Tag Archives: Flesh

The Tragic Consequences of Sin and One’s Father’s Sinful Choices (Genesis 19)

Scripture reading – Genesis 19

Abraham had interceded with God, and prayed that the city of Sodom might be spared “peradventure ten [righteous souls] shall be found there” (18:32a). The LORD honored Abraham’s request, and agreed saying, “I will not destroy it for ten’s sake” (18:32b).

Genesis 19 – The Tragic Judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Cities in the Plain

After separating from Abraham, Lot had inched his way from pitching his tent toward Sodom, to finally becoming one of its leaders and judges who “sat in the gate” (19:1), the gate of a walled city being a place where government and commercial business was transacted. The two angels that had appeared in front of Abraham’s tent (18:2, 16), arrived at the gate of Sodom, and were immediately greeted by Lot who “rose up to meet them…bowing himself with his face toward the ground” (19:1). Knowing those “men” were not like the wicked of Sodom, Lot urged them to accept refuge in his home (19:2-3).

Lot made his guest “a feast, and did bake unleavened bread,” (19:3), but “before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: 5And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them” (19:4-5).

The wickedness and depravity of the city was displayed that night as the sodomites (homosexuals) of the city encircled Lot’s house, and demanded that he turn his visitors out into the street to be violently, and sexually assaulted (19:4-6).  Lot pleaded with the sodomites, defining their lusts as wicked (19:7), and offered his virgin daughters to satisfy their lusts (19:8-9).

Though he had been a citizen of the city, and one of its leaders, his righteous judgment of their sinful desires infuriated the men who mocked and ridiculed his hypocrisy as a sojourner, an alien, and an outsider. The angels saved Lot when they “pulled [him] into the house, and struck the sodomites with blindness (19:10-11).

Displaying God’s grace, the angels pressed on Lot to go to his married sons and daughters, and urged them to flee Sodom before the LORD destroyed the city for its wickedness (19:12-13). His family refused to heed his pleas, and despised him (19:14).

As the morning light crested the mountains surrounding the cities in the plain, “the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city” (19:15).  Though knowing the judgment of God was imminent, Lot “lingered,” and the angels mercifully took hold of him, his wife, and daughters and “brought him forth, and set him without the city” (19:16).

Though admonished to “escape for [his] life; [and] look not behind…escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed” (19:17), Lot protested God’s place of safety and pleaded that a nearby city, “a little one” (19:20), might be spared as his refuge (19:19-20). The LORD heeded Lot’s request (19:21), and spared the city called Zoar (19:22).

With the sun risen, and Lot safely removed from Sodom, the fire of God’s judgment “rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; 25And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground” (19:24-25). It was as though hell itself rained from heaven upon the wicked.

Tragically, Lot’s “wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt” (19:26). She had deliberately disobeyed God’s command. Why did she look back? Was it a look of disbelief? Did she look with longing upon all that she was leaving behind? Perhaps it was a look of sorrow, for her sons and daughters were suffering the consequences of Lot and she moving their family into a city of such great wickedness.

Abraham rose early that morning, and he went “to the place where he stood before the LORD” (19:27). There he “looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah…and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace” (19:28). Perhaps anxious that Sodom might have been spared, he saw the severity of God’s judgment upon that wicked city and its inhabitants.

Why was Lot, and his daughters spared God’s judgment? Because “God remembered Abraham,” and honored him by sparing his family (19:29).

One would hope Lot’s straying from the LORD would end with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; however, he became drunk with wine and his daughters committed incest with him (19:30-36).  The eldest daughter conceived a son she named Moab, the father of the Moabites (19:37).  The youngest daughter conceived a son she named Ammon, the father of the Ammonites (19:38).  Both nations, the Moabites and Ammonites, would become a curse and perpetual trouble for the nation of Israel.

We are once again reminded of the tragic consequences of one’s man’s sinful choices.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Too Late!” (Genesis 17-18)

Scripture reading – Genesis 17-18

Genesis 17 – The Temptation to Settle for Second Best

God had renewed His covenant promise that He would give Abram a son and heir in Genesis 15, and we read, “Abram believed in the LORD” (15:6). Thirteen years would pass, and when Abram was 99 years old and Sarai was 89 years old, God rehearsed his covenant with Abram, reminding him, “I am the Almighty [El Shaddai] God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. 2And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly” (17:1-2).

Realizing a covenant is a binding agreement between two parties, Abram was bound by two responsibilities: “walk before me, and be thou perfect” (17:1). To satisfy God’s covenant expectations, Abram was to “walk before” the Lord; he was to be conscious of God’s abiding presence, as a servant is conscious of his master’s supervision. The perfection God commanded was a conformity to God’s will. God’s expectation was for Abram to be an upright man; a man of integrity (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Now, “Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, 4As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations” (17:3-4). As an assurance of His covenant with Abram, God honored him by changing his name to Abraham, meaning “the father of a multitude” (17:5).

Another confirming sign of God’s covenant was His command for Abraham, and all the males of his household, to be circumcised (17:9-14). While circumcision did not make a man a part of the covenant, it did serve as a physical reminder, an outward sign of a son’s identification with God’s covenant promise to Abraham and the sons of his lineage.

A third reminder of God’s covenant promise was to be fulfilled with Abraham’s wife, Sarai. Her name would become Sarah, meaning princess, for she was to be the mother of the heir of God’s covenant promise.

When God announced that 90-year-old Sarah “shall be a mother of nations” (17:15-17), Abraham “fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, “Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?” (17:17)

Betraying his lack of faith, and willing to content himself with less than God’s best, Abraham protested and suggested that Ishmael should be his heir (17:18). God, however, renewed His covenant with Abraham, and stated that Sarah would bear him a son and his name would be Isaac (17:19).  While God refused Ishmael as Abraham’s heir, He comforted him promising Ishmael would be father to a “great nation” (17:20).

God repeated His assurance that Sarah would bear the son who would be Abraham’s heir (17:21), setting the time for the child’s birth “the next year” when Abraham would be 100 years old, and Sarah 90 years old. Abraham accepted God’s will, obeyed His command, and circumcised every male of his household (17:22-27).

Genesis 18 – A Heavenly Visitation (18:1-15)

A “theophany,” the LORD appearing in the form of man, occurs in Genesis 18 when He and two angels appeared as men before Abraham’s tent, and bringing news within Sarah’s hearing that she would bear a son. Sarah “laughed within herself” at the thought that she, a woman “waxed old” (past child-bearing years) should bear Abraham’s son (18:12).

The LORD questioned Abraham, “Wherefore did Sarah laugh?” (18:13).

Sarah was surprised that Abraham’s visitor not only knew she scoffed at the promise that she would bear a son in her old age, but that she laughed at the thought of it!  The LORD asked Abraham, “Is any thing too hard for the LORD?” (18:15), and asserted that He would return when the promised son was born (18:14).

Sarah, perhaps fearing the visitor who knew her thoughts, denied she laughed at the birth announcement, and the LORD rebuked her for lying (18:15).

Genesis 18:16-33 – Standing on the Precipice of God’s Judgment

The closing verses of Genesis 18 contain the fateful message that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were to be judged, and destroyed for their wickedness (18:20-22).  Knowing his nephew Lot, and his family lived in Sodom; Abraham interceded that the LORD might spare the city (18:23-33). Six times Abraham entreated the LORD for His grace and mercy, and requested that the cities might be spared for the sake of the righteous souls who lived there. When Abraham proposed that the city of Sodom be spared if only ten righteous souls be found there, the LORD mercifully agreed.

Ten righteous souls; perhaps the size of Lot’s own family, would have spared a city of lost, hell-bound souls. Lot’s presence in Sodom was not the leading of the LORD, nor was Lot’s interest the lost souls of his neighbors. Abraham, however, cared for the inhabitants and interceded for the city. Sodom, however, was doomed when Lot failed to stir the hearts of his family members to flee before God’s judgment (Genesis 19).

I close by suggesting that you and I have a sphere of influence, a providential presence, among mankind.  While the fate of a whole city does not rest within our realm of influence, I wonder who might?

Compare Abraham and Lot and consider which of the two you most resemble?  Abraham, who made passionate intercession for that wicked city, or Lot who waited too late to plead even for the souls of his children?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Religious Zeal without Knowledge is a Travesty (Job 33-34)

Scripture reading – Job 33-34

We were introduced to Elihu in the previous devotional (Job 32). Understanding Job and his friends were his elders, he had remained silent and observed the debate between those men. Having failed to convince Job of his error, “the three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes” (32:1). Provoked by the failure of Job’s friends, and incensed by his protests of innocence (32:2-3), Elihu had confessed he was “ready to burst” with his own opinion (32:17) like wine that had fermented in wine skins and having no vent (32:18-20).

Job 33 – Elihu’s Denigration of Job

Elihu began with a façade of humility, conceding he was no better than Job, for he too was “formed out of the clay” (33:6). His humility soon gave way to arrogance as he accused Job of daring to accuse God of treating him as an enemy (33:7-10).

Attempting to convict Job of folly, Elihu reminded him that he was not “just” (i.e. righteous), and God is Sovereign, and does not give “account of any of His matters” (33:12-13). God is altogether righteous in His ways, and good in His dealings with man (33:14-18).

Job’s friends had argued that his afflictions were God’s punishment for some wickedness, and he had confessed he believed his suffering was a token of God’s wrath (33:19).

Elihu believed that God uses pain and afflictions for His purpose, and to protect men from pride (33:17-23). Job’s sorrows, he argued, could be used by God to purge his passion for “bread…and dainty [rich] meat” (33:19-20), and “deliver [redeem] him from going down to the pit [grave]” (33:24, 28).

Job 34 – The Majesty of God’s Character, and Elihu’s Defamation of Job’s

Elihu challenged Job and his friends to listen to his indictment of the man (34:1-4), and accused him of entertaining high ideas of himself, and a false view of God (34:5-9). He alleged that Job was self-righteous, and that he had accused God of injustice (34:5). He insinuated that Job believed he had been wounded “without transgression” (i.e. unfairly, 34:6), and that he had declared he might as well run with the wicked, for pleasing God “profiteth a man nothing” (34:7-9).

Although he had mistaken the cause of Job’s sorrows, Elihu nevertheless stated some great insights into the attributes of God (34:10-30).

He declared God is Just (34:10-12, 17, 19, 23), Sovereign (34:13-15), and Almighty (34:20, 24). He is Omniscient, “21For his eyes are upon the ways of man, And he seeth all his goings. 22There is no darkness, nor shadow of death, Where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves…He knoweth their works” (34:21-22, 25). He is Judge of the wicked (34:26-28).

Job 34 concluded with Elihu sharply rebuking Job, and demanding, “speak what thou knowest” (34:33b), or say what you think! He reproved him, and accused him of speaking “without knowledge [thinking]…[and] without wisdom [discernment]” (34:35). He cruelly declared his desire that “Job may be tried unto the end [forever]because of his answers for wicked men [i.e. he answers like wicked men]” (34:36), and “addeth rebellion unto his sin…and multiplieth [murmurs or complains] his words against God” (34:37).

A closing thought: Elihu had defamed, cruelly past judgment, and condemned Job without cause. He had arrogantly demanded that others hear and agree with his conclusion (34:34). Rather than a friend, Elihu’s words, and actions had proved he was Job’s enemy. He desired to destroy the man God pronounced as “a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil” (1:1, 8).

Warning: Elihu’s are ever present, and we should be vigilant and oppose those who are swift to libel and slander others.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“How Will You End?” (Genesis 9)

Scripture reading – Genesis 9

“God [had] remembered Noah” (8:1), after He had fulfilled His Word as He had promised. Then, God commanded Noah to “go forth of the ark” (8:16), and Noah “builded an altar unto the LORD…and offered burnt offerings on the altar” (8:20).

Genesis 9:1-17 – A New Covenant

Many things had forever changed after God’s judgment. Animals would fear man (9:2), and man was now omnivorous, a consumer of the flesh of animals and the fruit of the earth (9:3-4). Government was established, and man was empowered with the authority of capital punishment, A Life for a Life:

Genesis 9:5-6 – “And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.”

Why capital punishment? Because human life is sacred, “for in the image of God made he man” (9:6). God established the sanctity of human life, and whether man or beast had shed the blood of man, the law demanded that the transgressor (man or beast) would forsake his life (9:6).

The future of humanity would be seeded by Noah’s three sons, and they were commanded to “be fruitful, and multiply” (9:7). Having accepted Noah’s sacrifice (8:22-23), the LORD established His covenant with Noah and his sons, promising to never again destroy the earth with floodwaters (9:8-13). As a symbol of His enduring covenant with man, the LORD set a rainbow in the sky (9:14-17).

Genesis 9:18-29 – A Shameful, Tragic End

The flood had not changed man’s age-old problem—sin! Noah and his family had witnessed God’s hatred of sin and His judgment; nevertheless, those men bore in their hearts the curse of sin, its effects, and tragic consequences. Though saved by the Ark, they were still sinners! Noah was a great man, a just and upright man, a man who walked with God (6:8-9); however, he was still a man and with the innate nature of a sinner.

Noah became “an husbandman” (farmer) after the flood, and planted a vineyard (9:20). In his old age, Noah began to drink wine, “and was drunken” (9:21). Unguarded in his drunken state, he was naked, and “uncovered within his tent” (9:21).

Noah dropped his guard, and the “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5), had become an object of mocking and scorn (9:21) for his son Ham.

The reason for Noah’s drunken state is not given, and perhaps it is that we might each take a lesson and make our own application. Was it his old age, and failing strength that turned him to drink? Perhaps it was loneliness; after all his sons had their own families, houses and lands. Maybe Noah thought he had earned the right for some fleshly comfort. With his work as a ship builder and preacher behind him, was he despondent, as he reflected on the world that had been, but was destroyed?

Whatever the cause, Noah’s drunkenness was a spiritual and moral failure, and tempted his son to sin (9:21).

Though he had directed his scorn at his father, it is obvious that Ham’s response evidenced a deep-seeded rebellion against God (9:25), and Noah pronounced a curse upon him and his lineage: “Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren” (9:25).

Genesis 9 concludes with Noah prophesying the future of his sons, and their posterity (9:26-27), and closes with the revelation that is a certain end for all men: “And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years: and he died” (9:28-29).

The apostle Paul, comparing his earthly life to a race, declared: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished mycourse, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Noah, though not perfect, should be remembered as a righteous man. His obedience, and faith in God saved not only his household, but the human race from physical and spiritual annihilation.

How about you? How will you be remembered?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Tale of Two Lineages (Genesis 5-6)

Scripture reading – Genesis 5-6

Genesis 4 concluded with Cain being driven from the presence of Adam’s household (4:12-16),and him taking a wife, and establishing an ungodly lineage (4:17) that would be the curse of righteous men (4:18-24).

Several sons and daughters were born of Adam and Eve’s union (5:4); however, it was a son whom Eve named Seth that God chose as His godly lineage (4:25). Seth had a son whom he named Enos, and then we read, “then began men to call upon the name of the LORD” (4:26).

Genesis 5 – A Tale of Two Lineages

Before we identify the two lineages that proceeded from Adam and Eve, consider for a moment the incredibly long life spans of the men of these first generations. For instance, Adam lived 930 years (5:4); his son Seth lived 912 years (5:8); and Enos lived 905 years (5:11). How might we explain the longevity of early human life?

Various scholars have tackled that question, and many have scoffed at the possibility of men living nine hundred years or more. Although not original with me (and I do not know whom to cite as my source), there are generally two explanations: That earth’s atmosphere was an expanse of water “above the firmament” (1:7) and therefore shielded man and the world from harmful environmental factors that hasten aging (an example would be the cosmic rays of the sun). A second explanation for longevity, and one I believe is most important, is that the human race was more genetically pure, and there was less disease and sickness. By the way, the longevity of man in those early centuries would have contributed to a boom in population growth that some have estimated might have reached billions of souls before the Flood!

The ungodly lineage of Cain was recorded in Genesis 4:16-24, but remember only a few of his descendants are named, and only because of their important role in the Biblical narrative. I hope to address Cain’s lineage at a later time.

The godly lineage of Adam, through his son Seth is given in Genesis 5 and takes us through to the birth of Noah, and his three sons, “Shem, Ham, and Japheth” (5:32).

Genesis 6 – Judgment and Destruction: The Worldwide Flood

Like our day, the world of Noah’s day before the Flood evidenced not only a population explosion, but also a wickedness that motivated God to intervene, allowing the Flood to cleanse the earth, in preparation for His promise of a Redeemer to be fulfilled. Once again, we are made privy to the thoughts and heart of God.  Seeing the proliferation of sin in the world, the LORD avowed, “My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years” (6:3).

The heart of man had become so consumed with wickedness, that even the godly lineage (“the sons of God”), intermingled with the “daughters of men” (6:4, I believe a reference to the line of Cain). God determined, “every imagination of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually” (6:5). Grieved by the wickedness of man, the LORD declared, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them” (6:7).

I close inviting you to consider an incredible phrase, and a wonderful doctrine:

But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (6:8). The statement concerning Noah’s spiritual relationship continues: “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God” (6:9).

Genesis 6:8 is the first mention of God’s “grace” in the Scriptures (although amazing grace was evident when the LORD sacrificed to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness with skins).

How did Noah respond to God’s gracious commandment to build an ark to the saving of his house, and thereby establishing His covenant (6:18)? He responded in the same way that all sinners must to be saved…Faith. Noah believed God!

Hebrews 11:7 – “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things [and events] not seen as yet, moved with fear [took heed of God’s warning and used due diligence], prepared an ark to the saving [deliverance] of his house; by the which [FAITH] he condemned the world [of unbelief], and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”

Noah’s faith in God was expressed in his obedience: “Thus did Noah; according to all that God had commanded him, so did he” (6:22).

What of your faith? What do your works say about your faith, and trust in God? After all, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Who Made You Judge, Jury, and Executioner? (Romans 14-16)

Scripture reading – Romans 14-16

Today’s reading assignment concludes our reading in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Unlike any other book in our chronological schedule, Romans has presented us with a succession of great doctrines that are fundamental to our faith in Christ. I am limiting today’s devotional to Romans 14, and what is a practical challenge to all believers: Accepting one another’s differences, without being harsh in our judgment.

Christian Liberty

“Christian Liberty” has become a hot topic over the past two decades, and I fear its excesses have blighted the testimony of the church in the world. Unfortunately, the insistence by some believers who, either out of ignorance or sinful pride, demand their liberty in what others define as “questionable things,” has resulted in little discernable difference between the world and its lusts, and believers and their fellowships. Every generation of believers face the question of “Christian Liberty;” however, I fear this generation has lost its perspective of the ultimate standard: What pleases the Lord, and brings Him glory.

The Strong, the Weak, and the Judge (Romans 14:1-12)

Paul identified a debate that was raging between believers he identified as “weak in the faith” (14:1), and limited their diet to “herbs” (vegetables), and others who believed that they might “eat all things (14:2). The debate had become so contentious that believers were admonished for despising (having disdain for), and judging (condemning) one another (14:3). Rather than parsing out the historical debate (eating meat vs. eating herbs; legalistic rules devised by men regarding acceptable and unacceptable activities on holy days, 14:5-6), I will suggest principles to guide our decisions on Christian liberty in our day.

The first principle: We should accept that differences in practice will arise (14:1-2); however, the matter of judgment and condemnation is God’s role, not mine or yours (14:3-4, 10).

Another principle, realizing God is the final judge, we should have our consciences exercised by His Word, being mindful that He will call each of us to account for himself in the day of judgment (14:11-12).

Consider Paul’s admonition regarding our individual Christian liberty choices:

Romans 14:13 – “13 Let us not therefore judge [decide; determine; pass judgment] one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock [trigger of a trap; set a trap; give cause for falling] or an occasion to fall [stumble] in his brother’s way.”

I fear some believers are watching and waiting for other believers to stumble, and fall into sin. Rather than judging themselves, they pounce upon other believers with criticisms (audibly or by slights), that dispirit the soul, and sometimes turn one “weak in the faith” away from the Lord, and the church. Sadly, it is often those who perceive themselves as “strong,” and mature in the faith, who are the greatest violators and offenders, having made themselves the judge, jury, and executioners.

Before you pass judgment, might I suggest you look in the mirror and ask: Who art thou that judges another? (14:4a)

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Faith is the Victory! (Romans 8-10)

Scripture reading – Romans 8-10

Today’s Scripture reading (Romans 8-10) continues to challenge us with great theological terms that define the fundamental doctrines (i.e. teachings) of our faith in Jesus Christ. Today’s devotional will focus on Romans 8.

A Spiritual Struggle (Romans 7:14-25)

Paul identified an internal spiritual warfare that he, and all believers face within themselves (7:14-25).  He was conscious of an inner struggle with the power of sin (7:14, 19), which he identified as “my flesh” (7:17) and an “evil…present with me” (7:19). Contemporary with the power of sin and the presence of evil, was the Spirit of God that urged Paul to “delight in the law of God” (7:22).

Identifying the spiritual conflict in his soul between an “evil” that had power, and a renewed heart that delights in the Law of God (7:22-23), Paul exclaimed, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (7:24)

What was the resolution to Paul’s spiritual conflict? Jesus Christ!

Paul wrote, “25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (7:25). In other words, while Paul’s spirit and mind desired to “serve the Law of God,” he found his flesh was not yet free from “the law of sin” (7:25).

The Battle is Not Over; However, the Victory Is Won! (Romans 8)

Paul’s spiritual warfare was not over; however, he knew victory over sin was promised “to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).”

God’s Law and Commandments were not intended to be the means of salvation, but were given to instruct man in God’s perfect standard for moral uprightness and holiness. Men are sinners by nature, and the heart, mind, and affections of the natural (i.e. sinful) man are “enmity against God” (8:7; not only opposed to God, but hostile to Him). Such a heart “cannot please God” (8:8).

What is the God’s answer to our spiritual dilemma?

The natural man, who by nature follows the lusts and desires of the flesh with which he was born, has no hope unless he turns from his sin to Christ. However, the believer in whom the Spirit of God dwells, will desire “the things of the Spirit” (8:5), and are promised “life and peace” (8:6). What do you desire?

I close inviting you to consider the two mindsets that are contrasted in Romans 8:6.

Romans 8:6For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

Minded” describes one’s attitude, outlook, and bent. While a “carnal mind” seeks and finds its pleasures in sin, and those things that God hates; a “spiritual mind” pursues and finds joy and peace in those things which please God. The carnal mind takes a path that ends in God’s judgment and death. The spiritual mind follows a path that promises eternal life and lasting peace.

Matthew 7:13–1413 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

What path are you taking?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Judgment of God (Romans 1-3)

Scripture reading – Romans 1-3

Our chronological Scripture reading schedule brings us today to Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.  You will notice the apostle’s salutation declares from the outset that he is writing to believers in Rome, and identifying himself as a “a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1).

Lest some have a misunderstanding regarding the believers in Rome, allow me to state unequivocally that these were not members of an early version of the Roman Catholic Church. Roman Catholicism is a blend of various elements of ancient paganism, and manmade traditions that are a gross departure from the Word of God. Paul’s letter was received by men and women whose confidence in their salvation was not predicated upon rituals and traditions, but upon the sincere, unadulterated Scriptures, of which, that gospel was declared first by the “prophets in the Holy Scriptures” (1:2), and fulfilled in Jesus Christ (1:3).

You will read in Romans 1 a familiar, pastoral affection that Paul has expressed in earlier epistles, and repeats in his letter to believers in Rome (1:7-12). Evoking an affirmation of God’s love for the believers (“beloved of God, and called to be saints”, 1:7), the apostle states his longing to visit them, whose “faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (1:8, 11).

A Portrait of Man’s Rebellion and Sinful Depravity (Romans 1:20-32)

The depth and breadth of the truths contained in Romans 1 could fill volumes of commentaries; however, I will take only the liberty to amplify the meanings of the word found in the Scriptures, and allow them to speak the Truth themselves.

Romans 1:20-22 For the invisible things [things which cannot be perceived with the physical senses] of Him [God] from [by means of] the creation of the world are clearly seen [General or Natural revelation], being understood [God’s person and power understood by the evidences of His creation] by the things that are made [Creation is a display of God’s power and person], even His eternal power and Godhead [deity; divine nature]; so that they are without excuse [no excuse for idolatry – Isaiah 44:8-20]:

21 Because that, when they knew [had a knowledge of the Person, Power and Presence of God] God, they glorified him not as God [refused to honor and reverence Him], neither were thankful [ingratitude; hard hearted]; but became vain [full of pride; conceited] in their imaginations [thoughts; reasonings; unwillingness to acknowledge God], and their foolish heart [mind; lacking understanding] was darkened [incapable of comprehending Truth]22 Professing [asserting; declaring] themselves to be wise [“philosophers” – lovers of wisdom; wise in their own estimation], they became fools [void of understanding; lacking any moral sense; incapable of discerning between good and evil],

Romans 1:26-27 – For this cause God gave them up [commended; delivered] unto vile [disgraceful; degrading] affections [passions; lust; i.e. evil desires]: for even [also] their women did change [exchange; transform] the natural [instinctive; physical; inborn] use [i.e. sexual intercourse] into that which is against [opposed to; contrary] nature [mankind; the nature of things as God created]:
27
And likewise [similarly; moreover] also the men, leaving [forsake; abandoned] the natural [instinctive; physical; according to nature] use [i.e. sexual intercourse] of the woman, burned [inflamed; to set on fire; i.e. raging lust] in their lust [desire; longing; craving]  one toward another [continually]; men with men working [doing; performing; committing] that which is unseemly [shameful; indecent; obscene], and receiving [what is due; retribution] in [quickly; shortly; afterwards] themselves [in their own bodies and/or souls] that recompence [penalty; compensation] of their error [straying; delusion; deceit] which was meet [necessary; required; inevitable; i.e. must needs be as an exacting of God’s justice].

Romans 1:28 -32 – And even as [insomuch as; that] they did not like [refused; i.e. were not able] to retain [possess; have; hold] God in their knowledge [memory; recognition], God gave them over [commended; delivered] to a reprobate [worthless; rejected; unworthy; abandoned] mind [thought; feeling; will], to do those things which are not convenient [becoming; proper; fit; right]; 29  Being filled with [satisfied; saturated with] all unrighteousness [wrong; iniquity], fornication [all manner of sexual immorality, including adultery and incest], wickedness [depravity; malice; evil desires], covetousness [greed; extortion; desire to have more], maliciousness [evil; desire to injure]; full of envy [jealousy; wishing ill on another], murder, debate [quarreling; contentiousness; strife], deceit [guile; craftiness; lie], malignity [bad character; dishonorable; attributing to others evil intent]; whisperers [gossips; slanderer; ], 30  Backbiters [slanderers; speaking against another], haters of God, despiteful [insulter; violent aggressor; treating others shamefully], proud [haughty; arrogant; treating others with disdain , boasters [braggart; i.e. swaggerer], inventors of evil things [harmful; depraved; morally wrong], disobedient [hard; not pliable; unteachable] to parents, 31  Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32  Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The Fearless, Fearful and Foolish” (Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9)

Scripture reading – Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9

History gives abundant testimony of the tension, conflict, and hostility the world holds toward God, His Word, and His people. In today’s Scripture reading (Matthew 14, Mark 6, and Luke 9), the animosity of human authority toward God and His prophet takes center stage.

The ministry of John the Baptist had been powerful, and the prophet had not minced words when confronting the sins of his day. Not even the most prominent politician in Israel had been spared the prophet’s condemnation (Matthew 14:4).

Herod Antipas, the son of King Herod the Great, was “the tetrarch” of Galilee, a tetrarch being a ruler of one-fourth of a Roman province (Matthew 14:1). Herod had divorced his wife and married Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife (Matthew 14:3-4; Mark 6:17). Their incestuous marriage had not only been an affront to God (Leviticus 18:16), but also to the Jewish people.

John the Baptist had tenaciously condemned such wickedness in Israel and said to Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have her” (Matthew 14:4). Herod became so exasperated with John’s public rebukes that he had the prophet bound and imprisoned (14:3). Though he wished to put him to death, Herod “feared the multitude, because they counted him [John] as a prophet” (14:5). Herodias, on the other hand, had no political qualms and she “would have killed him; but she could not” (Mark 6:19), “for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy” (Mark 6:20).

Now a great banquet was held for Herod’s birthday, and the daughter of Herodias, after being instructed by her mother to dance before Herod and his guests, had instructed her to ask for the head of John the Baptist when the king offered to reward her (Matthew 14:6-7). Following her mother’s instructions, the daughter of Herodias, demanded, “Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger” (Matthew 14:8). Too proud to confess his error, Herod complied with the daughter’s wicked request, and “sent, and beheaded John in the prison” (Matthew 14:10).

The news of Christ’s ministry and His miracles had reached the ears of the king (Mark 6:14) and Herod “said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him…he said, It is John [the Baptist], whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead (Mark 6:14–16).

Herod’s alarm, that Jesus was John the Baptist, struck fear in the heart of the wicked king. He was haunted by guilt knowing he had murdered an innocent man, and a prophet of God. Rather than confessing his sin; however, Herod wrestled with guilt, and was troubled by fear (Proverbs 29:25). He feared John when he was alive (Mark 6:20), and he was terrified when he heard of the miracles of Jesus, believing John the Baptist was raised from the dead. The king had silenced John’s tongue, but he could not quiet his own guilty conscience.

Later on, when Jesus was arrested, He would have one meeting with Herod (Luke 23:6-11); however, at that time the LORD “answered him nothing” (Luke 23:9). The blood of John the Baptist was on his hands, and the soul of the king was damned by his wickedness.

Let us take a spiritual lesson from Herod: We might find temporal solace in the diagnosis of a psychologist or psychiatrist, and even salve our conscience with prescription drugs or other enhancers; however, if the root problem is sin, there is only one answer:

“Submit [subdue; yield] …to God. Resist the [temptations] devil”…acknowledge your sins, and let the tears of mourning pave the way to God’s forgiveness and joy (James 4:7-10).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Day of the LORD (Joel 1-3)

Scripture reading – Joel 1-3

The Book of Joel is another of the minor prophets of the Old Testament Scriptures (not minor in the sense that his ministry was unimportant, but in the brevity of the book that bears his name and fills only three chapters in the Bible).

We know little of Joel except that his ministry was to Judah, the Southern Kingdom ,and he was the “son of Pethuel” (Joel 1:1). Even the dates that Joel ministered are unknown, although scholars suggest he might have prophesied during the reign of King Joash (835-796 B.C.).

The Book of Joel described three catastrophic invasions that would befall Judah and serve as symbols of the great and dreadful judgment that would come upon the world in the “Day of the LORD.”

Joel 1 – A Plague of Locusts

From antiquity to our modern day, locusts have been the haunt of mankind, often devasting a nation’s crops and producing a famine that leaves both man and beast starving.

Joel called upon all the people of Judah to acknowledge the plague of locusts was unlike any the nation had faced (1:2-3). Coming in four waves (1:4), the locusts had entered Judah like an invading army, and there was nothing left to feed or sustain the population (1:4-7). Fruit vines, trees, and crops were in ruin, and the “field is wasted…corn is wasted” (1:10). There were no offerings to the LORD, because there was no harvest (1:9).

Why would the LORD allow this frightening hoard of locusts to descend upon His people and leave them starving? Because the LORD in His mercy will use natural disasters to cause a nation to reflect on its sin, repent, and turn to Him.

Joel called upon the “ministers of God, the priests, to stand between the altar and the porch of the Temple. Dressed in “sackcloth,” there were to “howl” all night and sorrow that there were no offerings, because there was no harvest (1:13). If the people did not repent of their sins and turn to God, Joel warned “the day of the LORD [was] at hand, as a destruction from the Almighty” (1:15).

After describing the devastation left in the wake of God’s judgment (1:16-18), Joel cried out to the LORD for the nation,

Joel 1:19-2019  O LORD, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field. 20  The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.”

Joel 2 – The Invasion of a Heathen Horde

The second invasion that comes as God’s judgment on Judah was that of a great army, so vast in number, they were like the locusts that had darkened the sky in Joel 1. Once again, the warning of an invading army gave cause for the people to repent of their sins and call upon the LORD (2:1).

We read, “the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand” (2:1). A day described as, “a day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness” (2:2). The enemy will be “a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it” (2:2b).

The enemy of God’s people would spread across the land like a “fire devoureth” (2:3) and the sound will be “like the noise of a flame of fire [that] devoured” (2:5). The judgment of God on “the day of the LORD” will affect the universe, for “the earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining” (2:10).

Having stated the “day of the LORD is great and very terrible” (2:11), Joel declared the invitation of the LORD saying,

“Turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: 13  And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil” (2:12-13).

Joel prayed for a national revival and called out to God,  “Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?” (2:17b).

Knowing God is gracious and merciful, Joel encouraged the people if they would repent, the LORD would restore the nation, bless the land and “restore to you the years that the locust have eaten…26 And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied” (2:18-26).

Joel 3 – Armageddon

Joel prophesied the regathering of the Jews to Judah and Jerusalem (3:1), and the Gentile nations gathering against Israel (3:2) in the Valley of Jehoshaphat (3:2, 12). The sins of the nations against Israel are listed (3:3) and God promised he will reward those nations for the evil they have done to His people (3:4). Knowing the oppression and ill treatment Israel and Judah had suffered (3:3-8), the LORD promised to make war against the nations of the earth (3:9-17).

I close observing there are two Gentile nations that are specifically named for destruction in the Day of the LORD: Egypt and Edom (3:19).

From time immemorial, Egypt and Edom (represented among the Arab tribes and nations of our day), have been perpetual enemies of Israel and Judah. Of those nations we read,

“Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Judah” (3:19).

All of this will surely be done in that day, “for the LORD dwelleth in Zion” (3:21).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith