Category Archives: Transsexual

What is in Your Heart? (Matthew 15; Mark 7)

Scripture reading – Matthew 15; Mark 7

Our study of the Synoptic Gospels continues with Matthew and Mark recording the same events in the life and ministry of Christ. Though it is doubtful either author could have read the writing of the other (this was 14 centuries before the printing press, and there were few handwritten copies of the Scriptures), we once again marvel at the proof of the inspiration of the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-21). As you will see, Matthew and Mark complement one another in their unique perspective.

In earlier devotions we have considered the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-43; John 6:1-14). Today’s Scripture reading present a similar miracle known as the Feeding of the Four Thousand or TheMiracle of the Seven Loaves and Fish (Matthew 15:29-39; Mark 8:1-21). Because the miracles are so similar, I will focus instead upon the confrontation between Jesus and the religious leaders of His day (Matthew 15:1-20, and Mark 7:1-23).

The Accusers and Their Accusations (Matthew 15:1-2; Mark 7:1-5)

Matthew and Mark report the scribes [experts in the Law and traditions] and Pharisees came to Jesus, and accused the disciples of transgressing “the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread” (15:1-2). Those religious leaders were offended the disciples did not practice the ritualistic washing that was a tradition in Israel.

Jesus Condemned Hypocrisy (15:3-9)

These pious leaders were focusing on their own traditions as though they were commandments of God, while ignoring what the commandments actually said. Yet, those leaders were no different than religious leaders of our day who replace commandments with traditions. Jesus ignored the premise of their question, and asked, “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” (15:3)

What a powerful response! Rather than waste precious time debating their ill-founded criticisms, Jesus admonished them. They usurped the authority of the Scriptures, and Jesus charged they were guilty of breaking the fifth commandment which dealt with honoring father and mother (Exodus 20:12). The LORD warned, “He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death” (15:4b; Exodus 21:17).

Lip Service vs. Heart Service (Matthew 15:7-9; Mark 7:9-13)

The scribes and Pharisees had not only failed to instruct the people, but encouraged them to dismiss their obligation to care for the physical needs of their fathers and mothers. By their traditions, they disavowed an adult child’s responsibility for his parents’ welfare. They taught, declare “Corban” (meaning, it’s a gift; Mark 7:11-12), and saying one could dedicate his wealth and possessions to the LORD and be under no obligation to father or mother (Mark 7:12).

Jesus condemned them as hypocrites (Matthew 15:7), and quoted the prophet Isaiah: “Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, And with their lips do honour me, But have removed their heart far from me, And their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men” (Isaiah 29:13). Because they masked their hypocritical hearts with external rituals, Jesus warned their worship was in vain (Matthew 15:8-9).

Watch Your Mouth, and Your Heart (Matthew 15:10-20)

Our devotional study will conclude with a brief examination of things that defile a man. After confronting the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (15:7), Jesus called on the people to give Him their attention, and said, “Hear, and understand: 11Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man” (15:10-11). While the Pharisees put their emphasis on whether or not a man ate with clean or unclean hands, Jesus warned it was not what a man put into his mouth, but that which proceeded out of his mouth that defiled (in other words, deemed oneself sinful and unfit before God, 15:11).

The disciples came to Jesus, but rather than express concern for the false doctrine of the Pharisees, they voiced alarm He had offended the Pharisees (15:12). Jesus rebuked His disciples, and warned God would uproot that which He had not planted (meaning the false teachers and their doctrines, and traditions of men, 15:13). Leave the spiritually blind teaching the blind, for “both shall fall into the ditch” (15:14).

Peter, often the spokesman for the Twelve, asked, “Declare unto us this parable” (15:15). What parable? The one Christ taught when He said, “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man” (15:11).

The disciples were slow learners, and missed the point: Physical food goes in and out of a man, and does not defile (15:16-17). Yet, the things which come out of a man’s mouth reflects the spiritual condition of his heart (15:18). What is the heart? In the Scriptures the heart of man is the seat of his inner thoughts, feelings, and emotions. What sins lie in the heart of man? Matthew wrote, “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (15:19). Mark added, “covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness” (7:22).

Closing thoughts – The Pharisees focused on whether or not a man’s hands were ceremonially clean, and ignored the condition of a man’s heart (15:20). What is the condition of man’s heart? The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus confirmed the same, for evil arises within the heart of man and defiles him.

Don’t be beguiled by spiritual blindness or piety! The LORD knows your heart, and He alone can purge your heart from the filthiness that lies within.

1 John 1:7–97But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“Who Is Teaching Johnny?” – The battle for your child’s soul.

* I am beginning a new Family-Parenting Series titled, “The Four Be’s of Parenting” for Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8, 2022. This article is the introduction to the first sermon of the series, and is titled “Who is Teaching Johnny?” 

We are living in a world that has been taken over by a liberal ideology that is anti-family, anti-God, and anti-America. From the White House to the local School Board, there is an assault on natural rights (freedoms given by God to man), and an erosion of Constitutional, civil liberties that is unprecedented.

Consider the words of the founding fathers of these United States of America: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” (Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776). Civil liberties are not granted by government to citizens, but are to restrain government from imposing its will on the governed. As Americans, we are not subjects of the government, but the government is subject to the will of “We the People.”

In 1980, pastor and author Tim LaHaye published The Battle For The Mind, and exposed the philosophy and goals of Humanism. LaHaye gave shocking examples of Humanism’s goals and encroachment into America’s public education system, and the goal of humanists to reshape American society. Forty years later, we are witnessing the effect of humanism as the United States has seen a cultural shift that is anti-God, anti-family, and anti-America.

Humanist have taken over government and judicial systems. Public education, entertainment, social media, and the flow of news are controlled by humanists. They are committed to reshaping the minds and values of our youth and undermining parental authority. Radicalized humanists have mobilized a coordinated assault on the unalienable rights of the human spirit. They are determined to enslave the world to a utopia ruled by an elite few.

Fortunately, this past year some parents were awakened by radicals usurping parental rights and using the public education system to drive a wedge between children and parents. Black Lives Matter, Antifa, anarchists, liberal educators and politicians (to name a few), were unmasked as they assaulted traditional family values. Under the guise of “Critical Race Theory” and WOKE (purportedly addressing societal injustices and racism), radicals are spurning common sense for their humanistic creed.

The erosive effect of humanism and its socialist philosophy is staggering. There has been a rejection of God and family values, and a desensitization to sin and moral depravity. Instead of utopia, the humanist’s ideology has eroded the traditional family, giving us a nation where, according to the 2022 United States Census Bureau, 23% of US children live in single parent households (more than 3 times the world’s rate), and over 40% of children born in the US are born to unmarried women (Centers for Disease Control – CDC – 2022).

The humanists’ utopia has given us modern day slavery, described as Human Trafficking and Sex Trafficking, with an estimated 20.1 million forced labor victims, and 4.8 million sex trafficking victims. The US State Departmentestimates there are 14,400 to 17,500 sex trafficking slaves in the US in 2022.

Contributing further to the erosion of our families and national future is the increased use of illicit drugs and alcohol among our youth. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse, in 2022 there are 2.08 million or 8.33% of 12- to 17-year-olds who have used drugs in the last month. Adding to the crisis is 60.2% of teens admit to binge drinking.

In spite of the demoralizing bad news, there is good news! Though the world has changed, the nature of man is constant from generation to generation. There is hope, for God’s Word has the answer to the crisis our homes, schools, churches, and nation are facing. If our nation and liberties are to be saved, it will begin in our homes as parents rise to the challenge.

Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Parents of the 21st century must shoulder the privilege and responsibility for teaching their children, including two fundamental concerns: Who is teaching Johnny? What is he being taught?

The founding fathers of the United States of America often spoke of “Republican Virtue,” the belief that self-government demands self-discipline. Of course, self-discipline implies the existence of boundaries between the acceptable and unacceptable. It was the conviction of that generation that moral values must be transmitted through moral indoctrination. In other words, the battlefield in the past and in our day is not political, but spiritual.

A battle is being waged for the minds and souls of our children, and the enemy is imbedded in our government, schools, and culture. The adversaries of the home are unwavering in their dogma, and determined to indoctrinate our children with a world-view that is anti-God, anti-family, and anti-America.

Lose the war with humanism, and we lose the hearts, minds and souls of our children.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com
Live broadcast @ www.HillsdaleBaptist.org

* The above is an introduction to the first message of my new family series titled, “The Four Be’s of Parenting.” This Sunday’s message, “Who is Teaching Johnny?” will be presented in the 10:30 AM worship service and broadcast live on www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“Woe to the Nation That Turns from the LORD and His Law” (Isaiah 4; Isaiah 5)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 4; Isaiah 5

Our study of the prophecies of Isaiah brings us to Isaiah 4 and 5. Remembering chapter breaks and verse numbers are the effort of editors to assist Bible students, I am in agreement with some that Isaiah 4:1 concludes the previous chapter’s topic and the judgment Isaiah prophesied would befall Jerusalem. Drawing a vivid picture of God’s judgment, the prophet described the desperation of that time.

So many men would die in the battle described in Isaiah 3, that there would be seven women to every man (4:1). Isaiah 4 continued with the prophecy of a future time when Israel would be restored to the land, and Christ Himself will reign (“the branch of the LORD”, 4:2).

Isaiah 5

Employing an agricultural parable, Isaiah described God’s love and care for His people (5:1-7). With the LORD pictured as a farmer, His loving favor for Judah was portrayed as his “well-beloved.”

The LORD’s Loving Preparation for Israel (5:1-2)

God promised to plant his vineyard (a symbol of Israel), upon the best ground, “a very fruitful hill,” (5:1). “He fenced it,” and removed stones [heathen nations] that would hinder the growth of His “vineyard,” and chose the best vines (5:2). He built a “watchtower” (the Temple) in the midst (5:2c).

The LORD’s Disappointments (5:2-4)

Yet, when the LORD inspected His people (“vineyard”), He found “wild grapes” in the midst (5:2). What were the wild grapes? The sins of the people, for they had broken His covenant, and were guilty of idolatry, and all manner of wickedness (5:3-4).

Two Consequences that Befall a Nation That Rejects God (5:5-7)

The first consequence that befell Judah was God’s promise to remove His loving, providential care of His people (“take away the hedge…break down the wall” – 5:5).

The LORD promised He would eliminate the nation’s economic prosperity, and “lay it waste” (5:6). Judah would become like an untended vineyard, overgrown with “briers and thorns” (5:6). Leaving no doubt the prophet was warning Israel and Judah the judgment that would befall those nations, we read: “7For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah his pleasant plant: And he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; For righteousness, but behold a cry” (5:7).

Six Woes: Elijah’s Warning of God’s Judgment (5:8-23)

Among the sins that provoked God’s wrath, notice six that demanded His judgment. The wealthy were guilty of greed and covetous, and exploited the people (5:8-10). God declared their greed would be rewarded with desolation (5:9), and their investments (“vineyard”) would be unprofitable (5:10).

The people were guilty of pursuing a narcissistic, drunken lifestyle. They would rise  “early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink,” and continue until night (5:11). Their drunken feasts were accompanied by seductive music, so that they gave no thought of the LORD and His providences (5:12).

They were proud, and deceived “with cords of vanity” (5:18), they taunted the LORD (5:19). Having rejected God’s Law and Commandments, they refused moral absolutes. Lacking spiritual discernment, they called “evil good, and good evil; That put darkness for light, and light for darkness; That put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (5:20).

They were arrogant and conceited, “wise in their own eyes” (5:21). They perverted justice, and exploited the innocent and weak, and would also “justify the wicked for reward [bribes] (5:23).

Warning: God’s Judgment is Coming (5:24-25)

The “wild grapes” of Israel had provoked God’s judgment, and the fruit of that nation was rebellion, idolatry, and immorality. The leaders did not fear the judgment of God, and Isaiah warned, the LORD had “stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them” (5:25).

The Instruments of God’s Judgment (5:26-30)

Though not named here, Isaiah warned, the LORD would bring against Israel and Judah enemies who would come swiftly, and show the people no mercy. Their adversaries would not tire (5:27), and like the roar of young lions, they would thirst for blood (5:29). The armies of their enemies would sweep over the land like the waters of a storm (5:30).

Closing thoughts – The Assyrians were the first to come, and they took Israel (the northern ten tribes) captive (2 Kings 17:1-41). After Assyria, Nebuchadnezzar led his army against Judah, and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, and took the people captive (2 Kings 25:1-30).

Woe to a nation and people who reject God’s Law and Commandments!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“The Sins and Signs of a Failing Nation and a Dying Culture” – part 2 (Isaiah 3)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 2; Isaiah 3

This is the second of two devotionals for today’s Scripture reading. The focus is Isaiah 3.

The Bible is filled with examples of godly men who did not have the luxury of ignoring the wickedness and perversity of their leaders or nation. Zechariah was stoned to death when he condemned the sins of Judah and her king (2 Chronicles 24). God commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh and warn that wicked nation, except they repent the city would be destroyed. John the Baptist lost his head when he dared confront the wickedness and adultery of King Herod. And so, we come to Isaiah, whom God called to assail the wickedness of Judah and her kings.

The Removal of “the Stay and the Staff” (3:1-4)

A study of history reveals the rise and fall of nations follows the pattern of sin and wickedness we find in Isaiah 3.  We read, “1For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, Doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff” (3:1).

Interpreting this verse in context, you find God was removing from Judah that nation’s leaders. The “stay” (masculine form, meaning support or protector) represented that nation’s loss of “manly men,” who had been strong leaders in Judah. The removal of the “staff” (feminine form, meaning a support), meant the nation would have a void of godly, influential women (3:1).

Judah’s rebellion against God invited His judgment, and the losses are enumerated in Isaiah 3.

There would be a shortage of bread and water (“the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water” (3:1). The nation would want for male leaders, men of integrity described as, “the mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient” (3:2).

A second tier of leadership, the backbone of a nation, would be lost. There would be no “captain of fifty [lower military officers], and the honourable man [men of integrity], and the counseller [wise men], and the cunning artificer [skilled workers; i.e., carpenters, mechanics], and the eloquent orator [persuasive speakers]” (3:4)

Judah Turned to Weak, Incompetent Men for Leaders (3:4-6)

With a void of spiritual, “manly men” leaders (3:7-9), the people turned to foolish, inexperienced leaders, dominated by brazen women (3:12, 16-23). The people chose “children [weak] to be their princes, and babes [immature] shall rule [have dominion or power] over them (3:4). With weak, inexperienced, unprincipled leaders, Judah became a lawless, oppressed society (3:5). Those weak leaders were proud and emboldened “against the ancient [elderly]” (3:5), and “base [without a moral compass] against the honourable [men of rank]” (3:5).

How did those weak, spineless, effeminate leaders come to be in authority? They were not chosen because of their character, but because of their influence (having acquired wealth by inheritance, 3:6).

Judah Turned to Domineering Women for Leaders (3:12, 16-23)

Instead of nurturing and protecting the youth of the nation, women diminished their femininity, and became worse brutes than men (3:12 – “women rule over them…they which lead thee cause thee to err, And destroy the way of thy paths”). The women of the nation, identified as “the daughters of Zion,” were proud and immodest (3:16), haughty, and flirtatious with “wanton [painted] eyes” (3:16).

Closing thoughtsLike most nations that fail, Judah was destroyed, not from an enemy without, but from an enemy within.

What becomes of a nation that chooses weak men, and proud women to lead? The strong women would be afflicted with disease (3:17). They would be reduced to the poverty of a household slave (3:18-24). Their fine jewelry (3:18-21), and costly apparel would be taken (3:22-23), and their well-groomed hair would be replaced by baldness (3:24).

Yet, there was still hope. Though the majority of Judah had turned to wickedness, not all were faithless. God promised He would not forget the righteous, and would avenge His people (3:10-24, 25-26).

Do the signs of a dying nation sound familiar?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Moral Depravity Demands the Judgment of God (1 Kings 14, 2 Chronicles 10)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 14, 2 Chronicles 10

You will notice 2 Chronicles 10 is a parallel record of the events that were recorded in 1 Kings 12. There, Rehoboam had been crowned king of Israel (1 Kings 12:1; 2 Chronicles 10:1). When the ten northern tribes petitioned Rehoboam to lighten the burdens imposed on them by Solomon, he refused the counsel of his elders, and followed the advice of his peers, provoking an insurrection in Israel (1 Kings 12:2-15; 2 Chronicles 10:2-15). The ten northern tribes became known as Israel, and made Jeroboam king (1 Kings 12:16-19; 2 Chronicles 10:16-19).

Ahijah the prophet had prophesied that Jeroboam would one day be king of the northern ten tribes of Israel (11:29-31). The prophet had spoken the word of the LORD to Jeroboam, and entreated him: “If thou wilt hearken unto all that I command thee, and wilt walk in my ways, and do that is right in my sight, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with thee, and build thee a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel unto thee” (11:38).

The LORD made Jeroboam king of Israel; however, he failed to obey the LORD’s commandments, and led the people into idolatry and great wickedness. The consequence of Jeroboam’s sin is revealed in 1 Kings 14.

1 Kings 14

Though warned by a prophet of Judah that his idolatry and wicked ways would not go unpunished (1 Kings 13:1-5), Jeroboam continued in his sin until his son, Abijah became deathly ill (1 Kings 14:1). Fearing his son might die, Jeroboam commanded his wife to disguise herself, and go to Shiloh in Judah, to ask Ahijah the prophet to reveal “what shall become of the child” (14:2-3). Jeroboam’s wife obeyed him, and coming to Shiloh, she entered the prophet Ahijah’s house (14:3-4).

Ahijah Condemned Jeroboam’s Sin, and Foretold His Son’s Death (14:5-20)

Ahijah was old and blind (14:5), but the LORD had revealed to him that the wife of King Jeroboam was coming and was disguised as another woman (14:5). When she arrived at the prophet’s house, he bid her enter, and questioned, “why feigned thou thyself to be another?” (14:6)

Ahijah condemned Jeroboam’s wickedness, and directed his wife to remind her husband that the LORD had made him king in Israel (14:7-8). God would have blessed him had he kept His commandments (14:8); however, the king had rejected the LORD, made himself idols, and provoked God’s wrath.

The looming consequence of Jeroboam’s wickedness was that his son would die and Israel would mourn his death (14:13). God would raise up another family dynasty to be king in Israel (14:14). The prophet also revealed how Israel would be conquered, and the people taken into captivity “because of the sins of Jeroboam, who did sin, and who made Israel to sin” (14:15-16).

Ahijah’s prophecy was fulfilled, for as Jeroboam’s wife entered the city and came to the threshold of the palace, “the child [the son of Jeroboam] died” (14:17). Israel mourned the death of the young prince, even as Ahijah had prophesied (14:18). Jeroboam, the first king of northern Israel died after reigning 22 years, and his son Nadab ruled briefly for two years before he was assassinated (1 Kings 15:25-31).

The Sin, Depravity, Humiliation, and Death of Rehoboam (14:21-31)

Our historical narrative in 1 Kings 14 concludes with the focus on life in Judah (the southern kingdom) during the reign of King Rehoboam, son of Solomon (14:21).

Rehoboam reigned 17 years, during a tumultuous, and tragic time in Israel. Fulfilling the prophecy that the kingdom would be divided after Solomon’s death, Rehoboam had failed to unite the people. When the northern ten tribes seceded under Jeroboam, the son of Solomon was left ruling two tribes, Judah and Benjamin.

While the northern tribes worshipped the golden calves made by Jeroboam, the tribes under Rehoboam were no better, for “Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins which they had committed, above all that their fathers had done” (14:22).

Although the Temple was in Jerusalem, and an outward form of worship continued there, the nation as a whole committed all manner of wickedness. Prostitution, under the guise of religion, was present everywhere in the land (14:23). The depth of depravity to which Judah sank is summed up in this:

“There were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord cast out before the children of Israel” (14:24).

Closing thoughts – Judah was guilty of the very sins for which the heathen nations before them had been condemned. Sodomy (i.e., homosexuality) is the pinnacle of gross wickedness, and Judah had embraced that sin to their own demise. No longer a powerful nation shielded by God’s blessings, Israel and Judah had rejected the LORD, disobeyed His laws and commandments, and became in servitude to “Shishak king of Egypt” (14:25). Shishak “took away the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house; he even took away all: and he took away all the shields of gold which Solomon had made” (14:26).

Defeated, and humiliated, Rehoboam disguised the poverty of the nation, having brass shields made to use in public ceremonies, and replacing the gold shields of Solomon (14:27-28).

Tragically, rather than peace, “there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all their days” (14:30) and Rehoboam died.

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

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

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 28

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

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

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

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

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

The balance of Deuteronomy 28 predicts the punishments that would befall Israel as a nation, should the people turn from the LORD, and disobey His Law, and Commandments (28:15-68). In the same way the LORD promised to bless the nation if the people obeyed Him, the opposite was true should they disobey Him. The curses are far too extensive for me to address individually; however, we should notice the sum of them in our Scripture reading.

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

When the cities would be besieged, the starving people would turn to cannibalism, and eat “the flesh of [their]sons and of [their] daughters (28:52-53). Their men would become effeminate, “tender among you, and very delicate” (28:54), and their women would no longer be “tender and delicate” (28:56). The eyes of a wife would “be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter” (28:56). Leaving her natural affection, Moses warned a mother “shall eat [her children] for want of all things secretly in the siege” (28:57).

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

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

I close, being reminded, the pattern of decline seen in today’s Scripture is a foretelling of judgment upon all nations that reject God. History records the rise and fall of nations, and no nation can long reject God without experiencing moral decay, and the judgment of God.

My own country, is following the path God promised to curse.

Everywhere I look, I see the evidences of a nation whom God has turned over to its enemies. We are enslaved, and become a debtor nation to our enemies. The women of our nation, take the lives of their unborn in grotesque abortions, as surely as if they cannibalize them from the womb (28:52-53). Effeminate men, “tender [and]delicate” (28:54) are celebrated, and rebellious women blight our society, and with an “evil eye,” look upon their husbands and children (28:56-57). We are experiencing epidemics, a failing birthrate, and a fear, and dread of the future such as I have not witnessed in my lifetime.

If America does not repent of her sins, and turn to God, she is doomed.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Feminization, Sanitation, and Compassion (Deuteronomy 23)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 23

We continue our study of Moses’ challenge to Israel, as he prepared that nation to go forward without him as its leader. Some of the principles in today’s Scripture may seem mundane; however, such was not the case for a nation that had suffered the humiliation of bondage for four centuries. Moses was teaching the children of Israel how they were to conduct themselves in the sight of the LORD, and preserve their sanctity as His people. We will consider the right of citizenship in ancient Israel, and the exclusion of some from “the congregation of the LORD” (23:1).

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

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

Illegitimate Sons (23:2)

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

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

These nations were the offspring of Lot’s incestuous relationship with his daughters (Genesis 19:30-38). The Ammonites, and Moabites had made themselves adversaries of Israel, and hired Balaam to curse the people (23:4-6).

Edomites and Egyptians (23:7-8)

Though not friends of Israel, the Edomites and Egyptians had a history that prevented their being excluded entirely. The Edomites were of the lineage of Esau, and therefore distant kin of Israel through the lineage of Jacob, Esau’s brother (23:7). Egypt had been the host of Israel during their sojourn in that land.

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

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

A Lesson in Sanitation (23:12-14)

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

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

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

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

Prostitution and Sodomy Condemned (23:17-18)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suppose a man is hungry, and lacks the means to feed himself. Should that man be permitted to take from another’s field or vineyard, and satisfy his hunger?

The answer is found in Deuteronomy 23:24-25, and reminds us again that the God of Israel was compassionate and merciful.

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

I close, trusting you are developing an appreciation for the judiciousness of the LORD, and the evidence of His grace and compassion in His Law and Commandments.

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With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Civility, Sexual Perversity, and Women’s Rights (Deuteronomy 21-22)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 21-22

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

Deuteronomy 21 – Fundamentals of Civil Duty

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

Concerning a woman taken as a spoil of war (21:10-14)

Ancient cultures considered women who were taken prisoners to be nothing more than a possession, a spoil of war. The God of Israel, however, established laws to protect women. Should a man desire to take a female prisoner to wife, he was to allow her head to be shaved, an outward symbol of her purification, and give her thirty days to mourn the deaths of her parents, before taking her as his wife (21:12-13). Should the man later decide to reject her, he was to set her at liberty, and was commanded to neither sell, or humiliate her (21:14).

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

Some suggest the reference to “two wives” (21:15) is a suggestion of polygamy; however, I believe it is not. In the beginning, God defined marriage as “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24), the union of one man and one woman. The Mosaic Law did not redefine what God Himself had designed, and established.

I believe the explanation for the reference of “two wives” (one being described as “beloved,” and the other “hated”), implies the first wife to be dead. The first wife had given birth to a son, and being the firstborn son, he was to be heir of the man (21:15-16). The second wife, the stepmother of the firstborn son, would be tempted to influence her husband to disown his firstborn son, and choose her son to be his heir (21:16). The LORD condemned that practice, and declared the firstborn son was to be given “a double portion” of all that was his father’s (21:17).

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

The stoning of a rebellious son is no doubt an offense to our 21st century sensibilities. This son of shame, described as “stubborn and rebellious” (21:18), refused to hear and obey his father and mother. Such a son was to brought before the elders of the city, where his character was described as “a glutton, and a drunkard” (21:19-20).

Given the severity of the punishment, we can conclude that the stoning of a rebellious son was a rare event. Such a judgment required the consent of both the father and mother (21:19-20). If found guilty by the elders of the city, the son would have been stoned to death by the “men of his city” (21:21).

Deuteronomy 22 – Having a Good Conscience

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

We are reminded that an Israelite was to love his neighbor, and that command was demonstrated in a man’s duty to his neighbor’s livestock, clothes, and any other possession that belonged to another (22:1-3). Should a man’s ox, sheep, or donkey be astray, a man was to restore them to their owner. Should the owner not be readily known, an Israelite was required to take the animal to his own home, until its rightful owner was found (22:2). Compassion for animals of God’s creation was commanded (22:4).

An Abomination: Transgender\Transexuals (22:5)

There is much ado about the “rights” of self-declared transexuals, who desire to blend, and distort the natural distinctions between male and female in both their dress, and manner. Such a blur of distinctives is not a “new woke” (as today’s society would have you believe), but was an ancient sin that God’s Word declared was an “abomination unto the LORD thy God” (22:5).

Compassion and Affection for Nature (22:6-7) – From the beginning, man was commanded to be the “keeper” of God’s creation (Genesis 2:15). It follows that even the smallest of animals should arouse in man a natural affection, and compassion (22:7).

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

Unlike their heathen neighbors, Israelite women were afforded protections, and shielded from abuses that are even prevalent in our own day. A woman had the right of due process, should her purity and testimony be questioned. Should a woman be forcefully taken, and raped, the severity of the law would fall upon the man, and he would forfeit his life (22:25-27).

Our world has rejected the LORD. The authority of God’s Word has been scuttled over the course of the past century. We have become a society with laws methodically divorced from unalterable principles, and been left a people given to the whims of wicked men.

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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Sins that Are an Abomination: Incest, Adultery, Homosexuality, and Bestiality (Leviticus 18-19)

Sins that Are an Abomination: Incest, Adultery, Homosexuality, and Bestiality (Leviticus 18-19)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 18-19

Our study in Leviticus moves on from the subject of clean and unclean meats (Leviticus 17), to the morality and sanctity of the institution of marriage (Leviticus 18).

Leviticus 18 – A Call to Be Holy

The LORD commanded Moses, “speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am the Lord your God. 3After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances” (18:2-3).

Reminding the nation, “I am the LORD your God” (18:2, 4), He commanded Israel to not follow after the ways of the heathen, for He had chosen, and called them out of Egypt. If the people would keep His commandments, and walk in His precepts (18:4-5), He promised He would bless them.

Leviticus 18:6-18 leaves no doubt that the ways of the heathen, were not to be the ways of Israel. While all manner of immorality, and ungodliness was practiced by the Egyptians, and the Canaanites, the LORD would accept nothing less than the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. (Realizing the sad state of morality in both the world and the church, I dare not take lightly the explicit nature of this passage.)

The Abominable Sin of Incest (18:6-18)

The phrase, “uncover their nakedness” (18:6), is a reference to the sexual act reserved for marriage, and is found throughout this passage. The LORD had no tolerance for incest, and its practice was a capital offense, and its subjects would be stoned.

The following sexual relationships were forbidden, and were deemed incestuous. Sex with one’s parent (18:7), stepmother (18:8), sister or half-sister (18:9), grand-daughter (18:10), daughter of a stepmother (18:11), an aunt, both fraternal and maternal (18:12-14), daughter-in-law (18:15), sister-in-law (18:16), sex with a mother and her daughter (18:17), or sisters, unless the first had died (18:18) were forbidden.

Child sacrifice practiced among the heathen, was an abomination to the God of Israel (18:21). The LORD declared homosexuality an abomination (18:22), and God’s judgment fell on Sodom and Gomorrah because of that sin (Genesis 19). Bestiality, the sin of a man or woman lying with a beast, was described as “confusion” (18:23), and therefore a perversion of God’s natural law and order.

The Wickedness of Man Demands God’s Judgment (18:24-30)

The LORD warned Israel, He would have no tolerance should His people adopt the ways of the heathen. The sin of man not only defiles himself, but also infects the land (18:24). God warned, should His people practice the immoral ways of the wicked, the land would vomit out its inhabitants (18:25-28). Any who refused to “do [His] judgments, and keep [His] ordinances” (18:4), the LORD warned those souls would be excommunicated, “cut off from among their people” (18:29).

Leviticus 19 – A Brief Review of the Commandments and the Law

Leviticus 19 repeats the LORD’s commandments, and explains the practical application of His Law and Precepts for daily life. Charity to the poor (19:9-10), paying an honest, fair wage (19:13), showing sympathy to those less fortunate (19:14), and loving one’s neighbor in word and deed are stressed (19:15-22) as the will of God.

A Concluding Thought: A Crisis of Morality

There was a time when the lives of God’s people were defined by His Word, Law, and Commandments. The lives of believers, and their homes, set the moral high ground for these United States. Sadly, too many homes have an appetite for the world, and look to society, social media, politicians, judges, and a liberal media for their moral judgments and practices.

Warning: Our homes, churches and schools will not be blessed until our consciences are disciplined by God’s Word, Laws and Commandments (18:30). 

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith