Category Archives: Rebellion

The Third Generation: A Tragic Rejection of Spiritual Leadership (Judges 3)

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Scripture reading – Judges 3

Today’s Scripture reading introduced a new era in Israel’s history, as the LORD began to raise up judges to rule the nation. Why judges and not a king? Because the LORD was Israel’s Sovereign and the people were bound by covenant to His Law and Commandments.

Tragically, after Joshua and the generation that followed him had passed (2:6-10a), Israel turned from the LORD. We read that they “knew not the Lord…[and] did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2:10-11). The LORD, in His mercy, “raised up judges, which delivered [Israel] out of the hand of those that spoiled [plundered] them” (2:16). However, when a judge died, the people “corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them” (2:19a).

Judges 3 – The LORD Raised Judges to Rule the People

Because Israel had broken the covenant with Him, the LORD determined He would not drive out the enemies of His people, and He left them in their midst to “prove [test; try] Israel by them” (3:1).

To what end was this testing? It was to test and prove a generation that did not know the hardships and trials of war as their fathers before them. The LORD longed for Israel to turn to Him and obey His commandments. Therefore, He did not drive out the enemies with whom His people had compromised (3:2-7).

The Compromise and Wretchedness of the Third Generation

Israel allowed their sons and daughters to intermarry with idolaters, and they “served their gods…and did evil…and forgat the LORD their God” (3:6-7). They “served Baalim and the groves” (places of sexual deviancy, 3:7). Thus, the sins of Israel provoked “the anger of the LORD” (3:8), and “He sold them into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushan-rishathaim eight years” (3:8).

Othniel, the First Judge in Israel (3:9-11)

When the people began to cry to the LORD, He heard their cry and raised up “Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother” (3:9), who served as Israel’s first judge, and delivered the nation from their enemy (3:10). God blessed Othniel’s rule as judge, and Israel was at peace forty years (3:11).

Ehud, the Second Judge in Israel (3:12-30)

Judges 3:12-30 records a fascinating series of events. We read, “The children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord: and the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they [Israel] had done evil in the sight of the Lord” (3:12).

God’s people had strayed far from the law and commandments and found themselves humbled and enslaved by an enemy (3:12-13). For eighteen years, “the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab…15But when [they]cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded” (3:14-15). (The men of Benjamin were known as ambidextrous people and skilled marksmen, Judges 20:16; 1 Chronicles 12:2).

Ehud’s skill with his left hand gave him an advantage when he plotted and attacked Eglon, the king of Moab (3:16-22). Thrusting the dagger into the obese king, the blade went so deep that Ehud left the knife in his bowels when he fled the palace (3:21-22). When he returned to Mount Ephraim, Ehud blew the trumpet and rallied Israel to go to battle against Moab, and they slew “about ten thousand men” (3:27-29).

Shamgar, the Champion of Israel (3:31)

Judges 3 concluded with the heroism of a man named Shamgar (3:31). He is not identified as a judge; however, he is noted for slaying six hundred Philistines “with an ox goad [a sharp metal point on the end of a pole]” (3:31).

Closing thoughts:

In the chapters ahead, we will observe an emerging spiritual cycle in our study of the Book of Judges. In fact, what was true of Israel has been true of believers through the ages.  What is the cycle? It is that sin leads to servitude[enslavement], which leads to Sorrow, and sorrow moves the hearts of men to turn to the LORD for Salvation(3:11-19).

Sin…Servitude…Sorrow…Salvation: We are, as the songwriter penned, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; Prone to leave the God I love.”

Where are you in that spiritual cycle?

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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The Failure of Third Generation Leaders: They Tend to Lack the Convictions and Spiritual Fortitude of Their Fore-fathers (Judges 1; Judges 2)

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Scripture reading: Judges 1-2

The Book of Judges began with a statement indicating a leadership void that followed Joshua’s death. We read, “Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the Lord, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?” (Judges 1:1)

Though Israel possessed the land, they still faced enemies in their midst. So the LORD answered their inquiry, not with the name of a man, but with that of a tribe: “And the Lord said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his [the tribe of Judah’s] hand” (1:2).

The Unity of the Tribes of Judah and Simeon (Judges 1:1-20)

Lacking the leadership of a man like Joshua, the LORD chose the men of Judah to be the first to wage battle in the post-Joshua era. Why Judah? Judah had the largest population of the twelve tribes and was the most powerful among them. Judah, the patriarch Jacob’s fourth-born son, had been blessed by his father (Genesis 49:8-12). His lineage bore the noble character from whom a line of kings would emerge, beginning with David and concluding with the LORD Jesus Christ, the lion of Judah (Matthew 1:1-3).

Judah accepted the challenge. Because the tribe of Simeon lived in their midst, Judah said to them, “Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I likewise will go with thee into thy lot.” (1:3). The people of Simeon accepted Judah’s invitation, for their land was encircled by Judah’s territory (Joshua 19:1).

Amid victories, a repetition of failures emerged in Judges that haunted the people as a nation for generations. The tribes of Judah and Simeon fought against the Canaanites and the Perizzites, and God blessed them with victories over their enemies (Judges 1:2-20), but regrettably, they fell short of the LORD’s will. The LORD did not fail Judah; however, the tribe did not trust their God and “could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron” (1:19).

The Cowardice of the Other Tribes (Judges 1:21-36)

A pattern of failures to obey the command of the LORD and drive out Israel’s enemies continued throughout Judges 1. For example, the tribe of Benjamin failed (1:21), as did Manasseh (1:27-28). Also, Ephraim did not “drive out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer” (1:29). Zebulun failed to “drive out the inhabitants of Kitron” (1:30). Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of cities in their land (1:32). Naphtali failed (1:33), and “the Amorites forced the children [tribe] of Dan into the mountain” (1:34).

Judges 2 – A Third-Generation Crisis in Leadership

An Ominous Announcement of the Angel of the LORD (Judges 2:1-5)

Judges 2 began with an ominous declaration from “an angel of the LORD” (whom I believe was a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ). Israel’s failure to drive the idol-worshiping nations out of Canaan breached their covenant with the LORD. He reminded them of His promise: “I will never break my covenant with you” (2:1). The people, however, had failed to drive the inhabitants out of the land and destroy their altars (2:2).

God warned, “I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you” (2:3). When the people heard what would befall them because of their sins, they “sacrificed there unto the LORD” (2:5). Nevertheless, the consequences of their sinful failures followed them.

The State of Israel During the Rule of the Judges (Judges 2:6-23)

Notice that the narrative in Judges 2 turns briefly to a reflection on the death of Joshua (2:6-10) and his influence on his generation and the one that followed. We read, “The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that he did for Israel” (2:7). When that generation passed, a third generation arose, and “did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim” (2:11). That generation “forsook the Lord God of their fathers…and followed other gods…and provoked the Lord to anger. 13And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth” (2:12-13).

Yet, the LORD did not altogether forsake Israel. On the contrary, he chose judges in Israel to call the people to return to the LORD, His Law, and Commandments (2:16). He would bless the judge of His people and deliver them “out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge” (2:18). Nevertheless, “when the judge was dead, [the people] returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers…[and] ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way” (2:19).

Closing thoughts:

On a personal note, I have witnessed the failings of transitional leadership throughout my years of ministry. A nation, organization, corporation, school, and church are never more vulnerable than in a time of leadership change. Judges 2 proved that the nation of Israel was no exception.

Why are third-generation organizations and ministries so vulnerable?

The reason can be summed up in an old adage: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Israel’s third generation in the land had not experienced the sacrifices or the victories of the generations before them. They had grown comfortable and familiar with the heathen in their midst. Invariably, their parent’s failure to drive the wicked out of the land became a fatal attraction, and the third generations’ contempt for the ways, law, and commandments of the LORD invited God’s judgment (2:20-23).

Tragically, as I write today’s devotion, I recall several churches, Christian camps, Bible colleges, and organizations that have faltered and are failing to thrive under third-generation leaders.

Is your church or organization facing a third-generation transition? If so, be on guard! Leaders who dismiss the principles and precepts of their predecessors will inevitably lead others to their demise.

Questions to consider:

1) Why did Judah invite the tribe of Simeon to join them in the war against the Canaanites? (Judges 1:4)

2) What great city fell to Judah and was destroyed by fire? (Judges 1:8)

3) What connection did the Kenites have with Israel? (Judges 1:16)

4) Who failed to drive the Jebusites out of Jerusalem? (Judges 1:21)

5) In what had Israel failed? (Judges 2:1-2)

6) What generation failed to know the LORD? (Judges 2:7-10)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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A Silent Enemy: Sin in the Camp (Joshua 7)

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Scripture reading – Joshua 7

* This is the first of two devotionals for today.

With the fortress of Jericho defeated and destroyed, the men of Israel set their eyes on the next city, Ai. Joshua had reminded the people that the LORD had accursed all that was in Jericho, and the gold, silver, brass, and iron was sanctified and dedicated for the “treasury of the house of the LORD” (6:24, 26). Nevertheless, one man in Israel disregarded Joshua’s oath and foolishly took that which was accursed (7:1).

Joshua 7

A Concealed Sin in the Camp (7:1-2)

Joshua 7:1 reveals both the sin and the sinner, whose transgression was not discovered until thirty-six soldiers of Israel had perished in battle (7:5). We read of that tragic event: “But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against the children of Israel” (Joshua 7:1).

Who was Achan? We could assert he was nobody in the realm of two million citizens. However, he was a transgressor who committed a great sin against the LORD. Achan was a son of the tribe of Judah (7:1) and a father with sons and daughters (7:24). He was a man of possessions, for he owned ox, asses, and sheep (7:24). He was, however, a covetous man, and a thief (7:20-21).

Defeat at Ai (7:3-5)

Unlike the battle of Jericho, there is no record that Joshua consulted the LORD before he ordered men to attack Ai (7:2). He had sent out men to spy on Ai, and they returned and advised, “Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few” (7:3). Confident, and presumptuous, Joshua heeded the advice of his spies and sent a mere three thousand soldiers to war against Ai. As a result, Israel was defeated (7:4-5), and the nation was left confused and humiliated by the deaths of thirty-six warriors of Israel.

Joshua’s Remorse (7:6-9)

Distraught by the defeat, Joshua “rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD” (7:6). He was joined by “the elders of Israel,” and “they put dust upon their heads” as a sign of mourning (7:6). In dismay, Joshua cried to the LORD, “what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies?” (7:8) He appealed to the LORD to consider how Israel’s defeat would embolden their enemies. He feared the adversaries of Israel would encircle them and “cut off [their] name from the earth,” and he wondered, “What wilt thou do unto thy great name?” (7:9)

The LORD’S Rebuke and the Cause for Israel’s Defeat (7:10-14)

Sadly, Joshua’s cry to the LORD insinuated that somehow God had failed Israel. However, such was not the case, for He had promised Joshua, “Whithersoever thou goest” I will be with you (1:9).

The LORD then rebuked Joshua and said, “Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?” (7:10). He revealed that the cause for Israel’s defeat was not His unfaithfulness but the sin of one man that had troubled the whole nation (7:11-12). Therefore, the LORD warned, He would not bless the nation until the evil was put out of the camp (7:10-13).

The Discovery of Achan’s Sin (7:14-21)

The following day, Joshua made haste to begin searching out the sin in Israel and did as the LORD had commanded (7:14-16). It was revealed that the sin had been committed by a man of the tribe of Judah (7:16). When the tribe of Judah passed before Joshua, the “family of the Zarhites” was implicated (7:17). The Zarhites were examined, and the household of “Zabdi was taken, and [Joshua] brought [Zabdi’s] household man by man and; and Achan…was taken” (7:18).

Perhaps hoping his sin would go undetected, Achan held out until he was discovered. Then, when Joshua confronted and appealed for him to confess his sin (7:19), Achan answered, “Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done” (7:20).

Achan’s Confession (7:21)

Achan’s confession revealed the pattern of sin that men take when they sin against the LORD. First, he consideredthe opportunity to sin. He had looked “among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight” (7:21a). He then coveted them (7:21b). Achan then carriedthem to his tent (7:21c), and concealed them, hiding them “in the earth in the midst of [his] tent” (7:21).

The Effect of Achan’s Sin Upon His Household (7:22-26)

Joshua’s men searched and discovered all Achan had confessed, but no appeal would satisfy the LORD’S wrath. Because of Achan’s sin, thirty-six men had died in the defeat of Ai (7:4-5), and now the whole congregation passed judgment. Taking him, and all that he owned outside the camp, Israel stoned Achan to death, along with his sons and daughters and livestock (7:24).

All was destroyed, and the people “burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. 26And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of his anger” (7:25-26).

Closing thought:

Like many sinners, Achan only confessed his sin when it was discovered. He had the opportunity to repent, come forward, and confess his sin after Israel was defeated at Ai (thirty-six of his countrymen had perished, 7:5). Instead, his heart was hardened, and his confession was offered only after his sin was exposed. God’s people could not tolerate such evil in their midst, and the LORD bless them. The LORD had warned Joshua, “Neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you” (7:12).

When God’s people obey His Word, their most powerful enemies fall before them. However, we cannot overcome our weakest enemy when we conceal sin.

* Note – A second devotional will follow and be taken from Joshua 8 (the record of Israel’s victory over Ai following that nation’s judgment against Achan.) 

Questions to consider from Joshua 7:

1) Why was the LORD angry with Israel? (7:1)

2) Where did the men of Israel put their confidence? (7:3)

3) How did the defeat at AI affect Israel? (7:5)

4) What were Joshua’s concerns following Israel’s defeat? (7:8-9)

5) What sins did Achan confess that invited God’s judgment? (7:20-21)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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A Covenant and a Choice of Two Paths (Deuteronomy 29; Deuteronomy 30)

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Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 29-30

Deuteronomy 29 – Renewing the Covenant

Moses declared and recorded God’s Covenant with Israel in Deuteronomy 5 through Deuteronomy 28. He then challenged the people to reaffirm the covenant they had entered into at Mt Horeb forty years prior (Exodus 24). In doing so, the nation would acknowledge its obligation to obey the LORD’s Laws and Commandments (Deuteronomy 29-30).

The Past (Deuteronomy 29:1-9)

Moses then rehearsed with the people all the LORD had done for them in Egypt. He acknowledged how they had been blind to the ways of the LORD (29:4) and reminded them how God had lovingly sustained and preserved them for forty years in the wilderness (29:5-6). Then, in the place they were that day, the LORD had given them victory over their adversaries and their land on the east side of the Jordan as an inheritance for the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and “the half tribe of Manasseh” (29:7-8).

A Summons to Obey (Deuteronomy 29:10-15)

Reminding the people they were standing “before the LORD,” Moses challenged every member of the nation (its captains, elders, officers, women, children, and servants) to “enter into the covenant with the LORD” (29:10-12). Moses promised the LORD would exalt Israel as a nation and be their God as He was with their forefathers (29:13). The promises of the LORD would not only apply to their generation but to their children and children’s children (29:14-15).

An Admonition (Deuteronomy 29:16-29)

Nevertheless, should a “man, or woman, or family, or tribe” turn from the LORD and worship idols, they would bear the sorrow and bitterness of God’s judgment (29:18). Such might be deluded and believe they might find peace walking after their imaginations. Still, Moses warned, “The Lord will not spare him…and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven” (29:20).

If Israel tolerated wickedness in its midst, Moses warned that the judgment of the LORD would leave the land like the “overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah” (29:23). He prophesied the nations would look upon the desolation of Israel and ask, “Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?” (29:24). Then, men would answer, “Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt” (29:25).

Deuteronomy 30 – A Promise of Grace and Mercy

An Opportunity of Restoration (Deuteronomy 30:1-10)

Though Israel would reject the LORD and disobey His Law and Commandments, Moses promised He would remember His people and not forget His covenant promises (30:1). While the LORD promised to punish Israel for her disobedience, He also promised to be gracious, merciful, and forgiving if the people would repent of their sins and turn back to Him (30:1-7). Furthermore, should the people repent, God promised to renew His covenant with them and “make [them] plenteous in every work of thine hand…for the Lord will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers” (30:9).

Ignorance was Not an Excuse (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)

The will and commandments of the LORD were not mysterious or hidden from Israel (30:11-13). Instead, God’s purpose was established, and His will was revealed by His “Word” (30:14).

Two Paths to Choose: Death or Life (Deuteronomy 30:15-20)

Deuteronomy 30 concluded with a strong challenge to Israel to know the Word of the LORD was sure. While the path of obedience leads to “life and good,” the way of disobedience leads to “death and evil” (30:15). Choose to keep the LORD’s covenant, and He will bless you. However, disobey God’s Law and Commandments, and you invite His judgment (30:17-18).

So then, summoning heaven and earth to be his witness, Moses warned: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (30:19).

Closing thoughts:

I am reminded that every soul faces the spiritual dilemma of choosing between two paths in life. Faith and obedience are the paths of blessing and eternal life. The way of sin inevitably ends in death and hell. As the shepherd of Israel, Moses longed for the people to love and obey the LORD. After all, that path promised the quality and quantity of life that God alone could provide (Deuteronomy 30:20).

What path have you taken? Are you on the path of obedience and life or disobedience and death?

Questions to consider:

1) Why did Israel need to remember “all that the LORD did” in Egypt and the wilderness? (Deuteronomy 29:2-6)

2) What was the key to Israel’s prosperity in the new land? (Deuteronomy 29:9)

3) What was the condition for Israel to be blessed and fruitful? (Deuteronomy 30:8-10)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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The Curse of a Dying Nation: Feminine Men and Rebellious Feminists (Deuteronomy 28)

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Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 28

The sum of today’s Scripture reading is essentially two words: Blessings and Curses. Deuteronomy 27 concluded with the people affirming their understanding of God’s Covenant and agreeing to its blessings and penalties (27:15-26). Deuteronomy 28 continued the same proclamation, detailing the LORD’s promise of blessings if the people would obey His Laws and Commandments (28:1-14) and curses should they disobey (28:15-68).

The Rewards and Blessings of Faithfulness (Deuteronomy 28:1-14)

The promise of blessings was conditional and would be fulfilled, but only if the people diligently listened to the Lord’s voice “to observe and to do all His commandments.” If the people would “hearken…observe…and do all His commandments,” the LORD promised He would “set [Israel] on high above all nations of the earth” (28:1). All would be blessed, both city and field (28:3), and would be fruitful and increase. Children would be born, cattle would calve, and the flocks of sheep would increase. The fields would give forth a great harvest (28:4-6).

Israel’s enemies would fall before them and be scattered (28:7). Her storehouses and treasuries would overflow (28:8-14).  The LORD promised He would open the treasury of heaven, send rain upon the land, and the world’s nations would become debtors to Israel (28:12). All this was promised if Israel obeyed the LORD’s Law, and His Commandments (28:13-14).

The Penalties of God’s Judgment for Disobedience (Deuteronomy 28:15-68)

The balance of Deuteronomy 28 predicted the punishments that would befall Israel as a nation should the people turn from the LORD and disobey His Law and Commandments (28:15-68). In the same way, the LORD promised to bless the nation if the people obeyed Him; the opposite was true should they disobey Him. The curses are far too extensive for me to address individually; however, I invite you to observe their sum in today’s devotion.

Should Israel reject Him, the LORD warned He would abandon them to their enemies (28:45-47), and the people would become slaves to their enemies (this would come to pass during the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities and be repeated in the Roman era). Their enemies would eat the fruitfulness of their lands, trees, and storehouses. Their cattle and flocks would be destroyed (28:48-51).

Israel was warned that when their cities were besieged, the starving people would turn to cannibalism and eat “the flesh of [their] sons and of [their] daughters” (28:52-53).

Portrait of a Dying Nation: Effeminate Men and Embittered Women (28:54-57)

Their men became effeminate (“tender among you, and very delicate.” 28:54). Their women were no longer “tender and delicate” (28:56). The eyes of a wife would “be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter” (28:56). Leaving her natural affection, Moses warned a mother “shall eat [her children] for want of all things secretly in the siege” (28:57).

Because the people rejected the LORD and disobeyed His Law, He promised to bring upon the nation “great plagues…and sore sicknesses” (28:59). Israel would be overcome with plagues (28:58-60), and the births of the children would be few (28:62-63). Finally, the nation would be conquered, and the people scattered, oppressed, and enslaved (28:64-65).

Fear, dread, and depression would haunt the nation, and the people would dread the night and the dawn (28:66-67). Eventually, they would be taken from their land and “see it no more again…[and] be sold unto [their enemies]” as slaves (28:68). All that Moses warned is documented by the historian Josephus and came to pass in AD 70 when Titus, the Roman General, destroyed Jerusalem. Then, the Jews were scattered throughout the nations of the earth.

Closing thoughts:

Today’s Scripture reading reminded me that the pattern of decadence and decline foretold by Moses is seen in the nations of the world today. Such wickedness precludes the judgment of God upon those nations that reject Him. No nation can long reject God without experiencing moral decay and His judgment.

The trademark of God’s judgment is undeniable when I assess my country. I see the evidence of a nation that God has turned over to its enemies. The United States is an enslaved, debtor nation to our enemies. Our nation’s women have taken the lives of their unborn in grotesque abortions, as surely as if they cannibalize them from the womb (28:52-53). Effeminate men, “tender [and] delicate” (28:54), are celebrated, and rebellious women blight our society with an “evil eye” towards their husbands and children (28:56-57). We have experienced epidemics, a failing birthrate, a fear, and a dread of the future, as I have not witnessed in my lifetime.

The United States, like all nations, is doomed if we do not repent of our sins and turn to God.

Questions to consider:

1) What spiritual benefits would Israel gain if they obeyed the commandments of the LORD? (Deuteronomy 28:1-2)

2) What curses would befall Israel if the people refused to heed and obey the commandments of the LORD? (Deuteronomy 28:15-24)

3) Rather than men of strength, how were the rebellious men of Israel described? (Deuteronomy 28:54)

4) What afflictions did Moses prophesy would befall a rebellious nation? (Deuteronomy 28:59-61)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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Moral Dilemmas: Divorce, Debt, and Human Trafficking (Deuteronomy 24; Deuteronomy 25)

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Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 24-25

Our Scripture reading continues with Moses setting forward various laws that would guide Israel in matters of marriage, family, societal civility, business, and government.

Deuteronomy 24

Principles Regarding Marriage and Divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-5)

Divorce is addressed, sadly indicative of man’s sinful heart. We understand that God’s desire for man and wife is: “A man…shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Yet, because man’s nature is bent away from God, the Lord allowed (through Moses) for a writing of divorcement when there was a valid reason.

Moses allowed for divorce in this passage; however, I remind you that was never God’s plan or will. What is the will of the LORD? The sum of God’s will for marriage is this: “A man…shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

The Pharisees questioned Christ on this subject and asked, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife [divorce]for every cause?” (Matthew 19:3) The LORD answered, citing the “one flesh” principle and added, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6).

Displeased with His answer, the Pharisees pressed Him, saying, “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?” (Matthew 19:7). Christ answered and diagnosed the deplorable basis for Moses permitting divorce (Deuteronomy 24).

Matthew 19:8–98He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered [allowed] you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so9And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

A Moral Guideline for the Borrower and Lender (Deuteronomy 24:6)

Taking an upper millstone is foreign to most until we understand Moses referred to the stones used to grind grain into flour. So, a lender was warned he could not take for a surety the “upper millstone,” for by it, a family could grind grain into flour and bake bread for the family.

A Solution to Human Trafficking (Deuteronomy 24:7)

One of the great abominations of the 21st century is human trafficking (in essence, modern slavery). Forcefully taking children, women, and men and subjecting them to the darkness of moral depravity has been and continues to be an appalling wickedness. In the words of the Scripture, anyone found guilty of “[making] merchandise…or selleth [selling] him” shall be put to death (24:7).

If the judgment of the Scriptures were practiced in our day, victims of human trafficking would receive justice and human traffickers would be dispatched to a swift judgment: “Thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deuteronomy 19:21).

Charitable Obligations (Deuteronomy 24:10-22)

Today’s false teachers and preachers have led many to believe the laws of the Old Testament were lacking in grace. They support their reason and boast that we live in an “Age of Grace.” Indeed, we do, but grace has been a part of every age because God is a part of every age. He has been and continues to be immutable – the same yesterday, today, and forever. Therefore, characterizing the Law and Commandments as “graceless” suggests the LORD was graceless, which is heresy.

Deuteronomy 24:10-22 proved that God was sensitive and compassionate concerning the condition of the poor, the weak, the orphan, and the widow. For example, in ancient times, the poor often had nothing more than the “clothes on their backs.” Robes were the attire for those times, and men generally wore inner and outer robes. The inner robe afforded modesty, while the outer robe protected against the elements and provided warmth at night.

Should a man of little means borrow, his outer robe might serve as the surety or pledge for his debt (24:10-11). However, the lender was not to humiliate a debtor and take by force the robe of a poor man while he was in his house (24:10-11). Also, in the evening, the lender was to return the outer robe so that the man “may sleep in his own raiment, and bless thee” (24:13).

Admonitions Against Injustices (Deuteronomy 24:14-18)

Day laborers were paid their wages at the end of a workday (24:14). Also, everyone was to bear the consequences and punishment for their sins. Therefore, a father was not to be punished for the sins of his children, nor were his children to be punished for the sins of their father (24:16).

Charity Was the Law (Deuteronomy 24:19-22)

In ancient times there was no welfare system, and the impoverished were a perpetual presence on the earth. Tragically, widows were sometimes forsaken by their children, orphans were neglected, and foreigners often found themselves homeless. Moses reminded the congregation how Israel suffered bondage in Egypt. He urged the people to remember the poor and let them glean the leftovers from their fields, olive trees, and grapevines.

Deuteronomy 25

Time and space prevent a thorough commentary on Deuteronomy 25; however, I suggest the following outline of principles for your study.

I. Capital Punishment and Civil Justice (Deuteronomy 25:1-4)

II. Family Posterity (Deuteronomy 25:5-12)

III. Business and Commerce (Deuteronomy 25:13-16)

IV. The Offence of an Enemy (Deuteronomy 25:17-19)

Closing thoughts:

Once again, I trust you have seen the grace of God evidenced throughout His Laws and Commandments. Although some invite believers to ignore the Old Testament altogether, they do so at their peril and that of their followers. But, of course, the greatest expression of God’s Law and grace is identified in Christ’s sacrifice for our sins (1 Peter 2:21-24).

Questions to consider:

1) Could a divorced man remarry his wife after she had been married to another man? (Deuteronomy 24:4)

2) What was God’s judgment concerning human traffickers? (Deuteronomy 24:7)

3) Rather than long terms of imprisonment, how was an offense settled in Israel? (Deuteronomy 25:1-3)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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Feminization, Sanitation, and Compassion (Deuteronomy 23)

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Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 23

We continue our study of Moses’ challenge to Israel as he prepared that nation to go forward without him as its leader. Some of the principles in today’s Scripture may seem mundane; however, such was not the case for a nation that had suffered the humiliation of bondage for four centuries.

Moses taught the children of Israel how to conduct themselves in the sight of the LORD and preserve their sanctity as His people. In today’s devotion, we will consider the right of citizenship in ancient Israel and the exclusion of some from “the congregation of the LORD” (23:1).

The Feminization and Castration of Men Was Forbidden (23:1)

The topic of mutilation or castration is one in which we must use discretion; however, the LORD was clear in His instruction concerning honoring one’s vessel (i.e., body). There was to be no mutualization of a man’s private parts, for such was unnatural and against God’s created order.

Illegitimate Sons (23:2)

Sons born of adultery, or incest, were to be excluded in Israel unto the “tenth generation” (23:2). Also, sons borne of extra-marital relationships were excluded, for their conception was contrary to the will and design of God’s order.

Ammonites and Moabites Were Not Permitted in Israel (23:3-6)

These nations were the offspring of Lot’s incestuous relationship with his daughters (Genesis 19:30-38). While the Ammonites and Moabites might live in the land, they were not accepted as part of the congregation of Israel (the exception could be if one became a proselyte of the God of Israel, as was the case with Ruth the Moabitess, who became the wife of Boaz, Ruth 1:4; 4:13). Also, the Ammonites and Moabites had made themselves adversaries of Israel by hiring Balaam to curse the people (23:4-6).

Edomites and Egyptians (23:7-8)

Edom and Egypt were not friends of Israel; however, both had a history that prevented their complete exclusion. The Edomites were of the lineage of Esau and, therefore, distant kin of Israel through Isaac (for Esau was Jacob’s brother, 23:7). Egypt was also an exception, for that nation had been the host of Israel during their sojourn in that land. 

Cleanness and Purity in Times of War (23:9-11)

Remembering the presence of the LORD was represented by the Tabernacle amid the encampment; the people were reminded to keep themselves clean (23:9-10). A man who was not clean was to remain outside the camp until the evening and “wash himself with water” before entering the camp (23:11).

A Lesson in Sanitation (23:12-14)

The sanitation guidelines given by Moses to Israel placed that nation centuries ahead of other countries. The tribes were instructed to practice cleanliness and basic sanitation. They were not to answer nature’s call (i.e., to relieve themselves) within the camp. Instead, they were instructed to go outside the camp’s borders, “have a paddle” (a spade or shovel), and cover their excrement.

We understand much about sanitation and disease today; however, only in the past two centuries has proper hygiene been fully appreciated. The sanitation commanded by the LORD was not only because He dwelt amid His people but also because it was right and good for the health and well-being of the people (23:14).

Compassion for a Fleeing Slave (23:15-16)

A slave that had fled from his heathen master and sought refuge in Israel was not to be returned to his master (23:15). Instead, he was given shelter in the land and allowed to dwell where he chose (23:16).

Prostitution and Sodomy Condemned (23:17-18)

All manner of gross immorality accompanied the worship of idols in ancient times. Whoredom, and sodomy were ever present among the heathen nations. No daughter of Israel was to fall into whoredom, and no son was to be a homosexual (described as “the price of a dog,” thus graphically describing the debasement of sodomy, 23:18).

Usury: Charging Interest on Debts (23:19-20)

Israelite men were not to charge their fellow man (“thy brother”) interest for borrowing money (23:19). A “stranger,” however, a non-Hebrew, was lawfully charged interest on debts (23:20).

To Vow, Or Not to Vow (23:21-23)

Swearing an oath, or vowing a vow, was a serious matter with the LORD and was not to be taken lightly (23:21). No man was to “vow a vow unto the LORD” and fail to fulfill it without delay (23:21b). Indeed, it would be better not to have committed oneself to a vow, than to do so and fail to fulfill it (23:22-23).

To Eat, or Not to Eat (23:24-25)

Suppose a man is hungry and lacks the means to feed himself. Should that man be permitted to take from another’s field or vineyard and satisfy his hunger? The answer was recorded in Deuteronomy 23:24-25 which reminds us that the God of Israel was compassionate and merciful.

A hungry man was allowed to eat grapes from his neighbor’s vineyard and take wheat kernels from his neighbor’s field. He could not, however, go into his neighbor’s field with a vessel and fill it. So, instead, he was allowed to take only what he needed to quench his hunger.

Closing thoughts:

The growth of incivility we observe today is attributable to society rejecting the spiritual principles and precepts of God’s Word. I trust you are developing an appreciation for the judicious nature of the LORD and His grace and compassion expressed in His Law and Commandments. The LORD requires that we exercise grace and common decency toward others.

Questions to consider:

1) Who was excluded from entering the congregation of Israel? (23:1-6)

2) What was the law concerning a slave who had escaped his harsh master? (23:15-16)

3) How serious were vows made to the LORD? (23:21-23)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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“WOKE,” Civility, Women’s Rights, and Sexual Perversity (Deuteronomy 21; Deuteronomy 22)

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Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 21-22

Warning: You may find the content of today’s devotion inflammatory; however, its immediate relevance is undeniable.

Moses continued his charge to Israel in our Scripture reading. In Deuteronomy 21-22, fundamental principles establish the sanctity of human life, the basics of civil decency and human kindness, and the practical application of the command, “love thy neighbor.”

Deuteronomy 21 – Fundamentals of Civil Duty

“Thou Shalt Not Kill” (Deuteronomy 21:1-9)

In our study of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), we have considered several passages of Scripture that explain the sanctity of human life and the sixth commandment that reads, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). Capital punishment, a “life for a life,” was God’s judgment upon the man who willfully, and deliberately took the life of another (19:11-13, 21). In addition, Deuteronomy 21:1-9 addressed the loss of human life, should a victim’s body be discovered, but there are no witnesses to the murder.

Concerning Women Taken as Spoil of Wartimes (21:10-14)

Ancient cultures considered women taken as prisoners in war to be nothing more than a possession, a spoil of battle. The God of Israel, however, established laws to protect women. Should a man desire to take a female prisoner as his wife, he was to allow her head to be shaved, an outward symbol of her purification, and give her thirty days to mourn her parents’ deaths before taking her as his wife (21:12-13). Should the man later decide to reject her, he was to set her at liberty and was commanded to neither sell nor humiliate her (21:14).

The Inheritance Rights of a Firstborn Son (21:15-17)

Some propose that the reference to “two wives” (21:15) suggested polygamy; however, I believe it is not. From our study of the Book of Genesis, we know that God defined marriage as “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), meaning the union of one man and one woman. Therefore, polygamy cannot be the intent of Deuteronomy 21:15, for the Mosaic Law did not redefine what God Himself had designed and established.

In my opinion, the explanation for the reference to “two wives” (one being described as “beloved” and the other “hated”) implied that the first wife was dead. In this example, the first wife had given birth to a son; as the firstborn son, he was the husband’s heir (21:15-16). The second wife, the stepmother of the firstborn son, would perhaps be tempted to influence her husband to disown his firstborn; thereby choosing her son to be his heir (21:16). The LORD condemned that practice. He declared that the firstborn son would be given “a double portion” of all that was his father’s (21:17).

Capital Punishment of a Rebellious Son (21:18-21)

A disobedient son, defined as “stubborn and rebellious” (21:18), refused to hear and obey his father and mother. Such a son (described as “a glutton, and a drunkard”) would be brought before the city elders, who would sit in judgment of his character (21:19-20).

I understand that stoning a rebellious son is undoubtedly offensive to our 21st-century sensibilities. Yet, given the severity of the punishment, we can conclude that it was a rare event. Indeed, such a judgment required the consent of both the father and mother (21:19-20). Yet, should the city’s elders find the son guilty, he would have been stoned to death by the “men of his city” (21:21).

Deuteronomy 22 – Having a Good Conscience

Compassion for a Neighbor’s Livestock (22:1-4)

We are reminded that God’s people were to love their neighbors. That command applied to his person and was demonstrated practically in one’s duty to his neighbor’s livestock, clothes, and possessions (22:1-3). Should a man’s ox, sheep, or donkey be astray, his neighbor was to restore them to their owner. Should the owner not be readily known, an Israelite was commanded to take the animal to his home until its rightful owner was established (22:2). Once again, we are reminded that God is benevolent. He required compassion for the animals of His creation (22:4).

An Abomination: TransgenderTransexuals (22:5)

There is much ado about the “rights” of self-declared “Queers, “Transexuals,” and “Asexuals” in 21st-century society. Such people aspire to blend and distort the natural differences between males and females in their dress and manner. It may surprise you to learn that blurring the distinctiveness in the sexes is not a “new woke” (as some would have you believe). Indeed, it was declared an “abomination unto the LORD” in the Scriptures and condemned as a practice among ancient heathen societies (22:5).

Compassion and Affection for Nature (22:6-7)

From the beginning, humanity was commanded to be the “keeper” of God’s creation (Genesis 2:15). It follows, therefore, that even the smallest of creatures should arouse in man a natural affection and compassion (22:7).

Closing thoughts:

Several other laws and guidelines are given in Deuteronomy 22, but I conclude this devotion by inviting you to notice the LORD’s protection of womankind (22:13-29).

Unlike their heathen neighbors, Israelite women were protected and shielded from abuses that are even prevalent today. For example, a woman had the right to due process should her purity and testimony be questioned. Also, should a woman be forcefully taken and raped, the severity of the law would fall upon the man, and he would forfeit his life for his sin (22:25-27).

Tragically, our nation and world have rejected the authority of God’s Word and removed itself from the divine guiding principles for life and civil society. We have become a people with laws divorced from unalterable principles. As a result, we are governed by the whims of wicked, unprincipled men and women. Indeed, the prophet Isaiah’s condemnation of the wicked is applicable and relevant when we read:

Isaiah 5:20-21 – “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! 21  Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!”

Questions to consider:

1) How were captive, enslaved women to be treated in Israel? (21:10-14)

2) What might become of a rebellious son? (21:19-19)

3) Why would the adage “finders, keepers” not apply to God’s people? (22:1-3)

4) What was the law concerning a man dressing like a woman or a woman dressing like a man? (22:5)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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God’s Promise: “Do Right, and I will bless you!” (Deuteronomy 8; Deuteronomy 9)

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Scripture Reading – Deuteronomy 8-9

Deuteronomy 8 – A Call to Obedience

Moses’ second challenge to Israel continued in Deuteronomy 8. Again, it was a call to obedience: “All 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!”

A Memorial to God’s Providences (Deuteronomy 8:2)

As though the promises of God’s grace and faithfulness were not enough, Moses began reciting all the LORD had done for the 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 the trials to “humble…to prove, [and] to know what was in [Israel’s] heart” (8:2). Knowing what was in the hearts of His people, the LORD had employed trials and testing to lay bare what manner of people they were.

What had the trials proved? (Deuteronomy 8:3-5)

The LORD’s loving care of His people! When they were hungry, He “fed them with manna” (8:3) and made Israel “know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live” (8:3; Matthew 4:4).

For forty years, the LORD preserved Israel. Even their clothes “waxed not old,” and their health did not fail them. Even their feet did not “swell, these forty years” (8:4). Yet, the LORD had chastened and corrected Israel, like “a man chasteneth his son” (8:5).

The Promise of a Good Land (Deuteronomy 8:6-9)

The LORD was bringing Israel into a fertile land with water and springs (8:7). The land was all He had promised. 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).

Warning: The Lure and Temptation of Prosperity (Deuteronomy 8:10-20)

Moses then warned that prosperity could tempt the people’s hearts to be lifted in pride, and they might forget the LORD and His covenant (8:10-19). Furthermore, Moses admonished, should the nation forget the LORD and boast, “My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth” (8:17), Israel would go the way of other nations and “surely perish” (8:19-20).

Deuteronomy 9 – Israel’s Unworthiness in Light of God’s Promises 

A Promise of Victory (Deuteronomy 9:1-3)

Lest the hearts of the people be lifted with pride, Moses reminded the people that the nations that occupied the land were “greater and mightier” than they were (9:1). He described the Canaanites as “a people great and tall…[for others said], Who can stand before the children of Anak!” (9:1-2).

An Assurance of God’s Unmerited Favor (Deuteronomy 9:4-6)

Therefore, Israel had no cause for pride or self-reliance. The LORD had determined to give them the land, not because they were righteous or merited God’s favor (because they were “a stiffnecked [hard, stubborn] people,” 9:6).

Warning: Lest they be proud, Moses Reminded Israel of the Nation’s Faults and Failures (Deuteronomy9:7-24)

They had rebelled and provoked God to anger when Moses went up onto the mount to receive the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 9:8-14; Exodus 31:18-32:6). When the LORD threatened to destroy the nation, Moses interceded for the people (9:15-19). Even Aaron, the brother of Moses, who became 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 past sins and rebellion (9:22-24; Exodus 17:1; Numbers 11:4), Moses returned to the uprising at Sinai. He recalled how he had appealed to the LORD to spare Israel for His testimony’s sake before the Egyptians and other nations (9:25-29).

Closing thoughts: What spiritual lesson might we take from Moses memorializing Israel’s sins and unworthiness?

There are many lessons and applications, but the most prominent is a lesson in God’s GRACE. Israel’s failures serve as a reminder of our unworthiness. None of us are worthy or merit God’s favor (Titus 3:5). Apart from Christ, sinners are lost and without hope of forgiveness and salvation. Israel was saved as a nation; in the same way, any sinner comes to be saved and forgiven of 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.

Questions to consider:

1) To what end had the LORD allowed Israel to suffer trials, hunger, and thirst in the wilderness? (Deuteronomy 8:2-3)

2) What are the dangers of prosperity? (Deuteronomy 9:12-14)

3) How strong were the enemies Israel would face in the Promised Land? (Deuteronomy 9:1-2)

4) How did Moses respond when he saw the golden calf Aaron had made for the people? (Deuteronomy 9:17-21)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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A Foolish Nation Eradicates Its History (Deuteronomy 1)

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Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 1

* This is the second devotion of two for today’s Scripture reading.

An Introduction to the Book of Deuteronomy

Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the Book of Deuteronomy. It is the fifth of the first five books of the Bible, known as the Pentateuch. Briefly, remember that Genesis revealed the God of Creation. In that book, we had explained the origin of all things, the entrance of sin, and God’s covenant with Abraham that promised the LORD would through him bless “all families of the earth” (Genesis 12:3). Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers chronicled Israel’s journey in the wilderness and gave us a record of God’s Law and Commandments.

Deuteronomy picked up the history of Israel at the journey’s end. With the nation encamped at the threshold of the Promised Land and knowing his death was imminent, Moses remembered and recorded the previous forty years of wanderings in the wilderness. Except for Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, the generation that departed Egypt and was twenty years old at the time had perished along the way. Therefore, Deuteronomy recorded Israel’s history, God’s laws, and Moses’ final instructions and exhortations to the people he had shepherded for forty years.

Deuteronomy 1 – Moses’ Final Words to Israel

The Assembly of the Congregation (Deuteronomy 1:1-5)

We read: “It came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them” (Deuteronomy 1:3). The Book of Deuteronomy was so important that a king of Israel was to have a copy of the book written in his hand and to be read every day of his life.

God’s Promise of the Land (Deuteronomy 1:6-8)

It was important for Moses to rehearse with the new generation who they were, from whence they came, and God’s plan for Israel. So Moses challenged the people, “8Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them” (1:8).

Much as a man might research his ancestral tree to know the history of his lineage, Moses passed to the new generation knowledge of their physical ancestry and, more importantly, their spiritual heritage as God’s chosen people. Think about it: The men and women who stood before Moses were 19 years old and younger when Israel refused to enter the Promised Land. They were now in their forties and late fifties. Many were too young to know the hardships of Egypt or remember when the people rebelled against the LORD. Therefore, Moses feared some might follow the faithlessness of the prior generation and be tempted to turn back from the new land.

The Appointment of Judges (Deuteronomy 1:9-18)

Because Israel was a large population (1:9-10), and Moses’ departure was imminent, it was essential for the nation to have a form of government that would judge matters according to God’s law and commandments. Therefore, the LORD directed Moses, “Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you” (1:13). Those men were to judge the people and settle causes that would arise (1:16). Moses admonished the men to be fair in their judgments and “not respect persons” (1:17).

The Prior Generation’s Failure to Trust God (Deuteronomy 1:19-46)

Then, Moses recapped Israel’s forty years in the wilderness and the previous generation’s refusal to trust the LORD. Finally, for any who might question why the generation before them perished, Moses reminded them:

Deuteronomy 1:32–3332Yet in this thing ye did not believe the Lord your God, 33Who went in the way before you, to search you out a place to pitch your tents in, in fire by night, to shew you by what way ye should go, and in a cloud by day.

Moses was concerned that the youth did not understand what faithlessness had cost their parents and grandparents. Therefore, he rehearsed the tragic consequences of their parents’ disobedience and ensured they understood the nation’s challenges.

Deuteronomy 1:34-46 is a history lesson. Moses reminded the people that only Caleb and Joshua would accompany them across the Jordan River. Moses, because he disobeyed the LORD, would not “go in thither” (1:37); but The LORD had appointed them Joshua, and the people were urged to “encourage him” (1:38).

Closing thoughts:

The children of Israel needed to know and understand their history as a nation. History is important, and only a doomed society dares to deny its history and fail to learn from its past. Tragically, eradicating the history and symbols of a nation’s past might pacify a few, but it invariably destines its people to repeat its failures.

In the words of twentieth-century philosopher George Santayana, Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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