Category Archives: Trust

“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

Hannah: A Testimony of Faith, Love, and Sacrifice (1 Samuel 1)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 1

Our chronological devotional schedule brings us to 1 Samuel; one of my favorite books of the Old Testament.  In this volume we will find a rich history that marks the beginning of a monarchy in Israel.

1 Samuel 1 concludes an era when judges ruled Israel, and introduces an age when kings reign. Let us recall, it was God’s desire to rule His people through His Law and Commandments. The role of the judges had been to instruct the people, by communicating the Word of the LORD, through the Law that was given in the Covenant at Sinai (Exodus 20). It will be the failure of the priesthood, that will provoke the people to demand a king. Tragically, Eli, the high priest, and his wicked sons, Hophni and Phinehas (1:3; 2:12-17; 4:10-18), will disgrace the priest’s office. Their sins would stir up the people to demand “a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5-6).

Several notable names come to the forefront in today’s study: Elkanah (1:1), who was of the tribe of Levi, descended from Kohath, the son of Levi. He was a godly man, and observed the law, going up “yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord of hosts in Shiloh” (1:3), where the Tabernacle was located.

Elkanah had two wives, “the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah” (1:2). “Peninnah had children,” and had borne to her husband sons and daughters (1:2, 4). “Hannah had no children” (1:2), and though her husband loved her (1:5), she carried the shame, and sorrow of a barren woman, and was treated spitefully by Elkanah’s other wife (1:5-7).

Year after year, Hannah went up to Shiloh with her family, and wept and fasted before the LORD, praying He would open her womb (1:5), and give her a son (1:7). She vowed, if the LORD would give her a son, she would dedicate him to serve at the Tabernacle, and promised he would be a Nazarite, and “there shall no razor come upon his head” (1:10-11).

Hannah prayed to the LORD, speaking to Him from her heart; “only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken” (1:13). Eli, the high priest, rebuked her, judging she had too much wine, and commanded her to “put away thy wine from thee” (1:14). Hannah, replying to the high priest, said, “No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord. 16Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial [worthless, immoral, wicked]: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto” (1:15-16).

Judging the sincerity of Hannah’s confession, Eli assured her the LORD had heard, and would answer her prayer (1:17). Hannah went from the Tabernacle, no longer despondent, but believing the LORD would show her grace, and grant her a son (1:18). Elkanah and his family returned to their house in Ramah, and the LORD remembered Hannah’s prayer. In God’s perfect time, she conceived a son “and called his name Samuel [lit. “heard of God], saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord” (1:19-20).

The next year, Elkanah prepared to go up to Shiloh on his annual pilgrimage (1:21); however, Hannah requested she be allowed to remain at her home, and not go up to the Tabernacle, until her son was no longer nursing, for she knew the day would come when she would leave Samuel to minister at Shiloh with Eli, the high priest (1:22-23).

A woman of faith, and one who honored her vow to the LORD, Hannah “weaned” her son (probably around three years old). The day came when she took her son and went up with Elkanah to present offerings and sacrifices, at the Tabernacle. Hannah “brought [Samuel] unto the house of the Lord in Shiloh: and the child was young” (1:24). After sacrificing a bullock, Elkanah and Hannah brought their son to Eli, and she reminded the high priest, “I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the Lord. 27For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him” (1:26-27).

In an act of faith, and sacrificial love, Hannah confessed, “I have lent [given; claimed] him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord” (1:28a). Elkanah and Hannah’s example of faith, prayer, and sacrifice has inspired the saints of the LORD down through the centuries. Before Samuel was conceived, Hannah offered him to the LORD, and the LORD heard, and answered her prayer.

Perhaps only mothers can imagine the pull of the heart strings when Hannah left her son at Shiloh (especially knowing the wickedness of Eli’s sons). Hannah fulfilled her vow to the LORD, and He honored her faith and sacrifice, blessing her with three sons, and two daughters, in addition to Samuel (2:21).

I invite parents and grandparents to take a moment, pray and dedicate your children, and grandchildren to the LORD.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Ruth: A Testimony of Sovereignty and Providence (Ruth 1-2)

Scripture reading – Ruth 1-2

The Book of Ruth is a bridge between two eras: Its historical context is in the time, and “days when the judges ruled Israel” (1:1), but before kings reigned in the land. It is a book beloved by Jews, and Christians alike. It establishes the ancestry of King David, and also the genealogy of Jesus Christ in the lineage of David, and a descendant of the tribe of Judah (Ruth 4:17-22; Matthew 1:5-6).

We will see in our brief study of this book, a testimony of God’s sovereignty, for He overrules in the affairs of man, and providentially is ever working out His will through the infirmity of human decisions. The Book of Ruth is also a testament of the LORD’S redemption, for it reveals how Ruth, a Moabite, who had no right of inheritance among God’s people, came to be named in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

Ruth 1 – A Prodigal Family, and A Journey from Death to Life

The introductory verses of Ruth introduce us to a family that is facing a crisis of faith, “there was a famine in the land,” and the decision was made to leave “Bethlehem-judah” (Bethlehem, a village of Judah), and travel to “the country of Moab” (1:1).  To escape the famine in Israel, Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and sons Mahlon and Chilion, descendants of Ephraim, moved to Moab where they would live ten years (1:4). Tragedy followed Elimelech’s decision to leave Bethlehem, and he died in Moab leaving Naomi a widow, and her two sons (1:3). Continuing to live in Moab, Naomi’s sons took wives of the Moabites, and continued in the land. Mahlon took Ruth as his wife (4:10), and his brother Chilion married a woman of Moab named Orpah.

Tragedy again struck Naomi’s life, when both of her sons died, leaving her in desperate straits as not only a widow herself, but with daughters-in-law who were also widows (1:5). Remembering the culture of the day would have provided no welfare for widows, the three faced a future that would prove desperate, especially for Naomi who was not living among her own people. Naomi, facing a dismal future living outside of Israel, and hearing the famine was past, set her heart to return to Bethlehem (1:6). Naomi urged her daughters in law to return to their parents, with hopes of marrying Moabite men (1:8-9). Yet, Ruth and Orpah set their hearts to accompany Naomi, but she blessed and encouraged them to go home, and seek a husband (1:9).

The bond of love between Naomi and her daughters-in-law was strong, and as they parted “they lifted up their voice, and wept” (1:10-14). “Orpah kissed her mother-in-law [and departed]… back unto her people, and unto her gods” (1:14-15); however, Ruth refused to go back. In one of the great confessions of faith in the Scriptures, Ruth said to Naomi, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: 17Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me” (1:16-17).

Although Ruth was a Moabite, and outside God’s covenant with Israel (1:18), Naomi accepted her promise, and they journeyed together to Bethlehem (1:19). As they entered the village of Bethlehem, the people were stirred, and began questioning, “Is this Naomi?” (1:19)

Ten years of sorrows had taken their toll, and no doubt Naomi’s physical appearance revealed the hardships and disappointments she had suffered. Naomi, evidencing the sorrows of her sojourn from the Promised Land to Moab, answered their inquiries, confessing, “20b …Call me not Naomi [pleasant], call me Mara [bitter]: for the Almighty [El Shaddai] hath dealt very bitterly with me…21b the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent One]hath testified against me, and the Almighty [El Shaddai—Eternal; All powerful; All Sufficient One] hath afflicted me?” (1:20b-21).

Naomi and Ruth’s arrival in Bethlehem coincided with the time of “the beginning of barley harvest,” and about the month of April (1:22).

Ruth 2 – The Will of God, and Your Responsibility

Although Ruth was a Moabite woman, and a stranger in the midst of God’s people, the LORD used the wisdom of Naomi to sovereignly direct her daughter in law to the fields of Boaz, “a mighty man wealthy,” and “kindred” of Naomi and Elimelech, her deceased husband (2:1). True to her character, Ruth went out to glean grain in the fields belonging to Boaz (2:2-3). When he came to visit the workers in his field, Boaz found a stranger among them, and asked, “Whose damsel is this?” (2:5)

The servant supervising the field workers, identified Ruth as “the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab” (2:6). He went on to explain how Ruth had requested to join the poor and “glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves” (2:7a). More than a pretty face, she was a woman of exceptional character, and the servant commented, “she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house” (2:7b).

Boaz, a Model of God’s Grace (2:8-23)

Boaz, understanding Ruth was a widow of his kindred, typified God’s grace and love for sinners, spoke kindly to her, and insisted she labor only in his field, and among his maidens where she would find not only provision, but also safety (2:8-9). Humbled by his favor, Ruth fell before Boaz, and asked, “Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?” (2:10)

Boaz acknowledged Ruth’s testimony in Bethlehem, and how she had left her country, and kindred, and accompanied Naomi to a land and people she did not know (2:11). He realized she was a woman of faith, and prayed she would be rewarded by the LORD, and enjoy His favor (2:12). Ruth accepted Boaz’s expression of grace with humility (2:13), and he displayed his affection by inviting her to his table (2:14). She instead, took her place with the “reapers,” the hired servants, and ate enough to not only satisfy her hunger, but leaving some leftovers to bring home with her to Naomi.

I close, encouraging you to consider three ways Boaz displayed grace to Ruth. He offered her protection, and charged the men they were not to touch her (2:9). He made provision for her by leaving behind handfuls of grain (2:15-16). She was promoted, and was the object of Boaz’s attention and affection (2:14).

That evening, when Ruth came home to Naomi, she revealed to her how she had been blessed by Boaz (2:18-19). When Naomi realized the probability of the LORD’S leading, she rejoiced, and encouraged Ruth, thereby dispelling her own bitterness by the hope of redemption! (2:21-23)

As you will see, this book that began with famine, death, sorrow, and bitterness, is emerging to be a wonderful story of love and redemption.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Gideon: Gone, and Forgotten (Judges 8)

Scripture reading – Judges 8

I invite you to return with me to Judges 7, as we continue our study in the Book of Judges. Gideon had obeyed the LORD’S command, and in return, his army was reduced to three hundred men (7:7). Humanely, the task before Gideon was an impossible one; Israel was about to face an army that numbered one hundred thirty-five thousand men (8:10).

The night before the battle, the LORD came to Gideon and “said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand” (7:9). Knowing Gideon’s heart, the LORD gave him an opportunity to assuage his fear, and invited him to go with his servant, Phurah to the host of Midian, to “hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host” (7:11).

Providentially, Gideon overheard the telling of a soldier’s dream, and the interpretation that predicted how God had “delivered Midian, and all the host” into his hand (7:14). Gideon then worshipped the LORD, and returned to his soldiers, and exhorted them, “Arise; for the Lord hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian” (7:15).

Dividing his army into three companies of one hundred men, Gideon gave each man a trumpet, a pitcher, and a lamp whose light would be concealed within the pitcher (7:16). Under the cover of darkness, Gideon commanded his men to encircle the encampment of the Midianites. He instructed his men, when they heard him blow his trumpet, they were to blow their trumpets, break the pitchers that concealed the light of their lamps, and cry with one voice, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon” (7:20).

The sudden blaring of the trumpets, the shouts of the soldiers, and the piercing lights of their lamps made Israel’s army appear to be a great force. In the confusion, the Midianites turned “every man’s sword against his fellow” (7:22). They fled toward the waters of the Jordan, and Gideon sent messengers to the tribe of Ephraim, whose men pursued them, and slew “two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb…and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side Jordan” (7:25).

Judges 8

What a glorious moment in Israel’s history; however, though the armies of Midian were routed, Gideon would not be satisfied until all the leaders of Midian were slain.

One would think all Israel would have rejoiced with Gideon, but that was not the case. The men of Ephraim came to Gideon, and complained that he should have invited them to the battle against Midian. According to Judges 6:35, he had summoned only the tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali. How shallow, and self-centered was this protest! For seven years, Ephraim had suffered the Midianite invasion, and there is no evidence that tribe had made any effort to stand against their foe. Rather than chiding Gideon out of their wounded pride, they should have shown gratitude for his leadership!

Pursuing a remnant of the Midianite army, Gideon and his men crossed the waters of the Jordan, and entered the territory of the tribe of Gad. Passing by Succoth, Gideon appealed to its men, saying, “Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they be faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian” (8:5). The men of Succoth were of the tribe of Gad, and brethren of Israel; however, they refused to give Gideon’s men bread. He vowed to return after the battle, and warned he would “tear [their] flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers” (8:7).

Gideon went next to Penuel, another city of the tribe of Gad, and they refused his request. Angered by their heartlessness, Gideon vowed he would return, and break down their strong tower (8:9).

God blessed Gideon, and he captured the “two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and discomfited [terrified] all the host” (8:12). Faithful to his oath, he returned to Succoth, and fulfilled his promise, and “took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught [punished, disciplined them]” (8:16). Gideon continued to Penuel, and there “he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city” (8:17).

Following his victory over the Midianites, there were some in Israel who would have made Gideon king, and said to him, “Rule thou over us…for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. 23And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you” (8:22-23)

I conclude today’s devotional, on a sad note. Though Gideon was used greatly by the LORD, he was a man who made foolish decisions in the later years of his life. He raised up a memorial to his victory over Midian, overlaid it with gold, and it became an idol to some in Israel, and “a snare unto Gideon, and to his house” (8:27). He took “many wives,” and had seventy sons (8:30). When he “died in a good old age…as soon as Gideon was dead…the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim” (8:32-33).

Gideon’s life serves as a warning to any who desire to build a name, or raise up a monument to themselves. In spite of his heroism, and the adulation of the people, “the children of Israel remembered not the Lord their God…35Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel” (8:34-35).

Gideon, gone, and forgotten! If you want to have a lasting legacy; remember, it is not in what you build, but whom you serve!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Place to Call Home (Joshua 19)

Scripture reading – Joshua 19

The narrative concerning the division of the Promised Land continues in Joshua 19 with the final tribes receiving their territory by lot: Simeon (19:1-9), Zebulun (19:10-16), Issachar (19:17-23), Asher (19:24-31), Naphtali (19:32-39), and Dan (19:40-48).

While the names of the borders, and cities are too numerous to list, there are some details found in Joshua 19that I invite you to consider in your meditation. The first, unlike the other tribes, Simeon would not receive their own distinct territory, but would instead find its lands “within the inheritance of the children of Judah” (19:1b).

Why would Simeon not be blessed with their own territory?

The immediate explanation is “the part of the children of Judah was too much for them: therefore, the children of Simeon had their inheritance within the inheritance of them” (19:9). However, there was a prophetic significance to the assignment of Simeon’s land, within that of Judah, and it is found in Jacob’s dying words. On his death bed, Jacob remembered how Simeon, and Levi had sinned and brought shame upon Israel.

Do you remember how Simeon and Levi had avenged the honor of their sister Dinah, after she had been raped by Shechem, the son of Hamor, the Hivite (Genesis 34:1-2). When Jacob’s sons heard their sister had been violated (Genesis 34:5-7), they determined to deceive Shechem, his father, and their people into accepting circumcision under the guise of an accord between their families (Genesis 34:13-24).

On the third day of the circumcision, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, attacked, and slew Shechem, Hamor, and the men of the city (Genesis 34:25-30). Jacob rebuked Simeon and Levi, saying, “Ye have troubled me”(Genesis 34:30). Many years later, as Jacob was dying, he remembered the cruelty of Simeon and Levi (Genesis 49:5-6), and cursed them saying, “7Cursed be their [Simeon and Levi] anger, for it was fierce; And their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, And scatter them in Israel” (Genesis 49:7).

“Divide and scatter,” Jacob’s prophetic cursed was fulfilled, as the tribe of Levi, would not receive their inheritance in Canaan. Also, the tribe of Simeon, would be in the midst of Judah, without its own distinct territory.

Joshua 19 concludes with the LORD commanding Israel to give Joshua an inheritance (19:49).

Like the servant leader he was, Joshua had served the needs of all the others, insuring each tribe had their inheritance. Now, “according to the word of the Lord they gave [Joshua] the city which he asked, even Timnath-serah in mount Ephraim: and he built the city, and dwelt therein” (19:50).

Why did Joshua chose to build a city on mount Ephraim? He was a son of the tribe of Ephraim; however, I believe the principal reason was this: The Tabernacle was located at Shiloh, a city of Ephraim, and Joshua wanted to live out his days near the LORD’s sanctuary, a symbol of His presence in the midst of His people.

What about you? Is worshipping, and serving the LORD a priority for your life, and family? It was for Joshua!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“GIVE ME THIS MOUNTAIN” (Joshua 14)

Scripture reading – Joshua 14

The tribes on the east side of Jordan had been given their inheritance, as Moses had promised (Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua 13). Joshua now addressed the task of giving the other tribes their inheritance, by lot, and according to the instructions that had been established in the Book of Numbers (Numbers 34:2-12, 16-29).

We are reminded the sons of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, had been adopted by Jacob as his own sons (Genesis 48:5), and would become tribes of Israel in their own right. The tribe of Levi had been chosen by the LORD to serve as priests; therefore, the Levites would receive no inheritance in the land, with the exception of cities, and “their suburbs [lands around the cities] for their cattle and for their substance” (14:4).

Before the lots were cast, and the lands divided by tribes, an inspirational event occurred.

Caleb, Joshua’s fellow spy and warrior (they were the only men, twenty-years and older to come out of Egypt, and enter the Promised Land), came before him. Accompanied by representatives of the tribe of Judah (14:6) who came as his witnesses, Caleb reminded Joshua, that Moses had promised him an inheritance in Canaan (14:6-7).

Caleb compelled Joshua, Thou knowest the thing that the Lord said unto Moses the man of God concerning me and thee in Kadesh-barnea” (14:6).

Caleb was forty years old when he searched out the Promised Land, and he had brought back a report of all that was in his heart (14:7). While the other spies discouraged the people with their faithless report, Caleb, like Joshua, determined to trust, and “wholly followed the Lord” (14:8).  Tragically, Israel believed the unfaithful spies, and refused to trust the LORD and enter Canaan (14:8a).

For his faith, and faithfulness, Moses had declared to Caleb, “Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children’s for ever, because thou hast wholly followed the Lord my God” (14:9). Though forty-five years had passed, and he was now eighty-five years old, Caleb was determined to claim his inheritance as the LORD had promised (14:10).

We remember that Joshua “was old and stricken in years” (13:1), but such was not the case with Caleb. He had been through the hardships of the wilderness, and the battles in Canaan, but neither his spirit, nor his strength had been diminished. Caleb testified, “I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in” (14:11).

What an amazing declaration. Caleb’s passion, faith, and physical strength had not waned. He was not ready to retire, retreat, or spend out his days in a rocking chair. He was ready to take by faith what the LORD had promised him for his inheritance.

Caleb asserted, “GIVE ME THIS MOUNTAIN, whereof the Lord spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims [who were giants, and by Egyptian records were seven to nine feet tall] were there, and that the cities were great and fenced” (14:12).

What was Caleb’s inspiration? Why would an eighty-five-year-old man claim, what others had feared and fled? Caleb revealed the source of his passion and faith, saying, “If so be the Lord will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the Lord said” (14:12).

The fire of a warrior still burned in Caleb’s soul. Though chronologically old, he was ready to claim his inheritance, and go to war, knowing the LORD was with him!

How did Joshua respond to his old friend’s faith?

Joshua 14:1313And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance.

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

Forgiven, and Ready (Joshua 8)

Scripture reading – Joshua 8

The focus of this devotional is Joshua 8, the second chapter of today’s assigned Scripture reading, Joshua 7-8.

With the sin of Achan, and his family purged from Israel, the nation was ready to continue its conquest of Canaan. There was no time to look back, or wallow in regret. The sin of one man had been addressed, the nation had corporately passed judgment, and put the sin out of their midst (7:25-26). And so, the LORD came to Joshua, and commanded, “Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land”(8:1).

Let us pause, and ponder an important spiritual lesson from this event. Like many sinners, Achan only confessed his sin, when it was discovered. He had opportunity to repent, come forward, and confess his sin after Israel was defeated at Ai, and thirty-six of his countrymen had perished (7:5). Instead, his heart was hardened, and his confession offered only after his sin was exposed. Such sin could not be tolerated by God’s people, and the LORD bless them. The LORD had warned Joshua, “neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you” (7:12).

Israel’s prompt judgment of the sin in their midst, moved the LORD to forgive, and restore the people to His favor (8:1). Indeed, the LORD promised to go to war with Israel, and to give them the spoils of Ai (8:2).

Personal application: Some reading this devotional, bear the guilt of a sin that is yet to be exposed. I encourage you; don’t hide your sin, and wait for it to be discovered. The LORD is patient, and longsuffering, but the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The apostle John admonished believers, “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” (1 John 1:8-9).

The Battle of Ai, and Bethel (8:2-29)

Unlike the presumption that was evidenced in the first battle of Ai (7:2-4), Joshua received not only his orders to go to battle against Ai, but also the strategy for the fight (8:2-13). Unlike the siege of Jericho that lasted seven days, and was conducted in silence until the walls of the city fell down; the attack on Ai employed an entirely different scheme.

Dividing the army into two companies, Israel was to lie in ambush, and draw out the king of Ai who was emboldened by his first victory (8:3-8). With thirty thousand men sent out into the night before him, Joshua “lodged that night among the people” (8:9). True to his character, the next day, “Joshua rose up early in the morning” (8:10), and lured both the men of Bethel (a city some two miles from Ai), and the king of Ai out of the city (8:12-13).

Arrogantly presuming he would send the warriors of Israel scurrying as before, the king of Ai took all of the men of the city to pursue Joshua (8:14), and leaving the city vulnerable. Ai’s king realized, too late, that he had been drawn into the midst of Israel’s armies. The king beheld “the smoke of the city…[and he and his army] had no power to flee this way or that way” (8:20). All was lost, and Israel turned “and slew the men of Ai” (8:21).

Like Moses before him (Exodus 17:8-16), Joshua held his spear aloft during the battle, and Israel warred until the king of Ai was captured, and twelve thousand men of the city slain, along with “all the inhabitants of Ai” (8:22-26). The cattle, and spoils of Ai were Israel’s, and the city was burned (8:27-28). The king of Ai was “hanged on a tree until eventide,” and as the sun was setting, Joshua commanded his body be placed in the gate of Ai, and stones heaped upon it (8:29).

A New Commitment (8:30-35)

The battle being won, “Joshua built an altar unto the Lord God of Israel in mount Ebal,” as the law prescribed (8:30), and then he offered sacrifices (8:31). Upon the stones of the altar, Joshua inscribed “a copy of the law of Moses” (8:32), and he read aloud “all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law” (8:34).

Joshua 8 concludes with a reminder that every word of the LORD is sacred:35There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them” (8:35).

Don’t allow the obvious application of today’s Scripture to be lost! The consequences of one man’s sin, can prove disastrous for a family, church, and nation. Let the stoning of Achan, and his family serve as a warning: Be sure your sin will find you out!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Saving Rahab the Harlot, and God’s Amazing Grace (Joshua 6)

Scripture reading – Joshua 6

Having crossed the Jordan River, Joshua and the nation of Israel faced the challenge of waging war with the inhabitants of the land God had promised Israel for an inheritance. The first fortified city to conquer was ancient Jericho, whose high walls made it a strong fortress, and a city that had to be conquered before the people could take possession of the land.

Israel was two million strong by some estimates, and the news of how Israel’s God had divided the waters of the Jordan, giving way for the people to cross on dry ground, terrified the kings of the Amorites and Canaanites, and their hearts “melted, neither was there spirit in them any more” (5:1). With an assurance the LORD would be with him (6:13-15), Joshua was ready to face the battles that were ahead.

Preparations for the Battle of Jericho (6:1-5)

Fearing an imminent attack upon the city, the king of Jericho shut the gates to the city, and none were allowed to go out or come in (6:1). Israel’s encampment was surely visible from the towers on the wall, and the campfires of that multitude no doubt dotted the hillsides and the plain of Gilgal as far as the eye could see.

The LORD came to Joshua, and assured him the city, and its leaders were already given into his hand (6:2). The marching orders Joshua received were surely unlike any that an army of warriors had ever received. Rather than a prolonged siege of the city, or an assailing of the walls, Joshua was to command an army to march around the walls in silence.

The Silent Procession, and the Walls Fell Down (6:6-21)

The soldiers of Israel went before seven priests, who carried seven “trumpets of rams’ horns,” followed by priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant (6:3-4). Once a day, for six days a silent procession of warriors, was to go before seven priests bearing trumpets, who walked before the priests carrying the Ark.

Joshua had instructed the people as the LORD had commanded. Rising early on the seventh day, the parade of soldiers and priests once again encircled the walls of Jericho seven times in silence (6:5-12). After the seventh time, the silence was shattered by the priests who blew the trumpets (6:16, 20a). Confident the LORD had given Israel the city as He had promised, the people shouted, and “the wall fell down flat,” allowing the people to rush straight into Jericho (6:20b).

Remember the LORD had accursed all that was in Jericho, save the gold, silver, iron, and brass of the city that the LORD had claimed (6:18-19), and that was to be placed “into the treasury of the house of the LORD” (6:24). All the living beings of the city were to be destroyed, “both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword” (6:21).

Rahab the Harlot: A Testimony of Grace (6:22-25)

Joshua had warned the people that all that was in the city was accursed, with one exception: “only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent” (6:17).

When the walls fell down, the men who had been spies, and found safety in Rahab’s house, were commanded to “Go into the harlot’s house, and bring out thence the woman, and all that she hath, [and they] brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had; and they brought out all her kindred, and left them without the camp of Israel” (6:22-23). The author of Hebrews described that event from the point of faith, writing: “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace” (Hebrews 11:31).

Rahab the harlot was not spared Jericho’s destruction because she merited God’s favor. She was a had been heathen, a prostitute, and would have been numbered among those whom Israel was to destroy.  Why was she spared?

She believed, and confessed the God of Israel was the True God, and Israel was His people (6:9-12). She had welcomed the spies into her home, and when the army of Israel surrounded the city, she tied a scarlet rope around her window as a symbol of her faith that she and her family would be spared.

Rahab, and God’s Amazing Grace

Rahab’s faith was rewarded by God! Not only was she spared the destruction of Jericho, she would become the mother of Boaz, and was the great-great grandmother of David. How amazing is God’s grace? Rahab is named in the lineage of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5).  What a testimony of saving grace! She was spared death, by the same way all who are saved are spared.

Ephesians 2:8–98For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

An Obstacle or An Opportunity? (Joshua 4-5)

Scripture reading – Joshua 4-5

With the promises of the LORD, and the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant, “the people removed from their tents, to pass over Jordan” (3:14). When the priests bearing the Ark stepped into the waters, they receded, and “and rose up upon an heap… and the people passed over right against Jericho” (3:16).

Joshua 4 – A Miracle, and a Memorial

What a glorious event in Israel’s history, and one that the LORD commanded Joshua to memorialize in a physical memorial of twelve stones (4:1-8). Joshua commanded twelve men, each representing his tribe, to pass before the Ark, and “take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder” (4:5). The weight, and size of the stones did require the men to shoulder them, and they went before the Ark and carried them to Gilgal (4:8, 19-20), the place Israel would encamp after crossing the dry riverbed into Canaan.

Joshua set in place a second memorial, consisting of twelve stones, representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel. He built it “in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood” (4:9).

All the people passed over, including forty thousand men of war from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and “half the tribe of Manasseh” (4:13). That day, the LORD had fulfilled His promise, for He had “magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life” (4:14).

The LORD then instructed Joshua, “16Command the priests that bear the ark of the testimony, that they come up out of Jordan” (4:16).” Then the priests came “up out of the midst of Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up unto the dry land, that the waters of Jordan returned unto their place, and flowed over all his banks, as they did before” (4:18).”

That evening, the people encamped at the plain of Gilgal, east of Jericho, and Joshua took the twelve stones the men had removed from the Jordan, and built a memorial, a testimony to generations that would follow. When their children should ask, “What mean these stones” (4:21), their parents were to instruct them: “Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. 23For the Lord your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over” (4:22-23).

Joshua 5 – A New Land, and a Renewed Covenant

The nations in Canaan had not assaulted Israel; however, their spies had witnessed the power and presence of the LORD in the midst of His people. “All the kings of the Amorites, which were on the side of Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites, which were by the sea, heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel” (5:1).

Renewing the Covenant, and the Sign of Circumcision (5:2-9)

Circumcision had not been observed in Israel during the wilderness wanderings; however, in the new land, the LORD commanded Joshua to circumcise the men of Israel (5:2-3).

Circumcision served as a physical reminder of Israel’s covenant with the LORD (Exodus 19:5-6), and a testimony that the LORD had, “rolled away the reproach of Egypt” (5:9) What was “the reproach of Egypt?” I believe it was the reproach of the faithless generation that refused to believe the LORD, and had turned back from the land He had promised them for an inheritance (5:6). The name of the place of circumcision would be Gilgal, meaning “rolled away” (5:9).

Remembering the His grace, and goodness, Israel reaffirmed the LORD’S presence and observed the Passover (5:10), and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (5:11). The next day, the provision of manna ceased, and “they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year” (5:12).

A Heavenly Vision: A Pre-Incarnate Appearance of Christ (5:13-15)

When Joshua was near the city of Jericho, he looked up, and “behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand” (5:13). Joshua bravely went to the man, and asked, “Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?” (5:13)

The man introduced himself, saying, “Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come” (5:14; Hebrews 2:10). Joshua, sensing he was in the presence, not of a man, but the LORD Himself, “fell on his face to the earth, and did worship…and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?” (5:14)

The LORD, “captain of the host,” and ready for battle, “said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so” (5:15).

What made the ground holy? It was the presence of the LORD. As Moses honored the LORD, and removed his shoes in the LORD’S presence before the flaming bush (Exodus 3:5), Joshua removed his shoes.

With his shoes removed, and his face bowed to the earth, Joshua was ready to receive his marching orders for the siege of Jericho (Joshua 6).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith