Category Archives: Salvation

Rahab: A Testimony of Saving Grace (Joshua 5-8)

Daily reading assignment: Joshua 5-8

Having crossed the Jordan River, Joshua and Israel faced the challenge of waging war with the inhabitants of the land God had promised He would give to Abraham and his lineage.

The first great city of the land was the ancient city of Jericho, whose walls made it the strongest fortress in the land, but one that had to be conquered for the people to pass on and take possession of their inheritance.

The two men Joshua had sent to spy out Jericho had, after finding refuge in the home of Rahab (Joshua 2), returned and gave a report, stating that the citizens of Jericho feared the God of Israel and her armies (Joshua 2:11-12).

Joshua 5 – Circumcision, Now?

Circumcising all males born during Israel’s wilderness sojourn was Joshua’s first task after leading Israel into the Promised Land (5:1-9).  While the generation that had departed Egypt had been circumcised, the succeeding generation who were born during the forty years of wandering had not been circumcised (5:5).

Why did Joshua wait until crossing the Jordan into “enemy territory?” Circumcision was a sign of the LORD’S covenant and it was His desire that it be administered in the land He had promised to give the sons and lineage of Abraham. Egypt was in the past and a new land was before them (5:9).

The first Passover was also observed in the new land and the people remembered how the LORD had delivered them out of the hand of Pharaoh and slavery in Egypt (5:10-12). The daily manna the LORD had provided during their sojourn ceased as the people would begin consuming “the fruit of the land of Canaan” (5:12).

The appearance of the angel of the LORD, a theophany of God’s physical presence, confirmed to Joshua that LORD was with him and Israel (5:13-15).

Joshua 6 – The Fall of Jericho

Joshua 6 is the record of the overthrow of the ancient city of Jericho. Jericho was not defeated by a force of arms nor a well-planned siege of ancient military engines. God delivered the city into Israel’s hand, and all perished with the exception of Rahab and her household.

Joshua 7 – The Humiliating Defeat at Ai

Joshua 7 reminds us the sin of one man can invite the judgment of God on a family and a nation. Achan had allowed covetousness to take root in his heart. Seeing the wealth and riches in the ruins of Jericho, he set his heart on them and took into his heart and tent the gold, silver, and elaborate clothing God had forbidden (7:21).  Achan’s decision proved to be a disaster for the nation and was the ruin of his household (7:24-26).

Joshua 8 – Faith is the Victory!

After learning the dreadful consequences of sin and the presumptive failure to seek God’s direction and blessing, Joshua 8 records Israel’s great victory over the city of Ai.

I close today’s devotional commentary inviting you to consider Rahab and the astonishing testimony of God’s grace she represents (Joshua 6:17, 22-25).  Why did God, out of all who perished in Jericho’s destruction, spare a harlot and her family?  The answer to that question is found in Hebrews 11:31.

Hebrews 11:31 – “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.”

Rahab’s character garnered no merit with God or Israel. She was a heathen and a prostitute.  Why was she spared?

She believed Israel’s God was the One True God and Israel was His chosen people (Joshua 2:8-13).  She had welcomed the spies into her home and when the army of Israel surrounded the city, the scarlet rope tied in her window was a testimony and symbol of her faith.

Rahab’s faith was rewarded by God! She was spared the destruction of Jericho, she became the mother of Boaz and was the great-great grandmother of David. Rahab is named in the lineage of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5) and is a lasting testimony of God’s saving grace.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The frailty of old age is not an excuse for tolerating sin. (Deuteronomy 30-31)

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 30-31

True to the nature of God, having promised in His justice He would punish Israel for breaking covenant with Him (Deuteronomy 29:24-29), He promises in Deuteronomy 31 to be merciful should the people repent and restore them to their land (30:1-14).

Deuteronomy 30 concludes with a strong challenge to Israel to know the Word of the LORD is sure and He will bless the people when they keep His covenant.  However, should they disobey His Laws and Commandments, He will surely bring judgment upon the nation (30:15-20).

Mindful of his own mortality and knowing the days of his earthly sojourn were ending, Moses reminded the nation he is “an hundred and twenty years old” and the LORD had said, “Thou shalt not go over this Jordan” (31:1-2).

In the tone of a loving, aged father who knows his days with his children are concluding, Moses encouraged the people, “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not” (31:6).  The same God who delivered Israel out of Egypt and preserved them in the wilderness will “not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (31:6).

Moses publicly affirmed Joshua’s ordination “in the sight of all Israel” (31:7-8) and challenged the spiritual leaders of the nation to be the custodians and teachers of the LORD’s Law and keep the Law and Commandments before the people (31:9-13).

Reminded God is Omniscient, the LORD revealed to Moses that after his death, the people would break their covenant with Him and “go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land” (31:14-18).  The power and influence of worship music is shown when the LORD commanded Moses to write a song to remind the people of their covenant with the LORD (31:19-22).

Deuteronomy 31 concludes with Moses giving a final charge to Joshua as he assumes the leadership of the nation (31:23).  Gathering the people, Moses challenged the Levites to take the record of the LORD’s Law and “put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD” (31:24-26).

There are many lessons we might take from today’s scripture reading; however, the one that strikes a chord with me is:

The frailty of old age is not an excuse for tolerating sin.

At one hundred and twenty years old, Moses was “feeling his age” and was conscious of the inevitableness of his death.  The pressures of leading a rebellious people “forty years in the wilderness” and old age had taken its toll on the man (29:5).

Moses confessed, “I am an hundred and twenty years old this day; I can no more go out and come in” (31:2).  “And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thy days approach that thou must die” (31:14).   We read again, “And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers” (31:16).

Moses was old and frail; however, the fire of his convictions and dedication to the LORD had not abated. 

I am afraid the same cannot be said of my generation.  There is a growing tolerance of sin and carnality in Christian homes, Bible preaching churches, Christian schools, Bible colleges and universities.  In an effort to appease rebellious children in their own households, leaders of my generation are compromising spiritual disciplines and precepts of the ministries they are leading.

The fears Moses expressed in Deuteronomy 31:29 are, I believe, a foreshadow of what will become of many fundamental churches, schools, and institutions.

Deuteronomy 31:29 – “For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands.”

How about you, my friend? Does the fire of godly convictions still burn in your spirit and soul?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Whole Duty of Man (Deuteronomy 8-10)

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 8-10

Remembering Israel is at the entrance to the Promised Land, and knowing he will not accompany them when they invade, one senses an urgency in Moses’ challenge to the people.

It was important for those who stood before Moses to remember how the LORD had sustained them as a nation. Remember His commandments and providential care. Remember He had preserved them, even down to their raiment and sandals (8:4). Remember, as a father chastens the son he loves, the LORD had chastened and tried them (8:5) that they might fear and revere Him as their God (8:6).

Knowing the land was all the Lord promised (8:7-9); Moses warned that some would forget the LORD and boast in their hearts, “My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth” (8:14-17).

Is that not like you and me? When we are in trouble, facing trials and have needs, we earnestly call out to the LORD. However, when we have no needs and there is no crisis, we are tempted to be proud and self-sufficient.

Moses reminded the people the land the LORD promised to give them was occupied by nations “greater and mightier” (9:1-2) than Israel.  The LORD promised to give Israel victory, not because they were more righteous or powerful than their enemies, but because the LORD was with them (9:3-5).

Moses reviewed several historical examples of how difficult and proud the people had been during their forty-year journey in the wilderness. He rehearsed how their wickedness had provoked him to wrath and he had cast the LORD’s Commandments to the ground (9:17). When the LORD threatened to destroy the nation in his wrath, Moses had interceded and God answered His prayer and spared the nation (9:7-29).

Deuteronomy 10 continues Moses’ account of the LORD’S mercy and Him renewing His covenant and inscribing His Commandments on stone a second time (10:1-5). Moses challenged the people to obey the LORD with five imperatives:

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 – “And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fearthe LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, 13  To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?”

Who is the God of Israel (10:14-22)?

He is the Creator (10:14).  He is “God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible [i.e. to be feared]”.  He is Just (10:15-18).

The LORD could have chosen any nation; however, He chose Abraham and his lineage.  He chose Israel, not because they were greater (for the LORD “regardeth not persons”), but in an act of grace He chose to “love them” (10:15, 17).

What was Israel’s duty in light of God’s grace and love? (10:20)

Solomon summed up a believer’s duty in this:

Ecclesiastes 12:13 – “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Look and Live…And a Little Hee-Hawing! (Numbers 21-22)

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 21-22

Forty years after Israel departed Egypt, the nation is nearing the culmination of her 40-year sojourn in the wilderness. The generation that departed Egypt, but refused to trust the LORD to enter Canaan, has perished.  Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ sister and brother, are dead (20:1, 28). I wonder what loneliness Moses have borne?

Forty years of trials and hardships has prepared the people for the battles that lie before them. 

Numbers 21 opens with a victorious battle against a Canaanite king. These were the people before whom Israel had fled forty years prior (Numbers 21:1-3; 14:44-45). Soon after, in spite of their victory, the people fell to murmuring against the LORD and Moses (21:4-5).

Responding to the accusations that He and Moses had led them out of Egypt to die, the LORD sent “fiery [poisonous] serpents” among the congregation (21:6). Chastened by the LORD, the people confessed their sin and asked Moses to pray the LORD would “take away the serpents from us” (20:7).

The LORD answered Moses’ prayer by providing a way of salvation, a serpent of brass he was instructed to make and suspend above the people (21:8).  The LORD promised that when the people looked upon the brass serpent they would live (21:9). It was that symbol, the brass serpent, Jesus mentioned when He foretold His own sacrificial death on the cross.  Jesus prophesied:

John 3:14-16 – “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: [15] That whosoever believeth in Him [Jesus Christ] should not perish, but have eternal life.  [16] For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

As the brass serpent suspended on a pole was the object God provided for Israel to be saved, Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross is the LORD’S provision for our salvation and deliverance from the curse of sin.

We find Israel within months of entering the Promised Land, the land God promised Abraham would be an inheritance for his lineage (Genesis 12). Knowing the adversaries they would face when they cross the Jordan River, it was necessary that Israel conquer and destroy her enemies on the east side of the Jordan River less they fall victim.

War and More Wars (Numbers 21:12-22:41)

Ancient enemy states, whose ruins modern archaeology have identified, are named here: the Amorites, Moabites (21:13-23), and Ammonites (21:24).

Balak, a king of the Moabites (22:1), is renowned for his desperate attempt to have Balaam, a heathen prophet, intercede for him against Israel (22:2-6).  After refusing the king’s petitions, Balaam yielded to take his journey with representatives of the Moabite king after God directed him to go with the men (22:20-21).

Insuring the prophet would obey Him, the LORD sent an angel to stand in the path of Balaam (22:22). An argument ensued that is a favorite of children and one of the most unusual conversations in the Scriptures…an exchange between a man and his donkey! (22:23-35)

Terrified by the appearance of an angel bearing a sword, the donkey rushed out of the way as Balaam desperately attempted to guide him. Seeing the angel, the donkey fell down and refused to move in spite of Balaam’s abuses (22:27).

Miraculously, the LORD gave the donkey the ability to speak, and Balaam, seemingly without thought, found himself in a heated conversation with his donkey until the “LORD opened the eyes of Balaam” (22:28-31). Complying to the angel’s bidding, Balaam continued his journey to Balak, king of Moab (22:34-35).

I close today’s devotional with the stage set for a dramatic confrontation between a heathen king (22:36-41), a wayward prophet, and the LORD, the King of Heaven!

To be continued…

Copyright  2020 – Travis D. Smith

His Promises Never Fail (Numbers 11-13)

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 11-13

Three days into their journey from Mt. Sinai, an old pattern of sin returns and the people began to complain (Numbers 11:1). 

We read, the LORD’s “anger was kindled” (11:1) and His wrath was poured out as fire from heaven that began on the outskirts of the encampment. Why the “uttermost parts of the camp” (11:1), meaning the outlying areas, and not the center of the encampment?  I suppose that is where one will find the grumblers—on the fringe and far from the LORD.

The source of the spirit of discontentment is identified as “the mixt multitude” (11:4).

Who were they? They were non-Hebrew, most likely poor Egyptians.  No doubt hoping greater opportunities might be found by casting their lot in with the children of Israel, they had accompanied the people out of Egypt. The sinful, carnal spirit of the “mixt multitude” infected the children of Israel who wept asking, “Who shall give us flesh to eat?” (11:4)

Complainers and grumblers are a cancer among God’s people.

Soon the Hebrews began to “remember the fish…cucumbers, and the melons” they did eat in Egypt (11:5).  They became dissatisfied with God’s provisions (11:4-5) and their lusts romanticized memories of Egypt (11:5).

Moses lamented the complaints of the people (11:10) and was overwhelmed.  Rather than seeing the grumbling of the people as an offense to God, Moses accused the LORD of afflicting him saying, “Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant” (11:11a).

In his despair, Moses’ questioned the LORD:

Why me? What have I done? Am I the mother of Israel? Do you expect me to carry Israel to the Promise Land like a nurse carries an infant? How am I supposed to make these people happy?”

Moses’ final insult is summed up in this statement: “And if thou dealt thus with me, kill me.” (11:15c)

Stirred to anger, God gave the people the meat they demanded (11:31-32) and they gorged themselves, and became sick (11:33).

What was the root of the people’s complaints?  The core spiritual issue was the people had a rebellious heart toward God and “despised the LORD” (11:20).

A grievous, personal accusation was brought against Moses in Numbers 12.

Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ sister and brother, challenged his leadership and authority as the LORD’s spokesman (12:2). The initial charge was personal and against the wife of Moses (12:1); however, the narrative reveals that criticism was not the real issue. Their dispute with Moses arose from envy and jealousy.

I invite you to consider two observations on this matter of criticisms.

The first, when people are unable to find fault or attack your position, they often criticize a deeply personal area of your life.  For Moses it was the race or nationality of his wife.

The second, personal attacks are often a smoke screen concealing deeper issues in your critic’s life. While we should examine ourselves to see if criticisms are valid; we should also remember that initial criticisms are seldom the real issue (Numbers 12:1).

Numbers 13 brings us to the threshold of Canaan, the Promise Land.

The fate of a nation rests in the hands of twelve leaders, one from each of the twelve tribes of Israel.  Chosen by Moses, they were charged with the responsibility of spying out the land (13:4-15) the LORD promised Abraham would be an inheritance for Israel (Genesis 12:1, 7; 13:14-17).

Moses and the nation waited forty days to receive a report of the land. Upon returning, the twelve confirmed the land was all the LORD had promised saying, “surely it floweth with milk and honey” (13:23-27). The spies’ report, however, did not conclude on a good note when ten of the twelve reported:

“Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there” (13:28) along with the Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites and Canaanites” (13:29).

Caleb, one of the twelve spies, attempting to quiet the hearts of the people said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (13:30).  Ten of the spies, however, urged, “we be not able to go up” (13:31).

What made the difference in the reports?

The report given by Caleb and Joshua was different in two aspects: Focus and Faith.

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Their focus was not on the size of the obstacles and their faith rested in the promises of the LORD (13:27, 30).

Lesson – The LORD never fails to keep His promises.

Jeremiah 17:7 – “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Christ died For You, but is He Your Savior? (Leviticus 16-17)

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 16-18

* This is the first of two devotionals for today’s scripture reading.

The opening verse of Leviticus 16 remind us of a tragedy that occurred in Leviticus 10 when Nadab and Abihu, the two eldest sons of Aaron, “offered strange [foreign] fire before the LORD, which He commanded [charged] them not” and were slain for their sin (Leviticus 16:1).

The high priest (16:2), representing Israel before the LORD, was only to enter the “holy place within the veil before the mercy seat” once a year on “the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month” (16:29).

This Day of Atonement, known as “Yom Kippur” or the “Sabbath of Sabbaths”, is the most holy day on the Jewish calendar. This was the day the high priest offered sacrifices for his sins, his household, and for the sins of the nation.

Several spiritual truths are found in Leviticus 16. The first is a reminder the high priest and his household were sinners themselves and in need of blood atonement (16:3-14).  The high priest dared not take lightly the “holy place” beyond the veil where the Mercy Seat representing the throne of God was located. Before he ministered as a representative of the nation, the high priest was instructed to offer sacrifices for himself and his household.

After ceremonially washing and girding himself in the holy garments of the high priest (16:4), Aaron chose two goats and a ram he would later offer for the sins of the nation (16:5).  The first sacrifice on the Day of Atonement was a young bull the high priest offered as a sin offering for himself and his household (16:6, 11-14).

Two goats were chosen for the Day of Atonement; one would be sacrificed for the sins of the nation and the other serve as a scapegoat (16:5).  After casting lots to determine the goat the LORD would have sacrificed as a sin offeringfor the nation (16:7-10), its blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat (16:15) and a young bull was next sacrificed on the altar before all the congregation (16:18-19).

 

The “live goat” that was spared was the scapegoat (16:5, 20-21). With the congregation looking on, the high priest placed his hands on the head of the scapegoat and confessed the sins of the nation.  Symbolically bearing the sins of the nation, the scapegoat was then led out of the encampment and set free in the wilderness (16:22). The blood and remains of the goat, ram, and bull that was sacrificed were then removed from the camp and burned in the wilderness (16:27).

Guidelines for sacrifices continues in Leviticus 17. The prohibition of slaying animals for sacrifice any other place than the tabernacle suggests the possibility the people might have been tempted to offer blood sacrifices to false gods (17:3-7) and the punishment for idolatry was excommunication (17:4, 9).

Eating blood was forbidden (17:10) with the explanation “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (17:11a), “for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (17:11b).

The LORD had chosen blood as the means of expiation (i.e. atonement) for man’s sin. The LORD warned Adam his sin would be punishable by death and so it follows the shedding of blood is a representation of death.

Modern science has proved what the LORD revealed to Israel thousands of years ago… “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (17:11a).  I marvel at what our blood reveals about us. Our very life and being is in our blood. Our genetic profile, ancestry and health are all contained in our blood!

Why do we not offer sacrifices for our sins today?

We no longer follow the pattern of blood sacrifices for sins because Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was the sum of all sacrifices ever offered (Hebrews 9:24-28 ).  The author of Hebrews writes,

Hebrews 9:27-28 – “27  And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28  So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”

Will you believe and trust Jesus Christ as your Savior, the substitutionary sacrifice for your sin?

1 John 5:13  13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. 

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Reflection on Leprosy and the Curse of Sin (Leviticus 11-13)

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 11-13

Leviticus 11 might prove challenging in our non-agrarian day; however, the dietary regulations listed are insightful into the LORD’S loving care of His people, that they may better avoid sickness and disease. Like a shepherd guiding his sheep from harmful plants that were not to be ingested, the LORD instructed His people regarding beasts that were clean and others He deemed unclean and forbidden to be eaten (11:1-3). Examples of forbidden meats are the camel (11:4), “the coney…the hare” (11:5-6) and “the swine” (11:7).

Fish with fins and scales were considered clean and fit to eat (11:9); however, there were water creatures forbidden that include crabs, shrimp, and eels (11:10-12).

Fowl were fit for consumption; however, carrion (flesh-eating) birds were forbidden. Leviticus 11:13-19 lists eagles, vultures, hawks, ravens, owls, storks, and bats among forbidden birds.

Some insects were considered clean (11:21-22); however, those described as “fowls that creep”, meaning flies, wasps, bees, and certain locusts were not to be consumed (11:20).

Leviticus 12 instructs women regarding ceremonial purification following childbirth (12:1-8).

The ancient scourge of leprosy is the subject of Leviticus 13-14.  Known today as Hansen’s Disease; leprosy is a bacterial, infectious disease.  Treatable, even curable in the 21st century; leprosy was a dreaded disease in ancient times, inevitably leading to its victim’s separation from family and society, and consignment to leper colonies.

The LORD communicated specific instructions to address leprosy in Israel including diagnosing the disease and the exclusion of lepers from the tribes of Israel (Leviticus 13:1-59).  Lepers were required to cry out, “Unclean, unclean” (13:45), as a caution to all who approached. Without a cure, a leper’s only hope was for divine intervention, a miraculous healing, that must be verified by examination and followed with sacrificial offerings (Leviticus 14).

Permit me an observation in closing:

We are sinners and our souls bear the blight of spiritual leprosy…sin.

There was no cure for leprosy in ancient times apart from the priest’s intervention, and there is no cure for the leprosy of one’s soul apart from placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. In the words of the prophet Isaiah,

Isaiah 53:4-5 – “Surely he [the Messiah, Jesus Christ] hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

I invite you to confess the leprosy of your sinful soul and turn to Christ.  Accept Him as your Savior, and be healed.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith