuked the leaders and the people (13:10-14) when he comprehended their failure to give tithes and offerings forced those employed in the Temple to labor in their fields to the neglect of their public ministries.

A third leadership quality is Nehemiah maintained spiritual priorities (13:15-22). Finding the Jews had secularized the Sabbath, treating it like any other day of the week (13:16), Nehemiah confronted the leaders and said, “What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day?”

Nehemiah did not trifle with the matter of sin. He labeled their actions an “evil thing”, a profaning and defilement of the Sabbath, the LORD’s Day.

Finally, Nehemiah was a man of conviction and boldly confronted compromise (13:23-28).  The compromise of God’s people was so grave they had allowed their sons and daughters to intermarry with the heathen in the land.  Nehemiah observed,

Nehemiah 13:24 – And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews’ [Hebrew] language, but according to the language of each people.

Some of the Jews lost their children to the ways of the heathen; speaking a mixed language of “Ashdod” (the Philistine language) and Hebrew, Jewish youth had assimilated not only the sinful ways and customs of the ungodly, they had also adopted their language.  Being the candid spiritual leader he was, Nehemiah took their sinful compromise as a personal affront to himself and to God.  Nehemiah writes,

Nehemiah 13:25 – And I contended [treat with contempt] with them, and cursed [reviled] them, and smote [physically struck] certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves.

I fear there are few Nehemiah’s in Bible fundamental churches, Christian schools and Bible colleges.  We are in short supply of courageous men who are discerning, focused on spiritual priorities at the expense of personal sacrifice, and conviction who refuse to compromise with the ungodly.  Pulpits that once thundered with sermons calling a generation of youth to personal holiness and sanctification, now whimper with a message of accommodation that sacrifices and minimizes personal spiritual disciplines.

Nehemiah contended with the people for allowing the ungodly to influence and marry their sons and daughters (Nehemiah 13:25).

I don’t mean to offend anyone, but after 38 years of ministry, it has been my observation dog breeders of champion pedigrees give more attention to the selection of the dam (i.e. female) and sire (i.e. male) for breeding their dogs than many Christian parents give to the character of friends who eventually date and marry their sons and daughters.

What a tragedy!  No wonder the divorce rate in the church is as high as the world!  Nehemiah challenged the people, “we would not give our daughters unto the people of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons” (Nehemiah 10:30).  The tragedy is, many families failed to heed Nehemiah’s admonition and lost their children (13:25).  I am afraid the same is true of our homes, churches, and schools.

2 Corinthians 6:14 – “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Choices Always Have Consequences

Monday, December 11, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 26-28

Our scripture reading is Deuteronomy 26-28 and continues Moses’ final challenge to Israel before his departure.  As noted in previous devotional commentary on the book of Deuteronomy, Moses is charging Israel with laws and spiritual principles that are to guide the people as they become a nation in their own land (Deuteronomy 26:1).

Moses reminds Israel when they come into the land God has promised, they are to give tithes of the fruit (or profit) of their labor.  Remembering the blessing of the harvest comes from the LORD (Dt. 26:1-11), the firstfruits offering was taken to the place of worship, given as a sacrifice and supported the priestly tribe of Levi and their households.

In the third year, a special tithe was given coinciding with tither’s confession he had honored the LORD’s commandments and obeyed them.  The tithe given in the third year was used locally to meet immediate needs in 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).

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

Lest the people forget all the LORD had done for them, the elders of Israel were to erect a memorial pillar of stones on the west side of the Jordan River serving as a reminder of LORD’s promises and commandments (Dt. 27:1-2).  An altar was to be built to sanctify the place and the laws and commandments were to be inscribed on the stones as a lasting testimony (27:2-10).

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

Moses pronounced a series of twelve curses should the people disobey the LORD and reject His Law and Commandments (Dt. 27:15-26).  The following sins invited God’s judgment:

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

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

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

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

5) The fifth curse is upon one who is unjust in how they treat “the stranger, fatherless, and widow” (27:19; Ex. 22:21-24).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deuteronomy 27:26 – “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them…”

Deuteronomy 28 enumerates God’s blessings for the people and nation who obey His Laws and Commandments (Dt. 28:1-14).  The promise of God’s blessings on Israel if the people obeyed His Law and Commandments is stunning!  The nation had so much to aspire to, if only they obeyed the LORD.

If Israel “observe and to do all His commandments”, God promised He would “set thee on high above all nations of the earth” (28:1).  The blessings of the LORD are described as so great Israel would be overtaken by them (28:2)!  Every area of the nation’s life would be blessed… “in the city…in the field” (28:3).  Universal fruitfulness was promised to Israel…the womb of women, cattle, sheep and the fruit of the fields would reap a harvest of God’s blessings (28:4-6).

Israel’s enemies would fall before them and their storehouses and treasuries would overflow (28:7-14).  All this was promised to Israel, if the people obeyed the LORD’s Law and Commandments.

The balance of Deuteronomy 28 predicts the curses that would come upon Israel should the nation turn from the LORD and disobey His Law and Commandments (28:15-68).  In the same way God promised to bless the nation if the people obeyed Him, the opposite was true should they disobey Him.

If the nation continued in the LORD’s Law and Commandments, the LORD promised His blessings would overtake them (28:2); however, should they disobey the LORD they were assured “all curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee” (28:15).  The city, fields, storehouses, wombs of wives and livestock…all cursed (28:16-18).  The coming and going of the people…cursed (28:19)… “until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly” (28:20).  The promise of God’s judgment for disobeying His Laws and Commandments continues another forty-eight verses!

Sadly, Israel would turn from the LORD and all the curses noted in today’s scripture reading befell the nation!

Friend, it is not popular and few preachers have the courage to state it so, but “Choices Have Consequences” and no nation, people, or family should expect to disobey the LORD’s Law and Commandments and be blessed!

The message of the scriptures is one of redemption through the blood of Christ!  The Gospel is a message of God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness…and there is nothing required of a sinner to be saved than believing Christ, the sinless Son of God died for their sins, was buried and raised from the dead victorious over sin and the grave. The apostle Paul wrote to believers in Ephesus,

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace [God’s unmerited favor] are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

However, “Choices Have Consequences” and ignoring that truth does not change it. 

 The pulpits of fundamental churches, schools and Bible colleges are filled with a generation of preachers failing to remind the saints while salvation is “by grace”, God’s blessings are conditional.  “Good works” is evidence of the genuineness and sincerity of our salvation.  Paul writes,

Ephesians 2:10 – “For we [believers] are his workmanship [product; result of God’s grace], created [made and renewed] in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them [i.e. our life in Christ is to be a testimony of good works].

I close with a reminder of the manner of people believers are to be:

Romans 12:1-2 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Christmas Series at Hillsdale – “Five Portraits of God’s Grace”

Dear Hillsdale family, friends and Heart of a Shepherd Followers,

My Christmas Series this year, taken from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 1, is titled, “Five  Portraits of God’s Grace”, based on the five mothers named by Matthew in the lineage of Jesus.

The story of Christ’s birth is essentially the story of Redemption: God’s love for sinners, expressed in sending His Only begotten Son Jesus Christ, born of the virgin Mary, who lived a perfect, sinless life, was crucified for our sins, and raised from the dead on the third day.  The five women named in Christ’s lineage remind us of God’s grace extended to sinners.

My focus in the 10:30 AM service this Sunday, December 10 is on Rahab the harlot (Matthew 1:5), the second object of God’s grace named by Matthew.  I look forward to sharing how God in His grace moved on the heart of the harlot of Jericho and, hearing how God blessed and preserved Israel, came to believe Israel’s God was “God in heaven above, and in earth beneath”  (Joshua 2:11).

God was at work in Rahab’s heart, drawing her to saving faith.  Because she believed in the LORD, she tied a scarlet cord about her window as a sign of her faith, trusting God to save her and her family. We read,

Joshua 6:25 – And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father’s household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.

By God’s grace through her faith, God saved the harlot Rahab from death and she came to live in the midst of Israel (Joshua 6:25), married Salmon, a man of the royal tribe of Judah (Matthew 1:5), and is wondrously named as a mother of the lineage of Jesus Christ.

My friend, Rahab came to be named among Israel in the same way all sinners are saved…God’s grace through faith!

Romans 4:5 – “But to him that worketh not [knowing no works of the law save], but believeth on Him [Jesus Christ] that justifieth the ungodly, his faith [in Christ’s blood] is counted for righteousness [justified and forgiven].”

I trust you will join us this Sunday as we continue our study of “Five Portraits of God’s Grace”.

Don’t forget, Hillsdale’s Fine Arts Ministries will present this Sunday night, 6:00 PM, “Home for Christmas”.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith