Category Archives: Providence

Hannah: A Testimony of Faith, Love, and Sacrifice (1 Samuel 1)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 1

Our chronological devotional schedule brings us to 1 Samuel; one of my favorite books of the Old Testament.  In this volume we will find a rich history that marks the beginning of a monarchy in Israel.

1 Samuel 1 concludes an era when judges ruled Israel, and introduces an age when kings reign. Let us recall, it was God’s desire to rule His people through His Law and Commandments. The role of the judges had been to instruct the people, by communicating the Word of the LORD, through the Law that was given in the Covenant at Sinai (Exodus 20). It will be the failure of the priesthood, that will provoke the people to demand a king. Tragically, Eli, the high priest, and his wicked sons, Hophni and Phinehas (1:3; 2:12-17; 4:10-18), will disgrace the priest’s office. Their sins would stir up the people to demand “a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5-6).

Several notable names come to the forefront in today’s study: Elkanah (1:1), who was of the tribe of Levi, descended from Kohath, the son of Levi. He was a godly man, and observed the law, going up “yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord of hosts in Shiloh” (1:3), where the Tabernacle was located.

Elkanah had two wives, “the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah” (1:2). “Peninnah had children,” and had borne to her husband sons and daughters (1:2, 4). “Hannah had no children” (1:2), and though her husband loved her (1:5), she carried the shame, and sorrow of a barren woman, and was treated spitefully by Elkanah’s other wife (1:5-7).

Year after year, Hannah went up to Shiloh with her family, and wept and fasted before the LORD, praying He would open her womb (1:5), and give her a son (1:7). She vowed, if the LORD would give her a son, she would dedicate him to serve at the Tabernacle, and promised he would be a Nazarite, and “there shall no razor come upon his head” (1:10-11).

Hannah prayed to the LORD, speaking to Him from her heart; “only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken” (1:13). Eli, the high priest, rebuked her, judging she had too much wine, and commanded her to “put away thy wine from thee” (1:14). Hannah, replying to the high priest, said, “No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord. 16Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial [worthless, immoral, wicked]: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto” (1:15-16).

Judging the sincerity of Hannah’s confession, Eli assured her the LORD had heard, and would answer her prayer (1:17). Hannah went from the Tabernacle, no longer despondent, but believing the LORD would show her grace, and grant her a son (1:18). Elkanah and his family returned to their house in Ramah, and the LORD remembered Hannah’s prayer. In God’s perfect time, she conceived a son “and called his name Samuel [lit. “heard of God], saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord” (1:19-20).

The next year, Elkanah prepared to go up to Shiloh on his annual pilgrimage (1:21); however, Hannah requested she be allowed to remain at her home, and not go up to the Tabernacle, until her son was no longer nursing, for she knew the day would come when she would leave Samuel to minister at Shiloh with Eli, the high priest (1:22-23).

A woman of faith, and one who honored her vow to the LORD, Hannah “weaned” her son (probably around three years old). The day came when she took her son and went up with Elkanah to present offerings and sacrifices, at the Tabernacle. Hannah “brought [Samuel] unto the house of the Lord in Shiloh: and the child was young” (1:24). After sacrificing a bullock, Elkanah and Hannah brought their son to Eli, and she reminded the high priest, “I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the Lord. 27For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him” (1:26-27).

In an act of faith, and sacrificial love, Hannah confessed, “I have lent [given; claimed] him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord” (1:28a). Elkanah and Hannah’s example of faith, prayer, and sacrifice has inspired the saints of the LORD down through the centuries. Before Samuel was conceived, Hannah offered him to the LORD, and the LORD heard, and answered her prayer.

Perhaps only mothers can imagine the pull of the heart strings when Hannah left her son at Shiloh (especially knowing the wickedness of Eli’s sons). Hannah fulfilled her vow to the LORD, and He honored her faith and sacrifice, blessing her with three sons, and two daughters, in addition to Samuel (2:21).

I invite parents and grandparents to take a moment, pray and dedicate your children, and grandchildren to the LORD.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Ruth: A Testimony of Sovereignty and Providence (Ruth 1-2)

Scripture reading – Ruth 1-2

The Book of Ruth is a bridge between two eras: Its historical context is in the time, and “days when the judges ruled Israel” (1:1), but before kings reigned in the land. It is a book beloved by Jews, and Christians alike. It establishes the ancestry of King David, and also the genealogy of Jesus Christ in the lineage of David, and a descendant of the tribe of Judah (Ruth 4:17-22; Matthew 1:5-6).

We will see in our brief study of this book, a testimony of God’s sovereignty, for He overrules in the affairs of man, and providentially is ever working out His will through the infirmity of human decisions. The Book of Ruth is also a testament of the LORD’S redemption, for it reveals how Ruth, a Moabite, who had no right of inheritance among God’s people, came to be named in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

Ruth 1 – A Prodigal Family, and A Journey from Death to Life

The introductory verses of Ruth introduce us to a family that is facing a crisis of faith, “there was a famine in the land,” and the decision was made to leave “Bethlehem-judah” (Bethlehem, a village of Judah), and travel to “the country of Moab” (1:1).  To escape the famine in Israel, Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and sons Mahlon and Chilion, descendants of Ephraim, moved to Moab where they would live ten years (1:4). Tragedy followed Elimelech’s decision to leave Bethlehem, and he died in Moab leaving Naomi a widow, and her two sons (1:3). Continuing to live in Moab, Naomi’s sons took wives of the Moabites, and continued in the land. Mahlon took Ruth as his wife (4:10), and his brother Chilion married a woman of Moab named Orpah.

Tragedy again struck Naomi’s life, when both of her sons died, leaving her in desperate straits as not only a widow herself, but with daughters-in-law who were also widows (1:5). Remembering the culture of the day would have provided no welfare for widows, the three faced a future that would prove desperate, especially for Naomi who was not living among her own people. Naomi, facing a dismal future living outside of Israel, and hearing the famine was past, set her heart to return to Bethlehem (1:6). Naomi urged her daughters in law to return to their parents, with hopes of marrying Moabite men (1:8-9). Yet, Ruth and Orpah set their hearts to accompany Naomi, but she blessed and encouraged them to go home, and seek a husband (1:9).

The bond of love between Naomi and her daughters-in-law was strong, and as they parted “they lifted up their voice, and wept” (1:10-14). “Orpah kissed her mother-in-law [and departed]… back unto her people, and unto her gods” (1:14-15); however, Ruth refused to go back. In one of the great confessions of faith in the Scriptures, Ruth said to Naomi, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: 17Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me” (1:16-17).

Although Ruth was a Moabite, and outside God’s covenant with Israel (1:18), Naomi accepted her promise, and they journeyed together to Bethlehem (1:19). As they entered the village of Bethlehem, the people were stirred, and began questioning, “Is this Naomi?” (1:19)

Ten years of sorrows had taken their toll, and no doubt Naomi’s physical appearance revealed the hardships and disappointments she had suffered. Naomi, evidencing the sorrows of her sojourn from the Promised Land to Moab, answered their inquiries, confessing, “20b …Call me not Naomi [pleasant], call me Mara [bitter]: for the Almighty [El Shaddai] hath dealt very bitterly with me…21b the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent One]hath testified against me, and the Almighty [El Shaddai—Eternal; All powerful; All Sufficient One] hath afflicted me?” (1:20b-21).

Naomi and Ruth’s arrival in Bethlehem coincided with the time of “the beginning of barley harvest,” and about the month of April (1:22).

Ruth 2 – The Will of God, and Your Responsibility

Although Ruth was a Moabite woman, and a stranger in the midst of God’s people, the LORD used the wisdom of Naomi to sovereignly direct her daughter in law to the fields of Boaz, “a mighty man wealthy,” and “kindred” of Naomi and Elimelech, her deceased husband (2:1). True to her character, Ruth went out to glean grain in the fields belonging to Boaz (2:2-3). When he came to visit the workers in his field, Boaz found a stranger among them, and asked, “Whose damsel is this?” (2:5)

The servant supervising the field workers, identified Ruth as “the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab” (2:6). He went on to explain how Ruth had requested to join the poor and “glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves” (2:7a). More than a pretty face, she was a woman of exceptional character, and the servant commented, “she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house” (2:7b).

Boaz, a Model of God’s Grace (2:8-23)

Boaz, understanding Ruth was a widow of his kindred, typified God’s grace and love for sinners, spoke kindly to her, and insisted she labor only in his field, and among his maidens where she would find not only provision, but also safety (2:8-9). Humbled by his favor, Ruth fell before Boaz, and asked, “Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?” (2:10)

Boaz acknowledged Ruth’s testimony in Bethlehem, and how she had left her country, and kindred, and accompanied Naomi to a land and people she did not know (2:11). He realized she was a woman of faith, and prayed she would be rewarded by the LORD, and enjoy His favor (2:12). Ruth accepted Boaz’s expression of grace with humility (2:13), and he displayed his affection by inviting her to his table (2:14). She instead, took her place with the “reapers,” the hired servants, and ate enough to not only satisfy her hunger, but leaving some leftovers to bring home with her to Naomi.

I close, encouraging you to consider three ways Boaz displayed grace to Ruth. He offered her protection, and charged the men they were not to touch her (2:9). He made provision for her by leaving behind handfuls of grain (2:15-16). She was promoted, and was the object of Boaz’s attention and affection (2:14).

That evening, when Ruth came home to Naomi, she revealed to her how she had been blessed by Boaz (2:18-19). When Naomi realized the probability of the LORD’S leading, she rejoiced, and encouraged Ruth, thereby dispelling her own bitterness by the hope of redemption! (2:21-23)

As you will see, this book that began with famine, death, sorrow, and bitterness, is emerging to be a wonderful story of love and redemption.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Samson: A Man of Raging Passions (Judges 14-15)

Scripture reading – Judges 14-15

Although the Scriptures do not go into a detailed description of Samson’s physical appearance, he must have been a striking figure. Various artists have portrayed him as a hulk of a man, with bulging muscles, and longer hair that was a visible testimony of his Nazarite vow (13:5).

Judges 14 – A Woman, A Wedding, and A Riddle

Samson had made a short journey from his home “down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines” (14:1). As was the custom of his day, Samson returned home, and demanded of his father and mother, saying, “I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife.”

The Philistines were an idolatrous people, and Samson’s parents rightfully objected to his desire to marry a Philistines woman. They asked their son, “Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren [that being the tribe of Dan], or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?” (14:3) Nonetheless, Samson’s desire for the woman was undeterred, and he “said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well” (14:3).

Judges 14:4 gives us a testimony of the sovereignty, and providence of God, working through Samson’s desire, for we read: Samson’s “father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel” (14:4). The stage was set for Samson to find a cause of conflict with the Philistines, and the LORD meant to use the occasion to set his champion against the enemies of His people.

Samson’s physical strength is one of his enduring characteristics. On the way to meet his future bride, Samson slew a lion with his bare hands (14:5-9). His meeting with the woman confirmed his desire to make her his wife (14:7), and upon his return home, he found the dried carcass of the lion he had slain, filled with a swarm of bees, and honey which he did eat (14:8-9).

Samson’s wedding feast continued seven days, and he told a riddle to challenge his guests, and made a wager of “thirty sheets (under garments) and thirty change of garments” (probably fancy embroidered robes worn on special occasions, 14:12), if they should solve his riddle 14:13-14). When the seventh day of the feast came (14:14), the nefarious wedding guests threatened Samson’s wife, and her father if she failed to tell them the answer to the riddle (14:14-15). She wept, and pressed Samson to give her the answer. When he did, she betrayed him to the men who had threatened her, and gave them the answer (14:16-18). Samson was furious (14:16), and to fulfill his promise of new garments, he “slew thirty men” (14:19), and provided his guests with their robes.

Betrayed, Samson left his wife, and returned to his father’s house (14:19). In his absence, his wife’s father gave her to “his companion” [his best man] (14:20).

Judges 15 – Betrayed and Bound

When time passed, and his rage dissipated, Samson returned to his Philistine wife, only to learn she had been given to another man (15:1-2). Fearing Samson’s response, her father offered him his younger daughter, but Samson was determined he would have his revenge (15:3). He went out, captured three hundred foxes (scholars suggest jackals that inhabit that area to this day), bound their tails to one another, and placed a fiery torch between them (15:4). Fearing the fire, the foxes ran wild through the fields of the Philistines, burning their wheat, vineyards, and olive trees (15:5).

The Philistines responded, killing, and burning his wife, and her father (15:6). Threatening vengeance, Samson took in hand the jaw bone of a donkey, and slaughtered a great number of Philistines (15:7-8).

Mustering their army, the Philistines invaded Judah (15:10). When the men of Judah learned the cause for the invasion was to capture Samson, they raised up three thousand men. Those men made their way to Samson, and reproached him asking, “Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us? what is this that thou hast done unto us?” (15:11) Samson, defended his actions, saying, “As they did unto me, so have I done unto them” (15:11). With the promise they would not harm him, Samson submitted to the men of Judah, who bound him with two new ropes, and brought him to the Philistines (15:12-13).

Bound, and led away by three thousand men, Samson came into the encampment of the Philistines, and they rejoiced, and scorned him (15:14). In that moment, “the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands. 15And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith.” (15:14-15). The bodies of the Philistine soldiers were stacked in two heaps” (15:16).

Judges 15 concludes with the observation that Samson “judged in Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years” (15:20). He was not dead, but Judges 16 will give us the tragic history of the last days of his life.

The champion of Israel will follow the lust of his flesh, fall and come to ruin.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Son of a Harlot Becomes a Hero, and a Trophy of Grace (Judges 11-12)

Scripture reading – Judges 11-12

Our ongoing chronological study of the Book of Judges brings us to Judges 11-12. Judges 10 concluded with Israel turning to the LORD in a time of repentance. The people put away their idols, and committed themselves to serve the LORD (10:15-18).

With the Ammonites gathering against Israel, and in the absence of a judge, the people who lived in Gilead (the land on the east side of Jordan), asked one another, “What man is he that will begin to fight against the children of Ammon? he shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead” (10:18).

Judges 11 – The Rule of Jephthah the Gileadite

There was a man living in Gilead named Jephthah. He was known among his people as “a mighty man of valour,” and was the son of a man named Gilead; however, his mother was a harlot (11:1). Gilead also had sons of his lawful wife, and when they were grown, they rejected Jephthah as an illegitimate son. They thrust him out of their household, thus giving him no claim to an inheritance (11:2). Jephthah then retreated to the desert, and was joined by “vain,” lawless men (11:3).

When the Ammonites began to “war against Israel,” the leaders of Gilead sought for a leader among themselves (11:4-5), and sent a message to Jephthah, saying, “Come, and be our captain, that we may fight with the children of Ammon” (11:6). Jephthah did not immediately accept the leadership role over the men of Gilead (the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh). It is possible some of his own brothers, the ones who had cast him out as an illegitimate son, were among the elders that requested his leadership (11:7-10). The elders vowed an oath to the LORD that Jephthah would be their head if he was victorious (11:10), and he acknowledged God’s providence, and assumed the leadership of his people (11:11). Thus, Jephthah became the eighth judge of Israel.

After assuming his role as captain of Gilead’s army, Jephthah endeavored to negotiate a treaty of peace with the king of Ammon (11:12-24). He rejected the Ammonite king’s claim to the land (11:25), noting that Israel had possessed the land for three hundred years. He asserted; the LORD had given the children of Israel the land for their inheritance (11:26-27). With the assurance that the “Spirit of the LORD” was with him, Jephthah vowed, if the LORD would “deliver the children of Ammon into [his] hands…whatsoever [came] forth of the doors of [his]house to meet [him]…[he would] offer it up for a burnt offering” (11:30-31).

The LORD gave Jephthah, and Israel a great victory (11:32-33). When he returned from the battle he was met by his daughter, and remembering his vow to the LORD, was overcome with sorrow (11:34-35). He accepted his sacrifice to the LORD would be his own daughter (11:35). Loving, and humble, Jephthah’s daughter accepted the consequences of her father’s vow, and requested two months to mourn that she would never bear children (11:36).

In his zeal, Jephthah had made a rash vow to give as a burnt offering, the first one who came out of his house to meet him (11:31). While human sacrifice was the way of the heathen, it was contrary to God’s nature. I believe the sacrifice of Jephthah, was that his daughter would live a celibate life, never know a man, and therefore never bear a son or daughter to be her father’s heir (11:39-40).

Judges 12 – The Tribe of Ephraim, a Fool Twice Over

You may remember that the tribe of Ephraim had confronted Gideon when he returned victorious from battle. They had complained, they had been slighted, and not been invited to go to war against the Midianites (Judges 8:1). We find the same disingenuous protest in Judges 12, when Jephthah returned victorious from his battle with the Ammonites!

Grieving his daughter’s celibacy, Jephthah was confronted by the men of Ephraim who, staying true to their nature, complained they had been slighted. Ephraim gathered to war against Jephthah, and threatened to burn down his house for not having chosen them to go to war (12:1). Jephthah’s answer revealed the men of Ephraim had been summoned to war, but refused (12:2-3). Calling his army to arms, he warred against Ephraim, and forty-two thousand men of that tribe died (12:4-7).

What an unlikely hero! Jephthah, the son of a harlot, and rejected by his brothers, with the Spirit of the LORD, became a hero in Israel. What an amazing story of God’s grace, and power! Like Joseph, he had suffered the rejection of his brethren, but when God called him, he rose to the challenge, and God used him mightily!

What is keeping you from serving the LORD?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Gideon: Gone, and Forgotten (Judges 8)

Scripture reading – Judges 8

I invite you to return with me to Judges 7, as we continue our study in the Book of Judges. Gideon had obeyed the LORD’S command, and in return, his army was reduced to three hundred men (7:7). Humanely, the task before Gideon was an impossible one; Israel was about to face an army that numbered one hundred thirty-five thousand men (8:10).

The night before the battle, the LORD came to Gideon and “said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand” (7:9). Knowing Gideon’s heart, the LORD gave him an opportunity to assuage his fear, and invited him to go with his servant, Phurah to the host of Midian, to “hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host” (7:11).

Providentially, Gideon overheard the telling of a soldier’s dream, and the interpretation that predicted how God had “delivered Midian, and all the host” into his hand (7:14). Gideon then worshipped the LORD, and returned to his soldiers, and exhorted them, “Arise; for the Lord hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian” (7:15).

Dividing his army into three companies of one hundred men, Gideon gave each man a trumpet, a pitcher, and a lamp whose light would be concealed within the pitcher (7:16). Under the cover of darkness, Gideon commanded his men to encircle the encampment of the Midianites. He instructed his men, when they heard him blow his trumpet, they were to blow their trumpets, break the pitchers that concealed the light of their lamps, and cry with one voice, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon” (7:20).

The sudden blaring of the trumpets, the shouts of the soldiers, and the piercing lights of their lamps made Israel’s army appear to be a great force. In the confusion, the Midianites turned “every man’s sword against his fellow” (7:22). They fled toward the waters of the Jordan, and Gideon sent messengers to the tribe of Ephraim, whose men pursued them, and slew “two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb…and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side Jordan” (7:25).

Judges 8

What a glorious moment in Israel’s history; however, though the armies of Midian were routed, Gideon would not be satisfied until all the leaders of Midian were slain.

One would think all Israel would have rejoiced with Gideon, but that was not the case. The men of Ephraim came to Gideon, and complained that he should have invited them to the battle against Midian. According to Judges 6:35, he had summoned only the tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali. How shallow, and self-centered was this protest! For seven years, Ephraim had suffered the Midianite invasion, and there is no evidence that tribe had made any effort to stand against their foe. Rather than chiding Gideon out of their wounded pride, they should have shown gratitude for his leadership!

Pursuing a remnant of the Midianite army, Gideon and his men crossed the waters of the Jordan, and entered the territory of the tribe of Gad. Passing by Succoth, Gideon appealed to its men, saying, “Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they be faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian” (8:5). The men of Succoth were of the tribe of Gad, and brethren of Israel; however, they refused to give Gideon’s men bread. He vowed to return after the battle, and warned he would “tear [their] flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers” (8:7).

Gideon went next to Penuel, another city of the tribe of Gad, and they refused his request. Angered by their heartlessness, Gideon vowed he would return, and break down their strong tower (8:9).

God blessed Gideon, and he captured the “two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and discomfited [terrified] all the host” (8:12). Faithful to his oath, he returned to Succoth, and fulfilled his promise, and “took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught [punished, disciplined them]” (8:16). Gideon continued to Penuel, and there “he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city” (8:17).

Following his victory over the Midianites, there were some in Israel who would have made Gideon king, and said to him, “Rule thou over us…for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. 23And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you” (8:22-23)

I conclude today’s devotional, on a sad note. Though Gideon was used greatly by the LORD, he was a man who made foolish decisions in the later years of his life. He raised up a memorial to his victory over Midian, overlaid it with gold, and it became an idol to some in Israel, and “a snare unto Gideon, and to his house” (8:27). He took “many wives,” and had seventy sons (8:30). When he “died in a good old age…as soon as Gideon was dead…the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim” (8:32-33).

Gideon’s life serves as a warning to any who desire to build a name, or raise up a monument to themselves. In spite of his heroism, and the adulation of the people, “the children of Israel remembered not the Lord their God…35Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel” (8:34-35).

Gideon, gone, and forgotten! If you want to have a lasting legacy; remember, it is not in what you build, but whom you serve!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“GIVE ME THIS MOUNTAIN” (Joshua 14)

Scripture reading – Joshua 14

The tribes on the east side of Jordan had been given their inheritance, as Moses had promised (Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua 13). Joshua now addressed the task of giving the other tribes their inheritance, by lot, and according to the instructions that had been established in the Book of Numbers (Numbers 34:2-12, 16-29).

We are reminded the sons of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, had been adopted by Jacob as his own sons (Genesis 48:5), and would become tribes of Israel in their own right. The tribe of Levi had been chosen by the LORD to serve as priests; therefore, the Levites would receive no inheritance in the land, with the exception of cities, and “their suburbs [lands around the cities] for their cattle and for their substance” (14:4).

Before the lots were cast, and the lands divided by tribes, an inspirational event occurred.

Caleb, Joshua’s fellow spy and warrior (they were the only men, twenty-years and older to come out of Egypt, and enter the Promised Land), came before him. Accompanied by representatives of the tribe of Judah (14:6) who came as his witnesses, Caleb reminded Joshua, that Moses had promised him an inheritance in Canaan (14:6-7).

Caleb compelled Joshua, Thou knowest the thing that the Lord said unto Moses the man of God concerning me and thee in Kadesh-barnea” (14:6).

Caleb was forty years old when he searched out the Promised Land, and he had brought back a report of all that was in his heart (14:7). While the other spies discouraged the people with their faithless report, Caleb, like Joshua, determined to trust, and “wholly followed the Lord” (14:8).  Tragically, Israel believed the unfaithful spies, and refused to trust the LORD and enter Canaan (14:8a).

For his faith, and faithfulness, Moses had declared to Caleb, “Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children’s for ever, because thou hast wholly followed the Lord my God” (14:9). Though forty-five years had passed, and he was now eighty-five years old, Caleb was determined to claim his inheritance as the LORD had promised (14:10).

We remember that Joshua “was old and stricken in years” (13:1), but such was not the case with Caleb. He had been through the hardships of the wilderness, and the battles in Canaan, but neither his spirit, nor his strength had been diminished. Caleb testified, “I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in” (14:11).

What an amazing declaration. Caleb’s passion, faith, and physical strength had not waned. He was not ready to retire, retreat, or spend out his days in a rocking chair. He was ready to take by faith what the LORD had promised him for his inheritance.

Caleb asserted, “GIVE ME THIS MOUNTAIN, whereof the Lord spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims [who were giants, and by Egyptian records were seven to nine feet tall] were there, and that the cities were great and fenced” (14:12).

What was Caleb’s inspiration? Why would an eighty-five-year-old man claim, what others had feared and fled? Caleb revealed the source of his passion and faith, saying, “If so be the Lord will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the Lord said” (14:12).

The fire of a warrior still burned in Caleb’s soul. Though chronologically old, he was ready to claim his inheritance, and go to war, knowing the LORD was with him!

How did Joshua respond to his old friend’s faith?

Joshua 14:1313And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Joshua: Finishing Strong (Joshua 11)

Scripture reading – Joshua 11

With the confidence that the LORD was on his side, Joshua’s military campaign in the southern hills of Canaan was finished. Israel had “utterly destroyed all [the kings of the south] that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel commanded” (10:40).  Joshua had been victorious, “because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel” (10:42).

Joshua 11

An Enemy Offensive (11:1-5)

The focus of Joshua 11 is upon the kings of northern Canaan (11:1-5). The news of Joshua’s military successes had reached Jabin, king of Hazor (which appears to be a great fortified city), and he determined to form a coalition of kings and their city-states to face Israel’s inevitable invasion of the northern country (11:1-3). Rather than wait for Israel to invade the north, the alliance of kings took the offensive, and “came and pitched together at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel” (11:5).

The LORD’s Assurance (11:6-9)

Though Joshua had proved himself a warrior and leader, the size of the armies arrayed against Israel was no doubt disconcerting (11:4). The LORD came to Joshua, assuring him, “Be not afraid because of them: for to morrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel: thou shalt hough [hamstring] their horses, and burn their chariots with fire” (11:6).

True to his character, Joshua wasted no time in obeying the LORD, and facing the enemy (11:7). He assembled “all the people of war with him, against them by the waters of Merom suddenly; and they fell upon them” (11:7). With the LORD on Israel’s side, the armies of the alliance fell, and their kings fled from before Israel (11:8-9).

A Glorious Victory (11:10-14)

The king of Hazor is particularly noted in the record, for it was he who had formed the alliance against Israel (11:10), and Israel burned Hazor to the ground (11:11). Joshua obeyed the LORD, and all the kings of the alliance were killed as He had been commanded (11:12).

With the exception of Hazor, the other cities in the north had been spared destruction (11:13), and “all the spoil of these cities, and the cattle, the children of Israel took for a prey unto themselves; but every man they smote with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them, neither left they any to breathe” (11:14).

What manner of man was Joshua?  (11:15-23)

Joshua, in my estimation was a giant among men! He was a man of faith. He was obedient, and dedicated to the task God had called him. He was disciplined, and strong. His fighting spirit was indomitable, and he did not rest until he had finished the battle. He is a model for husbands, fathers, and sons who aspire to greatness in the eyes of the LORD.

Joshua 11:15b–18 – “[Joshua] left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses. 16So Joshua took all that land, the hills, and all the south country…17b and all their kings he took, and smote them, and slew them. 18Joshua made war a long time with all those kings.”

Closing thoughts:

Some modern-day critics have assailed the Scriptures, the LORD, and Israel’s conquest of Canaan, as proof that the God of the Bible is violent, threatening, merciless, and irrepressible. I assure you; such is not the case. The LORD is just, and holy; forgiving, and compassionate. He is sovereign, and omniscient. Knowing the wickedness of men’s hearts, He providentially works through the hearts of men to accomplish His purpose for His people.

In His mercy, the LORD honored Israel’s treaty with Gibeon, and spared them (11:19). The LORD, however, knowing the bent of nations, allowed them to “harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly” (11:20).

The Canaanite kings, and their cities were utterly destroyed because their hearts opposed the LORD, and His people.

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

“Bold Faith; Wet Feet” (Joshua 2-3)

Scripture reading – Joshua 2-3

Joshua 2 – Two Spies, and a Harlot

With the affirmation and enlistment of the tribes that would settle on the land’s east of the Jordan (Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, 1:12-18), Joshua sent two spies to survey the city of Jericho (2:1).

The city of Jericho, like Egypt, serves as a picture or type of the world in the Scriptures. It was a place of wealth, commerce, idolatry, and all manner of wickedness, including harlotry. The city was also an obstacle to Israel invading the land, and Joshua knew it must be destroyed.

Arriving in Jericho, the spies providentially entered an inn, located on the walls of the city, and one identified as “an harlot’s house, named Rahab” (2:1b). Why the house of a harlot? There are many reasons I might suggest, but the one most important is, the LORD knew Rahab’s heart was moved to faith by all she had heard about Israel, and their God.

Rahab hid the spies, at the risk of her life (2:2-6), and lied when the king’s men came seeking them. Some might argue the moral grounds for her lies, but we must remember she was ignorant of God’s Laws, and Commandments, and her conscience was probably unstirred by her sin. Rahab professed her faith in the LORD, when she appealed to the spies that she, and her family be spared the destruction of Jericho she believed was certain.

Consider the faith of Rahab: “9And she said unto the men, I know that the Lord hath given you the land10For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed (Numbers 21:21-24, 33-35). 11And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt…for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath” (2:9-12).

The spies gave Rahab a sign, a token of her faith, and instructed her, “bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household, home unto thee” (2:18). The spies returned to Israel’s’ encampment, and assured Joshua, “Truly the Lord hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us” (2:24).

Joshua 3 – Stepping Out by Faith, and Into the Jordan

Wasting no time to muster the people to trust the LORD (3:1), Joshua commanded the nation to relocate to the shores of the Jordan, whose waters they must cross to enter the Promised Land (3:2). For three days, an estimated two million people stood looking at the flood waters, and questioning, “What now?”

Joshua then commanded the priest to carry the “Ark of the Covenant of the LORD” before the people, and warned them to stand at a distance from that which represented the LORD’S throne, and His presence in the midst of Israel (3:3-4). One senses the joy, and anticipation of Joshua, as he tells the people, “Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the Lord will do wonders among you” (3:5).

For forty years, the people had heard how the LORD had opened the Red Sea for Israel to pass through on dry ground. The LORD now promised He would magnify Joshua’s name. “The Lord said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee. 8And thou shalt command the priests that bear the ark of the covenant, saying, When ye are come to the brink of the water of Jordan, ye shall stand still in Jordan” (3:7-8).

The dividing of the waters of the Jordan, assured the people “that the living God is among you” (3:10a), and He would drive the heathen nations from the land (3:10). Bearing the “Ark of the Covenant of the LORD,” the priests stepped into the flood waters, and as they did, the waters divided “and the people passed over right against Jericho. 17And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan” (3:16-17).

The “Ark of the Covenant” was a symbol of God’s presence, and power. It served as a testimony that the LORD would go before His people, and Israel passed through the dry bed of the Jordan, confident the LORD who had parted the waters was with them.

Faith, is the Victory!

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