Category Archives: Theology

“What is Man?” (Psalm 8-9)

Scripture reading – Psalm 8-9

Today’s Scripture readings, Psalms 8-9, are authored by David. Both of the psalms have captured the imagination of saints for centuries, and inspired musicians and poets to put the words of the psalms to music. With the exception of my amplification of some word meanings, I invite you to meditate on the words of the psalms.

Psalm 8 – The Wonder and Majesty of the LORD and Creation

1 O LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent God] our Lord [Master; Sovereign of Creation], how excellent [noble; mighty; majestic; glorious] is thy name [character; person; reputation] in all the earth! who hast set [put; made; given] thy glory [splendor; majesty; authority] above the heavens [i.e. stars of the sky].  
2  Out of the mouth of babes [young children] and sucklings [nursing infants] hast thou ordained [appointed; established; lay a foundation] strength [might; power; boldness] because of thine enemies [adversary; foes; distress], that thou mightest still [cease; silence; rest; observe] the enemy and the avenger.  
3  When I consider [look; behold; perceive] thy heavens [i.e. stars of the sky], the work [acts; labor; i.e. accomplishments] of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained [prepared; established; fashioned; fixed];  

4  What is man [mortal man], that thou art mindful [remember; think of] of him? and the son [children] of man, that thou visitest [care for; concerned with] him?”

David beheld the splendor and glory of the LORD displayed in His handiwork, the sun, moon and stars (8:3). He marveled at God’s power to hold the stars and planets in their courses. Overwhelmed by the beauty and majesty of creation, David exclaimed, “What is man?”  (8:4)

Why would the Creator of the heavens give even a thought to sinful, weak, foolish men?  Why would the Infinite take a single moment of time to visit, care or concern Himself with such an ignoble race?  Surely, only a fool would gaze into the heavens and state, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

5  For thou [the Lord] hast made him [man] a little [smaller; less than] lower [wanting; lacking] than the angels [heavenly beings], and hast crowned [encircled; compassed; surrounded] him [man] with glory [splendor] and honour [beauty; majesty].
6  Thou madest him [man] to have dominion [rule; reign; power] over the works [acts; deeds; i.e. creation] of thy hands; thou hast put [placed; set; fixed] all things under his feet:
7  All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts [domesticated animals..i.e. horse; mule] of the field [land; country];
8  The fowl [birds] of the air [sky; heavens], and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas [roads; ways; i.e. we have learned there are currents].
9  O LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent God] our Lord [Sovereign; Master], how excellent [great; powerful; glorious; majestic]is thy name [character; position; renown] in all the earth [land; country]!

Psalm 9 – A Call for Thanksgiving

Psalm 9 is a psalm of praise and thanksgiving to the LORD for His judgment upon the wicked, and His deliverance of the righteous. Psalm 9:1-6 stated David’s praise, in anticipation that the LORD would give him victory over his foes.

Psalm 9:7-12 listed David’s reflections on the character of the LORD, who is eternal (9:7), righteous in His judgment (9:8), a refuge and safe place for the hurting (9:9), trustworthy (9:10), worthy of all praise (9:11), and just (9:12).

Understanding the LORD is merciful, David called upon Him to look upon his troubles, and behold his enemies. He believed God would deliver him in the future as He had in the past (9:13-14). Though his adversaries threatened him, David was confident the heathen would be overtaken in their own plots against him (9:15).

Knowing the LORD is just and righteous in His judgments, David declared, “16The Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth: The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion [think, meditate]. Selah [pause]. 17The wicked shall be turned into hell, And all the nations that forget God” (9:17-18).

David’s psalm of thanksgiving closed with a benediction, as he called upon the LORD to remind the heathen, and the nations of the world that they are but men! (9:19-20).

Closing thought: Take a few minutes and ponder the majesty of the LORD reflected in not only His creation, but also in His “marvelous works” in your life. The LORD is great, and worthy of all praise!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Cry for Forgiveness and Help (Psalms 129-130)

Scripture reading Psalms 129-130

We continue our study of the psalms titled, “A Song of Degrees.” For today’s Scripture reading (Psalm 129-130), I have made an effort to amplify some words to strengthen the reader’s understanding of the psalms. [Bracketed words in italics are those of this author.]

Psalm 129 – Israel’s Reflections on Her Persecutions and Her Prayer for Justice

As with an earlier Psalm, I believe the song leader introduced the theme of Psalm 129 in the first verse, and the congregation echoed the words of the song leader in the second verse, adding the triumphant phrase, “Yet they [Israel’s enemies] have not prevailed [have power; overcome] against me” (129:2).

Psalm 129:1–3 – 1Many a time have they afflicted [treated harshly or with hostility] me from my youth, May Israel now say: 2Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: Yet they have not prevailed [have power; overcome]against me. 3The plowers [i.e., engravers; to inscribe] plowed upon my back: They made long their furrows. [may refer to beatings with a whip; harsh criticisms or accusations]

I believe verse 3 refers to the afflictions the people had suffered as a nation. The whips of the enemies had left scars, furrows, upon their backs. Yet, God in His mercy had delivered Israel, and “cut asunder the cords [ropes; bindings] of the wicked” (129:4).

The wicked had prospered for a season, but the psalmist prayed:

Psalm 129:5–6 – 5Let them all [the enemies of the LORD and His people] be confounded [put to shame] and turned back that hate Zion [the mount upon which the Temple was built]. 6Let them be as the grass upon the housetops [the Middle East had flat roofs], Which withereth [dries up in the heat of the sun] afore it groweth up [removed; i.e. taken up]:

Psalm 129:7–8 – 7Wherewith the mower [gatherer] filleth [to be full or filled] not his hand; Nor he that bindeth sheaves his bosom [garment; possibly the picture of carrying grain in the folds of one’s robe]. 8Neither do they which go by say, The blessing [wishing or pronouncing a blessing] of the Lord be upon you: We bless [praise] you in the name of the Lord.

Too often I fear, believers encourage sinners in their sin (2 John 1:11), and bid them words of comfort and blessing, rather than pray they will come to repent (129:7-8).

Psalm 130 – A Cry for Forgiveness, Hope, and Redemption

The words of a penitent sinner are found in the opening verses of Psalm 130. In his guilt and despair, the man had confessed his sin, and pled for the LORD to show him mercy (130:1-2).

Psalm 130:1–2 – 1Out of the depths [deep place] have I cried [cried out; shouted] unto thee, O Lord. 2Lord, hear [listen; give heed] my voice: Let thine ears be attentive [listen; pay attention to] to the voice of my supplications [plea for mercy].

Understanding all are sinners, the psalmist reasoned, 3If thou, Lord, shouldest mark [keep watch; guard; preserve] iniquities [sin; guilt], O Lord, who shall stand? [stand before the LORD]” (130:3).

Confident in the LORD’S mercy, and forgiveness (130:4), he waited on the LORD, and His redemption (130:4-8).

Psalm 130:4–8 – 4But there is forgiveness [pardon] with thee, That thou mayest be feared. [fear; be afraid of God]  5I wait for [hope for] the Lord, my soul doth wait [hope for], And in his word do I hope. [have cause for hope] 6My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch [keeps watch; guard] for the morning [the morning light]: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. 7Let Israel hope [have cause to hope] in the Lord: For with the Lord there is mercy [mercy; kindness; goodness], And with him [the LORD] is plenteous [much] redemption. [paying of an amount or price] 8And he [the LORD] shall redeem [buy out; liberate; pay] Israel [the Twelve tribes from the sons of Jacob] from all his iniquities. [sins; guilt]

Why should a sinner hope in the LORD? Because the LORD is merciful, and compassionate, and has promised to redeem all who come to Him.

1 John 1:99If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 4:1010Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation [atonement] for our sins.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Home Sweet Home: A Family Portrait (Psalms 128)

Scripture reading Psalms 128

Psalm 128 continues our study of the Psalms titled, “A Song of Degrees” (Psalms 120-134), and is a song of rejoicing for the LORD’S blessings.  The central focus of the psalm is the promise of the LORD’S blessings on the household of the man who fears the LORD, and walks in His ways.

Notice the promise of happiness found in the first two verses of Psalm 128.

Psalm 128:1–21Blessed [Happy] is every one that feareth [reveres; worships] the Lord; That walketh in his ways. 2For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: Happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well [pleasant] with thee.

Is there anyone who does not desire, and long for happiness? Some look for affirmation as a way to happiness, but trophies, medals, and applause never gratify. Some climb the ladder to success, pursue wealth and acquire possessions, but find happiness just isn’t there. Sadly, the happiness the world promises is temporal, and never satisfies!

To whom does the psalmist promise happiness? To those who fear the LORD, and walk in His ways (obeying His Laws, and Commandments). Such a man will be happy and satisfied, and has the promise he will enjoy the fruit of his labor. (128:2). The man who loves and serves the Lord is physically blessed through his seed.  His wife is compared to a fruitful vine, and in Scripture vines symbolize a life-giving force.

The psalm continues with how the blessing was given: “The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion [the mountain upon which the Temple was built]: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life” (Psalm 128:5).The Temple was a majestic symbol of God himself.  It represented life, and Israel’s prosperity.

We have observed two family portraits in our study of Psalm 128. The first was of a man and his wife who, under the shadow of her husband’s love and piety (128:1-3a), was like “a fruitful vine,” and a source of joy to her husband. The second portrait was of the couple’s children, sitting around the table. The children had not grown up to become wild weeds, but were like olive plants; trained and cultivated. They were growing up to be a blessing (128:3).

The third family portrait was one of contentment (128:5-6), and the concluding verses of Psalm 128 served as a benediction.

The man that had feared the LORD (128:1) was now old, and stooped in age. His body was weak, but his spirit was strong as he aspired to see God’s blessings on his nation (128:5). Because the LORD is the rewarder of them who love and fear Him, the old man was promised, “6  Yea, thou shalt see [look; discern] thy children’s children[grandchildren], and peace [Shalom; prosperity] upon Israel” (128:6).

Closing thoughts: There are some reading this devotional who long for their family to be a picture of happiness and joy. You long for the LORD to pour out His blessings on your marriage, and to see your “children’s children” living in a nation that enjoys “Shalom,” the peace and prosperity of the LORD (128:6).

Those are admirable desires; however, they are promised only to them who fear the LORD, and walk in His ways (128:1).

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

“Speak, For Thy Servant Heareth” (1 Samuel 2-3)

“Speak, For Thy Servant Heareth” (1 Samuel 2-3)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 2-3

Before she conceived, Hannah promised the LORD she would give Him her first born son. Her prayers were answered, and she gave birth to a son, “and called his name Samuel” (1:20). Hannah did not forget her vow, and when Samuel was no longer nursing (1:22-23), she took him to Shiloh, and presented him to the high priest (1:24-27). There she confessed, “I have lent [given, offered] him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord” (1:28).

1 Samuel 2  – Hannah’s Prayer of Thanksgiving and Praise (2:1-11)

After dedicating her only son to the LORD, Hannah prayed with a overflowing joy and thanksgiving. Her prayer was full of imagery, revealing a knowledge of the LORD that was both personal, and perceptive. The LORD had answered her prayers, and she exulted that He was her strength (“mine horn”), and salvation (2:1). She declared, the LORD is holy, and there is none like Him; He is a Rock, strong and mighty (2:2).

Though she had been mocked, and scorned by Elkanah’s other wife, she took comfort knowing the LORD was wise, and sovereign (2:3). He is to be praised, for by Him strong men are made weak, and the weak are made strong (2:4). He is sovereign over death, and life, and chooses whom He will bless, and who will be abased (2:6-8a). The LORD is the Creator, and Sustainer, and “the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he hath set the world upon them” (2:8).

When Hannah’s prayer of praise concluded, Elkanah, and his family went home to Ramah, leaving Samuel at Shiloh where he “did minister unto the LORD before Eli the priest” (2:11). He had been taught the Scriptures as soon as he could speak (Deuteronomy 6), and though a child, he exhibited his parent’s love, and passion for the LORD.

Year after year, Hannah returned to Shiloh, and there she found Samuel ministering “before the Lord, being a child, girded with a linen ephod” (2:18). As his loving mother, she “made [Samuel] a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.” (2:19). Eli prayed Hannah would be blessed, for her sacrifice, and rewarded for giving her son to the LORD.  “The Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the Lord” (2:21), “and was in favour both with the Lord, and also with men” (2:26),

The Wickedness of Eli’s Sons (2:12-17)

Amid the backdrop of Samuel’s innocence, and service to the LORD, we are introduced to the sons of Eli the high priest, and read of them: “12Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord” (2:12).

How could this be? They were not only the sons of the high priest; they were by birth of the priestly order. Tragically, they were illustrative of “the sons of Belial,” godless, wicked, and immoral (2:12), and “they knew not the LORD” (2:12).

It has been observed that, “familiarity breeds contempt,” and surely it did for the sons of Eli. They grew up in the cloistered life of the priesthood, and did not fear, and obey the LORD’S Law and Commandments. They profaned the sacrifices and demanded for themselves, the choice portions of burnt offerings. They lacked restraint, taking portions of fat, which was forbidden in the Law (2:13-16). Their disdain for the LORD, and the sacrifices gave cause for men to abhor “the offering of the LORD” (2:17).

A Father’s Failure, and a Tragic Prophecy (2:22-36)

The Scriptures do not reveal how many years passed from the time Samuel began service in the Tabernacle, and the blatant wickedness perpetuated by the sons of Eli in the priesthood. Old and weakened, Eli heard of the wicked, immoral acts committed by his sons, but he did nothing to restrain them (2:22-24). His feeble attempt to reason with his sons fell woefully short (2:25), for they demonstrated calloused hearts with no respect for him as father, nor fear of the LORD. So great was their wickedness, the LORD determined He “would slay them” (2:25).

The LORD sent “a man of God,” a prophet to Eli, who foretold the imminent judgment that would befall his sons (2:27-28). The LORD rebuked Eli, admonishing him for putting his sons above His God (2:29). Eli’s lineage would be cut off, and die in their youth (2:31-33). “Hophni and Phinehas [Eli’s sons]; [would] in one day die both of them” (2:34).

1 Samuel 3 – The LORD Calls Samuel

The LORD never leaves His people without His Word, and though Eli’s sons had disgraced the priesthood, and caused the people to abhor the offerings of the LORD (2:17), He was preparing Samuel to be His servant, and prophet (1 Samuel 3).

It was a tragic time in Israel, for “the word of the Lord was precious [rare] in those days; there was no open vision [no prophet]” (3:1), and the “lamp of God” in the Tabernacle was neglected, and “went out…where the ark of God was” (3:3).

Although he was a child, the LORD was ready to speak directly to Samuel (3:2-6, 3:7). Three times the LORD called to Samuel while he slept, but Samuel did not know it was the voice of the LORD. Eli comprehended the LORD was calling upon the young boy, and instructed him, “Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth” (3:9).

When the LORD called upon Samuel the fourth time, he answered as he had been instructed, and the LORD revealed the tragedy that would soon befall the house of Eli, and his sons (3:11-14). Samuel was stunned by the revelation the LORD had given him, and “feared to show Eli the vision” (3:15). Eli, however, demanded he reveal all the LORD had shown him, and Samuel told him everything, “and hid nothing from him” (3:18a).

Samuel’s reputation grew throughout Israel, and the people realized there was a prophet among them, and “the LORD was with him… all Israel from Dan even to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord” (3:19-20).

Though Eli, and his sons had failed the LORD, Israel knew there was a prophet in the land, for “the Lordappeared again in Shiloh: for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord” (3:21).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Here Comes the Bride! (Ruth 3-4)

Scripture reading – Ruth 3-4

Naomi had left Bethlehem during a time of famine (1:1), and ten years later returned from Moab as a widow, and childless. She buried her husband, and two sons in Moab, and her sojourn had proven bitter. In her words, “I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty” (1:21). Only a Moabitess named Ruth was with her, and she was Naomi’s daughter-in-law, and a widow herself.

From an earthly perspective, life had dealt some significant, harsh blows against Naomi, and Ruth. There are many details I could cite to justify that observation, but suffice it to say, that both these women faced deep sorrows, a feeling of destitution, and a loss that left them without a provider. Entering the Land, Ruth was a young widow, a stranger in Israel, far from her family, and country. She was the daughter-in-law of a widow, who was bitter (1:20-21). She was an outsider, and dependent upon the charity of those who were not her countrymen.

She was far from home; however, never far from the providence of the LORD, whom she confessed to be her God (1:16-17). In a testimony of the LORD’S sovereignty, Ruth found herself gleaning grain in the fields of Boaz, a mighty, and wealthy man, who was the kinsman of her mother-in-law (2:21-23).

Ruth 3 – Naomi, the Matchmaker

Sensing the providence of God at work in her, and Ruth’s life, Naomi declared she would not rest until she knew it would be well with her widowed daughter-in-law (3:1). Naomi revealed to Ruth that Boaz was their kindred. She knew he would not go home while the grain was being winnowed (culled out of its outer shell), and would sleep on the threshing floor to secure his harvest (3:2). Naomi instructed Ruth to bathe, put on a fresh robe, and make her way to the threshingfloor, where she was to lie down at the feet of Boaz unnoticed (3:3-4). Ruth agreed to Naomi’s instructions, and did as she was told (3:5-7).

Boaz aroused from his sleep at midnight, and discovered Ruth sleeping at his feet (3:8). When she declared he was her “near kinsman,” she had, in essence, made her plea to be his wife (3:9). Boaz praised Ruth’s godly character (3:10), and pledged he would honor his role as her kinsman, but only after one closer than himself disavowed his right to be her redeemer (3:11-12).

Ruth 4 – From Bitterness to Joy

Boaz set out early the next morning, and sat in the gate of the city, where he met the man who was the “nearer kinsman” of Ruth (4:1). With ten elders of the city as witnesses, Boaz offered to the “nearer kinsman” the right to purchase the land, but with a reminder that the responsibility would mean taking Ruth as his wife (4:1-5). Confessing it would complicate his “own inheritance” (meaning his will), the “nearer kinsman” deferred his right to redeem the land, saying, “redeem thou my right to thyself; for I cannot redeem it” (4:6).

With ten witnesses watching, the “nearer kinsman,” surrendered his right of ownership by taking off his sandal (as was the custom to transfer ownership of land), and gave it to Boaz as a sign of transfer. Boaz acknowledged his obligation to redeem the land from Naomi, and thereby redeeming Ruth to be his wife (4:10). All who witnessed the transaction, and Boaz’s pledge, blessed his union with Ruth, and prayed that she would bear sons to him, as had Rachel and Leah, the wives and mothers of Jacob’s sons (4:11).

Boaz took Ruth, “and she [became] his wife: and when he went in unto her…she bare a son” (4:13). Naomi’s shroud of bitterness was lifted, and the people rejoiced with her (4:14). They praised Ruth, the Moabitess, and outsider, and said she had been better to Naomi than had she given birth to seven sons (4:15).

A closing thought: The son born to Ruth and Boaz was named Obed, and he would be the father of Jesse, and the grandfather of David (4:17-22). David, would become the king of Israel, of whose lineage Jesus Christ would come. Ruth, the Mobaitess, became the great-grandmother of David, Israel’s beloved king (4:22). The romance of Ruth and Boaz will culminate in the birth of Jesus Christ!

What an amazing story of romance, grace, and redemption!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Life for a Life (Joshua 20-21)

Scripture reading – Joshua 20-21

After the Twelve Tribes of Israel were allotted their lands (Joshua 14-19), the LORD commanded Joshua to speak to the tribes, and require them to appoint “cities of refuge… 3That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be [a] refuge from the avenger of blood” (20:2-3).

The purpose for the cities of refuge has been discussed in earlier devotions, so suffice it to say we are again reminded of the sanctity of all human life (Genesis 9:4-6; Exodus 20:13), and the principle of capital punishment established by the LORD in Genesis 9:5-6. The cities of refuge afforded a safe place for those who had unintentionally taken the life of another (20:3-4). The cities provided a place where a man’s case could be judged by the elders of the city, and his life protected from those who felt compelled to avenge the death of a loved one (20:5).

Joshua 21 – Cities Designated for the Tribe of Levi

Having divided the land among the Twelve Tribes, the priestly tribe of Levi requested the cities they had been promised for their inheritance in the land (Joshua 21:1-3).  Each tribe was to give cities, and their surrounding lands, wherein the Levites would dwell (21:4-42). Forty-eight cities were given to the Levites, and assigned by family (21:41).

Joshua 21 concludes with three affirmations of the LORD (21:43-45): He had given Israel the land He had promised their forefathers (Genesis 12:7; 15:18; Joshua 1:3-4). He had given Israel victory over her enemies (21:44; Deuteronomy 12:9-10). Finally, He had not failed to fulfill “any good thing” of all that He “had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass” (21:45).

 A Lesson Regarding the Sanctity of Human Life, and Capital Punishment

 There are many who naively oppose capital punishment, and argue it is an act of barbarity, and is inhumane. The opposite is true! Because man was created an eternal soul, and in the image of God (Genesis 9:6), his life is sacred in the eyes of God. Willfully taking a human life, a life God deems sacred, demands the ultimate act of justice…the forfeiture of one’s own life (Genesis 9:5-6; Exodus 20:13).

Concerning abortion: The Word of God upholds the sanctity of life in a mother’s womb. Exodus 21:22 gives an example of where two men were fighting, and a mother with child was injured, and the baby was born prematurely. The law demanded, should the mother and her child live, the judgment was there was “no mischief,” and the man who injured the woman would need only pay a fine. However, should the mother or her infant die, the judgment was “give life for life” (21:23).

Imagine God’s judgment upon a 21st century mother, father, or abortionists who daily, and routinely kill the unborn!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Joshua: Finishing Strong (Joshua 11)

Scripture reading – Joshua 11

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

Joshua 11

An Enemy Offensive (11:1-5)

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

The LORD’s Assurance (11:6-9)

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

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

A Glorious Victory (11:10-14)

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

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

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

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

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

Closing thoughts:

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Getting Ready to Depart (Deuteronomy 31-32)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 31-32

As we near the end of our study of the Book of Deuteronomy, I am reminded of a verse from the song Moses: 12So teach us to number our days, That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Keep in mind, as you read Deuteronomy 31-32, Moses’ life can be numbered in days, if not hours. This great leader, arguably one of the greatest of all time, was coming to the end of his earthly sojourn (31:2).

Mindful of his mortality, Moses reminds 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). With the urgency of a man who knows he will soon be passing, Moses exhorted the people: 6Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (31:6).

Then, “in the sight of all Israel,” Moses affirmed Joshua as the leader whom the LORD had chosen to lead the nation into the Promised Land (31:7-8). Turning from Joshua, Moses challenged the spiritual leaders of the nation, “the priests the sons of Levi,” to be the custodians and teachers of the LORD’S Law, and keep the Law and Commandments before the people (31:9). Every seventh year, the priests were to gather the people together, and “read [the] law before all Israel in their hearing” (31:10-11).

The LORD then commanded Moses, saying “thou must die: call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle of the congregation, that I may give him a charge” (31:14). The LORD then descended “in a pillar of a cloud…[and] stood over the door of the tabernacle” (31:15). He revealed, how after Israel’s conquest of the land, the people would “go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land” (31:16), and would break their covenant with Him (31:16b). The LORD warned, when the people departed from His Law and Commandments, He would hide His face, and abandon them to the consequences of their idolatry (31:17-18).

To memorialize His prophecy against Israel, the LORD commanded Moses to write a song, “and teach it, the children of Israel…that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel (31:19). The song was to be a testimony of God’s faithfulness, and how He had fulfilled the promises He had made to their forefathers (31:20-21). And so, Moses wrote the song, “and taught it the children of Israel” (31:22).

Deuteronomy 31 concludes with Moses giving a final charge to Joshua, and preparing him to assume the leadership of the nation (31:23).  Moses then commanded the Levites, to take the record of the Law he had written in his own hand (31:24), and “put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD” (31:26). He then stated, what the LORD had revealed to him regarding the hearts of the people: “27For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the Lord; and how much more after my death?” (31:27).

Deuteronomy 32 – The Song of Moses, and His Imminent Death

What a beautiful song of praise, worship, and warnings we have before us. The space of this devotional prevents me from detailing the majesty of this great hymn, but I hope a summary outline will be a blessing.

We find the preface of Moses’ song in the first two verses (32:1-2), and an assertion of its purpose. Moses writes, “I will publish the name of the Lord: Ascribe ye greatness unto our God” (32:3), He continued, and declared that Israel’s God is “the Rock [strong and stable], His work is perfect [complete; lacking nothing]: For all His ways are judgment [He is Just]: A God of truth [trustworthy] and without iniquity [sinless], Just [Righteous; Innocent] and right [straight; upright] is He” (32:4).

After confessing the sinful character of the people, Moses memorialized the LORD’S benevolent care of His people as a testimony of His grace, love, and mercies (32:7-18). The tragic prophecy of the nation’s wickedness, and God’s punishment are recorded (32:19-33). Though the LORD will use the nations to judge His people, He promised He would not altogether forsake Israel (32:34-43).

After rehearsing the song, he had written “in the ears of the people” (32:44), Moses challenged them: “Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law” (32:46).

When Moses finished speaking, the LORD commanded him, “49Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, unto mount Nebo…and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession: 50And die in the mount whither thou goest up” (32:49-50a). Though evidencing no protest at the LORD’S command, Moses was reminded, he would die short of entering the land, because he had trespassed against the LORD, in the sight of the people, and robbed Him of the glory that belonged to Him alone (32:51).

HyperFocal: 0

From Mount Nebo, Moses could look out on the vastness of the land the LORD had promised Israel (32:52), but his sin against the LORD prevented him from leading the people into the land to possess it. Another leader, Joshua, had been chosen, and the mantle of leadership would now rest on him.

Moses was old; however, the fire of his convictions, and dedication to the LORD had not waned. Oh, that we might all finish our journey, faithfully serving the LORD!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Two Paths: The Path of Blessing, and the Path of Punishment (Deuteronomy 29-30)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 29-30

Moses had declared God’s covenant with Israel, and restated the Laws and Commandments the people were to obey in the new land (Deuteronomy 5-28). His second oration completed; he called upon Israel to renew the covenant (29:1-2) they had entered into at Mt Horeb forty years prior (Exodus 24). Moses reminded the people of all the LORD had done for them in Egypt. He conceded how they had been blind to the ways of the LORD (29:4), and reminded them how He had lovingly sustained them in the wilderness (29:5-6).

Moses then summoned the people to gather, and challenged the nation to keep the words of the covenant. From the captains of the tribes, their elders, and officers, to the women, children, and lowly servants; all were called upon to “enter into the covenant with the LORD” (29:10-12).

Exhorting the people to obey the commandments, Moses admonished, should they break God’s covenant, and turn to idols, the nation would be punished with plagues, sicknesses, and the ground would be cursed (29:16-29). He warned the judgment of the LORD would leave the land like the “overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah” (29:23). He prophesied how the nations would look upon the desolation of Israel with amazement, and would ask, “Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?” (29:24). 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).

Though 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). Should the people repent, God would renew His covenant with them, and He would “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).

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).

I close, being reminded that everyone faces the dilemma of a choice between two paths in life. The way of faith, and righteousness, is the path of blessing, and eternal life; the way of sin, inevitably ends in death, and hell.

What path have you taken?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith