Tag Archives: Evil

The Way of the Wicked (2 Samuel 4; Psalm 6)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 4; Psalm 6

The events in 2 Samuel 4 are another reminder that humanity has not changed. Evil men struggle for power, riches, and influence, and the treachery and deceit found in our Scripture readings are as present in our day as they were in ancient times.

2 Samuel 4

The Plot to Kill, Ishbosheth, King of Israel (4:1-4)

When the news of Abner’s death (3:26-27) reached Saul’s son, Ishbosheth was so overcome with fear that “his hands were feeble [i.e., became limp], and all the Israelites were troubled” (4:1). With the captain of his army dead, Ishbosheth realized his days as king were numbered.

Two brothers, Baanah and Rechab (4:2-3), supposed the death of Abner provided them an opportunity to exact revenge against the house of Saul (for that king had slain many Gibeonites who lived in Beeroth, 2 Samuel 21:1-2). Besides Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, there was one other male of Saul’s household, Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan; however, he was lame and unfit to be king (4:4). With Ishbosheth dead, Baanah and Rechab reasoned the last obstacle to David becoming king of Israel would be removed, and they would be rewarded.

The Assassination of Ishbosheth (4:5-8)

Under the pretense of gathering grain, possibly as compensation to their band of soldiers, Rechab and Baanah entered the palace. Finding Ishbosheth sleeping, they killed him upon his bed, and beheaded him (4:5-7). Carrying the head of the king as proof he had been slain, Rechab and Baanah traveled through the night, and “brought the head of Ishbosheth unto David to Hebron” (4:8). Imagining they would be rewarded, they said to David, “Behold the head of Ishbosheth the son of Saul thine enemy, which sought thy life; and the Lord hath avenged my lord the king this day of Saul, and of his seed” (4:8).

David Condemned the Murderous Actions of Rechab and Baanah (4:9-12)

Reflecting on the LORD’S faithfulness during his wilderness years, David certainly did not need Rechab and Baanah to slay Ishbosheth (4:9). Drawing upon how he had ordered the death of the Amalekite soldier that had claimed to slay King Saul (2 Samuel 1), David condemned the two brothers for slaying Ishbosheth, “a righteous person in his own house upon his bed” (4:11).

David then “commanded his young men, and they slew [Rechab and Baanah], and cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged them up over the pool in Hebron” (4:12). Because the pool in Hebron was a public gathering place, hanging the limbs of the slain served as a testimony and a warning to Israel. A testimony that David had no part in the assassination of Ishbosheth. It was also a warning to any who might be tempted to betray David in the future. David, however, made certain “the head of Ishbosheth” was given an honorable burial “in the sepulchre of Abner in Hebron” (4:12).

Closing thought: We should not be surprised that when there is no law, evil men commit heinous acts of treachery, and murder. The wicked actions of Rechab and Baanah, and their expectation to be rewarded for murdering Ishbosheth, is the way of the world. David, however, proved to be a righteous man, and his judgment to put Rechab and Baanah to death was according to the Law (Genesis 9:6, Exodus 21:12; Leviticus 24:17,21).

Psalm 6Suffering, Sorrows and Setbacks

The setting and historical context of Psalm 6 is not known; however, David is identified as its author. Time and space do not allow me to do an in-depth study of Psalm 6; however, I trust my brief overview might be a blessing.

Psalm 6:2 2  Have mercy [Be gracious; show favor] upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal [cure; make whole] me; for my bones [i.e. body; substance] are vexed [troubled; tremble; alarmed; disturbed]

Psalm 6:5-7 5  For in death there is no remembrance [memory; memorial] of thee: in the grave [hell; the pit; Sheol] who shall give thee thanks [praise; revere]?

6 I am weary [faint; exhausted; grown weary] with my groaning [sighing; mourning]; all the night make I my bed to swim [inundate; i,e, swimming with tears]; I water [melt; dissolve] my couch [i.e., bed with a canopy] with my tears [weeping]

7  Mine eye [sight; appearance] is consumed [dimmed; waste away] because of grief [sorrow; anger]; it waxeth old  [grows old; fails] because of all mine enemies [distress; pains].”

Believer, if you find yourself in the midst of trials, and your soul is burdened and weary of life…take heart; the saints of God are strengthened in their faith when they, in the midst of the extremity of their weakness, turn to the Lord.

Many are the saints that have experienced the sorrows of trials, and can readily identify with David’s sleepless nights.  How many have cried themselves to sleep, because of the sinful choices of one they loved?  How many parents have grown weary, bearing the sorrows and trials heaped upon them by children who have chosen a path of sin? Take heart…God hears your cries.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Sin Will Rob You of Everything You Hold Dear (1 Samuel 31)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 31

1 Samuel 31 brings us to the inevitable, inglorious end of king Saul.  The battle went against Israel, and Saul received word that his sons were slain (31:1-2).  Having suffered a mortal wound from an arrow, the king commanded his armorbearer to slay him, but he refused. Knowing he would soon fall into the hands of his enemy, Saul took his own life, and fell upon his sword (31:3-4). When the men of Israel learned their king, and his sons, had been slain, they not only fled the battle, but also abandoned their homes and cities (31:7).

As has oft been observed, “to the victor goes the spoils,” the day after the battle, the Philistines returned to the battlefield and looted the dead (30:8). In the midst of the carnage, they found the bodies of Saul, and his three sons (30:8). Demeaning Israel and her slain king, they cut off the king’s head, and stripped his armor, and displayed it as a trophy, putting it “in the house of Ashtaroth [believed to be the temple to the goddess Venus]” (31:9-10). To further humiliate Israel, they took the bodies of the king, and his sons, and fastened them “to the wall of Bethshan” (31:10, 12).

When the men of Jabesh-Gilead learned of the desecration, and the display of the bodies of the king and his sons, they “went all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there. 13And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days” (31:12-13).

Why did Saul and his sons suffer such a disastrous, ignoble end?

1 Chronicles 10:13-14 answers the question, where we read: “So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it; 14 And enquired not [no desire to repent] of the LORD: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.” Sin and rebellion cost Saul everything…his army (31:1), his sons (31:2), his life (31:3-4) and his honor (31:9-10).

Sin is hard, cruel and merciless. Sin will destroy your marriage, strip you of your crowning achievements and leave you despairing of life.  Sin will rob you of everything you hold dear. If you are in the midst of sin, it is not too late to turn to the LORD who is “full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (Psalm 86:15).

2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Dead Man Walking; God’s Man Rejoicing (Psalm 63, 1 Samuel 28)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 28; Psalm 63

1 Samuel 28 – Dead Man Walking

One might feel a certain empathy for King Saul in the latter years of his reign and life. The king was old, the strength and vitality of his youth faded, and his spirit consumed by bitterness. In contrast, David had been a faithful servant to the king, but Saul’s jealousy had made his friend his enemy. Indeed, the champion of Israel, appeared to be in league with Achish, the Philistine king (28:1-2).

Saul was alone. He had disobeyed God’s command, and the LORD had withdrawn his Spirit from the king (16:14-15). With the prophet Samuel dead (28:3), and the Philistine army gathered against Israel (28:4), Samuel trembled at the sight of “the host of the Philistines” (28:5).

Paralyzed by a spirit of foreboding (28:5-6), and desperate for a word of reassurance, the king disguised himself, violated the Law (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:31), and turned to a witch who consulted with spirits (28:7;Leviticus 20:27). Assuring the witch, she would not be punished, Saul demanded she call the prophet Samuel from the dead (28:11).

The LORD permitted Samuel to appear, and his appearance frightened the witch, who realized the man before her was Saul (28:12). With the king’s assurance that she would come to no harm, the woman revealed she had seen a man, “an old man…covered with a mantle” (28:14). Saul realized the apparition was that of Samuel, and the king “stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself” (28:14).

Samuel demanded, “Why hast thou disquieted me [awaken from rest or sleep], to bring me up [from Sheol, the place of the dead]?” (28:15). Trembling with fear, Saul declared how the Philistines had gathered against Israel, and God’s Spirit had departed from him (28:15). He confessed he had no prophet to answer him, and no man to interpret dreams (28:15).

Samuel then reminded Saul he was suffering the consequences of his disobedience (1 Samuel 15:23; 28:18). Not only had God’s Spirit departed from Saul, but the LORD had become his enemy (28:16). The LORD had “rent the kingdom out of [Saul’s] hand, and given it to [his] neighbour, even to David” (28:17).

Revealing the imminent deaths of Saul and his sons, and the defeat Israel would suffer the next day on the battlefield (28:19), Saul fell to the ground, “and there was no strength in him” (28:20). Overcome with emotion, and weak from fasting, the witch took pity on Saul and urged him to eat (28:22-24). When their supper was ended, Saul and his men “rose up, and went away that night” (28:25).

Closing thoughts: Rather than humble himself, and repent, Saul departed with his heart hardened, knowing he would not live to see another night. Because of his sin and disobedience, the king and his sons would die the next day, and his throne would be given to David.

He was a “dead man walking.”

Psalm 63

The title of Psalm 63 gives us the background for the song, for it was “when [David] was in the wilderness of Judah.” You will notice phrases and verses throughout the psalm that are beautiful and expressive.

In light of Saul’s despair in 1 Samuel 28, Psalm 63 affords us an encouraging contrast.  While Saul longed for a word from the LORD, but found his sins had made the LORD his enemy; David’s heart rejoiced in his God, and he confessed:

Psalm 63:11O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: My soul thirsteth for thee, My flesh longeth for thee In a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;

Surely, only a man who loved the LORD could find such joy, comfort, and cause for rejoicing in Him.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Caution: Revenge straight ahead! (1 Samuel 23-24)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 23-24

Envy, bitterness, and revenge, like conjoined triplets, have been the haunt of man since Cain slew his brother Abel (Genesis 4). Jealousy consumes, and bitterness festers, until revenge lifts its venomous head destroying lives, friendships, marriages, and families.

Today’s Scripture reading offers a contrast between the spirit of two men: Saul, the king of Israel whose envy consumed, and festered into a murderous rage; David, who practiced what Paul encouraged when he penned, “avenge not yourselves…for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord(Romans 12:19).

Background – David, and four hundred fighting men, had taken refuge in Judah among his brethren (22:5), while Saul’s desperation to kill him was frustrated in a tirade against his own tribesmen of Benjamin, and his son Jonathan. Adding to his wickedness, the king ordered the slaughter of the priests and families who had resided in Nob (22:16-19).

1 Samuel 23 – The Hunt to Kill David

David’s Victory over the Philistines at Keilah (23:1-6)

Encamped in the hills of Judah, David received news how the Philistines had raided Keilah, a city of Judah located on the border of Philistia, and it was during the time of harvest (23:1). Angered by the intrusion upon his people, David sought the will of the LORD, and asked, “Shall I go and smite these Philistines? And the Lord said unto David, Go, and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah” (23:2).

With only four hundred men, David’s men resisted going to war against the Philistines whose numbers would have been far greater than their own (23:3-4). Nevertheless, David and his men went to Keilah, and God gave him a great victory over his enemy (23:5). Rather than applaud David for protecting Keilah, and securing Israel’s border, Saul took the occasion to call Israel to war against him and his men (23:7-8).

A Warning of Betrayal and a Friend’s Encouragement (23:9-18)

David, demonstrating the discernment of a man after the heart of God, called upon the LORD for direction (23:9-11), and He confirmed the men of Keilah would betray him into the hand of Saul (23:12). By this time, David’s four hundred men had become a small force of six hundred men, and they withdrew into “the wilderness of Ziph in a wood” (23:15), and there Jonathan sought him out (23:16), and with a humility that few men might have, he encouraged David saying, “Fear not: for the hand of Saul my father shall not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee; and that also Saul my father knoweth” (23:17). The two friends renewed their “covenant before the LORD,” and Jonathan returned to his house (23:18).

Betrayed by the Ziphites, and Pursued Around the Mountains (23:19-29)

David and his men sought refuge in “the wilderness of Ziph” (23:15), and soon after his meeting with Jonathan, the men of Ziph plotted to betray David to Saul (23:19-21). True to his evil character, the king disingenuously accused David of his own sin, saying, “he dealeth very subtilly” (23:22). Wisely, David continued on the move, staying ahead of Saul until he diverted his men to war against the Philistines (23:23-28). With Saul departed, David moved his band of men to a beautiful oasis known as En-gedi (23:29). Located in southern Israel and overlooking the western shore of the Dead Sea, Engedi made a perfect hiding place for David (23:29).

1 Samuel 24 – A Story of Two Natures

David and his band of six hundred men were hiding in the caves of En-gedi when King Saul received word that he was in the midst of the rocky crags of that oasis. Choosing three thousand handpicked fighters, Saul set out to find and destroy David once and for all (24:1-22).

With Saul and his army encamped in the valley, David and his men retreated into the darkness of a large cave overlooking Saul’s camp. There is no delicate way to state what occasioned Saul putting himself within David’s reach, other than to state simply, the king chose David’s hideout to relieve himself. With his guards stationed outside the cave, Saul was not aware he had retreated into his enemy’s lair.

David’s men urged him to strike a mortal blow to the king (24:4), and they were stunned when he refused (24:7). Indeed, his heart was so tender that the mere act of cutting off the hem of Saul’s robe troubled him (24:5).

1 Samuel 24:6 – “And he said unto his men, The LORD forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the LORD’S anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD.”

I invite you to consider how David reflected humility, and honored the king in four ways (24:8-10).

First, he addressed the king with respect due his office saying, “My lord the king” (24:8). He also honored the king in his manner when he stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed himself” (24:8).  The third way he honored the king’s office was in how he entreated the king with a question, not an accusation, and asked“Wherefore hearest thou men’s words, saying, Behold, David seeketh thy hurt?” (24:9) Finally, he proved the evil reports the king had entertained about him were false, when he had opportunity to kill the king, he spared him (24:11).

Truth – If you want to know the character of a man, observe his actions when his enemy is most vulnerable. Rather than bitterness, David maintained a tender heart, and as long as Saul was king, he honored him as God’s anointed. Rather than revenge, David turned Saul over to the LORD to deal with him (24:12, 15).

Remember – Vengeance is God’s business.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Life on the Run! (1 Samuel 20; Psalm 11)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 20; Psalm 11

Today’s Scripture reading introduces a new phase in our two-year chronological study of the Scriptures. Several of the psalms that were authored by David were penned during his years in exile. Those psalms will be infused in our study. While 1 Samuel gives us the narrative, and background of events in David’s life, the psalms give us insight into the internal struggles, and meditations of this man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). While the Spirit of God occupied King Saul, and his messengers in Ramah (19:20-24), David circled back to request Jonathan’s intervention in his crisis with the king (20:1). As we will see, the king’s heart was troubled with an evil spirit, and he could find no peace.

1 Samuel 20 – David’s Fear

David fled Ramah, and put as much distance between himself, and his enemy as he could (19:19-24). The bond between David and Jonathan, Saul’s son, was never broken in spite of the king’s efforts to kill him (20:1-23). Jonathan understood the LORD’S anointing was upon David, and in a great act of humility, he vowed to love David to the end of his life (20:35-42). Departing from Jonathan, David began an exile that would last ten years. Separated from his friend, and his father’s household, David retreated into the wilderness, and a life on the run.

Faithful and Fearless (Psalm 11:1-7)

I am not certain of the historical context of Psalm 11; however, it seems to be an appropriate parallel text for our devotional in 1 Samuel 20. David was certainly facing the threat of an enemy, and weighing the counsel of those who urged him to flee.

There are times when retreat, and flight from the threat of an enemy is a wise and necessary choice. David fled from the presence of Saul when the king was moved to kill him. He also fled Jerusalem after his son Absalom stole the affections of the people, and led an insurrection against him. David faced foes within and without, and he confronted threats significant enough to move him to flee (11:1b-2). (The amplifications of word meanings in brackets are those of the author.)

Psalm 11:1-3 – “In the LORD put I my trust [confide; flee for protection; make refuge]: how say [speak; command] ye to my soul [life; person; mind], Flee [disappear; remove] as a bird to your mountain?
2  For, lo, the wicked 
[ungodly; immoral; guilty] bend their bow, they make ready [prepare; set up; fix]their arrow upon the string, that they may privily [secretly, in the darkness] shoot at the upright [right; just; righteous] in heart [mind].
3  If the foundations
[purpose; support; moral pillars] be destroyed [thrown down; pull down; broken in pieces], what can the righteous [just] do?”

Yet, David asserted his faith was in the LORD, and he asked his terrified counselors, would you have me flee like a frightened bird? (11:1) David acknowledged the plot of the wicked to destroy the just and upright (11:2), but as the LORD’S anointed, he was the moral pillar, the foundation of the saints of God (11:3a).

Psalm 11:4-7 is David’s answer to the questions, and counsel of his faithless advisors.

Psalm 11:4 – “The LORD is in his holy [sacred; hallowed] temple, the LORD’S throne [seat] is in heaven: his eyes behold [perceive; look; gaze], his eyelids try [examine; prove], the children of men.”

David asserted the LORD was Sovereign of His creation, and though His throne is in heaven, He observes the affairs of men with a steady eye, and an unwavering gaze (11:4).

Psalm 11:5 – “The LORD trieth [proves; examines] the righteous [just; law abiding]: but the wicked [ungodly; immoral; guilty] and him that loveth violence [cruelty; injustice] his soul [the LORD] hateth [as a foe].”

Psalm 11:5 states David’s confidence that the LORD knows the hearts of the righteous. He is the foe of men who afflict humanity with their evil deeds, and hates the violence, and terror of the wicked. He hates lawlessness.

Psalm 11:6 – “Upon the wicked he [the LORD] shall rain [rain down] snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible [consuming; terrible; raging] tempest [wind; spirit]: this shall be the portion of their [the wicked] cup [they will drink of their lawless way].”

Not unlike the weapons of modern warfare, David describes the terror of God’s judgment raining down upon the wicked who oppose Him, and who despise the righteous.

Psalm 11:7 – “For the righteous [just; lawful] LORD loveth righteousness [justice; moral virtue; obedience to His Commandments]; his countenance [face; presence] doth behold [perceive; contemplate; see] the upright [righteous; straight; just].”

Our devotion ends with an assurance that the LORD’S love for the righteous never wanes, and His eyes ever behold those whom He numbers among the righteous on the earth. Though our world is dominated by those who have rejected the LORD (Psalm 14:1, 53:1), and are adversaries of righteousness; yet is Sovereign over creation, and a refuge to all who trust Him.

Isaiah 40:31 – “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Ichabod, The Glory is Departed (1 Samuel 4-5)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 4-5

Samuel’s reputation was growing in Israel, and all Israel “knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord” (3:20). Judges 3 concluded with the LORD revealing Himself to Samuel in Shiloh (3:21). The LORD began using his young prophet, for “the word of Samuel came to all Israel” (4:1a).

1 Samuel 4 – Presumption, Precedes Disgrace

A series of tragic events unfolds in this chapter, and some writers suggest the LORD directed Samuel to send Israel into battle against the Philistines (4:1). I believe the opposite to be true; for there is no mention of Samuel giving counsel for Israel to go to war, nor of the elders of Israel seeking his counsel.

Israel appears to be the aggressor, and the Philistines “put themselves in array against Israel,” and four thousand men were slain on the first day of battle (4:2). The elders of Israel then gathered, and wondered why the LORD had set Himself against them (4:3). Rather than humble themselves, and seek the LORD as the generations before them, the leaders dismissed any thought that it was their sin, and apostasy that demanded the LORD’s displeasure. Instead, they sent men to “fetch the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh,” believing its presence in the camp would insure their victory over the Philistines (4:3). Despite their reputation in Israel, it was Hophni and Phinehas (2:12-17, 22-25), the sons of Eli, who accompanied the Ark of the LORD to the encampment. Its arrival was greeted with a shout, as though it was an ornament to insure their victory (4:5),

When the Philistines learned the Ark was present in Israel’s camp, they were afraid, for they had heard how the LORD had delivered His people out of Egypt (4:7-8). Nevertheless, they stirred themselves, and prepared for battle (4:9). Israel was sorely defeated, and thirty thousand soldiers were slain (4:10). The battle could not have gone worse, for “the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain” (4:11). Israel’s soldiers were scattered, and one young soldier fled the battle, “and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes rent, and with earth upon his head” (4:12).

Though he was the keeper of the Ark, Eli had not accompanied it to the encampment (4:13). Waiting “by the wayside,” Eli heard the cries of the people, and asked, “What meaneth the noise of this tumult?” (4:14) The young man came to Eli, who was old and blind (4:15), and confessed his cowardice, saying, “I am he that came out of the army, and I fled to day out of the army” (4:16).

With his heart trembling (4:13), Eli asked “What is there done, my son? 17And the messenger answered and said, Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God is taken” (4:16-17). “When he made mention of the ark of God, [Eli] fell from off the seat backward…and his neck brake, and he died: for he was an old man, and heavy” (4:18).

Now, Eli’s daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, “was with child, near to be delivered: and when she heard” what had become of the Ark, and the deaths of her husband and Eli, she went into labor, and gave birth to a son whom she named Ichabod, meaning, “The glory is departed from Israel” (4:22).

 

1 Samuel 5

For the victorious Philistines, the Ark was a trophy of war, to be displayed and mocked in the temple of Dagon, their god (5:1). The Philistines, however, learned that Dagon was a feeble, lifeless idol in the presence of Israel’s God (5:3-4), and the presence of the Ark in their cities invited His judgment (5:5-12).

Israel had gone to war without seeking God’s favor, and the Ark had been taken. All seemed lost in Israel; however, the LORD had raised up a prophet to serve Him, and He was with Samuel!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 2-3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Samuel 3 – The LORD Calls Samuel

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Moral Degeneracy, and Civil War” (Judges 20) – A Bonus Father’s Day Devotional Post

Scripture reading – Judges 20

Happy Father’s Day to fathers who follow http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com. Today’s Scripture reading is Ruth 1-2; however, I decided to post a bonus devotional from Judges 20. This passage was the subject of my Father’s Day message to Hillsdale Baptist Church, Tampa, FL. A recording of that sermon will be posted on Monday on my GabTV Channel

The Levite’s brutal actions, cutting the battered, and lifeless body of his concubine into twelve pieces, and sending them to the tribes, had the desired effect (19:29). The children of Israel were stirred and challenged to deliberate the deed that had been done, and speak to it (19:30). In the absence of a judge, ruler, or king (19:1), the elders of the tribes sent a summons for the children of Israel to gather “together as one man, from Dan [the northernmost tribe in Israel] even to Beer-sheba [the southernmost town in Canaan], with the land of Gilead[the tribes on the east side of the Jordan], unto the Lord in Mizpeh [probably a military outpost]” (20:1-2).

“Four hundred thousand footmen that drew sword,” gathered from “all the tribes of Israel, [and] presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God” (20:2). Though the tribe of Benjamin had heard how the tribes of Israel had gathered at Mizpeh, and was perhaps summoned, there was no man sent to represent the tribe in the matter.

A Plea for Justice (20:3-7)

The Levite, whose wife had been slain in Gibeah, was summoned by the tribal leaders, and questioned: “Tell us, how was this wickedness?” (20:3) The Levite then proceeded to give testimony of the horrific events that had taken place at Gibeah, and how he and his concubine had come to lodge there (20:4). He described how the house in which he sheltered was “beset…round about,” and the men of Gibeah would have slain him, and assaulted his concubine, leaving her dead (20:5).

He described how he had taken the body of his concubine, “and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the country…for they [the men of Gibeah, and Benjamin] had “committed lewdness [wickedness; evil] and folly[disgrace] in Israel” (20:6). The Levite then appealed to all Israel, “give here your advice and counsel” (20:7).

A Resolution to Exact Judgment (20:8-11)

All Israel was moved by the Levite’s testimony (20:8), and it was decided that judgment should not be delayed in the matter (20:8), and the men of Gibeah would answer for their evil deeds (20:9).

Men were chosen to search out provisions for the thousands of men who were prepared to go up against Gibeah, and deal with them “according to all the folly that they have wrought in Israel” (20:10). “All the men of Israel were gathered against the city [Gibeah], knit together as one man” (20:11).

Judgment, and the Punishment of the Men of Gibeah (20:12-19)

The elders of Israel sent messengers throughout the tribe of Benjamin, and they enquired, “What wickedness is this that is done among you?” (20:12). The messengers demanded, that “the children of Belial, which are in Gibeah,” (those ungodly, immoral men), be purged from their tribe, “that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel” (20:13).

In spite of the gross wickedness committed by the men of Gibeah, “the children of Benjamin would not hearken to the voice of their brethren the children of Israel[and they] gathered themselves together out of the cities unto Gibeah, to go out to battle against the children of Israel” (20:13-14). Benjamin made the decision to tolerate, and protect the sexual deviancy of Gibeah, and gathered “out of the cities twenty and six thousand men that drew sword, beside the inhabitants of Gibeah, which were numbered seven hundred chosen men” (20:15).

The children of Israel found themselves at a spiritual crossroads. (20:17-20)

Defy the law of God, and tolerate the wickedness that brought His judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), or confront the sin in its midst, and go to war with “four hundred thousand men that drew sword” (20:17).

Israel chose the LORD’S side, and “went up to the house of God [not the Tabernacle, but “Bethel”], and asked counsel of God, and said, Which of us shall go up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin? And the Lord said, Judah shall go up first” (20:18). The next day, “Israel rose up in the morning, and encamped against Gibeah. 20And the men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin; and the men of Israel put themselves in array to fight against them at Gibeah” (20:19-20).

The men of Benjamin came out of Gibeah, and won the first day’s battle, killing “twenty and two thousand men” of Israel (20:21). Although twenty-two thousand men had died, Israel’s men stirred themselves to prepare for the second battle (20:22), and wept before the LORD that same evening, “and asked counsel of the Lord, saying, Shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother? And the Lord said, Go up against him” (20:23).

On the second day, the army of Israel came near Gibeah, and the men of Benjamin once again rushed upon them, and eighteen thousand soldiers of Israel were slain (20:25). Israel retreated, and went up to Bethel, “and sat there before the Lord, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. 27And the children of Israel inquired of the Lord, (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days” (having been relocated to Bethel from Shiloh, perhaps for the battle, 20:26-27). “Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron” was the high priest,” enquired of the LORD for Israel, “Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease?” (20:28) The LORD assured Israel, “Go up; for to morrow I will deliver them into thine hand” (20:28).

With the assurance the LORD was with them, Israel “set liers in wait,” men who would ambush the soldiers of Benjamin when they gave chase out of Gibeah (20:29). On the third day of the battle, the men of Benjamin rushed out of the city as before, not knowing there were soldiers of Israel lying in wait to attack the city (20:29-30). Israel’s soldiers retreated, thus drawing the men of Benjamin away from the city (20:32). As Benjamin pursued Israel, ten thousand men of Israel overran the city of Gibeah (20:33-34). With the LORD on their side, Israel “destroyed of the Benjamites that day twenty and five thousand and an hundred men” (20:35).

When they saw the flames and smoke rising over Gibeah, the men of Benjamin realized “that evil was come upon them. 42Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel unto the way of the wilderness; but the battle overtook them; and them [other citizens of Benjamin] which came out of the cities they [Israel] destroyed in the midst of them” (20:41-42).

When the day’s battle was finished, Israel had killed all the people of Benjamin, burned their cities, and killed their beasts (20:42). There remained only six hundred men of Benjamin, who had fled and found safety “in the rock Rimmon four months” (20:47).

The tribe of Benjamin had tolerated, and protected the sodomite sins of Gibeah, and the toll of that decision brought the tribe nearly to extinction. Benjamin was decimated, and only six hundred men remained alive (20:47-48).

The final chapter in our study of the Book of Judges will find Israel bewailing all that had come to pass in Israel (21:1-3).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Reject God’s Law, and Man Will Do That Which Is Right In His Own Eyes” (Judges 21)

Scripture reading – Judges 21

Today’s Scripture marks the conclusion of our study in the Book of Judges. The era known as the “Judges,” began with the death of Joshua (Judges 1), and concluded with the death of Samson (Judges 16). As I mentioned in an earlier commentary, it is my opinion that the events in Judges 17-21, fall chronologically between the death of Joshua, and the appointment of Othniel (Judges 3:9-10), as the first judge in Israel.

Judges 21 concludes the time when judges ruled in Israel, and soon after the love story of Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 1-4), we will see the prophet Samuel step onto the stage of Israel’s history. As Samuel begins ministering in Israel, the tribes will come to demand a king to rule over the nation. Remember, it was God’s will to rule His people as the benevolent King of Israel, and His Law and Commandments serve as their guide. Yet, Samuel will anoint Saul to be king, and following him the LORD will establish the Davidic lineage through whom Jesus Christ will be born the rightful heir to the throne of Israel (Matthew 1:1).

Judges 21 – A Crisis in Israel

Though victorious, the tribes of Israel were broken over the sin and wickedness that had taken hold in the land, and left one of the twelve tribes nearly destroyed (21:2-6). The tribe of Benjamin was decimated by its battle with the children of Israel (Judges 20), and the sin of that tribe had been so dreadful, “the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh [most likely a military outpost], saying, There shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife” (21:1).

Though bound by their oath, the people sought the LORD, wept (21:2), “and said, O Lord God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that there should be to day one tribe lacking in Israel?” (21:3). Israel lamented the devastation of Benjamin’s population, as a judgment for the sins of Gibeah. The thought that one of the twelve tribes would cease to exist, and be cut off forever was surely beyond the demands of the Law. And so the people went up to Bethel, “the house of God,” and they “built there an altar, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings” (21:4).

A Resolution to Seek Wives for the Tribe of Benjamin (21:5-7)

A survey was taken, and the question asked, what tribes in Israel had failed to go up to Mizpeh, and therefore not vowed that their daughters would not marry any man of the tribe of Benjamin? (21:4) Any who had failed to join Israel at Mizpeh, and meet the LORD there, were to be put to death (21:5). It was decided that the virgin daughters of any who had failed to come to Mizpeh would become the wives of the men of Benjamin who had survived the battle, and retreated to “the rock of Rimmon” (20:47-48; 21:5-7).

Attendance was taken, and it was discovered that no man of Jabesh-gilead had come to Mizpeh (21:8-9). Israel then sent “twelve thousand men of the valiantest, and commanded them, saying, Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the children” (21:10). All the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead were killed, but “four hundred young virgins [were spared], that had known no man by lying with any male: and they brought them unto the camp to Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan” (21:12).

Messengers carried a word of peace to Benjamin, and the six hundred survivors of the tribe of Benjamin, came to Israel and were given “wives which they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead: and yet so they sufficed them not [there were six hundred Benjamites, but only four hundred virgins of Jabesh-gilead]” (21:14). The people then contemplated what more could be done to give wives to the men of Benjamin, for they had sworn an oath not to give them their daughters (21:15-18).

Catch a Wife, and Flee (21:19-23)

A decision was made, and an invitation given to the men of Benjamin who did not have a wife, to go up to Shiloh for an annual feast (either the feast of the Tabernacles, or the Passover, 21:19). The Benjamites were instructed to lie in wait in the vineyard, and when the virgin “daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances” (21:20), they were to “catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin” (21:21). Should the virgins’ fathers protest, the leaders of Israel assured the men of Benjamin, they would intercede for them (21:22). And so, Benjamin returned to their territory, claimed their inheritance, and began to rebuild their cities (21:23). With the future of Benjamin assured, the children of Israel returned to their land and families (21:24).

I close with a reminder of what becomes of a nation when men refuse to hear, and heed God’s Law and Commandments:  “Every man [will do] that which [is] right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25b)

Does that statement not describe our day?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Lawlessness Breeds Moral Degeneracy” (Judges 19-20)

Scripture reading – Judges 19-20

A familiar refrain in the latter chapters of the Book of Judges is: “It came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel” (19:1).

Consider the question, “When was there no king [literally, no ruler or judge] in Israel?” The answer gives us a different perspective for the events recorded in today’s Scripture reading. I believe Judges 17-21 falls chronologically between the death of Joshua (Joshua 24:29-33, Judges 1:1-2:15), and the beginning of the era of the judges (Judges 2:16), when “the Spirit of the LORD came upon [Othniel], and he judged Israel” (3:8-10).

A contemporary application: The tragic events that occur in today’s Scripture reading, Judges 19-20, are a reflection of the lawlessness, and moral degeneracy of a society when men reject the Law of the LORD, and His Commandments.

Lesson: When spiritual leaders fail to preach, and teach the Word of God, they not only fail the LORD, they fail their families, community, and nation. Consider with me a time of lawlessness, much like our day, “when there was no king [no judge, no ruler] in Israel” (19:1).

Judges 19 – The Levite, and His Unfaithful Concubine

A man of the priestly tribe of Levi, passed through Mount Ephraim (near the place where the Tabernacle was located), and took to wife “a concubine out of Beth-lehem-judah [Bethlehem of Judah]” (19:1). The woman was most likely a concubine, because she had come to the marriage without a dowry. She would have been considered a lesser wife, and her children would have had no right of inheritance.

Tragically, the Levite’s concubine played the harlot, and left the Levite and returned to her father’s house (19:2). Four months passed, and the Levite and his servant, determined to travel to Bethlehem, and with kind words, endeavor to “bring her again” to his home (19:3). The concubine’s father rejoiced when the Levite came to claim his daughter (19:3). The man pressed upon his son-in-law to accept his invitation to continue in his home, and “he abode with him three days: so they did eat and drink, and lodged there” (19:4).

For four days, the Levite, his concubine, and servant continued with his father-in-law, and on the fifth day, though the father protested, the Levite set out on his journey to Shiloh (where the Tabernacle was located, 19:18). Because the hour was late, the servant pressed the Levite to stay the night near “Jebus” (ancient Jerusalem, 19:10-11). The Levite, however, refused to spend the night in Jerusalem, for it was occupied by Jebusites, and not the children of Israel. Instead, they made their way to Gibeah, a city occupied by the tribe of Benjamin, and arrived in the city as “the sun went down upon them” (19:14).

The Tragedy of Depravity in Gibeah

Contrary to the Law’s injunction to show compassion to the sojourner, no man of Gibeah offered the Levite, and his concubine provision or lodging for the night, and he settled to spend the night in the city street (19:15). An old man, however, whose birthplace was Mount Ephraim, resided in Gibeah, and spied the Levite and his company. The old man offered them lodging for the night (19:16-20), and though the Levite resisted his invitation, he pressed upon him, saying, “lodge not in the street” (19:20).

The old man was entertaining his guests, when “the men of the city, certain sons of Belial [wicked, immoral men], beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him” (19:22).

Like Lot, who found his household beset by the wicked men of Sodom (Genesis 19:4-9), the old man’s endeavor to reason with the sodomites of Gibeah proved futile (19:23). Though he defined their passions as wickedness, and folly (19:23), their immoral desire, and lust would not be assuaged. Following the manner of Lot, and to save the Levite from the violence of the mob, the old man offered his virgin daughter, and the Levite’s concubine to “do with them what seemeth good unto you” (19:24). Even that shameless attempt to pacify the lusts of the sodomites failed, and did not deter them from their debased objective (19:24).

Tragically, choosing to save himself, and his host from the degenerate mob, the Levite thrust his concubine out of the house. The men of Gibeah raped, and “abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go” (19:25), and retreated to their households (19:26).

What a hideous thought, that a man would give his wife to a mob to be abused, while he sheltered in the security of a household! Nevertheless, we read, the Levite “rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold” (19:25).

Can you picture this tragic moment? With a callousness that defies love, the Levite opened the door, not to search for his wife, but to go on his journey (19:27). He knew the violence of the Sodomite culture, and what she would have suffered, and no doubt believed she would be dead. Instead, she had made her way to the threshold of the house; battered, bruised, bleeding, and demeaned, she found the door closed to her cries, and died (19:27).

What manner of man would give his beloved to suffer, and himself be spared? The same who would fail to stoop, and caress her, and say, “Up, and let us be going” (19:28). The abused woman did not stir, and she did not answer. Her life was gone, her soul departed. She had died from the violence of the mob that had made her the object of their lusts. Taking up her lifeless body from the threshold, the Levite placed her upon his donkey, and went to his house (19:28).

Remembering there was no king, judge, or ruler in Israel, the Levite had no place to appeal for justice.

The city of Gibeah, and the tribe of Benjamin had sheltered, and tolerated a great evil in their land, and the Levite determined to appeal to all Israel for justice. He “took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her [body parts] into all the coasts [boundaries, tribes] of Israel” (19:29). The Levite’s deed left Israel shaken, and the children of Israel gathered to weigh the spiritual state of their nation, and what must be done (19:30, 20:1).

Author’s note: In a later devotional, I hope to consider the events that follow in Judges 20, and their application to our own society, and world.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith