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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

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

Choices Always Have Consequences (Deuteronomy 26-27)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 26-27

Moses continues his charge to Israel, with laws and spiritual principles that were to guide the people as they became a nation in their own land (26:1).

Remembering the blessing of the harvest comes from the LORD (26:1-11), the first-fruits offering was to be taken to the place of worship (Tabernacle), and given to the LORD, thus supporting the priests, the Levites, and their households.

A special tithe was given in the third year, and one that coincided with the tither’s confession that he had honored the LORD’S commandments and obeyed them. The tithe of the third year, was used locally to meet the immediate needs of one’s own community, and to support “the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled” (26:12-15).

The Benefit of Obeying the LORD, and Keeping His Commandments (26:16-19)

Beginning with Deuteronomy 26:16, and continuing to Deuteronomy 31:13, Moses expounded the benefits of obeying the LORD and keeping His commandments. Reminding the people that God had chosen Israel “to be His peculiar people…and to make thee high above all nations…” (26:16-19), Moses admonished the nation to “be an holy people unto the LORD thy God” (26:19b).

Renewing the Covenant (Deuteronomy 27)

Lest the people forget all the LORD had done for them, the elders of Israel were commanded to build a pillar of uncut stones on the west side of the Jordan River (27:2-8). The stones were to be plastered, and engraved upon them was to be the Commandments of the Lord, serving as a lasting memorial of the LORD’S promises and commandments.  An altar was to be built to sanctify the place (27:5-8).

Reminding the leaders of Israel that “Choices have Consequences,” Moses charged the people to remember that obedience to the Law would bring the LORD’S blessings (27:11-12), and disobedience would invite His judgments (27:14-26).

Should the people disobey the LORD, and reject His Law and Commandments, a series of twelve curses was pronounced (27:15-26), and all the people gave their assent by an oath:

1) Idolatry, a violation of the first and second commandments was cursed (27:15).

2) Dishonoring one’s parents was cursed (27:16), a violation of the fifth commandment (Ex. 20:12).

3) Stealing the property and possessions of another by deceit was cursed, a violation of the sixth commandment (27:17; Ex. 20:15).

4) Taking advantage of one infirmed or disabled was cursed (27:18).

5) The fifth curse was upon one who would treat “the stranger, fatherless, and widow” unjustly (27:19; Ex. 22:21-24).

The sixth through ninth curses addressed sexual purity, a violation of the  seventh commandment (27:20-23; Ex. 20:14).

6) Incest with one’s stepmother was cursed (27:20; Lev. 18:8-9, 17; 20:11).

7) Bestiality was cursed (27:21; Lev. 18:23).

8) Incest between siblings, and parents was cursed (27:22).

9) Incest with one’s mother was cursed (27:23).

The fifth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Ex. 20:13), was the subject of the tenth and eleventh curses (27:24-25).

10) Intentional murder of one’s neighbor was cursed (27:24).

11) Hiring an assassin to kill another was cursed (27:25).

12) The twelfth and final curse is addressed to any child of Israel who failed God’s Law and Commandments (27:26).

Deuteronomy 27:26 – “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Moral Dilemmas: Divorce, Debt, and Human Trafficking (Deuteronomy 24-25)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 24-25

Our Scripture reading continues with Moses setting forward various laws that would guide Israel in matters of marriage, family, societal civility, business, and government.

Principles Regarding Marriage and Divorce (24:1-5)

The matter of divorce is raised, and it is indicative of the heart of man. Moses allowed for divorce in this passage; however, I remind you that was never God’s plan, or will. What is the will of the LORD? The sum of God’s will for marriage is this: “A man…shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

The Pharisees questioned Christ saying, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife [divorce] for every cause?” (Matthew 19:3) The LORD answered, citing the “one flesh” principle. and added, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6).

Displeased with His answer, the Pharisees pressed Him, asking, “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?” (Matthew 19:7). The LORD answered the matter of divorce, and diagnosed the moral basis for Moses permitting divorce in Deuteronomy 24.

Matthew 19:8–98He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered [allowed] you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
9And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

A Moral Guideline for the Borrower and Lender (24:6)

The matter of taking the upper millstone is foreign to most, until you understand Moses was talking of the stones used to grind grain into flour. A lender was warned, he could not take the “upper millstone,” for by it a family was able to grind grain into flour, and then bake bread for the family.

A Solution to Human Trafficking (24:7)

One of the great abominations of the 21st century is human trafficking. Forcefully taking children, women, and men and subjecting them to the darkness of moral depravity is an appalling wickedness. In the words of the Scripture, anyone found who “maketh merchandise…or selleth him” shall be put to death (24:7). Were the judgment of the Scriptures practiced today, innocent victims of human trafficking would receive justice, and human traffickers would be dispatched to swift judgment: “Thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deuteronomy 19:21).

Charitable Obligations (24:10-22)

False teachers have led many to believe the laws of the Old Testament were lacking in grace, and boast that we live in an “Age of Grace.” Indeed, we do, but to characterize the Law and Commandments as “graceless,” is to suggest the LORD was the same.

Deuteronomy 24:10-22 give evidence that God was sensitive, and compassionate concerning the condition of the poor, the weak, the orphan, and the widow. For example, in ancient times the poor often had nothing more than the “clothes on their backs.” Robes were the attire, and men generally had an inner, and outer robe. The inner robe afforded modesty, the outer robe protection against the elements, and warmth in the night. Should a poor man borrow, it was his outer robe that might serve as the security or pledge of his debt (24:10-11). The lender was not to humiliate the borrower, and forcefully take the robe of a poor man while he was in his house (24:10-11), and in the evening the lender was to return the outer robe, that the man “may sleep in his own raiment, and bless thee” (24:13).

Admonitions Against Injustices (24:14-18)

Day laborers were to be paid their due at the end of the day (24:14). Everyone was to bear the consequences, and punishment for their sins. Therefore, a father was not to be punished for the sins of his children, nor were his children to be punished for the sins of their father (24:16).

Charity Was the Law (24:19-22)

There was no welfare system for the poor in ancient times, and they were a perpetual presence on the earth. Widows were forsaken by their children, orphans suffered neglect, and foreigners found themselves homeless. Moses reminded the people how Israel had suffered bondage in Egypt; therefore, they were to remember, and allow the poor to glean the leftovers from their fields, olive trees, and grapevines.

Time and space prevent a commentary on Deuteronomy 25; however, I suggest the following for an outline: I. Principles for Capital Punishment, and Civil Justice (25:1-4); II. Principles for Family Posterity (25:5-12); III. Principles Regarding Business and Commerce (25:13-16); IV. Principles Concerning the Offence of an Enemy (25:17-19).

I close, inviting you to ponder the Grace of God: Not only the grace we find expressed in Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, but also the grace of God we have seen throughout His laws, and commandments.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Law of the LORD is Gracious (Deuteronomy 15)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 15

In today’s world, some suggest the Laws of the Old Testament were cold, oppressive, and lacking in grace. They are wrong! In their historical context, and understanding their application, you will find the Law and Commandments of the LORD not only just, but fair and judicious. For example, consider the guidelines for the borrower and lender (15:1-11).

Debtors, Lenders, and the Sabbatical Year (15:1-6)

The Sabbath Year, occurred every seven years, and was the year the LORD commanded the land to rest. Fields were not worked, seeds were not planted, and any vegetation that volunteered and gave fruit, were committed to poor, and the grazing animals.

What about a man’s debt, in the seventh year when they were not permitted to plant seed, harvest crops, and use a surplus to pay one’s debt? Because there was no harvest in the seventh year, lenders were not to press the poor for payment. The lender, in the Sabbath Year, was to suspend payment of a debt for the year (a non-Hebrew was not released of his obligation to pay his debt in the seventh year, 15:3).

If Hebrew lenders would show grace to their debtors, God promised He would bless the nation (15:4), and Israel would become a lender, not a borrower to other nations (15:5-6).

Lending to the Poor (15:7-11)

The poor are ever among us (15:11), and the LORD required His people to be charitable to them, especially those who were “one of the brethren,” meaning a Hebrew (15:7). God’s people were commanded to open their hand, and their heart when they looked upon those who were poor and needy (15:7). The lender was not to be miserly in giving to those in need, and was to “lend him sufficient for his need” (15:8).

In the matter of lending in the proximity of the Sabbath Year, it was probable some lenders might refuse to lend to the poor, knowing the seventh year might suspend repayment of a debt (15:9). Such reasoning was a sin in the eyes of the LORD (15:9b), and lenders were exhorted to give, and trust “the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto” (15:10).

Slavery, and the Release of Slaves (15:12-18)

Slavery was a cultural reality in the ancient world, and poverty was often the catalyst for one to become a slave. A Hebrew man or woman, unable to pay their debts, would become slaves to the lender (15:12). Unlike the abuses afflicted by the heathen upon their slaves, the LORD provided that His people would not become perpetual slaves (15:12). A Hebrew might serve six years, but on the seventh year they were to be released of their debt, and “go free” (15:12b).

When a slave was set free, a master was to ensure the slave would not “go away empty” (15:13). It was required that a master honor the one being set free, giving to “him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him” (15:14).

Some masters were so kind, and gracious, that some slaves would elect to continue as a slave for life, and have a hole pierced through their ear, marking them as such (15:17).

Dedication and Consecration of the Firstborn (15:19-23)

Remembering the tenth plague in Egypt, and how the LORD had spared the firstborn of Israel where the blood had been applied to the doorposts; that deliverance was forever memorialized by dedicating the firstborn male in Israel to the LORD (Exodus 13:2, 15).

The firstborn of cattle, and sheep, were to be unblemished, and offered as a sacrificial meal (15:19-20). Firstborn oxen were not to be worked in the fields, nor were firstborn sheep to be sheared, for they were the LORD’S. Should the firstborn be blemished, it was not a worthy sacrifice, and would therefore be eaten like ordinary meat (15:21-23; 12:15).

I close inviting you to consider how the Law of the LORD was gracious, and it protected the poor from harsh lenders, slaves from cruel taskmasters, and extended seasons of hope, and relief to the people.

Remember, all offerings were a type of God’s final, and perfect offering for our sins. Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the firstborn of Mary, was the perfect, sinless, unblemished sacrificial Lamb of God (John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

You will not be the exception! (Deuteronomy 5)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 5

Moses’ first oration to Israel concluded in Deuteronomy 4:29, and Deuteronomy 5:1 marks the beginning of his second oration.

We read:  “Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them” (5:1). Moses reminded the generation that stood before him, how they were bound to the LORD by a Covenant (5:2), one they had as a congregation agreed to “in Horeb” (Horeb being the same as Mount Sinai).

For any who might object, and suppose they were not bound by the covenant established at Horeb, Moses stated the principle of “corporate solidarity,” saying, “3The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day” (5:3). How did the LORD establish His covenant with Israel as a nation? “[He] talked with [them] face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire” (5:4). Moses then related how he had served as Israel’s mediator, and received the Law and Commandments from the LORD (5:5).

God’s covenant with Israel began with a preamble: 6I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” (5:6). Having stated the preamble, Moses began to rehearse the Decalogue (ten words or statements), and restated the Ten Commandments that were recorded in Exodus 20(5:7-21).

I will suspend a repetition of an earlier study of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), but I encourage you to review the devotional commentary of the same. The spiritual, and historical significance of the Law and Commandments cannot be exaggerated.

After reviewing the Commandments, Moses shared the means by which they were imparted to Israel (5:22-27).

The LORD’s Spirit had descended upon Horeb (also known as Mount Sinai), and He spoke “unto all [the]assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me” (5:22).

The people had been terrified at the sight, “for the mountain did burn with fire” (5:25), and the voice of the LORD was heard like the rumble of thunder (5:26). Fearing the LORD, the people intreated Moses to serve as their mediator saying, “27Go thou near, and hear all that the Lord our God shall say: and speak thou unto us all that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it, and do it” (5:27).

The LORD agreed to the people’s request (5:28), and commended them saying, “29O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!” (5:28).

What a wonderful aspiration! The God of Israel, whose presence and voice had terrified them, longed for His people to always fear [revere] Him, and keep His commandments (5:28a). The LORD’S passion was, that it would be “well with them, and with their children for ever” (5:28b).

Did you know the LORD wants no less for you, and your family?

He longs to bless you, but such a blessing goes only to those who, in the words of Moses, “observe to do therefore as the Lord your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left” (5:32). Too many choose to take detours from the way and path of righteousness, and wonder why things go so badly for them and their loved ones.

God longed for His people to revere Him, and keep His commandments, and yearned “that it [would] be well with [them]” (5:33).

Closing thoughts: God’s blessings are upon the man, and his family, who choose to walk in the way of righteousness. “The way of transgressors is hard” (Proverbs 13:15), but the man who is blessed is one who “walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor standeth in the way of sinners, Nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful” (Psalm 1:1).

What path are you taking, and where are you leading your family?

Remember, “the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: But the way of the ungodly shall perish” (Psalm 1:6).

You will not be the exception!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Shedding the Blood of An Innocent Life, Defiles the Land, and Demands God’s Judgment (Numbers 34-35)

Scripture reading – Numbers 34-35

Numbers 34 records the boundaries of the land the LORD had promised Abraham, and his seed as their inheritance (Genesis 15:18-21; 26:4; 28:13-14). Although the land would not be formally divided by tribe until Joshua 15-19, we are given the southern boundaries (34:3-5), with the western boundary being the “great sea” (the Mediterranean Sea, 34:6). The northern most boundary of Israel was to be Mount Hor (34:7-9), and the eastern boundary was the Jordan River (34:10-13). Per their request, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had “received their inheritance on [the east] side Jordan [River] near Jericho” (34:14-15).

With the assistance of “Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun” (34:17), the LORD chose a man from each of the tribes, to represent his tribe when the land would be divided (34:18-29).

Numbers 35 – The Inheritance of the Tribe of Levi, and the Laws Governing Murder

Unlike the other tribes, the priestly tribe of Levi was not assigned a portion of the land. Their inheritance would be forty-eight cities, and suburbs that would be allotted to the Levites. These cities and suburbs were to be located in the midst of the lands apportioned to the Twelve Tribes, both on the east and west sides of the Jordan River (35:1-5,7).

Of the forty-eight Levite cities, six were to be designated “cities for refuge,” to which men would flee in the event they had taken the life of another (35:6-8). Three cities of refuge were to be located on the east side of the Jordan, and three on the west side (35:9-14).

The cities of refuge offered haven to a man killer (“man slayer”), until he was tried by the congregation, and a determination was made whether or not he was guilty of murder (35:15-29). The cities of refuge could not serve as a safe haven for a man guilty of murder.

Taking the life of another was a violation of the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13), and the judgment of God was: “The murderer shall surely be put to death” (35:16). A blood kinsman had the right to avenge the death of his loved one, and to him fell the responsibility of slaying the murderer (35:17-21).

Should a man slay another “unawares,” an unintentional, accidental killing, he could seek sanctuary in a city of refuge, and so long as he stayed within the city, he was safe. Should a man guilty of manslaughter depart from the protection of his city of refuge, a blood kinsman could avenge the death of his loved one (35:25-28). Only the death of the high priest would release a manslaughterer from the borders of the city of refuge (35:28).

In cases of capital punishment, it was required that more than one witness would give testimony before a man could be convicted of murder, and killed (35:30). Ransom or bribes that were intended to spare the life of a murderer were forbidden (35:31-32).

Numbers 35 closes with a dire, sober warning:

Numbers 35:33–3433So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it. 34Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel.

Take a moment, and weigh the seriousness of taking the life of another. When there is no justice for the slain, and the murderer goes unpunished, the innocent blood “defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood” (35:33b). The only means of cleansing a land of innocent blood, and a nation of its guilt, was by exacting justice, and taking the life of the murderer.

When justice for the innocent fails, a nation is cursed, and its people live under the shadow of God’s judgment.

What hope is there for a people, and nation that is guilty of injustice, and the slaying of the innocent, and unborn?

2 Chronicles 7:1414If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Women’s Rights, and the Changing of the Guard (Numbers 26-27)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 26-27

The gross adultery, and idolatry recorded in Numbers 25 had provoked God to send a plague in Israel that occasioned the deaths of twenty-four thousand people (25:9). With the plague past, the LORD commanded Moses to take a final census before crossing over the Jordan River, “from twenty years old and upward, throughout their fathers’ house, all that are able to go to war in Israel” (26:2).

Numbers 26 – The Final Census, Before the Promised Land

A census of the Twelve Tribes of Israel had first been taken in Numbers 1-4. A comparison of that census, with this later one reveals a slight decrease in the Twelve Tribes overall (the first totaling 603,500 men, and the second 601,730 men, who were twenty years or older). Some tribes had experienced a decline (Simeon declining from 59,300 men, to 22,200 men, twenty years and older). Other tribes had experienced a large growth in population (the men of the tribe of Manasseh had increased from 32,200, to 52,700 men, twenty years and older). The names and the numbering of the Twelve Tribes is recorded in Numbers 26:5-50.

The census was important, for it became the basis for assigning each tribe their own territory in the Promised Land (26:52-56). The Tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe chosen by the LORD to serve Him, did not receive an inheritance of land in Canaan (26:62).

Numbers 26 concludes with a sobering reminder of God’s judgment upon Israel (26:64). The prior generation of people who had come out of Egypt, but refused to trust the LORD and obey Him, had all perished in the wilderness, save two men: “65For the Lord had said of them, They shall surely die in the wilderness. And there was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun” (26:65).

Numbers 27 – Women’s Rights, and the Changing of the Guard

The Scriptures prove the LORD’s judgments are just in the matter of women’s rights. Numbers 27:1-11 is a wonderful case study regarding the rights of women, and reveals the inequitable laws women protest are not God’s way, but men’s! If men would follow the ethics of the Scriptures, they would realize the ways of the LORD are wise, benevolent, and compassionate.

Five daughters, of one man of the tribe of Manasseh, came to Moses, and Eleazar the high priest (27:1-2). Their father had died, with no son, and leaving no male heir. The daughters were permitted to plead their case regarding their late father’s right-of-inheritance in the Promised Land (27:1-4). According to the law, a man’s inheritance was to pass to his son; however, without a son, what was to become of a man’s possessions?

The daughters reasoned, “4Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son?” (27:4) Arguing they, and their father had been slighted, the women petitioned, “Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father” (27:4).

Rather than make a hasty, ill-advised decision, or trust men’s opinions, Moses withdrew, and “brought [the] cause [of the daughters] before the LORD” (27:5). The LORD, affirmed the sisters assertion (27:6), and answered Moses: “Thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter” (27:7). Ensuring a family’s possessions would remain within the tribe, should a man die and have neither a son or daughter, his inheritance would pass to his next of kin (27:9-11).

Numbers 27:12-23 – End of an Era

The LORD commanded Moses, “Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel. 13  And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered” (27:12-13).

Moses was reminded that he would not enter the Land of Promise (27:14; 20:7-13), and accepted the consequence of his sin with grace. Like a true shepherd leader, Moses requested the LORD “set a man over the congregation” (27:16). Moses desired to ensure his successor would be a man of God’s choosing, and a man with a shepherd’s heart (27:17).

God chose “Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit [of God]” (27:18).  Leaving no uncertainty that Joshua was God’s choice (27:18), the LORD directed Moses to confirm him before “all the congregation” (27:19-20). Moses obeyed the LORD, and took Joshua, and “laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the LORD commanded” (27:23).

A closing thought: Although he was one of the greatest men to ever live, Moses did inevitably go the way of all flesh, and was “gathered unto [his] people, as Aaron [his] brother was gathered” (27:13).  Miriam was dead; Aaron was dead; and because he had sinned before all the people, Moses would die, without crossing into the Promised Land (27:14).

The author of Hebrews writes, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). “So teach us to number our days, That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“God is not a man, that he should lie.” (Numbers 23-24)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 23-24

The dynamic conversation between Balak, king of Moab, and Balaam continues in today’s Scripture reading. Hearing Balaam had arrived in Moab, Balak went out to see the seer and was anxious to have him curse Israel (22:26-41). Balaam warned the king, “the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak” (22:38). Balak, however, was undeterred, and led Balaam to Kirjathhuzoth, and after offering oxen and sheep, invited him to look out on the plain where Israel was encamped (22:40-41).

Numbers 23 – Balaam’s Prophecies, and Balak’s Rage

Balak was willing to do all that Balaam asked, and the king built “seven altars, and…offered on every altar a bullock and a ram” (23:1-2). Balak then stood by his burnt offerings, and waited for the prophet to speak. Instead of cursing, Balaam prophesied saying, “Lo, the people [Israel] shall dwell alone, And shall not be reckoned among the nations [Israel would become a distinct nation, and with its own land]10Who can count the dust of Jacob, And the number of the fourth part of Israel? [Israel would become a great population] (22:9-10a).

Balak was incensed, and rebuked Balaam saying, “What hast thou done unto me? I took thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast blessed them altogether” (22:11).

Not yet ready to accept that Balaam could not curse Israel, the king invited him “to the top of Pisgah,” and once again “built seven altars, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar” (23:14). Balaam withdrew to seek the LORD, and Balak stood by his burnt offerings (23:15-17). When Balaam returned, Balak asked, “What hath the LORD spoken?” (23:17b).

Rather than curse Israel, Balaam’s second prophecy focused on God’s character, and the prophet revealed He is immutable [unchanging]: For “19God is not a man, that he should lie; Neither the son of man, that he should repent: Hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (23:19

God’s promises are sure, for whom the LORD has determined to bless, He will bless (23:20-21a). He is omnipresent, and His presence assures His people victory (23:21b-22). The LORD is also a shield, and Israel would not be harmed (23:23). Balaam prophesied, because the LORD is with Israel, His people would “rise up as a great lion…and drink the blood of the slain” (23:24). 

Balak loathed the blessings Balaam had heaped upon Israel, and he challenged the prophet, “Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all” (23:25). Balak then commanded Balaam a third time to look upon Israel, and curse the people (23:27-30).

Numbers 24 – Balaam’s Third and Fourth Prophecies

For a third time, Balak built seven altars, and offered seven bulls and seven rams (23:29-30), but Balaam could not curse Israel, for he “saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, [and] he set his face toward the wilderness” (24:1). Lifting up his eyes towards Israel, Balaam “saw Israel abiding in his tents according to their tribes; and the spirit of God came upon him” (24:2). Balaam prophesied (24:5-9), 5How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, And thy tabernacles, O Israel!” (24:5).

Balak was furious, and protested, “I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times. 11Therefore now flee thou to thy place” (24:10-11a). Before departing, Balaam took up a fourth prophecy (24:15-19), and prophesied, “There shall come a Star out of Jacob, And a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel” (24:17). This prophecy was partly fulfilled when Israel was established as a kingdom, and David reigned. However, it was the birth of Jesus Christ that was marked by “a Star out of Jacob” (24:17, 19; Matthew 2:2). 

Balaam concluded his prophecies, and foretold the fall of three kingdoms: The Amalekites (24:20); the Kenites (24:21-22); and the Assyrians (24:23-24). Balaam and Balak went their ways; however, the Scriptures reveal how Balaam will be slain in battle, with several kings of Midian (31:8).

A closing thought: “19God is not a man, that he should lie” (23:19).

I have known many liars, and have seen that the bent of human depravity is for men to believe lies, before they will accept and embrace God’s truth. What a blessed security to know God keeps His promises, and His Word is sure! To quote the apostle Paul, “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4a).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Look, and Live! (Numbers 21-22) (part 1 of 2)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 21-22

Numbers 21 finds Israel near the end of that nation’s forty-year sojourn in the wilderness. The vastness of Israel’s population was such that neighboring nations feared the congregation. One king, Arad the Canaanite, fought against Israel, taking some of the people as prisoners. The people called on the LORD, and vowed, “If thou wilt indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities” (21:2). The LORD heard Israel’s promise, and gave them a great victory over the Canaanites, and the people “utterly destroyed them and their cities” (21:3).

In spite of their great victory over the Canaanites, Edom’s refusal to allow Israel to pass through their land soon found the people discouraged (21:4). Like their parents before them, they began speaking against God, and Moses, saying, “Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread” (21:5).

The LORD’S judgment was swift, and “fiery [poisonous] serpents” bit the people, and many died (21:6). Moses, evidencing the humility and meekness of a leader who had borne much, prayed for the people when they confessed, “we have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee” (21:7). The LORD heard Moses’ prayer, and commanded him, “Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live” (21:8).

Moses obeyed the LORD, and fashioned “a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived” (21:9). The significance of this event was identified by Jesus in His conversation with Nicodemus (John 3). The LORD revealed the “brass serpent” was a type, a pre-incarnate symbol, of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. Jesus revealed to Nicodemus, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: [15] That whosoever believeth in Him [Jesus Christ] should not perish, but have eternal life.  [16] For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:14-16).

The brass serpent, suspended on a pole, was the object God provided for Israel to look to and live. Some 2,000 years later, Christ would be suspended on the Cross, and all who look to Him find healing – the answer for the “wages of sin” (Romans 6:23). The invitation to Israel to look, and live, is an invitation for all sinners: Look to the Cross, and with eyes of faith, believe Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and raised from the dead. Look, and Live!

1 John 5:11-13 – “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12  He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13  These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”

LOOK and LIVE!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith