Category Archives: Rebellion

The Way of the Wicked (2 Samuel 4; Psalm 6)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 4; Psalm 6

The events in 2 Samuel 4 are another reminder that humanity has not changed. Evil men struggle for power, riches, and influence, and the treachery and deceit found in our Scripture readings are as present in our day as they were in ancient times.

2 Samuel 4

The Plot to Kill, Ishbosheth, King of Israel (4:1-4)

When the news of Abner’s death (3:26-27) reached Saul’s son, Ishbosheth was so overcome with fear that “his hands were feeble [i.e., became limp], and all the Israelites were troubled” (4:1). With the captain of his army dead, Ishbosheth realized his days as king were numbered.

Two brothers, Baanah and Rechab (4:2-3), supposed the death of Abner provided them an opportunity to exact revenge against the house of Saul (for that king had slain many Gibeonites who lived in Beeroth, 2 Samuel 21:1-2). Besides Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, there was one other male of Saul’s household, Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan; however, he was lame and unfit to be king (4:4). With Ishbosheth dead, Baanah and Rechab reasoned the last obstacle to David becoming king of Israel would be removed, and they would be rewarded.

The Assassination of Ishbosheth (4:5-8)

Under the pretense of gathering grain, possibly as compensation to their band of soldiers, Rechab and Baanah entered the palace. Finding Ishbosheth sleeping, they killed him upon his bed, and beheaded him (4:5-7). Carrying the head of the king as proof he had been slain, Rechab and Baanah traveled through the night, and “brought the head of Ishbosheth unto David to Hebron” (4:8). Imagining they would be rewarded, they said to David, “Behold the head of Ishbosheth the son of Saul thine enemy, which sought thy life; and the Lord hath avenged my lord the king this day of Saul, and of his seed” (4:8).

David Condemned the Murderous Actions of Rechab and Baanah (4:9-12)

Reflecting on the LORD’S faithfulness during his wilderness years, David certainly did not need Rechab and Baanah to slay Ishbosheth (4:9). Drawing upon how he had ordered the death of the Amalekite soldier that had claimed to slay King Saul (2 Samuel 1), David condemned the two brothers for slaying Ishbosheth, “a righteous person in his own house upon his bed” (4:11).

David then “commanded his young men, and they slew [Rechab and Baanah], and cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged them up over the pool in Hebron” (4:12). Because the pool in Hebron was a public gathering place, hanging the limbs of the slain served as a testimony and a warning to Israel. A testimony that David had no part in the assassination of Ishbosheth. It was also a warning to any who might be tempted to betray David in the future. David, however, made certain “the head of Ishbosheth” was given an honorable burial “in the sepulchre of Abner in Hebron” (4:12).

Closing thought: We should not be surprised that when there is no law, evil men commit heinous acts of treachery, and murder. The wicked actions of Rechab and Baanah, and their expectation to be rewarded for murdering Ishbosheth, is the way of the world. David, however, proved to be a righteous man, and his judgment to put Rechab and Baanah to death was according to the Law (Genesis 9:6, Exodus 21:12; Leviticus 24:17,21).

Psalm 6Suffering, Sorrows and Setbacks

The setting and historical context of Psalm 6 is not known; however, David is identified as its author. Time and space do not allow me to do an in-depth study of Psalm 6; however, I trust my brief overview might be a blessing.

Psalm 6:2 2  Have mercy [Be gracious; show favor] upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal [cure; make whole] me; for my bones [i.e. body; substance] are vexed [troubled; tremble; alarmed; disturbed]

Psalm 6:5-7 5  For in death there is no remembrance [memory; memorial] of thee: in the grave [hell; the pit; Sheol] who shall give thee thanks [praise; revere]?

6 I am weary [faint; exhausted; grown weary] with my groaning [sighing; mourning]; all the night make I my bed to swim [inundate; i,e, swimming with tears]; I water [melt; dissolve] my couch [i.e., bed with a canopy] with my tears [weeping]

7  Mine eye [sight; appearance] is consumed [dimmed; waste away] because of grief [sorrow; anger]; it waxeth old  [grows old; fails] because of all mine enemies [distress; pains].”

Believer, if you find yourself in the midst of trials, and your soul is burdened and weary of life…take heart; the saints of God are strengthened in their faith when they, in the midst of the extremity of their weakness, turn to the Lord.

Many are the saints that have experienced the sorrows of trials, and can readily identify with David’s sleepless nights.  How many have cried themselves to sleep, because of the sinful choices of one they loved?  How many parents have grown weary, bearing the sorrows and trials heaped upon them by children who have chosen a path of sin? Take heart…God hears your cries.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Out of Sorrows, A New Beginning (2 Samuel 1-2)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 1-2

Our study of 1 Samuel concluded with the deaths of King Saul, his sons, and a humiliating defeat for Israel when that nation’s soldiers fled the battlefield in disarray (1 Samuel 31:7). Three days later, news of Israel’s defeat, and the deaths of Saul and his sons reached David in Ziklag (2 Samuel 1:1).

2 Samuel 1 – The King is Dead: An Elegy

The news bearer was an Amalekite soldier. He had come to David with a fabricated claim that he had slain Saul in an act of mercy, sparing the king the indignity of falling into the hands of the Philistines (1:1-10). The truth was, as we read in 1 Samuel 31, Saul had fallen upon his own sword (1 Samuel 31:4). Nevertheless, to support his claim, the Amalekite had in his possession Saul’s crown, and a bracelet David would have recognized as the fallen king’s (1:10).

Saul had been an enemy of David for more than a decade, nevertheless the news of his death, and the death of Jonathan moved David to mourn, weep, and fast until that evening (1:11-12). Rather than rejoice in the death of his enemy, David mourned, and ordered the man who claimed to have slain the king to be put to death (1:11-16).

The Song of the Bow (1:17-27)

As the poet and musician, he was, David turned to poetry and expressed in an elegy his profound sorrow for the deaths of Saul and his son Jonathan (1:17-27). To memorialize the household of Saul, David commanded the words of the elegy be taught to “the children of Judah” (1:18).

The concluding verses of 2 Samuel 1 expressed David’s grief at the loss of Jonathan, his friend and confidant (1:25-27).  There have been some who try to paint David’s lament as a twisted validation of sodomy, but it is not. Sodomy is condemned in the Old Testament (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Deuteronomy 23:17; Romans 1:26-27), and we can be certain such a sin would not have been a subject put to music for children to sing.  David’s love for Jonathan was one of mutual affection and trust, and such a friend is rare indeed!

2 Samuel 2 – Two Kings and a Divided Nation

With the deaths of the king and his sons, David recalled he had been anointed by the prophet Samuel to succeed Saul as king of Israel (1 Samuel 16). Being the spiritual man he was, David turned to the LORD for wisdom, and asked two questions: “Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah? And the Lord said unto him, Go up. And David said, Whither shall I go up? And he said, Unto Hebron” (2:1) With the LORD’s blessing, David, his two wives (2:2), and his men and their families moved to Hebron where he was crowned king by the men of the tribe of Judah (2:2-4).

David immediately faced opposition from Abner, Saul’s nephew (2:8) who moved to make Ishbosheth, Saul’s surviving son, king (2:9-10).  Abner’s opposition to David, coupled with Ishbosheth’s weak character, plunged the nation into a civil war that lasted over seven years (2:10-11).

Civil War (2:12-32; 3:1)

There were constant skirmishes between the men of Judah who served David as king, and those who served Ishbosheth, the son of Saul. Two strong generals incensed the conflict on both sides (2:12-17). Joab, David’s nephew by his sister Zeruiah (1 Chronicles 2:16), and Abner, the captain of Ishbosheth’s army, had become bitter enemies.

Coming upon a pool of water at Gibeon (2:12-13), Joab and Abner determined to set their soldiers in battle against one another (2:14-16). Abner was defeated, and fled the battle (2:17), with Joab, and his brothers, Abishai, and Asahel pursuing (2:18). Asahel, described as “light of foot as a wild roe” (2:18) pursued hard upon Abner intending to kill him (2:19-21).

Abner, desiring to spare Asahel for the respect he held for Joab, attempted to dissuade him, but “he refused to turn aside” (2:22-23). Abner then stabbed Ashael with the blunt end of his spear, and he died (2:23).

With Ashael dead, and Joab in pursuit, Abner fled to the “children of Benjamin,” who rallied to his side to face Joab (2:25). Abner persuaded Joab to turn back, lest he too die (2:26). Joab sounded the trumpet, and his men retired from the battle (2:27).

Joab and David’s men returned to their encampment victorious, having lost only nineteen men (2:30), while three hundred and sixty men of Benjamin had died (2:31). The victory, however, was a bitter one for Joab, who “took up [the body of his brother] Asahel, and buried him in the sepulchre of his father, which was in Bethlehem” (2:32a). As we will soon see, a vengeful spirit took hold of Joab, and would overshadow his relationship with David in the years ahead.

Closing observations: Though he would wait years to reign over a united Israel, the LORD, and time was on David’s side. He wisely sought the LORD for wisdom, and direction (2:1).

You and I would be wise to do the same…pray, and wait on the LORD.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 28; Psalm 63

1 Samuel 28 – Dead Man Walking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was a “dead man walking.”

Psalm 63

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

When Hope is Lost, Where Do You Turn? (1 Samuel 19)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 19

David’s fame as a warrior continued to inspire Israel, and as his popularity with the people increased, the king became “yet the more afraid of David; and Saul became David’s enemy continually” (18:29). Saul found himself in an unsustainable position, for “David behaved himself more wisely than all [his servants]; so that his name was much set by” (18:30).

1 Samuel 19 – Jonathan’s Intercession for David

The anger and envy Saul held toward David erupts into a crisis in today’s Scripture reading. David’s rapid promotion to an officer in the king’s army, was matched by his precipitous fall from his grace in 1 Samuel 19. The affection of the people, and the praise of the women for David’s successes had provoked jealousy in the king, and incensed him. Saul would not be content until he had either killed David, or he had been slain on the battlefield. Twice, Saul hurled a spear at David, and he had become “David’s enemy continually” (18:29).

The Beginning of Ten-Years on the Run

Saul’s murderous thoughts were no secret in the palace, for he had “spake to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, that they should kill David” (19:1). In spite of his father’s threats, Jonathan’s love for David was undeterred (19:2), though he feared his father’s murderous intent toward his friend. Perhaps evidencing some naïveté regarding the character of his father, Jonathan hoped he might disuade his father’s murderous spirit, but he encouraged David to distant himself from the king’s court, in hopes of seeing him restored to the king’s graces (19:2-3). Jonathan sought to sway his father’s spirit, and encouraged him to not “sin against his servant…because he hath not sinned against thee, and because his works have been to thee-ward very good” (19:4).

It appeared Saul’s spirit was changed toward David, and he was restored to the king’s palace, until David’s successes in war once again provoked the king’s envy. Saul “sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin; but he slipped away out of Saul’s presence, and he smote the javelin into the wall: and David fled, and escaped that night” (19:10). Saul’s plot to kill his son-in-law reached to David’s household, and only with the intervention and help of his wife, was he able to escape into the night (19:10-17).

David’s flight took him to Ramah, the prophet Samuel’s hometown (19:18). There he confided to the elderly prophet “all that Saul had done to him” (19:18b), and no doubt sought both counsel and encouragement from the man of God. David and Samuel then “went and dwelt in Naioth,” which is believed to have been a compound near Ramah where prophets dwelled (19:19).

Undeterred by David’s flight to Ramah, Saul sent “messengers” [special envoys of the king] to pursue him, and those men came to a company of prophets, with Samuel as their leader, and “the Spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied” (19:20). Saul sent a second, and third group of messengers, and they too began to prophesy with the prophets (19:21).

No doubt frustrated by the failures of those whom he had sent, Saul finally went to Ramah himself, and asked, “Where are Samuel and David?” (19:22) Continuing his journey to Naioth in Ramah, like the men he had sent before him, Saul came under the power of the Spirit of God (19:23), and he “stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked [the meaning is most likely not wearing his outer robe] all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets?” (19:24)

What was the meaning of the power of the Spirit of God coming upon Saul, and the messengers whom he had sent to apprehend David?

I believe it was a testimony of the LORD’S intervention. While the Spirit of God occupied Saul and his men, David had opportunity to flee Ramah. The once celebrated hero of Israel, was swiftly being stripped of everything. He had become a fugitive, and lost his position as an officer in the king’s army. His flight from Saul had taken him from his wife, and he would soon seek refuge in the wilderness. He will seek the counsel, and intervention of Jonathan (1 Samuel 20), but that too will fail.

Where do you turn in difficult times?

It will be David’s testimony that when he had lost every earthly security, he turned to the one place that would not fail him…the LORD.

Isaiah 41:1010Fear thou not; for I am with thee: Be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; Yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Character Flaws in Leaders Breed Insecurity in the Lives of Their Followers. (1 Samuel 12-13) – part 2

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 12-13

In the second year of Saul’s reign, he chose to maintain a small standing force of three thousand men, and the balance of his army returned to their homes (13:1-2). Dividing his small force into two companies, two thousand men remained with Saul, and a force of a thousand were subject to Jonathan, Saul’s son (13:2).

Assuming Saul ordered his son to lead a charge on a Philistine garrison, the raid was successful, and Saul disingenuously proclaimed to the nation, “Let the Hebrews hear. 4And all Israel heard say that Saul had smitten a garrison of the Philistines” (13:3b-4). A consequence of the raid on the garrison, was “that Israel also was had in abomination with the Philistines” (13:3b-4b). The offense that mustered the Philistines to gather for a campaign against Israel is not detailed, but it might have been that Jonathan’s attack on the Philistines was a breach of some peace treaty.

With only three thousand men, Israel found itself surrounded by a great Philistine army that dwarfed its standing army. Arrayed against Saul and his men were “thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude” (13:5). Seeing the magnitude of the force aligned against them, Israel’s soldiers panicked, and fled Saul’s encampment, seeking safety hiding in the countryside. Some fled across the Jordan River (13:6-7).

Saul had waited on Samuel’s arrival at his encampment; however, with his army reduced to six hundred, frightened men, he faced an untenable situation (13:8). The king’s lack of faith in the LORD, and his flawed character, began to haunt Israel, “and the people were scattered from him” (13:8). Understanding the debilitating fear among the people, Saul realized all would be lost if the people’s confidence was not restored. Taking matters into his own hand, Saul usurped Samuel’s role and authority, and offered sacrifices to the LORD (13:9).

When the sacrifices were ended, Saul received news that Samuel was approaching the camp, and he went out to meet the old prophet. Samuel did not hesitate to confront the king, and asked, “What hast thou done?” (13:10)

Saul’s failed character, and his inclination for deceit and folly were on full display. He pretended to honor the prophet by going out to greet him “that he might salute [bless; kneel] him.”  In reality, he had usurped the prophet’s authority as priest in Israel. He accused Samuel of failing to come in a timely manner, “within the days appointed” (13:11; 10), but in fact, he had come on the seventh day. Saul maintained he had been “forced” [literally, compelled] and “offered a burnt offering” (13:12); however, that was a lie (13:11-12).

Though he was an old man, the fire of righteousness still burned brightly in Samuel’s soul. Not mincing words, he boldly declared, “Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever” (13:13).

The consequences of Saul’s impropriety were dreadful, for he had not only failed the LORD, but his family would be cut off from the throne (13:13). Though only in the second year of his reign as king, Saul was told “the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee” (13:14). Samuel departed, and Saul numbered his men, counting only “about six hundred men” (13:15).

How desperate was the hour? The Philistines were terrorizing the people, sending out three companies of raiders in all directions, and reducing the people to poverty (13:17-18). The Philistines had reduced Israel to complete dependence, for they had no blacksmiths in the land. Not only did they lack the means of producing spears and swords, they were dependent on the Philistines to sharpen basic farm implements (13:19-21). There were only two swords in all Israel, that of Saul’s, and of his son, Jonathan’s (13:22).

Character flaws in leaders breed insecurity in their followers. 

Israel came to recognize the character imperfections in their king, and lost faith, and courage. As a result, the nation turned from the LORD, and were haunted by the failures of its leader.

Think about it: A weak military; national threats within and without; and the loss of manufacturing capability to a foreign, adversarial nation.

Sound familiar?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 12-13

1 Samuel 12 – A Resignation, and a Parting Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion of part 1…

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Moral Degeneracy, and Civil War” (Judges 20) – A Bonus Father’s Day Devotional Post

Scripture reading – Judges 20

Happy Father’s Day to fathers who follow http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com. Today’s Scripture reading is Ruth 1-2; however, I decided to post a bonus devotional from Judges 20. This passage was the subject of my Father’s Day message to Hillsdale Baptist Church, Tampa, FL. A recording of that sermon will be posted on Monday on my GabTV Channel

The Levite’s brutal actions, cutting the battered, and lifeless body of his concubine into twelve pieces, and sending them to the tribes, had the desired effect (19:29). The children of Israel were stirred and challenged to deliberate the deed that had been done, and speak to it (19:30). In the absence of a judge, ruler, or king (19:1), the elders of the tribes sent a summons for the children of Israel to gather “together as one man, from Dan [the northernmost tribe in Israel] even to Beer-sheba [the southernmost town in Canaan], with the land of Gilead[the tribes on the east side of the Jordan], unto the Lord in Mizpeh [probably a military outpost]” (20:1-2).

“Four hundred thousand footmen that drew sword,” gathered from “all the tribes of Israel, [and] presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God” (20:2). Though the tribe of Benjamin had heard how the tribes of Israel had gathered at Mizpeh, and was perhaps summoned, there was no man sent to represent the tribe in the matter.

A Plea for Justice (20:3-7)

The Levite, whose wife had been slain in Gibeah, was summoned by the tribal leaders, and questioned: “Tell us, how was this wickedness?” (20:3) The Levite then proceeded to give testimony of the horrific events that had taken place at Gibeah, and how he and his concubine had come to lodge there (20:4). He described how the house in which he sheltered was “beset…round about,” and the men of Gibeah would have slain him, and assaulted his concubine, leaving her dead (20:5).

He described how he had taken the body of his concubine, “and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the country…for they [the men of Gibeah, and Benjamin] had “committed lewdness [wickedness; evil] and folly[disgrace] in Israel” (20:6). The Levite then appealed to all Israel, “give here your advice and counsel” (20:7).

A Resolution to Exact Judgment (20:8-11)

All Israel was moved by the Levite’s testimony (20:8), and it was decided that judgment should not be delayed in the matter (20:8), and the men of Gibeah would answer for their evil deeds (20:9).

Men were chosen to search out provisions for the thousands of men who were prepared to go up against Gibeah, and deal with them “according to all the folly that they have wrought in Israel” (20:10). “All the men of Israel were gathered against the city [Gibeah], knit together as one man” (20:11).

Judgment, and the Punishment of the Men of Gibeah (20:12-19)

The elders of Israel sent messengers throughout the tribe of Benjamin, and they enquired, “What wickedness is this that is done among you?” (20:12). The messengers demanded, that “the children of Belial, which are in Gibeah,” (those ungodly, immoral men), be purged from their tribe, “that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel” (20:13).

In spite of the gross wickedness committed by the men of Gibeah, “the children of Benjamin would not hearken to the voice of their brethren the children of Israel[and they] gathered themselves together out of the cities unto Gibeah, to go out to battle against the children of Israel” (20:13-14). Benjamin made the decision to tolerate, and protect the sexual deviancy of Gibeah, and gathered “out of the cities twenty and six thousand men that drew sword, beside the inhabitants of Gibeah, which were numbered seven hundred chosen men” (20:15).

The children of Israel found themselves at a spiritual crossroads. (20:17-20)

Defy the law of God, and tolerate the wickedness that brought His judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), or confront the sin in its midst, and go to war with “four hundred thousand men that drew sword” (20:17).

Israel chose the LORD’S side, and “went up to the house of God [not the Tabernacle, but “Bethel”], and asked counsel of God, and said, Which of us shall go up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin? And the Lord said, Judah shall go up first” (20:18). The next day, “Israel rose up in the morning, and encamped against Gibeah. 20And the men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin; and the men of Israel put themselves in array to fight against them at Gibeah” (20:19-20).

The men of Benjamin came out of Gibeah, and won the first day’s battle, killing “twenty and two thousand men” of Israel (20:21). Although twenty-two thousand men had died, Israel’s men stirred themselves to prepare for the second battle (20:22), and wept before the LORD that same evening, “and asked counsel of the Lord, saying, Shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother? And the Lord said, Go up against him” (20:23).

On the second day, the army of Israel came near Gibeah, and the men of Benjamin once again rushed upon them, and eighteen thousand soldiers of Israel were slain (20:25). Israel retreated, and went up to Bethel, “and sat there before the Lord, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. 27And the children of Israel inquired of the Lord, (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days” (having been relocated to Bethel from Shiloh, perhaps for the battle, 20:26-27). “Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron” was the high priest,” enquired of the LORD for Israel, “Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease?” (20:28) The LORD assured Israel, “Go up; for to morrow I will deliver them into thine hand” (20:28).

With the assurance the LORD was with them, Israel “set liers in wait,” men who would ambush the soldiers of Benjamin when they gave chase out of Gibeah (20:29). On the third day of the battle, the men of Benjamin rushed out of the city as before, not knowing there were soldiers of Israel lying in wait to attack the city (20:29-30). Israel’s soldiers retreated, thus drawing the men of Benjamin away from the city (20:32). As Benjamin pursued Israel, ten thousand men of Israel overran the city of Gibeah (20:33-34). With the LORD on their side, Israel “destroyed of the Benjamites that day twenty and five thousand and an hundred men” (20:35).

When they saw the flames and smoke rising over Gibeah, the men of Benjamin realized “that evil was come upon them. 42Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel unto the way of the wilderness; but the battle overtook them; and them [other citizens of Benjamin] which came out of the cities they [Israel] destroyed in the midst of them” (20:41-42).

When the day’s battle was finished, Israel had killed all the people of Benjamin, burned their cities, and killed their beasts (20:42). There remained only six hundred men of Benjamin, who had fled and found safety “in the rock Rimmon four months” (20:47).

The tribe of Benjamin had tolerated, and protected the sodomite sins of Gibeah, and the toll of that decision brought the tribe nearly to extinction. Benjamin was decimated, and only six hundred men remained alive (20:47-48).

The final chapter in our study of the Book of Judges will find Israel bewailing all that had come to pass in Israel (21:1-3).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Lawlessness Breeds Moral Degeneracy” (Judges 19-20)

Scripture reading – Judges 19-20

A familiar refrain in the latter chapters of the Book of Judges is: “It came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel” (19:1).

Consider the question, “When was there no king [literally, no ruler or judge] in Israel?” The answer gives us a different perspective for the events recorded in today’s Scripture reading. I believe Judges 17-21 falls chronologically between the death of Joshua (Joshua 24:29-33, Judges 1:1-2:15), and the beginning of the era of the judges (Judges 2:16), when “the Spirit of the LORD came upon [Othniel], and he judged Israel” (3:8-10).

A contemporary application: The tragic events that occur in today’s Scripture reading, Judges 19-20, are a reflection of the lawlessness, and moral degeneracy of a society when men reject the Law of the LORD, and His Commandments.

Lesson: When spiritual leaders fail to preach, and teach the Word of God, they not only fail the LORD, they fail their families, community, and nation. Consider with me a time of lawlessness, much like our day, “when there was no king [no judge, no ruler] in Israel” (19:1).

Judges 19 – The Levite, and His Unfaithful Concubine

A man of the priestly tribe of Levi, passed through Mount Ephraim (near the place where the Tabernacle was located), and took to wife “a concubine out of Beth-lehem-judah [Bethlehem of Judah]” (19:1). The woman was most likely a concubine, because she had come to the marriage without a dowry. She would have been considered a lesser wife, and her children would have had no right of inheritance.

Tragically, the Levite’s concubine played the harlot, and left the Levite and returned to her father’s house (19:2). Four months passed, and the Levite and his servant, determined to travel to Bethlehem, and with kind words, endeavor to “bring her again” to his home (19:3). The concubine’s father rejoiced when the Levite came to claim his daughter (19:3). The man pressed upon his son-in-law to accept his invitation to continue in his home, and “he abode with him three days: so they did eat and drink, and lodged there” (19:4).

For four days, the Levite, his concubine, and servant continued with his father-in-law, and on the fifth day, though the father protested, the Levite set out on his journey to Shiloh (where the Tabernacle was located, 19:18). Because the hour was late, the servant pressed the Levite to stay the night near “Jebus” (ancient Jerusalem, 19:10-11). The Levite, however, refused to spend the night in Jerusalem, for it was occupied by Jebusites, and not the children of Israel. Instead, they made their way to Gibeah, a city occupied by the tribe of Benjamin, and arrived in the city as “the sun went down upon them” (19:14).

The Tragedy of Depravity in Gibeah

Contrary to the Law’s injunction to show compassion to the sojourner, no man of Gibeah offered the Levite, and his concubine provision or lodging for the night, and he settled to spend the night in the city street (19:15). An old man, however, whose birthplace was Mount Ephraim, resided in Gibeah, and spied the Levite and his company. The old man offered them lodging for the night (19:16-20), and though the Levite resisted his invitation, he pressed upon him, saying, “lodge not in the street” (19:20).

The old man was entertaining his guests, when “the men of the city, certain sons of Belial [wicked, immoral men], beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him” (19:22).

Like Lot, who found his household beset by the wicked men of Sodom (Genesis 19:4-9), the old man’s endeavor to reason with the sodomites of Gibeah proved futile (19:23). Though he defined their passions as wickedness, and folly (19:23), their immoral desire, and lust would not be assuaged. Following the manner of Lot, and to save the Levite from the violence of the mob, the old man offered his virgin daughter, and the Levite’s concubine to “do with them what seemeth good unto you” (19:24). Even that shameless attempt to pacify the lusts of the sodomites failed, and did not deter them from their debased objective (19:24).

Tragically, choosing to save himself, and his host from the degenerate mob, the Levite thrust his concubine out of the house. The men of Gibeah raped, and “abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go” (19:25), and retreated to their households (19:26).

What a hideous thought, that a man would give his wife to a mob to be abused, while he sheltered in the security of a household! Nevertheless, we read, the Levite “rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold” (19:25).

Can you picture this tragic moment? With a callousness that defies love, the Levite opened the door, not to search for his wife, but to go on his journey (19:27). He knew the violence of the Sodomite culture, and what she would have suffered, and no doubt believed she would be dead. Instead, she had made her way to the threshold of the house; battered, bruised, bleeding, and demeaned, she found the door closed to her cries, and died (19:27).

What manner of man would give his beloved to suffer, and himself be spared? The same who would fail to stoop, and caress her, and say, “Up, and let us be going” (19:28). The abused woman did not stir, and she did not answer. Her life was gone, her soul departed. She had died from the violence of the mob that had made her the object of their lusts. Taking up her lifeless body from the threshold, the Levite placed her upon his donkey, and went to his house (19:28).

Remembering there was no king, judge, or ruler in Israel, the Levite had no place to appeal for justice.

The city of Gibeah, and the tribe of Benjamin had sheltered, and tolerated a great evil in their land, and the Levite determined to appeal to all Israel for justice. He “took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her [body parts] into all the coasts [boundaries, tribes] of Israel” (19:29). The Levite’s deed left Israel shaken, and the children of Israel gathered to weigh the spiritual state of their nation, and what must be done (19:30, 20:1).

Author’s note: In a later devotional, I hope to consider the events that follow in Judges 20, and their application to our own society, and world.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

There Was No King, No Ruler, And No Judge In Israel. (Judges 18)

Scripture reading – Judges 18

Judges 18 opens with a repeat observation in the last chapters of the book: “1In those days there was no king in Israel” (18:1; also Judges 17:6, 19:1, and 21:25). In a very literal sense, there was no king, no ruler, and no judge in Israel. There was no man of God to herald the word of the LORD; none to call on the people to repent of their wickedness, and turn back to the Law and Commandments.

The tribe of Dan is the subject of Judges 18, but as you will see, Micah, the Ephraimite to whom we were introduced in Judges 17 is a prominent figure as well.

Having not received an inheritance in the Land, the Danites (18:1) sent out five men to spy out their assigned territory in the northernmost part of Israel, near Mount Horeb. In their journey, they camped on Mount Ephraim, and lodged near the house of Micah (18:2). As the spies were near Micah’s house, they heard the voice of his Levite (18:7-13), and knew his dialect was not of that region (18:3). They questioned the young Levite, and learned he was hired by Micah to serve as his priest (18:3-4). They sought the counsel of the Levite, and were assured their journey to Laish would be prosperous (18:5).

The five spies arrived near Laish, and found the people were “careless…quiet, and secure” (18:7). The implication was that they had no enemies, and were therefore lethargic in their defense, and vulnerable to siege. Laish was distant from other cities, and the spies felt there would be no assistance when the Danites attacked the city. Returning to their brethren, the spies reported that the land was good, and they should move quickly to possess it (18:8-10).

Six hundred Danite men, “appointed with weapons of war” (18:11), “went up, and pitched in Kirjath-jearim, in Judah” (18:12), and then made their way to Mount Ephraim, “and came unto the house of Micah” (18:13). There, the five spies conveyed to their fellow soldiers that in Micah’s house there was “an ephod [a breastplate worn by a priest], and teraphim [idol], and a graven image, and a molten image” (18:14). Led by the five spies, those six hundred men stood at the gate of Micah’s house, as they stole the idols, and enticed the young Levite priest to come with them, and serve as priest to the tribe of Dan” (18:15-20).

The Danites then set out on their journey for Laish, putting their children, and cattle forward, and the strong men serving as the rearward guard for their families (18:21). After a great distance, Micah and the men he had stirred to come with him, came upon the tribe of Dan whose strong men confronted them saying, “What aileth thee, that thou comest with such a company?” (18:23)

Micah complained he had been slighted, for the Danites had taken his gods, and his priest (18:24). The Danites, mincing no words, threatened Micah saying, “Let not thy voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows run upon thee, and thou lose thy life, with the lives of thy household” (18:25). Perceiving he was outnumbered, Micah retreated, and returned to his home (18:26).

The Danites then came upon Laish, and finding the inhabitants of the city unprepared, “they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire” (18:27). There was none that did come to the aid of Laish (18:28). There the Danites built a city, and named it Dan, for the father of their tribe.

I close inviting you to realize the depth of depravity to which Israel had descended. Idols, and graven images in their households; Levites serving as priest of their false gods; and the LORD, and His Law and Commandments forsaken.

Tragically, “the children of Dan set up the graven image [which they had stolen from Micah]: and Jonathan [most likely the name of the Levite priest], the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land” (18:30). “31And they set them up Micah’s graven image, which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh” (18:31).

We will soon see how Israel’s decline into idol worship, did serve as the precursor of that nation’s plunge into moral depravity.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith