Category Archives: Peace

“A tithe of a tithe,” and a Cleansing from Sin (Numbers 18-19)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 18-19

Numbers 17 addressed the establishing of Aaron, and his sons as the priestly lineage, while Numbers 18 outlines the duties of the priests and Levites, and the care and support of their families.

With the rebellion of Korah, and the men who followed him still fresh (Numbers 16), it was prudent for the LORD to address Aaron regarding the sins of his “father’s house” (remembering that Korah was of the tribe of Levi, 18:1). The honor of the priesthood, and the sins committed by the tribe of Levi, were to weigh upon Aaron, and his sons.

The tribe of Levi was chosen by the LORD to assist the priests in their duties; however, they were not to usurp their authority, nor approach the “vessels of the sanctuary and the altar,” lest they die (18:2-3). None, but the priests, were to “keep the charge of the sanctuary, and the charge of the altar” (18:5-7).

Numbers 18:8-20 – The Care and Support of the Priests

You will notice the mention of “heave offerings,” throughout this passage. What were they? They were a portion of the sacrifices that were brought by the people, and set aside by the LORD for the priests (Exodus 29:27-28). The heave offering was specifically the right shoulder of a cow, ram, or goat that had been sacrificed (Leviticus 7:34; Numbers 6:20). The first-fruits of the harvest were also designated heave offerings (Numbers 15:20-21). The needs of the priests, and their families were met through the heave offerings (18:9, 11-13), and was to be eaten “in the most holy place,” that being the court of the Tabernacle (Numbers 18:10).

Numbers 18:21-24 – Provision for the Levites

Like the priests, the Levites would not have an inheritance in the Promised Land (18:21). Rather than being engaged in securing land, their focus was to be upon “the service of the Tabernacle of the congregation” (18:21). While the children of Israel were occupied tilling their lands, and caring for their flocks and herds, the Levites were supported by “the tenth (or the tithe) in Israel” (18:21), “given to the Levites to inherit” (18:24).

Numbers 18:25-32 – The Levites were to give a tithe of a tithe.

Lest any should believe those in ministry do not have an obligation to pay their tithe, we find the Levites, after receiving the tithes of the congregation, were to take off the “tenth part of the tithe” (18:26). The tithe of the tithe, was “the LORD’S heave offering to Aaron the priest” (18:28). What did the LORD require to be given as the tithe? “The best thereof” (18:29).

Numbers 19 – Purification Offering for Uncleanness

The offering of a red heifer (a female cow) was to be brought by those deemed unclean by reason of coming in contact with death (19:11). Death, being the consequence of sin (Romans 6:23a), demanded sacrifice, and the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22).

A man who touched the dead body of a man (which was necessary for those preparing a body for burial), was deemed unclean for seven days (19:11). The LORD knew what men of that day did not know: The pollution by a dead body was not only a spiritual lesson, (“For the wages of sin is death,” Romans 6:23), but also a practical one. Even the tent in which a man died was considered unclean seven days (19:14), and any open vessels in that tent were considered unclean (19:15). What an amazing revelation! Long before microscopes revealed the dangers of harmful bacteria, the LORD was protecting His people from contamination.

Because the sacrifice of the heifer was for “uncleanness,” the heifer was led outside the camp of Israel, sacrificed, and burned (19:5). The priest that sacrificed the heifer, and the Levite that burned it, were to wash their clothes and bathe, and were deemed unclean until even (19:7-10).

Lesson: Death is an ever present, inescapable sorrow (Hebrews 9:27). We who have trusted Christ as our Savior have an eternal hope, for He has borne the burden of our sin by His death on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead. He Lives!

1 John 1:7b, 9 – “… The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin… 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Count Your Days, and Your Blessings! (Psalm 90)

Count Your Days, and Your Blessings! (Psalm 90)

Scripture reading – Psalm 90

We depart from the Book of Numbers, to consider Psalm 90 for today’s Scripture reading. Psalm 90 is a prayer of intercession, and a song of praise that was authored by Moses, and is therefore the oldest of the Psalms. Certainly, it would have been one of the psalms heard in the Temple, and sung by the people when they assembled in the wilderness before the Tabernacle.

Scholars generally place Psalm 90 about the time Israel rebelled, and turned back from the Promised Land (Numbers 13-14). The context is most likely when the people began murmuring against the LORD, and He threatened to “smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them” (Numbers 14:11-12). Moses implored the LORD to spare the congregation (Numbers 14:13-19), and I believe Psalm 90 memorialized that occasion.

Psalm 90 – Great is the LORD!

The Lord had proven He was the refuge for Israel (90:1), the Creator (90:2a) who set the foundations of the mountains, and “formed the earth and the world” (90:2). He is the God of eternity (90:2b), and the absolute Sovereign of Creation (90:2). What is man? He is temporal, and dust (90:3).

When I was young, I could not fully grasp the meaning of Psalm 90:4. Moses wrote, “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night” (90:4). I have come to know all to well the fleeting of time, and life itself. A lifetime, or even a generation passes, and it seems “as a watch in the night” (90:4), and our lives are “soon cut off, and we fly away” (90:10).

Lest one be tempted to wallow in self-pity, and sorrow for the years that are past and cannot be reclaimed, Moses states a principle that should guide believers: So teach us to number our days [to make them count], that we may apply [give; attain] our hearts [understanding; i.e. thoughts] unto wisdom (90:12).

How different your life would be, if you knew the year, day, the hour, God has appointed for your death (Hebrews 9:27)! Many things that consume your thoughts, and your time would suddenly prove trivial. Moments to which you give little thought, and opportunities that seem routine, might suddenly be savored, if not treasured. Every day is a gift of God’s loving grace, and should be numbered and treasured.

Set aside pettiness, and be grateful for the day God has given you. Pray with Moses: “Let the beauty [grace, and favor] of the Lord our God be upon us: And establish thou [LORD] the work of our hands upon us; Yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” (90:17)

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

No Such Thing as a Secret Sin! (Leviticus 5-6)

No Such Thing as a Secret Sin! (Leviticus 5-6)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 5-6

Leviticus 5:1-13 – Trespass Offerings

Continuing our study of the various sacrificial offerings, we come today to a study of “Trespass Offerings” for particular offences. Referred to by some as “Purification” offerings, we consider three sins which required “trespass offerings.”

The first offense that required a trespass offering was for a sin of omission. When a man was tried for failing to keep an oath, it was required of one who was witness to his failure to come forward and bear witness. Failure to come forward and bear witness was a sin, and a sacrifice was required to atone (5:1).

Touching the lifeless carcass of a beast was an unclean act, and an offense (5:2), and even if done in error, a man was guilty until he offered a trespass offering for his sin (5:3).

The third offence was to swear an oath, and fail to keep it. Such was a sin and required a trespass offering (5:4-5).

Three different trespass, or purification offerings, might be offered to atone for a sinner’s guilt (5:6-13). The economic means of one guilty of a trespass dictated the amount of that which was offered. A man of wealth that had committed a trespass would be required to bring “a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats, for a sin offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for him concerning his sin” (5:6).

A man who did not have the financial means to offer a lamb or goat, might bring “two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, unto the Lord; one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering” (5:7). The blood of the sacrifice would be sprinkled on the altar, and declared a “sin offering” (5:9).

Should a man be so poor he was unable to bring the lesser trespass offering (“two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, unto the LORD”), he could “bring for his offering the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering; he shall put no oil upon it, neither shall he put any frankincense thereon: for it is a sin offering” (5:11).

Leviticus 5:14-6:7 – Reparation Offering

Unlike the trespass offerings, a reparation offering was required when a man failed to give of that which the LORD required. An example would have been the failure to give a tithe, or an offering of first-fruits. To make amends to the LORD, the sinner was required to not only offer “a ram without blemish out of the flocks” (5:14-15), but an additional sacrifice described as “the fifth part thereto, and give it unto the priest” (5:16).

Giving a “fifth part” more meant that the reparations sacrifice was equal to 120% more than what the Law required.

Much more might be discussed in the matter of trespass offerings and reparations; however, this I will leave for another time (Leviticus 6).

What was the LORD teaching His people?

He was teaching the need of having a sensitive conscience, and an appreciation of one’s responsibility to the LORD. After all, there is no such thing as a secret sin!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Behold the Lamb” – The Institution and Significance of the Passover (Exodus 11-12, part 2)

Scripture reading: Exodus 11-12

The Passover was instituted in Exodus 12, and took its name from the LORD sparing His people the plague that struck the firstborn of Egypt (12:1-14, 27-28). The LORD had instructed Moses and Aaron to speak to the people saying, “2This month shall be unto you the beginning of months…3In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb…5Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: 6And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening” (12:2-6).

The blood of the sacrifice was to be put on the side posts and lintel [top of the door facing] of the houses (12:7), and the LORD promised, “when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” (12:12-13).

Specific instructions were given for the sacrificial lambs (12:8-11, 14-19). They were to serve as a reminder that the lambs were a “type,” a picture, of the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, the Messiah, whose name they did not know, and who would come in the Father’s time. They would have to trust in the substitutionary blood on their doorposts, and know by faith, that it represented God’s provision, His sacrifice, and His covenant with Abraham. The lamb was to be roasted whole (12:8-9), and the bones were not to be broken. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross fulfilled that condition (John 19:31-37; Psalm 34:20). He was the perfect, sinless, spotless “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Another element of the Passover was “unleavened bread” (12:15, 17-20). Leaven, the equivalent of yeast today, was not to be used in bread during the Passover season. The leaven that was used in ancient times was from dough that had fermented, and was left over from the previous day. Taking a pinch of fermented dough, and kneading it into a fresh batch of flour, would in time permeate the whole of the dough and cause the bread to rise.

It is the permeating nature of leaven that is a symbol in the Scriptures of the nature of sin. In actuality, sin in our lives functions the same as leaven in dough; and “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9). In the same way that leaven was not to be in Passover bread, we are not to tolerate even a “little sin” in our lives.

Exodus 12:29-34 – The Night of the Passover

The night of the Passover came, and “at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh… [to] the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle” (12:29).

Pharaoh and all Egypt cried in anguish, “for there was not a house where there was not one dead” (12:30). The king sent for Moses and Aaron, and charged them, “Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as ye have said. 32Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also” (12:31-32).

That same urgency took hold among the Egyptians, and they urged Israel to depart “out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men” (12:33). As God had commanded, the children of Israel required “of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: 36And the Lord gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians” (12:35-36).

Exodus 12:37-51 – Delivered Israel Out of Egypt

Israel was thrust out of Egypt, and the people who began the exodus numbered 600,000 men, not including women and children (12:37). There was also a “mixed multitude” who went out with them, who were not of the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (12:38). Those non-Hebrew people would become a curse to Israel in her wilderness journey (Numbers 11:4).

The years of Israel’s stay in Egypt had been “four hundred and thirty years” (12:40), and “at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt” (12:41). The exodus from Egypt, and the sparing of the firstborn were to be memorialized in a perpetual observance of the Passover (12:43). The circumcision of males would continue as a sign of that nation’s consecration to the LORD (12:44-48). Whether Hebrew, or of the mixed multitude, there would be “One Law” that would serve the people (12:49).

Today’s devotional concludes with a reminder that God is intolerant of sin among His people. As the leaven was put out, and forbidden in the households during the Passover (12:15, 19-20), so should sin be addressed, and confessed in our lives, homes, and churches.

1 Corinthians 5:6b–8 – “Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? 7Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“God Meant it Unto Good” (Genesis 50)

Scripture reading – Genesis 50

“[When] Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people” (49:33).

Named Jacob when he was born, he fulfilled the definition of that name in the early years of his life, for he had been a trickster and deceiver. His life, however, was changed at a brook named Peniel (32:27-30), and God changed his name to Israel. Transformed into a man of faith, he became a man upon whom the power of God rested.

He had borne the weight of great sorrows, but he died surrounded by his family, and was comforted in the embrace of his son Joseph, the second ruler of Egypt (50:1). Embalmed in the manner of Egypt, even “the Egyptians mourned for [Jacob] threescore and ten days” (50:3). Joseph requested, and received, Pharaoh’s blessing for his father’s body to be taken up to Canaan and buried in the ancestral tomb of his father Isaac, and his grandfather Abraham (50:4-6).

Imagine the funeral procession that came out of Egypt, and made its way to Jacob’s tomb (50:7-13). His body, borne in an Egyptian coffin, was escorted by “all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, 8And all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father’s house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen (50:7-8).

The Canaanite people of the region observed the royal procession of mourners, and named the place Abel-mizraim, meaning a “mourning or meadow of Egypt” (50:11). Arriving at the tomb, the sons of Jacob buried their father (50:12-13), and then returned to Egypt (50:14). Understanding the evil they had committed against Joseph, his brothers feared in their father’s absence, he might exact revenge for their wrongs against him (50:15-17).  Instead of revenge, however, “Joseph wept” (50:17b).

Though abused and rejected in his youth, Joseph had looked past the trials with eyes of faith, and rested in the providence of God. He comforted his brothers, and said, “Fear not: for am I in the place of God? 20But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (50:19-20). He went on to assure them, “fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them” (50:21).

Sold as a slave when he was seventeen, Joseph lived the rest of his life in Egypt. Though a ruler in Egypt, his heart longed for the land God had promised, and in death he assured his brethren: “God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (50:24). Joseph, repeated the promise, and requested, “ye shall carry up my bones from hence” (50:25). “So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt” (50:26).

A Concluding Thought: I close this commentary, thanking you for accompanying me on this journey through the Scriptures.

Beginning with, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), and closing with Joseph’s death and the request that his bones be taken up and buried in Canaan (50:25-26), we have witnessed God’s sovereignty and loving devotion to those who turn from sin to Him. Joseph confessed to his brothers, “ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (50:20).

It was God who worked to save Jacob, his sons, and the Tribes of Israel that He might fulfill His Covenant Promise to Abraham, that “in [him] shall all families of the earth be blessed,” (a promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ who died for the sins of the world, 12:3; John 3:16). It is God who desires all men would be saved, and “is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

God is working, and He invites you to “confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus,” and “believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9).

You are invited to share your decision of faith, or your thoughts with this author by emailing: HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Forsaken by Man, But not By God! (Genesis 45)

Scripture reading – Genesis 45

Joseph, unable to contain his emotions, cried out suddenly, “Cause every man to go out from me” (45:1b). With only his brethren present, he wept so forcefully that his servants, and even those of Pharaoh’s household heard of it (45:2). Speaking for the first time without an interpreter, Joseph cried out in Hebrew, “I am Joseph; doth my father yet live?” (45:3)

Imagine that moment! They had betrayed, sold their brother as a slave, but now he stands before them. He is a powerful ruler in Egypt, and a man to whom they bowed in fear and reverence. With the authority of a sovereign, and the compassion of a brother, Joseph stated in their tongue, “Come near to me, I pray you”(45:4a). With fear, awe, and dread, his brothers drew near, and he confessed, “I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt” (45:4b).

Calming their anxieties, he consoled his brothers, saying, “be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life” (45:5).

Take a moment, and meditate on the last phrase: “God did send me before you to preserve life” (45:5).

Rather than bitterness, and vengeance, Joseph’s words conveyed a reassuring spirit of faith and forgiveness. He had come to see the hand of God’s providences in his life. Confessing his faith, Joseph said, “8So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler [with power and authority] throughout all the land of Egypt” (45:8).

There were yet five years of famine (45:6, 11); therefore, Joseph commanded his brothers, “Go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not” (45:9). He promised his brothers, “thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children’s children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast” (45:10).

When he had finished speaking, Joseph “fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him” (45:14-15). Imagine the conversation that passed between Joseph and his brothers. Through tears, and laughter, Joseph conveyed all that had passed in the twenty-two years he had been apart from them.

The news of Joseph’s reunion with his brothers had reached Pharaoh’s household, and the king of Egypt was pleased (45:17-18). Pharaoh decreed that wagons should be taken to Canaan, and the children, wives, and Joseph’s father be conveyed to Egypt (45:19).  He promised that the “good of all the land of Egypt” would be theirs, and they would have need of nothing (45:21-25).

Stunning News: Joseph is Alive! (45:25-28)

Imagine the spectacle when an Egyptian wagon train came within sight of Jacob’s encampment in Canaan (45:25). When he heard that Joseph was alive, and was “governor over all the land of Egypt, [his] heart fainted, for he believed them not” (45:26). Seeing the wagons, and all the provisions that had been sent to him by his son, Jacob’s spirit was revived (25:27). “Israel (Jacob) said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die” (45:28). He was content. The LORD had preserved his life into his old age, and answered the longing of his heart: He would be reunited with Joseph.

Let us take a moment and reflect on God’s providences in Joseph’s life.

His mother died giving birth to his brother Benjamin. He grew up resented, and hated by brothers who would have killed him had they not elected to sell him as a slave. He was falsely accused by his master’s wife, and was a prisoner, until the LORD directed Pharaoh to promote him to the second most powerful throne in Egypt.

Joseph was rejected, tried, and forsaken by man, but not by God!

Psalm 34:1919Many are the afflictions of the righteous: But the Lord delivereth him out of them all.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

What Do You Call A Divine Appointment? – “Providence” (Genesis 40-41)

Scripture reading – Genesis 40-41

We concluded our study of Genesis 39, and left Joseph imprisoned for a false charge made by Potiphar’s wife (39:11-20). Remembering that Potiphar was “an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard” (39:1), I am of the opinion that he did not fully trust his wife’s word, for surely her charge of attempted rape would have been a capital offense (some scholars believe Potiphar might have served as the executioner).

Rather than a sentence of death, Joseph found himself in prison. Characteristic of the man of faith he was, he did not allow his circumstances to dictate his outlook. In fact, we read, “the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper” (39:23). Joseph understood what the psalmist observed when he wrote, “As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30). The truths he had learned of the LORD from his father, and the dreams and visions he had been given in his youth (Genesis 37), continued to resonate in his soul.

Genesis 40 – No Time for Prison Blues

Having been charged with the responsibility of “all the prisoners that were in the prison” (39:22), Joseph was serving when two prominent servants of Pharaoh’s house, “the chief of the butlers [and] the chief of the bakers” were conveyed to the prison (40:1-2). The nature of the offense those men had committed against Pharaoh is not revealed, but in the providence of God, Joseph was charged by the captain of the guard to serve them (40:4).

The chief butler (most likely a cup bearer, and therefore the most trusted of Pharaoh’s servants), and the chief baker, both “dreamed a dream” (40:5-11), and were greatly disturbed by what their dreams might forebode. Neither time, nor space permits an exhaustive study of the dreams; however, Joseph’s interpretation of them (40:12-23) left the chief butler optimistic that he would be restored to his post in three days (40:12-13). Joseph requested that the butler remember him, and appeal to Pharaoh on his behalf (40:14-15). The interpretation of the chief baker’s dream was that in three days, he would be hanged “on a tree; and the birds shall eat thy flesh from off thee” (40:18-19).

Three days passed, and the chief butler was restored, while the baker was executed according to Joseph’s interpretation of his dream (40:20-22). Joseph’s desire to be remembered by Pharaoh’s butler; however, appeared to end in disappointment when we read, “Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him” (40:23).

Genesis 41 – Forgotten by Man, But Not by God

Two years passed before the butler gave any thought of the man who had interpreted his dream in prison (41:1a). That would have been demoralizing for most men; however, there is no hint that it affected Joseph’s service. In fact, he was faithful to his task, until God was ready to promote him.

In the providence of God, “Pharaoh dreamed” (41:1), and the dreams were so disturbing that the king “was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh” (41:8).

Thus the stage was set for Joseph, and the butler confessed to Pharaoh, “I do remember my faults this day” (41:9). Giving credibility for his recommendation, the butler recalled how his and the baker’s dreams were interpreted, and came to pass as Joseph had prophesied (41:10-13).

Anxious to know the interpretation of his dreams, Pharaoh commanded that Joseph be brought from prison and to his throne (41:14). Imagine what a glorious moment that was in Joseph’s life! In an instance, at a time providentially appointed by the LORD, Joseph hastened to prepare himself to stand in the presence of the most powerful figure in the world (41:14). “15And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it: and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it” (41:15).

Genesis 41:16-57 – From a Slave in Egypt, to the Savior of Egypt

Deflecting any praise for himself, “Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace” (41:16). Pharaoh then shared his dreams of seven emaciated cows devouring seven healthy cows (41:17-21), and seven blighted ears of grain devouring seven healthy ears (41:22-24). The king confessed, “I told this unto the magicians; but there was none that could declare it to me” (41:24).

God sovereignly revealed the significance of Pharaoh’s dreams to Joseph, who then gave the interpretation to the king, and advised him to “look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt” (41:33). Joseph went on to suggest the administration that would be necessary to implement a storage of grain, not only to save Egypt, but also her neighbors from starving when the famine persisted for seven years (41:34-37).

Pharaoh, recognizing in Joseph not only wisdom, but that he was “a man in whom the Spirit of God is” (41:38), appointed him to serve Egypt, as second only to himself (41:33-44).  Only thirty years old when he was promoted (41:46), Joseph was entrusted with the granaries of Egypt as that nation prepared for seven years of famine that would follow seven years of plenty (41:45-57).

Genesis 41 closes with a revelation: “All countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands” (41:57).

The stage is set for a family reunion that would fulfill Joseph’s dreams.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

God Must Break You, Before He Will Fully Bless You! (Genesis 32)

Scripture reading – Genesis 32

The Backdrop to Events in Genesis 32

After twenty years of shepherding his father-in-law’s flocks, the LORD commanded Jacob to go home: “Return unto the land of thy fathers…and I will be with thee” (31:3).

Fearing his father-in-law would forbid his parting, Jacob secretly departed Padanaram, the place he had served his father-in-law Laban (31:17-20). Crossing the Euphrates river, and putting as much distance between himself and Laban, Jacob set his face toward Canaan, and arrived at Mount Gilead, on the east side of the Jordan River (31:21).

His stealth parting had given Jacob a three-day start before news reached Laban that he and his family had taken flight (31:22). Laban set out in anger, and pursued Jacob for seven days, before overtaking him at Mount Gilead. What ill intentions Laban might have had, were confronted by God who came to him “in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad” (31:24).

The verbal confrontation between Jacob and Laban is recorded in Genesis 31:26-42, and the amicable resolution between the two is recorded in Genesis 31:43-55. Setting a pillar of stones as a memorial to their covenant of peace, “Laban departed, and returned unto his place” (31:55)

Genesis 32 – Facing Your Greatest Enemy, and Greatest Fears

Jacob set out on his journey, and God gave him a vision of an angelic host that would accompany him, and he named the place, Mahanaim, “God’s Camp” (32:1-2).

Twenty years had passed since Jacob stole his brother’s birthright, and fled Canaan. His return home would take him through Edom, his brother Esau’s land and country (32:3). Though two decades in the making, his reunion with his brother had revived the memory of Esau’s threats and his fears. I am reminded of the proverb, “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle”(Proverbs 18:19).

Knowing his brother was a warrior (27:40), and he a shepherd, Jacob feared Esau. Understanding he might face his brother’s wrath, Jacob plotted and planned how he might defuse his brother’s fury (32:4-8). When he received news that Esau was coming with four hundred men (32:6), Jacob prepared for the worst, and divided his household, hoping to spare his family and possessions from a total loss should Esau attack (32:7-8).

Jacob had evidently forgotten about the host of angels that had appeared to him along the way (32:1-2), and he prayed to the LORD, reminding Him how He had commanded him to return to his homeland, with the promise, “I will deal well with thee” (32:9-12).

Jacob then sent gifts to his brother, in hopes of appeasing his wrath (32:9-23). Knowing he would face his brother the next day, Jacob spent the night alone, perhaps pondering what the morning might bring upon him and his family (32:13, 24-32).

It was in the solitude of the night that the LORD appeared to him in the physical form of a man, and wrestled with both Jacob’s body and soul (32:24-32).  Even with his hip out of joint, Jacob wrestled with the LORD until he was assured of His blessing (32:25-28).

The LORD blessed Jacob (whose name meant trickster or schemer), and gave him the name of “Israel,” meaning one who has power with God (32:28).

The next morning, it was Israel, a man transformed by the grace of God, that faced his enemy. He had spent his life scheming, and wrestling with God; however, he was transformed after seeing “God face to face” (32:30).  No longer a man that relied on his wit, the painful limp in his stride was as a reminder of the night God broke his will (32:30-31).

Jacob had come to the end of himself, and the God of his grandfather Abraham, and his father Isaac, was his God. Jacob’s life was so transformed. If you saw him, you would know him; for he was a man with a limp, whose faith was in the LORD.

In the words of A.W. Tozer, “The Lord cannot fully bless a man until He has first conquered him.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Four Guideposts to Knowing God’s Will (Genesis 31), part 2

Scripture reading – Genesis 31

Genesis 31 – Going Home

Jacob’s wealth had provoked jealousy in Laban’s household (31:1),. God had so blessed Jacob, that Laban’s own household was becoming impoverished (31:1b). Jacob had also observed a change in Laban’s countenance, and that his spirit was no longer “toward him” as it had been before (31:2).

The LORD confirmed to Jacob that it was time to depart, and said unto him, “Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee” (31:3).

I close today’s devotional by suggesting four principles we find in Jacob’s decision to go home, that are guideposts we might also follow in knowing God’s will.

Desire is the first guidepost to knowing God’s will. Six years prior to Genesis 31, Jacob wanted to leave Laban’s household, and “go unto [his] own place, and to [his] country” (30:25). Though the timing was not right, the desire was there, and would be fulfilled after six years.

Regarding the will of the LORD, and one’s desire, the psalmist wrote, “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. {5} Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 47:4-5). Of course, it would be unwise to trust solely in the desires and longings of one’s heart (Jeremiah 17:9-10).

The second guidepost to knowing God’s will is one’s circumstances (31:1-2). Laban’s sons had become jealous, and his countenance betrayed his spirit toward Jacob had changed (31:1, 7, 41). Laban’s heart had turned against Jacob.

An essential guidepost to knowing God’s will is God’s Word! Jacob had a desire to go home. The circumstances were certainly a motivation to go home. However, it was the LORD who spoke to him, and said, “Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee” (31:3). When the LORD spoke to him, Jacob knew it was time to go home. In the words of the psalmist, Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).

The fourth and final guidepost in determining God’s will is counsel. Jacob went to his wives, and shared how their father’s spirit toward him had changed (31:5-12), and that God had commanded him to “arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred” (31:13).

His wives concurred, and said to Jacob, “whatsoever God hath said unto thee, do” (31:16). When making major life changes, wise men seek wise counsel, for “in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14)

God used four guideposts in Jacob’s life, and He will do the same in your life if you seek His will: Desire; Circumstances; God’s Word; and Wise Counsel.

Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. {6} In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Twelve Sons, Less One (Genesis 30-31), part 1

Scripture reading – Genesis 30

Today’s devotional will be published in two parts. The first will focus solely on Genesis 30. A second devotional will be published for Genesis 31.

Our study in Genesis 29 concluded with God blessing Leah, the least favored wife of Jacob, and she conceived sons by her husband (29:31-35). The LORD, ever compassionate, “saw that Leah was hated (despised or shamefully treated)”, and “opened [Leah’s] womb: but Rachel was barren” (29:31).

Twelve sons were born of Jacob, and they would become the fathers of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Leah, Laban’s oldest daughter, became the mother of Jacob’s first four sons: Reuben (29:32), Simeon (29:33), Levi(29:34), and Judah (29:35).

Genesis 30 – Jacob’s Family: Twelve Sons, Less One

Rachel, the beloved wife of Jacob, was barren (a cultural stigma in those days), and jealous of her sister who had borne her husband four sons (30:1a). Provoked by jealousy, Rachel had demanded that Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die” (30:1b). Betraying his frustration of living in a home with two unhappy wives, Jacob answered Rachel in anger and said, “Am I in God’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?” (30:2).

Rather than trusting the LORD to bless her with a son, Rachel followed the cultural norms of her time, and demanded that Jacob give her children through her maid Bilhah. Rather than honor God, and the sanctity of marriage (2:23-24), he complied with Rachel’s insistence, and further complicated the spiritual, and emotional dynamics of his home.  Bilhah, Rachel’s maid, conceived and gave birth to the fifth and sixth sons of Jacob, Dan(30:1-6) and Naphtali (30:7-8).

Fearing she might no longer conceive sons by Jacob (30:9), Leah insisted that he would raise up children by her maid Zilpah. Zilpah, conceived and gave birth to Jacob’s seventh and eighth sons, Gad and Asher (30:9-13).

God once again blessed Leah, and she conceived Jacob’s ninth and tenth sons, Issachar and Zebulun (30:17-20), and a daughter she named Dinah (30:21). Although she was mother of six sons, Leah longed for something she would never have: to be first in her husband’s affections (30:20).

What were the dynamics in a home that had disregarded God’s plan for marriage to be the union of “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, one man, and one woman)?

There was a perpetual spirit of jealousy, disappointment, bitterness, and sorrow. Rachel, rather than calling upon, and waiting on the LORD to hear and answer her longing for a son, turned to bartering for mandrakes (a fruit that purportedly contained fertility properties, 30:14-16). She continued to be barren, until we read, “God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb. 23And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach: 24And she called his name Joseph [Jacob’s eleventh son]; and said, The Lord shall add to me another son” (30:22-24). In a later study, Rachel will die giving birth to Jacob’s twelfth son, whom he will name Benjamin (35:16-19).

With the birth of Joseph, his eleventh son, Jacob’s obligation of servitude to uncle Laban was fulfilled (fourteen years, for his marriage to Laban’s daughters; 29:20, 30), and he made known his intention to return to his family in Canaan (30:25-26).

Laban, ever the sly one, had become a wealthy man, and realized God’s special blessing rested on Jacob. He was determined to bind Jacob to himself, and continue to profit from his presence and labor (30:27-30a). Jacob, now the father of eleven sons, reasoned, “the Lord hath blessed [Laban] since [his] coming: and now when shall I provide for mine own house also?” (30:30)

Nonetheless, Laban constrained Jacob to remain in his household, and asked, “What shall I give thee?” (30:31) Jacob, wise to the ways of a deceiver, was unwilling to be indebted to Laban, and said, “Thou shalt not give me any thing” (30:31b).

Evidencing wisdom and discernment into husbandry and genetics, Jacob suggested that distinctive physical markings on the sheep, goats, and cattle, would providentially mark them as his personal property, and serve as his wages (30:31-32).

Laban agreed, and Jacob continued to care for his flocks, even as God blessed, and made him rich man. We read, he “increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses” (30:43).

In six years, God took Jacob from Laban’s poor hireling shepherd, to a man of great wealth.

This concludes our study in Genesis 30. A second devotional will be published for Genesis 31.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith