Category Archives: Pride

Dead Man Walking; God’s Man Rejoicing (Psalm 63, 1 Samuel 28)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 28; Psalm 63

1 Samuel 28 – Dead Man Walking

One might feel a certain empathy for King Saul in the latter years of his reign and life. The king was old, the strength and vitality of his youth faded, and his spirit consumed by bitterness. In contrast, David had been a faithful servant to the king, but Saul’s jealousy had made his friend his enemy. Indeed, the champion of Israel, appeared to be in league with Achish, the Philistine king (28:1-2).

Saul was alone. He had disobeyed God’s command, and the LORD had withdrawn his Spirit from the king (16:14-15). With the prophet Samuel dead (28:3), and the Philistine army gathered against Israel (28:4), Samuel trembled at the sight of “the host of the Philistines” (28:5).

Paralyzed by a spirit of foreboding (28:5-6), and desperate for a word of reassurance, the king disguised himself, violated the Law (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:31), and turned to a witch who consulted with spirits (28:7;Leviticus 20:27). Assuring the witch, she would not be punished, Saul demanded she call the prophet Samuel from the dead (28:11).

The LORD permitted Samuel to appear, and his appearance frightened the witch, who realized the man before her was Saul (28:12). With the king’s assurance that she would come to no harm, the woman revealed she had seen a man, “an old man…covered with a mantle” (28:14). Saul realized the apparition was that of Samuel, and the king “stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself” (28:14).

Samuel demanded, “Why hast thou disquieted me [awaken from rest or sleep], to bring me up [from Sheol, the place of the dead]?” (28:15). Trembling with fear, Saul declared how the Philistines had gathered against Israel, and God’s Spirit had departed from him (28:15). He confessed he had no prophet to answer him, and no man to interpret dreams (28:15).

Samuel then reminded Saul he was suffering the consequences of his disobedience (1 Samuel 15:23; 28:18). Not only had God’s Spirit departed from Saul, but the LORD had become his enemy (28:16). The LORD had “rent the kingdom out of [Saul’s] hand, and given it to [his] neighbour, even to David” (28:17).

Revealing the imminent deaths of Saul and his sons, and the defeat Israel would suffer the next day on the battlefield (28:19), Saul fell to the ground, “and there was no strength in him” (28:20). Overcome with emotion, and weak from fasting, the witch took pity on Saul and urged him to eat (28:22-24). When their supper was ended, Saul and his men “rose up, and went away that night” (28:25).

Closing thoughts: Rather than humble himself, and repent, Saul departed with his heart hardened, knowing he would not live to see another night. Because of his sin and disobedience, the king and his sons would die the next day, and his throne would be given to David.

He was a “dead man walking.”

Psalm 63

The title of Psalm 63 gives us the background for the song, for it was “when [David] was in the wilderness of Judah.” You will notice phrases and verses throughout the psalm that are beautiful and expressive.

In light of Saul’s despair in 1 Samuel 28, Psalm 63 affords us an encouraging contrast.  While Saul longed for a word from the LORD, but found his sins had made the LORD his enemy; David’s heart rejoiced in his God, and he confessed:

Psalm 63:11O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: My soul thirsteth for thee, My flesh longeth for thee In a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;

Surely, only a man who loved the LORD could find such joy, comfort, and cause for rejoicing in Him.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

My Enemy, and My Mouth (Psalm 141)

Scripture reading – Psalm 141

The title of Psalm 141 is simply stated, “A Psalm of David.” Knowing the author, but not knowing the time or place it was composed, we are left to our own opinion regarding the circumstances that inspired the psalm. It was certainly at a time of peril, and most likely composed when David fled into the wilderness from Saul (1 Samuel 20-22).

I suggest we consider the psalm in five parts. The first, David’s cry for the LORD’S favor (141:1-2). He prayed the LORD would “make haste unto [him]; give ear unto [his] voice” (141:1). Like a frightened child who screams, and the mother hastens to bring comfort, David trusted the LORD would hear his cry for help. He sought the LORD’S attention, and asked that his prayer be as sweet in God’s sight “as incense; and…the evening sacrifice” (141:2).

David desired to not only be the object of the LORD’S favor, but that he would be kept from sinning with his mouth (141:3-4). He prayed, 3Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; Keep the door of my lips” (141:3). Certainly, that is a prayer we should pray! Centuries later, James warned, “the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity…it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:5-6). David not only prayed for the LORD to bridle his tongue, but to keep him from following in the ways of wicked men (141:4).

He prayed the LORD would find in him the humility to heed wise counsel, and the meekness to accept rebuke as “an excellent oil” (141:5).

David had been the object of lies, and deceptions, but he prayed he would one day be vindicated, and his judges, his persecutors, would “hear [his] words” (141:6). Like bones scattered with no grave, David was in a desperate, hopeless place (141:7).

Fifthly, David committed to keep his eyes on God (141:8), and to trust the LORD would not abandon, and leave him alone (141:8). Praying for protection, and vindication, he commended himself to the LORD, and prayed his enemies would fall into the very snares they had laid for his own demise (141:9-10).

Of the five parts we observed in David’s prayer, perhaps the matter of the mouth should resonate in us all. What humility, we have noticed in David! Though he was a man on the run, and unjustly pursued by an enemy, he was nonetheless sensitive that he not be like his enemy, therefore he prayed, 3Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; Keep the door of my lips” (141:3).

David found it necessary to ask the LORD to help him watch his mouth, and be the doorkeeper of his lips. Should we not pray the same?

1 Peter 3:10 – “10For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Israel: A Nation Haunted by Failures in Leadership (1 Samuel 14)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 14

Our last scripture reading in 1 Samuel concluded with the king usurping Samuel’s role as priest and judge in Israel. I summarized that study with a brief, but pertinent observation: “Character flaws in leaders breed insecurity in the lives of their followers.”

The weaknesses manifested in Saul’s character took a significant toll on the people’s trust in him as their king. Saul’s standing army of three thousand fighting men (13:2), had been reduced to six hundred men who trembled at the thought of following him into battle (13:5-6). The nation was terrorized by Philistine raiders who rode unchallenged through the countryside, leaving the people impoverished (13:17-18). History records that the Philistines controlled large parts of Israel, and the people were not allowed to possess weapons of war. Literally, there were no blacksmiths in Israel that could fashion swords, spears, or even sharpen farm implements (13:20).

1 Samuel 14

Once again, it was Jonathan, Saul’s son who took the initiative, and he “said unto the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over to the Philistines’ garrison, that is on the other side. But he told not his father” (14:1). It is revealing that Jonathan said nothing to his father, for surely the king would have crushed his son’s courage with his own fears and apprehensions. Saul, with his army decimated and scattered, pined away his time in Gibeah, “under a pomegranate tree…and the people that were with him were about six hundred men” (14:2).

With no one watching, Jonathan and his armorbearer, made their way through the rock ledges, and neared the Philistine garrison. Jonathan encouraged his servant, “it may be that the Lord will work for us: for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few” (14:6). Unlike the men who followed his father, Jonathan’s servant encouraged him saying, “Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart” (14:7).

Agreeing on a sign, and believing the LORD would bless them, Jonathan revealed himself to the Philistines who said, “Come up unto us” (14:10). With those words, Jonathan and his servant assailed the garrison, slaying twenty men in their pursuit (14:13-14). The noise of the clash, accompanied by the LORD sending a timely earthquake, aroused the Philistines who in the darkness, took up swords against one another in a terrified frenzy (14:15).

What followed in King Saul’s camp was incomprehensible. Israel’s watchmen, alerted their “do nothing” king that the Philistines had turned on each other, and their army was scattered. Rather than commanding his soldiers to go to arms, Saul ordered a roll call to find who was missing, and it was discovered that “Jonathan and his armorbearer were not there” (14:17). The roll call being ended, Saul commended his men to battle, and when they came upon the Philistines they found “every man’s sword was against his fellow, and there was a very great discomfiture [confusion]” (14:20). Incredibly, we learn some Hebrews had deserted Israel, and were in the midst of the Philistines; they turned and began to fight for Israel (14:21). Hearing the Philistine army was in disarray, men of Israel who had fled to the mountains, emerged to fight (14:22). So it was that “the Lord saved Israel that day” (14:23).

Tragically, the great victory over the Philistines was nearly eclipsed by a foolish, rash oath spoken by Saul who had said, “Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies”(14:24). With no nourishment during the battle, the people had become faint, though they passed through woods where there was honey; and yet, “no man put his hand to his mouth: for the people feared the oath” of the king (14:25-26).

“Jonathan heard not when his father charged the people with the oath: wherefore he put forth the end of the rod [staff; sceptre] that was in his hand, and dipped it in an honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened” (14:27). Remembering Jonathan was much-loved by the people, we can imagine their concern when they informed him how his father had “charged the people with an oath, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food this day” (14:28).

Jonathan, minced no words in expressing his disdain for his father’s oath, and wondered aloud if there might have been an even greater victory, had the people been sustained, and energized by eating the spoils of their enemies (14:29-30). Indeed, the men of Israel were so famished at the close of the day, they slew the livestock of their enemies, and “the people did eat them with the blood” (14:31-32). When Saul learned how the people had eaten meat with the blood, he rebuked them saying, “sin not against the Lord in eating with the blood” (14:34). In a pretense of dedication to the LORD, “Saul built an altar unto the LORD,” though it is revealed that it was “the first altar that he built unto the Lord” (14:35).

When Saul discovered that someone had violated his oath (14:24), and had eaten food during the battle, he added to his impetuousness with another vow saying, 39For, as the Lord liveth, which saveth Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die” (14:39a). It is telling to see where the men of Israel stood in the matter, for “there was not a man among all the people that answered him” (14:39b). Many no doubt knew that Jonathan had eaten honey in the battle, but none were willing to expose him to their foolish king.

Undeterred by the silence of the people, Saul cast lots to determine the man who had disobeyed his oath, and it fell upon Jonathan (14:40-42). Jonathan confessed, “I did but taste a little honey with the end of the rod that was in mine hand” (14:43). Unwilling to realize his own carelessness, Saul declared to his son, “thou shalt surely die” (14:44).

The people, however, were no longer silent, and would not observe another injustice. They withstood the king saying, “Shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel? God forbid: as the Lordliveth, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground; for he hath wrought with God this day. So the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not” (14:45).

The immediate crisis of leadership being ended, Saul’s army increased, and Israel experienced victories over the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites and Amalekites (14:46-48). God blessed Saul’s home with sons, and daughters (14:49-50); however, his reign was forever shadowed by his failings, and perpetual wars with the Philistines (14:51-52).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD is Just (Deuteronomy 19-20)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 19-20

Moses’ challenge to Israel returned to the subject of cities designated as cities of refuge (19:1-13). After defining the boundaries of the tribes, Israel was to designate three cities of refuge on each side of the Jordan, “that every slayer may flee thither” (19:3).

There would be a total of six cities of refuge in Israel. (19:2-13)

The law recognized a distinction between an accidental killing, described as one who “killeth his neighbor ignorantly, whom he hated not in time past” (19:4), and murder, an intentional killing provoked by hate, and committed by lying in wait (19:11).

An example of an accidental killing was given (19:5), and proved the necessity for the cities of refuge to be at a distance from one another in the land. The elders of the cities of refuge were to give opportunity to a slayer to prove a killing was an accident, and he was innocent of murder (19:6, 10). A city of refuge was not to give sanctuary to a murderer (19:11-13).

Remove Not the Ancient Landmarks (19:14)

Once the ownership of land was established, its borders were marked, either by natural boundaries, or by a column of rock and stone. Because a man’s land was the means by which he supported his family, it was a serious offense for a thief to move a landmark, and thereby encroach upon the land of another.

Two or Three Witnesses Were Required to Convict (19:15-19)

The LORD required Israel to take any allegations of wrongdoing seriously, and no man might be convicted of an offense without his sin being established by “two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses” (19:15). It was a serious matter when a man brought a “false witness” against another (19:16). The priests and the judges would weigh the testimony, and after diligently inquiring, should a man be guilty of bearing a false witness, he would suffer the punishment of the crime for which he had “testified falsely against his brother” (19:18-19).

The law was summed up in this: “life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (19:21).

Instructions for Going to War (Deuteronomy 20)

Israel’s invasion into Canaan would necessitate years of battles; however, they were not to be afraid of their enemies (20:1a). The men of Israel were to go to war, finding their courage from the LORD, and believing the God who “brought [them] up out of the land of Egypt” would be with them (20:1). When they prepared themselves for battle, the priest was to speak to the people, and remind them:

“Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; 4For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” (20:3-4).

Exemptions from Enlistment (20:5-9)

To go to battle required a man to be fully committed to the cause, and distractions in the heat of battle could be disastrous to the man, and his fellow soldiers. Four groups of men were exempted from military service in Israel: A man who had “built a new house, but not dedicated it,” was allowed to return to his house (20:5). A man who had “planted a vineyard,” but “not yet eaten of it,” would return home (20:6). Should a man be “bethrothed,” but not yet taken her to wife, he could return to his house (20:7). Recognizing the disastrous influence of fear in the midst of battle, a man who was “fearful and fainthearted,” would be allowed to “go and return unto his house, lest his brethren’s heart faint as well as his heart” (20:8).

Laying Siege to a City (20:10-20)

If the people of a city “were very far off,” and willing to pay tribute, Israel was to offer terms of peace (20:11). Should terms for peace be rejected, every man of the city was to be slain, “but the women, and the little ones, and the cattle,” and all other spoil would be taken by Israel (20:14).

Those nations that dwelled in Canaan, the land the LORD had promised Israel for an inheritance, were to be destroyed. “The Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites,” were to be destroyed, lest the heathen teach God’s people “to do after all their abominations” (20:18).

The land was the inheritance of God’s people, therefore the LORD required the army spare the fruit trees when laying siege to a city. The trees that were not fruit bearing, Israel was to “build bulwarks against the city that maketh war with thee, until it be subdued” (20:20).

I close, inviting you to again notice the LORD’s grace and favor when He gave His Law and Commandments. His judicial system for Israel, was just, and no one was to rush to judgment. Desiring truth, any witness that dared distort law and justice with a false testimony, would find himself facing the punishment of the crime for which they had falsely accused another.

Micah 6:8b…What doth the Lord require of thee, But to do justly, and to love mercy, And to walk humbly with thy God?”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Obedience, Justice, and a Leader of God’s Choosing (Deuteronomy 16-17)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 16-17

With the urgency of a leader who knows his days are waning, Moses continued his challenge to Israel, preparing that nation to go forward without him. Because worship would be central to that nation’s heritage, it was essential for the people to have one place where they would offer sacrifices to the LORD. Unlike the heathen, whose towns and villages had their own deities, and places of worship, Israel’s worship was to be in the place where the LORD had chosen “to place His name in” – the Tabernacle (16:6).

“Three times in a year,” the men of Israel were required to “appear before the LORD” (16:16). The first was the “Feast of the Passover,” which occurred in the first month of the Hebrew calendar, “the month of Abib” (later identified as “Nisan” in the post-captivity era, and occurring during our months of March-April, 16:1). We have considered the Passover in the past, and are reminded this feast day was observed by the sacrifice of a lamb, and commemorating the LORD sparing the Hebrews because they had applied the blood of the lamb to their door posts in Egypt (Exodus 12:22). The Paschal Lamb was a pre-figure of Christ, the Lamb of God sacrificed for our sins (1 Corinthians 5:7). Leaven was to be purged from the households, and not eaten (16:3-4; in the entirety of God’s Word, both the Old Testament, and the New Testament, the nature of leaven is used as a type for sin 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; Galatians 5:9).

The “Feast of Weeks” (also identified as Pentecost), was observed for seven weeks after the Passover (16:9;Leviticus 23:10; Exodus 34:32; Acts 2:1). It marked the time of harvest, and giving the LORD the first-fruits (Exodus 23:16; Numbers 28:26). It was memorialized with freewill offerings.

The third feast to be observed was the “Feast of Tabernacles” (16:13-15; Numbers 29:12). Also described as the “Feast of Ingathering,” it was observed by dwelling in booths (temporary shelters), and marked the end of the harvest season (Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 23:42).

Deuteronomy 16 concludes with the focus on the matter of civil order and justice in Israel (16:18-22).

Knowing the tribes would be geographically distant from one another in the new land, it was important for there to be one system of law, and justice that would govern the people (16:18). Prejudice in matters of judgment was condemned, and the bribery of a judge was considered an act of wickedness (16:18-19).

Deuteronomy 17 – Justice, and the Character of a King

Reminding Israel that the LORD would refuse a blemished sacrifice (17:1), the subject of judgment, and justice continued in Deuteronomy 17:2-7. We have noted in earlier devotionals the requirement of two or more witnesses for crimes that necessitated capital punishment (17:4-6). Those who served as witnesses to a capital offense (for instance, idolatry, 17:3-4), were required to bear the gravity of the sentence of death, laying their hands upon one that was condemned (17:7).

In “matters of controversy” (17:8), where there was some uncertainty, judgments would be taken before the priests who would serve as judges (17:8-10). The Law of the LORD, not the law of a king, would serve as Israel’s authority (17:14).

What manner of man would the LORD have to rule Israel? (17:15-20)

Moses, knowing Israel would one day aspire to be like other nations, and have a king rule over them (17:14), established the manner of man whom God would choose (17:15-20). He was to be a man of God’s choosing, and a Hebrew (not a “stranger,” or non-Hebrew, 17:15). He was to be a man of humility, and not set his heart upon many horses, wives, or riches (17:16-17). He was to have a copy of the Law of the LORD, written by his own hand, and kept beside his throne. He was to study “to keep all the words” of the law and statutes (17:18-19).

The Law reminded the king that he was not above the law, nor was he above the people (lest “his heart be lifted up above his brethren,” 17:20). Consider how marvelous was this decree concerning the choosing of a king, and the character the LORD demanded of the man who would rule His people.

How far the nations of the world have strayed from choosing leaders who fear the LORD, and realize no man is above the law! Our 21st century world is following a path to judgment, and destruction. While 2 Chronicles 7:14was a conditional promise, made to Israel, it is my prayer for my country.

2 Chronicles 7:1414If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Do Right, and I will bless you!” (Deuteronomy 8-9)

Scripture Reading – Deuteronomy 8-9

Moses’ second challenge to Israel continues in Deuteronomy 8, and is a call to obedience: “1All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers” (8:1). In other words, “Do Right, and I will bless you!”

As though the promises of God’s grace, and faithfulness were not enough, Moses began a recitation of all the LORD had done for them as a nation in the wilderness (8:2-5). Even the adversities of “forty years in the wilderness,” had a righteous purpose, for the LORD had used them to “humble…to prove, [and] to know what was in [Israel’s] heart” (8:2). The LORD, knowing what was in the hearts of His people, employed the trials and testing to lay bare what manner of people they were.

What had the trials proved? The LORD’s loving care of His people! When they were hungry, “He fed them with manna” (8:3). For forty years He preserved them. Even their clothes, “waxed not old,” and their health did not fail them; for even their feet did not “swell, these forty years” (8:4).

The LORD had chastened Israel, like “a man chasteneth his son” (8:5), but He was also bringing them into a fertile land, with water and springs (8:7). The Promised Land was all He had promised, for it gave forth an abundance of grains, and fruit (8:8). There was also a wealth of iron ore, and copper in the land (referred to as “brass,” 8:9).

Moses warned, prosperity in the land would tempt their hearts to be lifted up in pride, and they would forget the LORD, and His covenant with them as a people (8:10-19). Moses admonished, should they boast, “My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth” (8:17), they would go the way of other nations, and “surely perish” (8:19-20).

Deuteronomy 9 – God’s Grace Made All the Difference

Lest the hearts of the people be lifted up with pride, Moses reminded the people, the nations that occupied the land were “greater and mightier…A people great and tall…[for it was said], Who can stand before the children of Anak!” (9:1-2).

They had no cause for pride, or self-reliance, for the LORD had determined to give them the land, not because they were righteous, for they were “a stiffnecked [hard, stubborn] people” (9:6). They had rebelled when Moses had gone up into the mount to receive the Ten Commandments (9:8-14; Exodus 31:18-32:6). When the LORD threatened to destroy the nation, Moses had interceded for the people (9:15-19). Even Aaron, the brother of Moses, who would become the first high priest, was mercifully spared, though “the Lord was very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him: and [Moses] prayed for Aaron” (9:20).

After citing other examples of Israel’s sins, and rebellion (9:22-24), Moses returned to the uprising at Sinai, and recalled how he had appealed to the LORD to spare Israel, for the sake of the LORD’S testimony before the Egyptians, and other nations (9:25-29).

What lesson might we take from Moses’ memorializing Israel’s sins, and unworthiness?

I suggest it is a good thing to remember that none of us are worthy, nor merit God’s favor (Titus 3:5). We are all lost, and without hope of forgiveness, and salvation, apart from Jesus Christ. Israel was saved as a nation; in the same way any sinner comes to be saved and forgiven of his sin–GRACE.

Ephesians 2:8–98For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Foolish Prophet, and His Chattering Donkey (Numbers 21-22) (part 2 of 2)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 21-22

This devotional commentary continues our summary review of Numbers 21, and will also consider Numbers 22. The LORD had spared Israel from greater judgment, by directing Moses to make, and lift up a brass serpent on a pole, that served as the object God provided for the people to look to look for their healing (21:1-9). 

Numbers 21:10-16 – A Song of Rejoicing

The nation continued on their journey to the Promised Land, skirting the border of Edom (Deuteronomy 2:4, 5), and coming to the “border of Moab” (21:13). There the people rejoiced for the water the LORD provided (21:14-18).

Numbers 21:10-31 – Victory over Sihon, King of the Amorites

Desiring to pass through the territory of the Amorites, “Israel sent messengers unto Sihon, king of the Amorites” (21:21), and requested safe passage through their land. The leaders of Israel vowed to not harm their crops, vineyards, or drink water from their wells (21:22). King Sihon, however, refused Israel’s request, and gathered his people and attacked the congregation (21:22). Israel rose up against the Amorites, and God gave them victory (21:24-25). Memorializing their victory over Sihon, king of the Amorites, Israel celebrated with a song (21:27-31).

Numbers 21:32-35 – The Defeat of Og, the King of Bashan

Building upon Israel’s defeat of the Amorites, the nation faced Og, king of Bashan. He attacked Israel, but the LORD assured Moses and Israel that He would give them victory. King Og was then defeated so soundly that “there was none left him alive: and they [Israel] possessed his land” (21:35).

Numbers 22 – Balak, King of the Moabites

The next several chapters, Numbers 22-24, introduces us to Balaam, whom we might describe as an unfaithful seer (a seer being a prophet, or fortune-teller), and a king of Moab named Balak.

Balak had heard how Israel defeated Og, king of Bashan, and Sihon, king of the Amorites, and his heart failed at the thought of facing this formidable foe that was marching through his land (22:1-4). Lacking confidence that his soldiers could defeat Israel, Balak turned to Balaam, and sent ambassadors to summon the prophet to come, and curse Israel (22:5-6). The king was confident “that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed” (22:6).

Coming with the promise his services would be well rewarded, the Moabite delegation insisted that Balaam come and curse Israel (22:7). The foolish prophet, rather than reject the Moabites invitation outright, and send them away, invited them, “Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as the Lord shall speak unto me” (22:8a).

The LORD came to Balaam, and warned, “Thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed” (22:12). The next morning, Balaam sent the Moabites away, saying, “the Lord refuseth to give me leave to go with you” (22:13).

Receiving Balaam’s refusal, and desperate for help, Balak sent a second delegation more powerful and influential than the first (22:15). Those men came to Balaam promising to enrich, and “promote [him] unto very great honour,” if he would come and “curse…this people” (22:17).

Balaam knew he could not curse a people whom God blessed, nevertheless, he invited the Moabites to spend the night, and he would bring the matter before the LORD (22:19). That night, the LORD came to Balaam, and gave him liberty to go with the delegation (22:20-21).

Balaam rose the next day, saddled his donkey, and began his journey with the Moabites. As Balaam set out on his journey to Moab, “God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the Lord stood in the way for an adversary against him” (22:22).

The next verses (22:22-41), relate a humorous interaction between Balaam, his donkey, and the angel of the LORD, that has captivated mankind’s imagination for thousands of years. Balaam, spiritually blinded by the thought of the honors, rewards, and riches that were promised him, did not see what his donkey saw: the angel of the LORD had become Balaam’s adversary (22:22), and was “standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand” (22:23).

Fearing the angel, the donkey rushed off the road, running Balaam into a wall, and crushing his foot (22:25). Hobbled, and humiliated, Balaam struck his donkey. Still blind to the presence of the angel, Balaam attempted to continue his journey, but his donkey “fell down under [him]: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff” (22:27). The LORD then gave the donkey voice, and the beast asked him, “What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?” (22:28).

Balaam, filled with rage, answered his donkey’s rebuke, saying, “thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee” (22:29). The dialog between the foolish prophet and his donkey continued (22:30), until “the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and [Balaam] bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face” (22:31). The angel revealed how Balaam’s donkey had saved his life (22:32-33), for surely he would have been slain for going with the Moabites.

Balaam confessed his sin, and spiritual blindness, and promised to turn back (22:34). The angel, however, directed Balaam to continue his journey to see Balak, the Moabite king, and there he would be directed by the LORD what things he should say (22:25-38).

To be continued….

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Fearful and the Faithless (Numbers 14-15)

The Fearful and the Faithless (Numbers 14-15)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 14-15

The children of Israel were discouraged, and afraid after hearing the “evil report” of the ten spies. They had reported the land of Canaan was all God promised it would be, but was also “a land that eateth up the inhabitants…33And there we saw the giants…and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (13:32-33).

What happens when believers turn back from the challenge of stepping out in faith, and trusting God?

The tragic answer to that question is found in Numbers 14. The congregation of Israel, after rejecting Caleb’s desperate call for faith (13:30), returned to their tents and “lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night” (14:1).

Fear turned to rebellion, and “the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!” (14:2). Their murmuring against the LORD and His leader, soon turned to an accusation that God had meant them evil, and brought Israel out of Egypt only to allow them to “fall by the sword,” and that their wives and children “should be a prey” (14:3).

Fear and murmuring suddenly turned to a plan of insurrection, and the people determined to choose a leader, and “return into Egypt” (14:4). Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in an act of humiliation (14:5), and Joshua and Caleb, the spies who had faith to trust God, “rent their clothes” (14:6). Joshua and Caleb pleaded saying, “The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. 8If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. 9Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for …the Lord is with us: fear them not” (14:7-9).

The people had intended to stone Joshua and Caleb, but the “glory of the LORD appeared in the Tabernacle” (14:10). He would have afflicted the people in His wrath, and disinherit them as His people (14:11-12). Moses reasoned, and pleaded with the LORD to not give Israel’s enemies cause to say He had had slain them because He was not able to bring them into the Promised Land (14:13-16).

Moses appealed to the LORD, and reviewing His attributes, said, “18The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” (14:18). On the basis of His divine character, Moses prayed to the LORD, “19Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now” (14:19).

The LORD heard, and heeded Moses’ prayer, but God is also just, and would not allow Israel’s rebellion and faithlessness to go unpunished (14:20-23). The faithless spies were slain for the “evil report” they had brought against the LORD (14:22-23, 36-37). God determined the whole congregation would be turned away from Canaan, and the people would “be wasted in the wilderness” (14:23, 25, 32-34). All of Israel, twenty years and older (with the exception of Caleb and Joshua), would die in the wilderness because they had murmured against the LORD (14:24-32, 38).

Moses then announced God’s judgment, “and the people mourned greatly” (14:39). With remorse, the people rose early the next day and were determined to go up, and to cross over into the Promised Land (14:40). Moses warned they would “not prosper…for the LORD is not among you” (14:41-42).

Without the LORD presence, power, and protection, Israel’s presumption was doomed, and many of Israel were slain (14:44-45).

Numbers 15 – The Difference in God’s Judgment for Sins Committed Out of Ignorance, and Deliberate Sins

Numbers 15 marks the beginning of Israel’s tragic forty years of wandering in the wilderness (Numbers 15-21). The sacrifices were instituted as not only Israel’s obligation, but also that of the “strangers” that journeyed with Israel.  The “strangers,” people not of the lineage of Abraham, were to do as Israel, for there was “one law and one manner” (15:15-16).

There were sacrifices for sins “committed by [out of] ignorance” (15:24-29), meaning unknowingly. There was the question of willful, or presumptuous sins. The punishment for those sins was “that soul shall be cut off from among his people” (15:30-31).

Soon after that law was instituted, a man willfully broke the law, and gathered sticks on the Sabbath (15:32-33) for his own purposes and as an act of public rebellion. Given the seriousness of his actions, the man was taken “in ward” (custody), and Moses and Aaron sought the mind of the LORD. The LORD directed that all the congregation would put the sinner out of the camp, and stone him (15:34-36).

To serve as a lasting reminder, the LORD decreed the children of Israel were to wear about the fringes of their garments a blue ribbon, bearing tassels. The tassels were to serve as a visual reminder to “remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and…40That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God. 41I am the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God” (15:39-41).

Believer, choose to be faithful, trusting, and obedient to the LORD!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Sins that Are an Abomination: Incest, Adultery, Homosexuality, and Bestiality (Leviticus 18-19)

Sins that Are an Abomination: Incest, Adultery, Homosexuality, and Bestiality (Leviticus 18-19)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 18-19

Our study in Leviticus moves on from the subject of clean and unclean meats (Leviticus 17), to the morality and sanctity of the institution of marriage (Leviticus 18).

Leviticus 18 – A Call to Be Holy

The LORD commanded Moses, “speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am the Lord your God. 3After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances” (18:2-3).

Reminding the nation, “I am the LORD your God” (18:2, 4), He commanded Israel to not follow after the ways of the heathen, for He had chosen, and called them out of Egypt. If the people would keep His commandments, and walk in His precepts (18:4-5), He promised He would bless them.

Leviticus 18:6-18 leaves no doubt that the ways of the heathen, were not to be the ways of Israel. While all manner of immorality, and ungodliness was practiced by the Egyptians, and the Canaanites, the LORD would accept nothing less than the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. (Realizing the sad state of morality in both the world and the church, I dare not take lightly the explicit nature of this passage.)

The Abominable Sin of Incest (18:6-18)

The phrase, “uncover their nakedness” (18:6), is a reference to the sexual act reserved for marriage, and is found throughout this passage. The LORD had no tolerance for incest, and its practice was a capital offense, and its subjects would be stoned.

The following sexual relationships were forbidden, and were deemed incestuous. Sex with one’s parent (18:7), stepmother (18:8), sister or half-sister (18:9), grand-daughter (18:10), daughter of a stepmother (18:11), an aunt, both fraternal and maternal (18:12-14), daughter-in-law (18:15), sister-in-law (18:16), sex with a mother and her daughter (18:17), or sisters, unless the first had died (18:18) were forbidden.

Child sacrifice practiced among the heathen, was an abomination to the God of Israel (18:21). The LORD declared homosexuality an abomination (18:22), and God’s judgment fell on Sodom and Gomorrah because of that sin (Genesis 19). Bestiality, the sin of a man or woman lying with a beast, was described as “confusion” (18:23), and therefore a perversion of God’s natural law and order.

The Wickedness of Man Demands God’s Judgment (18:24-30)

The LORD warned Israel, He would have no tolerance should His people adopt the ways of the heathen. The sin of man not only defiles himself, but also infects the land (18:24). God warned, should His people practice the immoral ways of the wicked, the land would vomit out its inhabitants (18:25-28). Any who refused to “do [His] judgments, and keep [His] ordinances” (18:4), the LORD warned those souls would be excommunicated, “cut off from among their people” (18:29).

Leviticus 19 – A Brief Review of the Commandments and the Law

Leviticus 19 repeats the LORD’s commandments, and explains the practical application of His Law and Precepts for daily life. Charity to the poor (19:9-10), paying an honest, fair wage (19:13), showing sympathy to those less fortunate (19:14), and loving one’s neighbor in word and deed are stressed (19:15-22) as the will of God.

A Concluding Thought: A Crisis of Morality

There was a time when the lives of God’s people were defined by His Word, Law, and Commandments. The lives of believers, and their homes, set the moral high ground for these United States. Sadly, too many homes have an appetite for the world, and look to society, social media, politicians, judges, and a liberal media for their moral judgments and practices.

Warning: Our homes, churches and schools will not be blessed until our consciences are disciplined by God’s Word, Laws and Commandments (18:30). 

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Strange Fire” (Leviticus 10-11)

“Strange Fire” (Leviticus 10-11)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 10-11

After consecrating Aaron as high priest, and his sons to serve as priests, the LORD affirmed the priests of Israel, with “a fire…and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces” (9:24).

Leviticus 10 – Tragedy: The Sin and Deaths of Two Sons of Aaron

Incredibly, the exhilarating moment we considered in Leviticus 9:24, was followed soon after with a great tragedy: “1And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. 2And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord” (10:1-2).

The exact nature of Nadab and Abihu’s sin was not revealed; however, we understand it was an act of willful disobedience that the LORD would not tolerate. They had “offered strange fire…which [the LORD] commanded them not” (10:1c), and He consumed them with a fire of judgment (10:2).

I am reminded of the principle, “unto whom much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48). The sons of Aaron had violated their privilege to serve on behalf of the people, and draw near to the LORD in His sanctuary, thus God rejected them.

Imagine the sorrow that took hold of Aaron’s heart when he learned two of his sons had disobeyed the LORD, and been slain by the fire of His judgment.

Moses warned Aaron, “This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace” (10:3). Aaron, because he represented the people before God, was forbidden to mourn outwardly, lest his sorrow appear to contradict the LORD’s judgment (10:3c).

Moses commanded “Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron” (10:4), and cousins of Aaron’s sons, to remove their bodies from the Tabernacle, and carry them outside the camp. Aaron, and his surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, were cautioned a second time that they were not to show outward signs of mourning, “lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people: but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the Lord hath kindled” (10:6b).

Instead of mourning, Aaron, Eleazar, and Ithamar, were reminded they had been anointed to serve the LORD, and were not to leave their duties in the Tabernacle (10:7).

Perhaps an indication of why Nadab and Abihu had sinned against the LORD (10:1), Leviticus 10:8-11 states a prohibition that the LORD’s priests were not to imbibe wine or strong drink in their ministry. Knowing alcohol can distort a man’s judgment, and compromise him morally, the priests were to “put [a] difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean” (10:10).

Leviticus 10:12-15, rehearsed the laws that regulated the conduct and duties of priests, and the sacrifices they were to offer to the LORD for the nation.

Leviticus 10:16-20 – A Sin of Omission

We find Moses seeking the “goat of the sin offering” that the LORD had commanded be set aside for the priests (10:16). Moses discovered that Aaron’s surviving sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, had failed to set aside, and eat a portion of the offering the LORD had commanded be eaten by the priests.

Moses confronted Eleazar and Ithamar, demanding, “17Wherefore have ye not eaten the sin offering in the holy place, seeing it is most holy, and God hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord?” (10:17) They had failed the LORD (10:18), and not treated as holy that which God required. Instead, they had taken the flesh of the sin offering, and burned it outside the camp.

Aaron, assuming responsibility for his sons’ failures (10:19), bemoaned his sorrow for the things that had befallen him and his family (10:19). Moses, when he heard the words of his brother, sympathized with him, and “was content” (10:20).

A Lesson Concerning “Strange Fire”

Some could argue, Nadab and Abihu might have had good intentions for offering incense in the LORD’S sanctuary! However, we must remember, their intent or motivation was not the issue. They had chosen to come to the LORD apart from His command, and offered a “strange fire” that He refused.

I fear there is a lot that is done in churches, and under the guise of worship, that is a “strange fire” to the LORD. Strange doctrine, strange preachers, and strange music abound in churches. When the goal of worship leaders is to be exciting and entertaining, as opposed to hallowed and holy, they become the purveyors of “strange fire.”

You see, when we come to the LORD, we must come not on our merit, but on His terms. We are to be imitators of Christ, not imitators of the world (1 Peter 1:14; Romans 12:2).

1 Peter 1:15–1615But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith