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The Character of a Dying Culture (Lamentations 4) – part 1 of 2 devotionals.

Scripture reading – Lamentations 4; Lamentations 5

Our study of “The Lamentations of Jeremiah” will conclude with today’s Scripture reading. My devotional study will be presented in two parts. This is the first, with the focus upon Lamentations 4.

Lamentations 4 – The Consequences of Judah’s Sins and God’s Judgment

Stretched before Jeremiah were the ruins of Jerusalem, with its streets strewn with rubble, and in the midst the bodies of the dead. Jeremiah had spent his life calling upon the people to repent of their sins and turn to the Lord. Yet, as he surveyed the scene before him, he saw everywhere the reminders of God’s wrath.

Jerusalem’s Faded Glory (4:1-5)

Jeremiah recorded in graphic detail the afflictions suffered by his people because of their sins. As you read this passage, understand we are studying a description of a rebellious, dying culture. It was the sin and wickedness of the people that brought Jerusalem to this sad state. Once a city that shone bright as gold, she was tarnished by sin, and her sons, once the pride of the nation, were no better than “earthen [clay] pitchers” (1:1-2).

Adding to the moral decline of the city was the wantonness of the women. The virtue of womanhood, and the nurturing nature of mothers is always the last vestige of civility in a culture. Yet, the women of Jerusalem had become worse than brute beasts. Whereas it is in the nature of beasts to “give suck to their young ones,” the daughters of Jerusalem were become cruel (4:3). Caring only for themselves, the women neglected their children, and left them athirst and starving (4:4).

The wealthy and powerful, once consumers of delicacies, were now found roaming the streets of the city, homeless and destitute (4:5).

Jerusalem’s Sins Demanded a Judgment that Exceeded Sodom (4:6-11)

The judgment of Jerusalem surpassed the judgment of Sodom (Genesis 19). What sin was committed in Zion, the city of David, that demanded a greater judgment than ancient Sodom which was known for its moral depravity?

Because Jerusalem was chosen by the LORD to be the home of His sanctuary, it was that privilege that incited the wrath of God. The people had broken covenant with the LORD, and defiled His Temple. For that wickedness, the wrath of God lingered. Sodom was mercifully destroyed “in a moment” (4:6), but the sufferings in Jerusalem appeared to have no end.

The “Nazarites” (believed to be the nobility of Jerusalem) had enjoyed a favored life of ease (4:7). Unlike the general population who labored under the sun, these were the privileged few whose skin was described as “whiter than milk,” but now were reduced to starvation, and their skin blackened by the sun (4:8). Jeremiah observed, those who died by the sword were “better than” those dying of hunger (4:9). The horror of want and depravity was surmised in this, for the women who once nurtured their children, were cannibalizing them (4:10).  All this was a testament to the wrath of God (4:11).

The Leaders Had Failed the People (4:12-22)

The prophets had warned the judgment of the LORD was imminent, but the kings of other nations and the people of Judah believed the great walled city was unassailable (4:12).

Who was to blame for the fall of Jerusalem? The answer may surprise you. Though the kings of Judah had committed great wickedness, it was “the sins of her prophets, and the iniquities of her priests, That [had] shed the blood of the just in the midst of her” (4:12). Lying prophets and sinful priests of Jerusalem had failed the nation (4:13). Judah’s spiritual leaders despised the righteous, and persecuted them (4:14). Their guilt was so great, they were become like a spiritually leprous people (4:15). They had despised faithful priests, and rejected the elders (among them was Zechariah and Jeremiah, 4:16).

Rather than heed the warnings of judgment, the nation looked to men and allies to save them (4:17). When king Zedekiah and his family fled the city, the soldiers of Babylon hunted them down (4:18; 2 Chronicles 36:5-6; 2 Kings 25:1-7), and pursued them like eagles through the mountains and into the wilderness (4:19-20). Yet, the LORD did not forget those who persecuted His people, and the Edomites were warned they too would drink from the cup of God’s judgment (4:21). The sins of Edom would not be forgotten (4:22).

Closing thoughts – Have you considered the sins committed by Judah, and the sinful character of her people tragically resemble the world of our day?

My own nation, once the envy of the world, is like tarnished gold (4:1). The American dollar, once the currency of the world, is fallen into disgrace. Politicians continue to transform our military into a showcase of social depravity (4:2), rather than strength and honor. Motherhood is despised by brazen women demanding the liberty to quench the lives of the unborn. Our leaders have betrayed us, and preachers and churches have become hollow shells of sin and depravity. The righteous are despised, and the faithful calling for repentance are scorned.

Like Jeremiah of old, do we not find ourselves praying, “God save America”?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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“Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel” (Amos 4; Amos 5)

Scripture reading – Amos 4; Amos 5

We have seen that Amos was a shepherd (herdsman) when God called Him out of obscurity (1:1) to serve as His prophet to Israel (the northern ten tribes). Israel and Judah were enjoying a season of peace and prosperity, making Amos’ message of doom all the more unpopular with the leaders and common people of both nations.

Amos 4-6 records a series of forewarnings the prophet delivered to Israel, calling that nation to repent of its wickedness. If not, Amos warned the judgment of God was imminent.

Amos 4 – The Chastisement of Israel and a Prophecy of That Nation’s Fall

Male or Female: The Kine (Cows) of Bashan (4:1-3)

Amos 4 is rich in detail, and a point of interest that is timely for our day concerns the “kine of Bashan” (1:1). Bashan was part of the rich pasture lands located on the east side of the Jordan River. Bashan was known for its well-fed cattle, and thus the people of that region were addressed metaphorically in Amos 4:1-3 as the “kine of Bashan.”

While the word “kine” is female in gender (4:1), the pronoun “you” is masculine in the Hebrew (4:2). Thus, the warning of God’s judgment for oppressing the poor and crushing the needy was addressed to either strong females, or emasculated male leaders. Knowing homosexuality is the pinnacle of wickedness for a dying nation and people (Romans 1:26-27), I believe that sin represented a fullness of man’s departure from the Law, thereby naturally receiving God’s judgment. Amos warned the LORD had determined to send the people away (“take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fishhooks”), and no place in Samaria would be a refuge (1:3).

A Series of Judgments (4:4-11)

The LORD scorned the hypocrisy of the people who brought sacrifices to Bethel and Gilgal. They had maintained an outward form of worship, while continuing in their wickedness.

The LORD had sent a series of judgments upon the nation, but each time the people had refused to repent and return to the LORD (4:6-11). They had suffered famine (4:6), and drought (4:7-8), but would not repent. He sent plagues and mildew upon the crops, and the nation suffered plagues comparable to those experienced in Egypt, yet Israel would not turn to the LORD (4:10). Cities in Israel were destroyed by fire, reminiscent of Sodom and Gomorrah, but the people still would not turn from their sin to the LORD (4:11).

An Ominous Warning (4:12-13)

Obstinate, rebellious, and hypocritical, Amos warned the people, “Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel” (4:12). Amos urged the people to prepare to face the Creator’s judgment, warning that (4:13b) He knows every thought of man. He is everywhere, and “treadeth upon the high places of the earth” (4:13c).

Who is the LORD? He is “the God of hosts” (4:13d).

Amos 5 – A Lamentation for Israel

Though Amos was charged with the non-enviable task of warning Israel of pending judgment, he was nevertheless moved to sorrow and compassion for that rebellious people. That prophet’s lament for the “house of Israel” is recorded in Amos 5:1-3.

Amos foretold how Israel would be overthrown and suffer utter devastation. No longer pure, Amos writes, “the virgin of Israel is fallen,” and she would never rise from the ashes of her ruin (5:2a). The prophet foretold, the people would be removed from their land, and no one will come to her aid (5:2). One-tenth of the people would be all that remained in the land (5:3).

God’s Longsuffering (5:4-9)

In spite of their sins, the LORD longed to show compassion to Israel, and He invited the people, “Seek ye me, and ye shall live” (5:4). Amos admonished the people to forsake Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba, for those sacred places would “come to nought” (5:5). Again, Amos exhorted the people, “6Seek the Lord, and ye shall live” (5:6a).

The prophet reminded Israel how the LORD was the Creator of the constellations (5:8a). Their God was sovereign, and the sustainer of creation (causing the sun to rise dispelling the darkness, and He controls the waters of the sea, 5:8b). Amos warned, no stronghold would be safe from His judgment (5:9).

Israel’s Sins Invited God’s Judgment (5:10-15)

Israel had rejected God’s Truth, and had no tolerance for preachers of God’s Word. They “[hated] him that rebuketh in the gate, and they [abhorred] him that speaketh uprightly” (5:10). The wealthy were guilty of taxing the “poor,” and they flaunted their wealth, building great stone cut houses (5:11a). They had planted vineyards, but Amos warned they would not live to enjoy their ill-gotten gains (5:11b).

Closing thoughts – Speaking for the LORD, Amos condemned Israel for the same sins we observe in our day: The righteous were oppressed, bribes perverted justice, and judges favored the rich, and denied the poor justice, fairness and impartiality (5:12). Amos declared, the prudent would keep silent on that day of judgment (5:13). Why? Most likely because they would accept the suffering of the nation as the fate it was due, and therefore God’s plan and purpose (5:13).

With the passion of a faithful preacher, Amos called upon Israel to “seek good, and not evil, that ye may live…Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate” (5:14-15).

Pronouncements of “Woe!” close the chapter (5:18-27).  The people had continued making a pretense of worship (5:21-22), but God knew their hearts (5:23), and Amos warned:

God’s judgment would soon run over the nation like flood waters.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 14, 2 Chronicles 10

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

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

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

1 Kings 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Judges 20

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

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

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

A Plea for Justice (20:3-7)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“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

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

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 21-22

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

Deuteronomy 21 – Fundamentals of Civil Duty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deuteronomy 22 – Having a Good Conscience

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

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

An Abomination: Transgender\Transexuals (22:5)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

Scripture reading – Leviticus 18-19

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

Leviticus 18 – A Call to Be Holy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Concluding Thought: A Crisis of Morality

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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