Category Archives: Prophecy

Accepting When God Says “No,” Will Open the Way for a Greater Blessing (2 Samuel 7)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 7

Today’s Scripture reading parallels events that are also recorded by the historian in 1 Chronicles 17. The events unfolding in 2 Samuel 7 follow sometime after the arrival of the Ark of God in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6).

David’s Passion to Build a Temple (7:1-3)

The early years of David’s reign were indeed, “golden years.” In the opening verses of today’s study, we find the king enjoying a time of rest, and reflection (7:1). The great warrior had earned a well-deserved reprieve, though it would be short-lived. 2 Samuel 8 records a string of battles David would soon face, but at this time “the LORD had given him rest round about from all his enemies” (7:1).

Resting, and contemplating the rich appointments of his cedar palace, the king confided to the prophet Nathan of his discomfort. He was troubled that while he enjoyed the luxury of his palace, the “Ark of God dwelleth within curtains” (for that was the tent David had prepared for the Ark (7:2). Neither approving or affirming David’s desire to build a temple, Nathan encouraged the king, “Go, do all that is in thine heart; for the Lord is with thee” (7:3).

God Prohibited David Building a Temple (7:4-17)

The LORD came to Nathan, and commanded His prophet to reason with David, and forbad him building a Temple, noting He had not commanded nor expressed a desire for “an house for me to dwell in” (7:4-5). The LORD had fashioned a tabernacle that had sheltered the Ark during the wilderness years, and throughout the era of the Judges (7:6-7).

Nathan was commanded to go to the king, and remind him he was a servant of the LORD. He was to remember what the Lord had said concerning his beginning: “I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel” (7:8). Though he was king and his name and fame were growing, he was reminded his success had come from the LORD (7:9-10).

In contrast to David’s desire to build a house for the Ark, God promised the king, “the Lord telleth thee that he will make thee an house” (7:11). The verses that follow prove this was not a house made with hands, and formed out of cedar and stone, but was a royal lineage, a dynasty of kings (7:12). David was promised that his son [Solomon] would build a house, a temple to the LORD (7:13). God promised he would love him like a father loves a son (7:14), and would bestow His mercy upon him.

A far-reaching messianic prophecy is found in this passage, and it was one that would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. God promised the king, “I will stablish the throne of his [David’s] kingdom for ever” (7:13). The promise is repeated in 2 Samuel 7:16 where we read, “thy throne shall be established for ever” (7:16).

A faithful prophet, Nathan fulfilled God’s command and “according to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David” (7:17).

David’s Response to the Prophecy (7:18-29)

Rather than dwell upon the denial of his desire to build a house for the LORD, David embraced the prophecy that his throne and kingdom would be forever (though not fully understanding the breadth of its fulfillment). Humbled by the LORD’s promises, I believe David rose from his throne, and made his way to the Tabernacle where he “sat before the Lord, and he said, Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?” (7:18).

He had been reminded that he was a lowly shepherd when the LORD chose him to be king (7:8), and it was God that had given him fame and power over his enemies (7:19). David asked a profoundly humble question: “20And what can David say more unto thee? for thou, Lord God, knowest thy servant” (7:20).

Think about that statement: LORD, you know me, and that I am a lowly servant in the presence of a God Who is great, and there is no god like Thee (7:22). God is indeed great in mercy, grace, power, and deeds. Israel’s history was a testimony of the greatness of God, for He had chosen them, and redeemed them out of the slavery of Egypt (7:23-24).

David believed God (7:25-29). Instead of the king building a temple for the LORD, God promised to build through David’s seed a perpetual dynasty. Trusting God’s grace, David’s prayer concluded rejoicing in God’s goodness (7:28), and requesting His divine blessings on himself, and his seed (7:29).

Closing thought – God’s way is always best. David had a good heart, and his desire to build a temple for the Ark was a righteous one; however, he accepted that responsibility and privilege would belong to his son and heir.

Nevertheless, by accepting the LORD’S prohibition, David inherited a far greater promise: His name, throne, and kingdom would be established by the LORD forever. That promise would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ: “16And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever” (7:16).

Lesson – Trust God, after all, His Way is Perfect! (2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 18:30)

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Sing Unto the LORD! (Psalm 89; Psalm 96)

Scripture reading – Psalm 89; Psalm 96

Music has always been a central part of worshipping the LORD.  Had you been privileged to visit the Temple, you would have heard singers and musicians leading the congregation of Israel in worship. Their lives were dedicated to singing, playing, and composing songs of praise. Reading the psalms, you come to realize the deep, personal relationship the writers had with their subject…the LORD! Psalm 89 and Psalm 96 call upon the congregation to sing, sing unto the LORD!

Psalm 89 – The Person and Attributes of God

Psalm 89 was composed by “Ethan the Ezrahite,” and some scholars suggest he was also known as Jeduthun, a musician of David’s era. We can be certain he was a Levite, and his composition would have been sung in worship in the Temple. Time and space do not permit a thorough study of Psalm 89; however, I invite you to consider a few of God’s attributes detailed in the psalm.

A Call to Worship the LORD (Psalm 89:1-4)

God is merciful and faithful (89:1-2), and His promises never fail (89:3).

Divine Attributes (Psalm 89:5-18)

God is incomparable (Psalm 89:6-8), and He is to be feared and revered (89:7). He is strong and faithful (89:8). He is the Sovereign in nature, and the seas obey His will (89:9; Matthew 8:24-27). He is Sovereign of the nations, and He rules the “sea” of nations (89:10).

God is the Creator, and the mountains rejoice at His name (89:11-12). He is just, merciful, and to be trusted (89:14). He is righteous (89:16), and our protector (89:18). The LORD is “the Holy One of Israel, [and He] is our King (89:18).

God is Faithful, and No Promise of His Ever Fails. (89:19-52)

The LORD keeps covenant with His people, and He never forgets His promises (89:19-25). He is “my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation” (89:26). He is merciful (89:28), and just; and those who break His Covenant will not go unpunished (89:26-32). He is holy, and cannot lie (89:35). He is a righteous Judge, and sin will not go unpunished (89:38-45). He is just, and in Him is life, purpose, mercy, and forgiveness (89:46-51). He is worthy of praise, for He is “LORD for evermore” – eternal, perpetual, everlasting God (89:52).

Psalms 96 – “O SING unto the LORD a New Song!”

Psalm 96 is an evangelistic psalm of praise, a universal invitation to “all the earth” to worship and sing praises unto the LORD (96:1). Three times the psalmist invites worshippers to sing:  “1O sing unto the Lord a new song: Sing unto the Lord, all the earth. 2Sing unto the Lord, bless his name; Shew forth his salvation from day to day” (96:1-2).

What was this “new song?”  (96:1-2)

I believe it was a song of salvation, a song of redemption; and an invitation to all who worship the LORD to “shew forth His salvation” (96:2). The psalmist invites God’s people to, “Declare His glory among the heathen [all non-Hebrew people]” (96:3).

Not only are we to “sing unto the LORD,” we are also exhorted to “Give unto the LORD” (96:7-8). The psalm opened with a trifecta invitation to “Sing,” and now there is a triplicate invitation to Give: Give unto the Lord, O ye kindreds of the people, Give unto the Lord glory and strength. 8Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: Bring an offering, and come into his courts” (96:7–8).

The evangelistic thrust of Psalm 96 continued with an invitation to “worship the LORD” (96:9). Sincere worship acknowledges the holiness of God, and those who worship Him, fear and revere Him (96:9). We who worship the LORD are to declare to “the heathen that the Lord reigneth…and He shall judge the people righteously” (96:10).

Psalm 96 concludes with a doxology, reminding us the sin Adam thrust upon the world, the curse of sin, and its effect upon nature has been “that the whole creation groaneth [sorrows] and travaileth [agonizes] in pain [i.e. pangs of death]” (Romans 8:22).

However, the psalmist foresaw a day when there would be rejoicing in nature: “the heavens…the earth…the sea…the field… [and] the trees of the wood [will] rejoice (96:11-12). What was the cause for rejoicing in nature? When the LORD comes to “judge the earth: He shall judge the world with righteousness, And the people with his truth” (96:13).

Are you ready for His coming?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Creator, and King of Glory, Is He Your Lord? (Psalm 24)

Scripture reading – Psalm 24

Psalm 24 was written by David. Consisting of only ten verses, it has inspired many great hymns and anthems. [The brackets within the verses contain amplifications by this author.]

God is the Sovereign of His Creation (24:1-2)

Stated emphatically, and with no ambiguity in the opening verses of Psalm 24, is the truth that God is Creator, possessor, sovereign, and sustainer of His creation.

Psalm 24:1-2 – “The earth is the LORD’S [Jehovah; Eternal God], and the fulness [all it contains] thereof; the world [inhabitants], and they that dwell [inhabit; abide] therein. 2  For he [the LORD] hath founded [laid the foundation] it upon the seas, and established [prepared; erected] it upon the floods [waters; streams].”

The LORD is Eternal God, and the Creator of all things, and “without Him was not anything, made that was made” (John 1:3). As Creator, He is owner of the earth’s resources, and all that inhabits it. He has set the boundaries of the sea and the dry land (24:2). He is the Sustainer. Because the LORD is Sovereign, David asked:

What Manner of Man Might Draw Nigh unto the God of Heaven? (24:3)

Psalm 24:3 – “Who shall ascend [come up; scale] into the hill [mountain] of the LORD? or who shall stand [arise; rise] in his holy [hallowed; sacred] place?”

Can anyone merit the favor of God, or be worthy to enter into His presence? Might a rich man earn good standing with God by donating to charity, and giving his riches to help the poor? Does fasting, praying, worshipping, or showing kindness to another give one entrance into the presence of the LORD?

David listed four characteristics of the man who may enter the presence of the LORD.  (24:4)

Psalm 24:4 – “He that hath clean [innocent; guiltless; blameless] hands, and a pure [clear; innocent] heart [mind]; who hath not lifted up [removed] his soul [life; person] unto vanity [lying; deceit], nor sworn [taken an oath] deceitfully [fraud; i.e. lacking integrity].”

A man must have “clean hands” to enter into the LORD’S presence (24:4a). How might a man acquire “clean hands,” before a holy God? A comparable question was asked and answered in Psalm 119:9, where we read: “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word.” 1 John 1:9reminds us the way to be cleansed is to “confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” For a man to have “clean hands,” he must heed God’s Word, and confess his sins.

No man enters into the LORD’S holy place unless he has a “pure heart(pure in heart, thoughts, and motives, 24:4b). The man who enters the “holy place” cannot be like the Pharisees, who thought by portraying outward piety, their prayers would be heard, and answered (Matthew 23:25-28). The LORD, knowing the hearts of men, condemned the Pharisees saying, “Ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:28).

The man who enters God’s presence must also guard his soul from the “vanity” of the world (24:4c). What is the “vanity” of the world? It is the pleasures, sins, and philosophy of the world that promises much, but never satisfies the heart. The rich man boasted to himself that bigger barns and more goods would satisfy his soul (Luke 12:16-18). Beguiled by riches, he had failed to plan for God’s judgment, and “God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12:20).

A man who enters the presence of the LORD must also have integrity, and he will not swear deceitfully (24:4d). The saints of God are honest and truthful. They are conscious of the Lord’s presence, and they will not cheat, lie, or swear falsely. They are not bound by a contract, but by a consciousness of God’s holiness.

David promised a twofold reward to them who seek the LORD. (24:5-6)

Psalm 24:5 – “He shall receive [accept] the blessing [prosperity] from the LORD, and righteousness [rightness; justice] from the God [i.e. Almighty God] of his salvation.”

When a man seeks the LORD with “clean hands,” a “pure heart,” guards his heart from vanity, and walks with integrity, he is promised “the blessing from the LORD” (24:5a), and declared righteous and just in His sight. David declared on behalf of all Israel, “This is the generation [age; people] of them that seek [follow; worship] him[the LORD], that seek [seek out; require; desire] thy face [the LORD’S countenance and face]  O Jacob [Tribes of Israel]. Selah [pause]” (24:6).

Hail to the King of Glory! (24:7-10)

The coming Messiah, the “King of glory,” is the subject of Psalm 24:7-10. Five times the LORD is identified as the “King of glory.” Who is this “King of glory?” He is the LORD, the “LORD of hosts” (24:8, 10).

In ancient times, the city gates were where private and governmental business was transacted.  The elders, and the king’s ambassadors, sat in judgment at the gates. Beginning with the elders, and chief leaders of the city, David commanded the people to hail the coming of the “King of glory” (24:7).

Psalm 24:7 – “Lift up [hold up] your heads, O ye gates [gates of the city of Jerusalem]; and be ye lift up [men who sat in the gates], ye everlasting [perpetual; ancient] doors; and the King of glory shall come in.”

Who was this “King of glory?” He was “the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal God] strong [mighty; powerful]and mighty [heroic; warrior], the LORD mighty in battle [war; combat; warfare]” (24:8). A thousand years after Psalm 24 was composed, Jerusalem celebrated Jesus’ entrance into the city, and identified Him as the “the Son of David,” and therefore heir to the throne. Within that same week, those same voices cried against Jesus, “Let Him be crucified” (Matthew 27:22-23; 1 Corinthians 2:8).

Closing thoughts – Perhaps that is the reason David announced, not once, but twice for the “gates” (24:7, 9) to lift up their heads and hail the coming of the “King of glory” (24:9-10). The world rejected Jesus when He came the first time; however, all nations will be forced to hail His Second Coming.

Psalm 24:9–109Lift up your heads, O ye gates; Even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; And the King of glory shall come in. 10Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.

Hail to the King, the LORD of heaven’s armies, for He is the King of glory!

Revelation 1:77Behold, he [Christ] cometh with [in the] clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him [on the Cross]: and all kindreds [people and nations] of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

Are you ready for His coming?

With the heart of a shepherd,

HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Sin Will Rob You of Everything You Hold Dear (1 Samuel 31)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 31

1 Samuel 31 brings us to the inevitable, inglorious end of king Saul.  The battle went against Israel, and Saul received word that his sons were slain (31:1-2).  Having suffered a mortal wound from an arrow, the king commanded his armorbearer to slay him, but he refused. Knowing he would soon fall into the hands of his enemy, Saul took his own life, and fell upon his sword (31:3-4). When the men of Israel learned their king, and his sons, had been slain, they not only fled the battle, but also abandoned their homes and cities (31:7).

As has oft been observed, “to the victor goes the spoils,” the day after the battle, the Philistines returned to the battlefield and looted the dead (30:8). In the midst of the carnage, they found the bodies of Saul, and his three sons (30:8). Demeaning Israel and her slain king, they cut off the king’s head, and stripped his armor, and displayed it as a trophy, putting it “in the house of Ashtaroth [believed to be the temple to the goddess Venus]” (31:9-10). To further humiliate Israel, they took the bodies of the king, and his sons, and fastened them “to the wall of Bethshan” (31:10, 12).

When the men of Jabesh-Gilead learned of the desecration, and the display of the bodies of the king and his sons, they “went all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there. 13And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days” (31:12-13).

Why did Saul and his sons suffer such a disastrous, ignoble end?

1 Chronicles 10:13-14 answers the question, where we read: “So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it; 14 And enquired not [no desire to repent] of the LORD: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.” Sin and rebellion cost Saul everything…his army (31:1), his sons (31:2), his life (31:3-4) and his honor (31:9-10).

Sin is hard, cruel and merciless. Sin will destroy your marriage, strip you of your crowning achievements and leave you despairing of life.  Sin will rob you of everything you hold dear. If you are in the midst of sin, it is not too late to turn to the LORD who is “full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (Psalm 86:15).

2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

A Resignation, and a Parting Challenge (1 Samuel 12-13) – part 1 of 2 devotionals.

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 12-13

1 Samuel 12 – A Resignation, and a Parting Challenge

The LORD had comforted Samuel, and assured him the people’s demand for a king was not a refusal of him as their judge, but was in fact, a rejection of the LORD Himself as Israel’s King (8:6-7). 1 Samuel 11 had concluded with the people gathering before Samuel in Gilgal, where it was affirmed that Saul would be king, followed by sacrifices to the LORD (11:14-15).

1 Samuel 12 continues that same assembly at Gilgal, and records the formal changing of the guard in Israel. Samuel affirmed he had conformed to the will of the people, given them a king (12:1), and would resign his governance as the judge of the people.

We have thus far followed Samuel from his childhood (1 Samuel 1-3), and in his own words, he was “old and grayheaded” (12:2). Samuel expressed a strong testimony of what should be the desire of all believers; that our lives would be a testimony of faithfulness to the LORD, and spiritual integrity before the people (12:2-3). He called on the nation to give witness to his life, and ministry before them, and declared he had not misused his office, nor prejudiced in his judgments. Indeed, he challenged the people, tell me wherein I have failed you, and “I will restore it you” (12:3)

With one voice, the people affirmed Samuel’s words, and confessed, “Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man’s hand” (12:4). With the people looking on, Samuel called on the LORD to be a witness to the words of the people, and “they answered, He is witness” (12:5).

Samuel then magnified the LORD, and rehearsed His faithfulness from Egypt, through the wilderness, and in conquering the land (12:6-8). He reminded them that it was their sins, and disobedience that had given cause for the LORD to raise up adversaries whom He used to turn their hearts to Him (12:9). When they cried to the LORD, and confessed their sins, He sent judges to deliver them (12:10-11). Yet, for all that, the people had rejected the LORD, and demanded a king (12:12).

The old prophet declared, “behold the king whom ye have chosen, and whom ye have desired! and, behold, the Lord hath set a king over you” (12:13). Nevertheless, a king would not deliver them from their enemies, nor preserve them as a nation. Only if they feared, served, and obeyed the LORD, would they be assured of His blessings (12:14). He also gave a clear warning, that should they “rebel…then…the hand of the Lord [would] be against [them], as it was against [their] fathers” (12:15).

Samuel called on the LORD to reveal Himself, and He sent unseasonable rain and thunder (for the wheat harvest came during the dry season), and reminded the nation how they had rebelled and demanded a king (12:16-18). Fearing the LORD, and Samuel, the people confessed they had committed a great wickedness in demanding a king (12:19).

The prophet admonished the nation with these words: “fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart…[but] if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king”(12:24-25).

Conclusion of part 1…

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God?” (1 Samuel 6)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 6

As Israel despaired the loss of the “Ark of the LORD” (4:11), the Philistines came to fear that its presence had brought the LORD’s judgment not only upon their god Dagon (6:3-4), but also upon the cities where it had been located. Ashdod, the capital city of Philistia, was physically afflicted and the men of that city declared, “the ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us” (5:7). When the Ark was moved to Gath, they felt the “hand of the LORD against the city with a very great destruction” (5:9). When the Ark was moved to Ekron, the people of that city “cried out, saying, They have brought about the ark of the God of Israel to us, to slay us and our people” (5:10). The Ekronites demanded the Ark be returned to Israel, for the judgment of the LORD fell heavily upon the people, “and the cry of the city went up to heaven” (5:12).

Desperate, the Philistines Return the Ark (1 Samuel 6:1-12)

The Ark of the LORD remained in Philistia for seven months, and its presence became a symbol of God’s judgment, rather than a trophy of war (6:1). Desperate, the Philistines called upon their religious leaders, and urged the ark be returned to its place (6:2). The priests suggested the Ark be returned to Israel, with “a trespass offering,” that He might be appeased and his hand of judgment be lifted (6:3).

It was determined the trespass offering should reflect the symbols of the plagues the people had suffered. They fashioned “five golden emerods [possibly skin boils, others suggest hemorrhoids], and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines [there were five major Philistine cities]” (6:4). The priests reminded the leaders that Egypt and Pharaoh had suffered when they hardened their hearts against Israel’s God (6:6).

The Philistine priests proposed the leaders “make a new cart, and take two milch kine [milk cows], on which there hath come no yoke, and tie the kine [cows] to the cart, and bring their calves home from them: 8And take the ark of the Lord, and lay it upon the cart; and put the jewels of gold…in a coffer [wooden chest] by the side thereof; and send it away, that it may go” (6:7-8). This they did to prove whether the plagues they had suffered were indeed God’s judgment, or simply chance. With the Ark sitting on the cart, and beside it the chest of gold ornaments for a trespass offering, the Philistines watched as the cows did not return to their calves, but instead pulled the cart a distance of nine miles, turning neither to the left, nor to the right (6:9-12).

Rejoicing, Turned to Sorrow (1 Samuel 6:13-21)

Reaping wheat in their fields, the people of Beth-shemesh “lifted up their eyes, and saw the ark, and rejoiced” (6:13). The cows pulled the cart into a field owned by a man named Joshua, and they stopped by a great stone (6:14). Remembering that Beth-shemesh was a Levite city (Joshua 21:13-16), we are not astonished when the men of that city removed the Ark from the cart, and cutting up the cart for its wood, they “offered the kine [cows as] a burnt offering unto the Lord” (6:14).

Unfortunately, rejoicing turned to tragedy, when the people of Beth-shemesh violated the sanctity of the Ark. Rather than cover the Ark, the inquisitive people looked inside the chest, and “fifty thousand and threescore and ten men (50,070)” were slain (6:19). They had treated as common, that which represented the throne, and the holy presence of God (6:19). As they mourned the deaths of their loved ones, the people asked, “Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God? and to whom shall he go up from us?” (6:20). Messengers were sent “to the inhabitants of Kirjath-jearim, saying, The Philistines have brought again the ark of the Lord; come ye down, and fetch it up to you” (6:21)

Closing thoughts: The LORD guided the cows pulling the cart bearing the Ark from Ekron, to His people in Beth-shemesh, and the lords of the Philistines were satisfied that all they had suffered was from Israel’s God (6:16). Sadly, the indiscreet people of Beth-shemesh, a Levite town, violated the law (Numbers 4:20), and by looking inside the Ark, defiled its holy nature.

“Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?” (6:20)

The slain of Beth-shemesh serve as a reminder of God’s holiness, and judgment. Rightly, the Ark of the LORD was returned to Israel, and sovereignly, God had prepared a man to call the nation to repent, and turn to Him. His name was Samuel.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Ichabod, The Glory is Departed (1 Samuel 4-5)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 4-5

Samuel’s reputation was growing in Israel, and all Israel “knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord” (3:20). Judges 3 concluded with the LORD revealing Himself to Samuel in Shiloh (3:21). The LORD began using his young prophet, for “the word of Samuel came to all Israel” (4:1a).

1 Samuel 4 – Presumption, Precedes Disgrace

A series of tragic events unfolds in this chapter, and some writers suggest the LORD directed Samuel to send Israel into battle against the Philistines (4:1). I believe the opposite to be true; for there is no mention of Samuel giving counsel for Israel to go to war, nor of the elders of Israel seeking his counsel.

Israel appears to be the aggressor, and the Philistines “put themselves in array against Israel,” and four thousand men were slain on the first day of battle (4:2). The elders of Israel then gathered, and wondered why the LORD had set Himself against them (4:3). Rather than humble themselves, and seek the LORD as the generations before them, the leaders dismissed any thought that it was their sin, and apostasy that demanded the LORD’s displeasure. Instead, they sent men to “fetch the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh,” believing its presence in the camp would insure their victory over the Philistines (4:3). Despite their reputation in Israel, it was Hophni and Phinehas (2:12-17, 22-25), the sons of Eli, who accompanied the Ark of the LORD to the encampment. Its arrival was greeted with a shout, as though it was an ornament to insure their victory (4:5),

When the Philistines learned the Ark was present in Israel’s camp, they were afraid, for they had heard how the LORD had delivered His people out of Egypt (4:7-8). Nevertheless, they stirred themselves, and prepared for battle (4:9). Israel was sorely defeated, and thirty thousand soldiers were slain (4:10). The battle could not have gone worse, for “the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain” (4:11). Israel’s soldiers were scattered, and one young soldier fled the battle, “and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes rent, and with earth upon his head” (4:12).

Though he was the keeper of the Ark, Eli had not accompanied it to the encampment (4:13). Waiting “by the wayside,” Eli heard the cries of the people, and asked, “What meaneth the noise of this tumult?” (4:14) The young man came to Eli, who was old and blind (4:15), and confessed his cowardice, saying, “I am he that came out of the army, and I fled to day out of the army” (4:16).

With his heart trembling (4:13), Eli asked “What is there done, my son? 17And the messenger answered and said, Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God is taken” (4:16-17). “When he made mention of the ark of God, [Eli] fell from off the seat backward…and his neck brake, and he died: for he was an old man, and heavy” (4:18).

Now, Eli’s daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, “was with child, near to be delivered: and when she heard” what had become of the Ark, and the deaths of her husband and Eli, she went into labor, and gave birth to a son whom she named Ichabod, meaning, “The glory is departed from Israel” (4:22).

 

1 Samuel 5

For the victorious Philistines, the Ark was a trophy of war, to be displayed and mocked in the temple of Dagon, their god (5:1). The Philistines, however, learned that Dagon was a feeble, lifeless idol in the presence of Israel’s God (5:3-4), and the presence of the Ark in their cities invited His judgment (5:5-12).

Israel had gone to war without seeking God’s favor, and the Ark had been taken. All seemed lost in Israel; however, the LORD had raised up a prophet to serve Him, and He was with Samuel!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Place to Call Home (Joshua 19)

Scripture reading – Joshua 19

The narrative concerning the division of the Promised Land continues in Joshua 19 with the final tribes receiving their territory by lot: Simeon (19:1-9), Zebulun (19:10-16), Issachar (19:17-23), Asher (19:24-31), Naphtali (19:32-39), and Dan (19:40-48).

While the names of the borders, and cities are too numerous to list, there are some details found in Joshua 19that I invite you to consider in your meditation. The first, unlike the other tribes, Simeon would not receive their own distinct territory, but would instead find its lands “within the inheritance of the children of Judah” (19:1b).

Why would Simeon not be blessed with their own territory?

The immediate explanation is “the part of the children of Judah was too much for them: therefore, the children of Simeon had their inheritance within the inheritance of them” (19:9). However, there was a prophetic significance to the assignment of Simeon’s land, within that of Judah, and it is found in Jacob’s dying words. On his death bed, Jacob remembered how Simeon, and Levi had sinned and brought shame upon Israel.

Do you remember how Simeon and Levi had avenged the honor of their sister Dinah, after she had been raped by Shechem, the son of Hamor, the Hivite (Genesis 34:1-2). When Jacob’s sons heard their sister had been violated (Genesis 34:5-7), they determined to deceive Shechem, his father, and their people into accepting circumcision under the guise of an accord between their families (Genesis 34:13-24).

On the third day of the circumcision, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, attacked, and slew Shechem, Hamor, and the men of the city (Genesis 34:25-30). Jacob rebuked Simeon and Levi, saying, “Ye have troubled me”(Genesis 34:30). Many years later, as Jacob was dying, he remembered the cruelty of Simeon and Levi (Genesis 49:5-6), and cursed them saying, “7Cursed be their [Simeon and Levi] anger, for it was fierce; And their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, And scatter them in Israel” (Genesis 49:7).

“Divide and scatter,” Jacob’s prophetic cursed was fulfilled, as the tribe of Levi, would not receive their inheritance in Canaan. Also, the tribe of Simeon, would be in the midst of Judah, without its own distinct territory.

Joshua 19 concludes with the LORD commanding Israel to give Joshua an inheritance (19:49).

Like the servant leader he was, Joshua had served the needs of all the others, insuring each tribe had their inheritance. Now, “according to the word of the Lord they gave [Joshua] the city which he asked, even Timnath-serah in mount Ephraim: and he built the city, and dwelt therein” (19:50).

Why did Joshua chose to build a city on mount Ephraim? He was a son of the tribe of Ephraim; however, I believe the principal reason was this: The Tabernacle was located at Shiloh, a city of Ephraim, and Joshua wanted to live out his days near the LORD’s sanctuary, a symbol of His presence in the midst of His people.

What about you? Is worshipping, and serving the LORD a priority for your life, and family? It was for Joshua!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

An Obstacle or An Opportunity? (Joshua 4-5)

Scripture reading – Joshua 4-5

With the promises of the LORD, and the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant, “the people removed from their tents, to pass over Jordan” (3:14). When the priests bearing the Ark stepped into the waters, they receded, and “and rose up upon an heap… and the people passed over right against Jericho” (3:16).

Joshua 4 – A Miracle, and a Memorial

What a glorious event in Israel’s history, and one that the LORD commanded Joshua to memorialize in a physical memorial of twelve stones (4:1-8). Joshua commanded twelve men, each representing his tribe, to pass before the Ark, and “take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder” (4:5). The weight, and size of the stones did require the men to shoulder them, and they went before the Ark and carried them to Gilgal (4:8, 19-20), the place Israel would encamp after crossing the dry riverbed into Canaan.

Joshua set in place a second memorial, consisting of twelve stones, representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel. He built it “in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood” (4:9).

All the people passed over, including forty thousand men of war from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and “half the tribe of Manasseh” (4:13). That day, the LORD had fulfilled His promise, for He had “magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life” (4:14).

The LORD then instructed Joshua, “16Command the priests that bear the ark of the testimony, that they come up out of Jordan” (4:16).” Then the priests came “up out of the midst of Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up unto the dry land, that the waters of Jordan returned unto their place, and flowed over all his banks, as they did before” (4:18).”

That evening, the people encamped at the plain of Gilgal, east of Jericho, and Joshua took the twelve stones the men had removed from the Jordan, and built a memorial, a testimony to generations that would follow. When their children should ask, “What mean these stones” (4:21), their parents were to instruct them: “Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. 23For the Lord your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over” (4:22-23).

Joshua 5 – A New Land, and a Renewed Covenant

The nations in Canaan had not assaulted Israel; however, their spies had witnessed the power and presence of the LORD in the midst of His people. “All the kings of the Amorites, which were on the side of Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites, which were by the sea, heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel” (5:1).

Renewing the Covenant, and the Sign of Circumcision (5:2-9)

Circumcision had not been observed in Israel during the wilderness wanderings; however, in the new land, the LORD commanded Joshua to circumcise the men of Israel (5:2-3).

Circumcision served as a physical reminder of Israel’s covenant with the LORD (Exodus 19:5-6), and a testimony that the LORD had, “rolled away the reproach of Egypt” (5:9) What was “the reproach of Egypt?” I believe it was the reproach of the faithless generation that refused to believe the LORD, and had turned back from the land He had promised them for an inheritance (5:6). The name of the place of circumcision would be Gilgal, meaning “rolled away” (5:9).

Remembering the His grace, and goodness, Israel reaffirmed the LORD’S presence and observed the Passover (5:10), and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (5:11). The next day, the provision of manna ceased, and “they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year” (5:12).

A Heavenly Vision: A Pre-Incarnate Appearance of Christ (5:13-15)

When Joshua was near the city of Jericho, he looked up, and “behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand” (5:13). Joshua bravely went to the man, and asked, “Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?” (5:13)

The man introduced himself, saying, “Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come” (5:14; Hebrews 2:10). Joshua, sensing he was in the presence, not of a man, but the LORD Himself, “fell on his face to the earth, and did worship…and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?” (5:14)

The LORD, “captain of the host,” and ready for battle, “said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so” (5:15).

What made the ground holy? It was the presence of the LORD. As Moses honored the LORD, and removed his shoes in the LORD’S presence before the flaming bush (Exodus 3:5), Joshua removed his shoes.

With his shoes removed, and his face bowed to the earth, Joshua was ready to receive his marching orders for the siege of Jericho (Joshua 6).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith