Tag Archives: God is Just

The Tragedy of Disobedience – (Judges 3-5)

Scripture Reading – Judges 3-5

Israel’s failure to drive the heathen nations out of the land soon brought home a sorrow and heartache to many in Israel. We read,

Judges 3:6-76  And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods. 7  And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves.

Unspeakable wickedness is reflected in those two verses. Having failed to drive out the heathen and separate themselves from them and their idols, Hebrew families suffered the loss of their sons and daughters who intermarried with the wicked and followed in their ways (3:6). Their children not only turned from the LORD, but they began committing all manner of whoredom in the groves (3:7).

A history of Israel under the Judges is recorded beginning with Judges 3:7 and continuing to Judges 16:31.

From liberty to servitude, Israel provoked the LORD’S anger and He delivered them “into the hand of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia” whom the people served for eight years (3:8).

Evidencing His grace, when Israel cried to the LORD He sent Othniel, Caleb’s younger brother, to judge and call the nation to turn to the LORD (3:9-10). The LORD delivered His people and gave the nation rest for forty years as long as Othniel was judge in the land. (3:11).

After Othniel’s death, Israel followed a pattern of rebellion that invited God’s judgment and each time the LORD raised up a judge to call the nation to repent (3:12-31).

An intriguing story unfolds of a brave Benjaminite named Elud who stealthily made his way into the palace where he slew Eglon, the Moabite king with a dagger (3:15-26). Ehud’s courageous example and his faith in the LORD, not only delivered Israel from servitude, but also gave the people rest for eighty years (3:27-30).

Judges 4 – Deborah: A Prophetess in the Land

Israel once again turned from the LORD and the nation fell victim to a powerful king, “Jabin king of Canaan” (4:2-3).  This time the LORD called upon a woman named Deborah, identified as a “prophetess” (4:4-5), to judge the nation.

Deborah summoned a man named “Barak” (4:6) of the tribe of Naphtali, to lead the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun against Jabin (4:6-7). When Barak insisted he would only go if Deborah accompanied him, she warned it would be said that “the LORD shall sell Sisera [the Canaanite general] into the hand of a woman” (4:8).

When the Canaanite general Sisera realized he was defeated (4:9-16), he fled the battle on foot, and sought to hide in the tent of a woman named Jael (4:17-19). When he fell asleep, Jael rose up and drove a tent peg through Sisera’s temple (4:20-22).

Judges 5 – A Song of Victory

The prophetess Deborah breaks into song (5:3-11) and leads the people to recall their glorious history (5:3-5), and their decline as a wayward, suffering people (5:6-8).

Deborah’s song turns to rejoicing in the victory the LORD had given his people (5:9-23), and the courage of Jael, the woman who slew Sisera, by driving a peg through his temples (5:24-27).

Faith was and still is the victory!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Crisis: Third Generation Leaders Often Lack the Fortitude of Unshakable Convictions (Judges 1-2)

Daily reading assignment: Judges 1-2

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Followers,

It is a joy to begin the eighth book in our chronological study of the Word of God this year. We completed the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament that are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).  We have read the ancient Book of Job and just finished our study of the Book of Joshua.

Israel’s passage from Egypt, her forty years in the wilderness, and that nation’s settlement of the Promised Land has been our focus. With the land divided among the tribes, the book of Judges begins with a matter of fact statement that marks the end of an era: “after the death of Joshua” (Judges 1:1).

Judges 1 – A Third Generation Leadership Crisis

With Joshua and Eleazar the high priest dead, the children of Israel asked the LORD, “Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?” (Judges 1:1)

Though Israel possessed the land, they still encountered the presence of enemies in the midst.  Receiving the LORD’s command to go to war, the tribes of Judah and Simeon fought against the Canaanites and the Perizzites, and God blessed them with victories over their enemies (Judges 1:2-20).  With Joshua dead, we find Caleb named in the midst, the last of his generation to come out of Egypt (1:14-20).

Sadly, the faith, fortitude, and obedience witnessed in Judah was absent among the other tribes who failed to drive the heathen out of the land (1:21-36). The tribe of Benjamin (1:21), the tribe of Manasseh (1:27-28), and the tribes of Ephraim, Zebulun, Asher, and Naphtali (1:29-36) all failed.

Judges 2 – The Rebuke of an Angel and Tragedy in the New Land

God sent an angel to rebuke the disobedient tribes in Judges 2, warning them their treaties with the heathen would eventually become “as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you” (Judges 2:2-3).

Every generation has its spiritual destiny, and the achievement of one generation does not guarantee the next will follow.  The second-generation Joshua led into the Promised Land had this testimony: “[They] served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua” (2:7). The same would not be said of the third generation out of Egypt who rose up and “knew not the LORD” (Judges 2:10).

We read of the third generation, they “did evil…served Baalim…forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth” (Judges 2:11-13). 

Israel having broken His covenant, God set His face against them, delivered them to their enemies, “and they were greatly distressed”  (Judges 2:14-15).

Although the people had forsaken the LORD, He did not forsake them and graciously sent judges to remind the people of His Laws and Covenant. Faithful judges called the people to repent, and for a season the nation would heed the warnings, only to turn back to their sinful ways when a judge died (Judges 2:16-19).

“Familiarity breeds contempt” is an adage that is all too true of God’s people. In one generation, Israel had turned from the LORD and lost His blessing and protection.

I fear the same is true of Bible preaching churches and Christian institutions in our day. Like Israel, there are many pulpits in America occupied by third generation leaders who impart spiritual apathy, dead orthodoxy, and a rejection of the convictions of previous generations.

I am afraid many have forgotten that, though times have changed, the admonitions of God’s Word have not!

1 John 2:15-16 – “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Three Affirmations Concerning the Faithfulness of God (Joshua 19-21)

Daily reading assignment: Joshua 19-21

Joshua 19 – A selfless, godly leader

The business of dividing the Promised Land and assigning portions to the seven tribes (18:2-3) that had not yet taken possession of their inheritance continues in Joshua 19.

After dividing the land according to tribe, Joshua was the last to receive his inheritance. Honoring him for his years of faithful service, the “children of Israel gave an inheritance to Joshua… [and]they gave him the city which he asked, even Timnathserah in mount Ephraim: and he built the city, and dwelt therein” (19:49-50).

A word of caution: Don’t make the mistake of glibly passing over the names of cities and territories listed in Joshua 19 and miss an important lesson. Although the names of the cities may be foreign and difficult to pronounce, they remind us of an important truth: God fulfilled His promise, and Israel was settled in her land.

Joshua 20 – Cities of Refuge for the Innocent Accused of Murder

The LORD commanded Joshua to establish six “cities of refuge” in the land (20:1-2). Moses had already assigned three cities on the east side of the Jordan River (20:8; Deuteronomy 4:41-43). To those three remaining Joshua designated three cities west of the Jordan (20:7).

Reflecting the sanctity of human life and the principle of capital punishment established by God (Genesis 9:5-6; Exodus 20), the cities of refuge afforded a safe place for those who had unintentionally taken the life of another man (20:3-4).  Because there was no law enforcement, the cities of refuge provided a place where a man’s case could be judged by the elders of the city and his life protected from those who felt compelled to avenge the death of a loved one (20:5).

Two regulations governed who might find refuge from an avenger (20:6). The first was the responsibility of the inhabitants of the city to determine if a man was guilty or innocent of murder. If guilty, the accused would be turned over to the avenger. If innocent of murder, but guilty of manslaughter, the accused must remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest.

Joshua 21 – Cities Assigned to the Tribe of Levi

We have been reminded on several occasions that the priestly tribe of Levi would not receive its own land.  Serving the LORD and the congregation, the Levites’ physical needs were to be met by the sacrificial gifts of God’s people.

The tribe of Levi requested the cities they had been promised for their inheritance in the land (Joshua 21:1-3) and were assigned forty-eight cities, by family, and scattered throughout the tribal lands (21:4-42).  It was the ministry of the Levites to minister to the people and teach them the Word and Law of God (2 Chronicles 17:9).

I invite you to consider three affirmations concerning the faithfulness of God as we close today’s commentary.

1) The LORD gave Israel “all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers” (21:43).

2) He gave the nation victory over her enemies and “gave them rest” (21:44).

3) Not one “good thing” the LORD had promised failed (21:45).

What a great and faithful God we serve!

2 Corinthians 1:2020  For all [every one of] the promises of God in him [Christ] are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.

Copyright 2020– Travis D. Smith

Rahab: A Testimony of Saving Grace (Joshua 5-8)

Daily reading assignment: Joshua 5-8

Having crossed the Jordan River, Joshua and Israel faced the challenge of waging war with the inhabitants of the land God had promised He would give to Abraham and his lineage.

The first great city of the land was the ancient city of Jericho, whose walls made it the strongest fortress in the land, but one that had to be conquered for the people to pass on and take possession of their inheritance.

The two men Joshua had sent to spy out Jericho had, after finding refuge in the home of Rahab (Joshua 2), returned and gave a report, stating that the citizens of Jericho feared the God of Israel and her armies (Joshua 2:11-12).

Joshua 5 – Circumcision, Now?

Circumcising all males born during Israel’s wilderness sojourn was Joshua’s first task after leading Israel into the Promised Land (5:1-9).  While the generation that had departed Egypt had been circumcised, the succeeding generation who were born during the forty years of wandering had not been circumcised (5:5).

Why did Joshua wait until crossing the Jordan into “enemy territory?” Circumcision was a sign of the LORD’S covenant and it was His desire that it be administered in the land He had promised to give the sons and lineage of Abraham. Egypt was in the past and a new land was before them (5:9).

The first Passover was also observed in the new land and the people remembered how the LORD had delivered them out of the hand of Pharaoh and slavery in Egypt (5:10-12). The daily manna the LORD had provided during their sojourn ceased as the people would begin consuming “the fruit of the land of Canaan” (5:12).

The appearance of the angel of the LORD, a theophany of God’s physical presence, confirmed to Joshua that LORD was with him and Israel (5:13-15).

Joshua 6 – The Fall of Jericho

Joshua 6 is the record of the overthrow of the ancient city of Jericho. Jericho was not defeated by a force of arms nor a well-planned siege of ancient military engines. God delivered the city into Israel’s hand, and all perished with the exception of Rahab and her household.

Joshua 7 – The Humiliating Defeat at Ai

Joshua 7 reminds us the sin of one man can invite the judgment of God on a family and a nation. Achan had allowed covetousness to take root in his heart. Seeing the wealth and riches in the ruins of Jericho, he set his heart on them and took into his heart and tent the gold, silver, and elaborate clothing God had forbidden (7:21).  Achan’s decision proved to be a disaster for the nation and was the ruin of his household (7:24-26).

Joshua 8 – Faith is the Victory!

After learning the dreadful consequences of sin and the presumptive failure to seek God’s direction and blessing, Joshua 8 records Israel’s great victory over the city of Ai.

I close today’s devotional commentary inviting you to consider Rahab and the astonishing testimony of God’s grace she represents (Joshua 6:17, 22-25).  Why did God, out of all who perished in Jericho’s destruction, spare a harlot and her family?  The answer to that question is found in Hebrews 11:31.

Hebrews 11:31 – “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.”

Rahab’s character garnered no merit with God or Israel. She was a heathen and a prostitute.  Why was she spared?

She believed Israel’s God was the One True God and Israel was His chosen people (Joshua 2:8-13).  She had welcomed the spies into her home and when the army of Israel surrounded the city, the scarlet rope tied in her window was a testimony and symbol of her faith.

Rahab’s faith was rewarded by God! She was spared the destruction of Jericho, she became the mother of Boaz and was the great-great grandmother of David. Rahab is named in the lineage of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5) and is a lasting testimony of God’s saving grace.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The End is the Beginning (Joshua 1-4)

Scripture Reading Assignment: Joshua 1-4

In his book on Spiritual Leadership, J. Oswald Sanders observes concerning the death of great leaders:

“When a movement develops around a dominant personality, the real test of the quality of his leadership is the manner in which that work survives the crisis of his removal.” [Moody Press, 1967, p. 210]

The death of God’s servants never takes God by surprise. The leader’s family will be shaken and mourn. His co-laborers may be dismayed at the loss. His followers, no doubt, shaken by his sudden removal. God’s work is not built upon dominant personalities and no leader is indispensable. Ministries will be blessed as long as God’s purposes are accomplished.

When Moses died, Joshua, his successor, and Israel acutely felt the loss of their leader (Deuteronomy 34:7-9). Some might have despaired. Others may have panicked and asked: “What will we do without Moses?” Many were dismayed that God would remove Moses just as they faced the greatest test of their nation’s life – crossing the Jordan River and taking possession of Canaan.

Joshua 1 – God’s Work Did Not End with the Death of Moses

Alexander Maclaren writes, “No man is indispensable. God’s work goes on uninterrupted. The instruments are changed but the Master’s hand is the same, and lays one tool aside and takes another out of the tool-chest as He will.”  [Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Southern Baptist Convention, p. 87]

For thirty days Israel had mourned the death of Moses, but when that time was passed the LORD wasted no time and commanded Joshua: “2  Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel” (1:2).

God described the borders of Israel’s Promised Land as the mass of land between Lebanon in the north and the “wilderness” or desert of Arabia in the south; from the river of Euphrates in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west (1:4).  The land was inhabited by the “Hittites,” an ancient people known elsewhere as the Canaanites. They were eventually driven out of the land and became assimilated into the nomadic tribes of Arabia.

An indisputable sign of God’s person and sovereignty over the nations is the existence of an ancient, distinct people, not limited to, but known today as Jews. While tribes and nations of ancient times are little more than a footnote in history; the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob continues.

The LORD reminded Joshua that Israel’s existence as a nation was dependent on the people obeying God’s Law.

Joshua 1:88  This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

With the assurance of His blessing, God promised Joshua, “the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (1:9). The order to prepare being given (1:10-11), Joshua reminded the two and one-half tribes that had requested the lands on the east side of the Jordan for an inheritance, of the obligation of their men to cross over the Jordan and battle beside the other tribes until the land was secured (1:12-18).

Joshua 2 – A Harlot’s Step of Faith

Two spies were sent over to view the land and investigate the city of Jericho and its defenses. Providentially taking refuge in the lodge of a harlot named Rahab (2:1), their presence in that ancient city was soon noticed (2:2-3). Fearing rumors she had heard of all God had done for Israel, Rahab hid the spies on her rooftop and requested they remember her and show grace to her household when Jericho fell to Israel (2:4-14).

Lowering the spies by means of a scarlet rope from a window of her home on the wall, Rahab was instructed to tie the rope in that same window as a sign that she and her household were to be spared (2:15-22).

Delivering the report that the inhabitants of Jericho were terrified, the spies affirmed to Joshua, “Truly the LORD hath delivered into our hands all the land” (2:24).

Joshua 3 – The Order Given to Break Camp

Commanding the tribes to encamp for three days on the shores of the Jordan, Joshua ordered the people to prepare to cross the river (3:1). The Ark of the Covenant, a symbol of the LORD’s presence in their midst, would be carried by priests and lead the way across the Jordan River (3:3-11).  Joshua commanded the people to not only prepare for war, but more importantly, to be sanctified, meaning they were to be ceremonially cleansed and purified before the LORD (3:5).

As the waters of the Red Sea parted before Moses, the waters of the Jordan parted when the priests carrying the Ark stepped into the water (3:12-16). The waters stood up as a wall as Israel crossed to the other side (3:17).

Joshua 4 – A Memorial of Stones in the Midst of the Jordan

When Israel had passed over, Joshua commanded one man from each tribe to take up a stone and establish a memorial to of the dividing of the waters as “a sign among you,” a lasting testimony of what the LORD had wrought (4:1-12).

Safely over the Jordan and for the first time encamped in the Promised Land, forty thousand men were ordered to prepare for battle (4:13).

Though the memory of Moses’ death was still fresh, “the LORD magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him (revered; respected, reverenced), as they feared Moses, all the days of his life” (4:14).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

An Obituary: “The Greatest of Men Have Their Appointment with Death” (Deuteronomy 32-34; Psalm 91)

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 32-34; Psalm 91

Deuteronomy 32 – The Elegy of Moses

The Lord commanded Moses to write and teach the nation of Israel a song (Deuteronomy 31:19-22); the purpose of the song was to memorialize the LORD’S covenant with the people, and remind them of His promises. As a song, the words would serve as “a witness for [the LORD] against the children of Israel” (31:19). While some foolishly dismiss the law and commandments today and contend they are irrelevant; the fact is they serve for us as a reminder that God is holy and requires the same of His people.

Deuteronomy 32:1-43 records the words and message of the song Moses was to teach to the people before his death. Verses 1-2 serve as the introduction to the song and admonishes the people to “give ear,” listen up, open your ears.

Notice a contrast is drawn between the character of the LORD and the character of the people He had chosen (32:5-6).

The LORD is described as the “Rock,” and compared to the vastness of a great boulder, a mountain, a place of refuge. He is perfect in His work. His judgment is truth, without sin or prejudice. He is a just, righteous God (32:5).

The people, however, were “corrupted,” decaying, dirty, wasting, and perverse (32:5-6). The LORD had blessed them with His loving favor; however, Israel was a rebellious nation (32:6).

Moses invited the children of Israel to remember the LORD had preserved them from generations past, and even before they existed as a nation, He counted them as His people (32:7-9). Like an eagle stirs up her nest and protects her young with her wings, the LORD had watched over, loved, disciplined, and provided for Israel as a father (32:10-14).

Yet for all the good the LORD had done for them, the nation had rebelled and turned from Him to worship idols (32:15-18), and provoked the LORD to jealousy (32:19-43). When Moses’ song was finished, He challenged the people to “observe to do, all the words of this law” (32:44-47).

The LORD then commanded Moses to go up into the mountain where he would see the “land of Canaan” as God had promised and there he would die and “be gathered unto thy [his] people” (32:48-50). Moses was reminded he had sinned against the LORD and would not be allowed to accompany Israel into the Promised Land (32:51-52).

Deuteronomy 33 – The Blessing of Moses

Before Moses went up into the mountain he graced the people with words of blessing and affirmation (33:1-3) and reminded them how the LORD had been with them and established His covenant with the nation.

The Twelve Tribes of Israel are individually named and each received its own blessing from Moses (33:6-25). His blessings being ended, Moses rejoiced in the LORD’s care of His people and reminded them God was their refuge, their fortress, their security (33:26-27). He promised them the land would be fruitful because the LORD had chosen to bless them and He alone could preserve them (33:28-29).

Deuteronomy 34 – The Death of Moses

What an incredible, intimate moment we are permitted to share when the LORD takes Moses up mount Nebo (34:1), and the faithful old servant is shown by God the land He had promised Israel for an inheritance. We read,

Deuteronomy 34:44  And the LORD said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.

Moses died that day and the LORD buried him “in a valley in the land of Moab…but no man knoweth of his sepulchre” (34:6). Some suggest the LORD, not man, burying the body of Moses was intended to preserve it from decay. I believe the place Moses was buried was never revealed lest some in Israel be tempted to memorialize the man, and not the God he served.

Though old in years, the scriptures indicate God had preserved Moses from some of the ravages of old age; “his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated” (34:7).

Moses never came down from the mount and for thirty days (34:8) the people mourned His death. There was never again a prophet-leader like Moses “whom the LORD knew face to face” (34:10-12). His passing was not only the passing of a man, it was also the passing of an era. God had already chosen and prepared Joshua, a man “full of the spirit of wisdom” (34:9), to lead Israel into the Promised Land

When the days of mourning were past, the LORD gave Joshua the command, “arise, go over this Jordan” (Joshua 1:2).

Psalm 91 – Providentially, my scripture text for this Sunday morning’s message to the Hillsdale church family is Psalm 91.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The frailty of old age is not an excuse for tolerating sin. (Deuteronomy 30-31)

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 30-31

True to the nature of God, having promised in His justice He would punish Israel for breaking covenant with Him (Deuteronomy 29:24-29), He promises in Deuteronomy 31 to be merciful should the people repent and restore them to their land (30:1-14).

Deuteronomy 30 concludes with a strong challenge to Israel to know the Word of the LORD is sure and He will bless the people when they keep His covenant.  However, should they disobey His Laws and Commandments, He will surely bring judgment upon the nation (30:15-20).

Mindful of his own mortality and knowing the days of his earthly sojourn were ending, Moses reminded the nation he is “an hundred and twenty years old” and the LORD had said, “Thou shalt not go over this Jordan” (31:1-2).

In the tone of a loving, aged father who knows his days with his children are concluding, Moses encouraged the people, “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not” (31:6).  The same God who delivered Israel out of Egypt and preserved them in the wilderness will “not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (31:6).

Moses publicly affirmed Joshua’s ordination “in the sight of all Israel” (31:7-8) and challenged the spiritual leaders of the nation to be the custodians and teachers of the LORD’s Law and keep the Law and Commandments before the people (31:9-13).

Reminded God is Omniscient, the LORD revealed to Moses that after his death, the people would break their covenant with Him and “go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land” (31:14-18).  The power and influence of worship music is shown when the LORD commanded Moses to write a song to remind the people of their covenant with the LORD (31:19-22).

Deuteronomy 31 concludes with Moses giving a final charge to Joshua as he assumes the leadership of the nation (31:23).  Gathering the people, Moses challenged the Levites to take the record of the LORD’s Law and “put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD” (31:24-26).

There are many lessons we might take from today’s scripture reading; however, the one that strikes a chord with me is:

The frailty of old age is not an excuse for tolerating sin.

At one hundred and twenty years old, Moses was “feeling his age” and was conscious of the inevitableness of his death.  The pressures of leading a rebellious people “forty years in the wilderness” and old age had taken its toll on the man (29:5).

Moses confessed, “I am an hundred and twenty years old this day; I can no more go out and come in” (31:2).  “And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thy days approach that thou must die” (31:14).   We read again, “And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers” (31:16).

Moses was old and frail; however, the fire of his convictions and dedication to the LORD had not abated. 

I am afraid the same cannot be said of my generation.  There is a growing tolerance of sin and carnality in Christian homes, Bible preaching churches, Christian schools, Bible colleges and universities.  In an effort to appease rebellious children in their own households, leaders of my generation are compromising spiritual disciplines and precepts of the ministries they are leading.

The fears Moses expressed in Deuteronomy 31:29 are, I believe, a foreshadow of what will become of many fundamental churches, schools, and institutions.

Deuteronomy 31:29 – “For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands.”

How about you, my friend? Does the fire of godly convictions still burn in your spirit and soul?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith