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Be sure your sin will find you out! (Genesis 27-29)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 27-29

“Esau the Carnal; Jacob the Conniver” (Genesis 27)

The strife between Jacob and Esau continues in our study of Genesis with Jacob and his mother scheming to steal his brother’s birthright (Genesis 27).  Benefiting from his father’s blindness, Jacob posed as Esau and successfully stole his brother’s birthright (27:18-29).

Learning his birthright was mistakenly given to Jacob, Esau vowed vengeance and determined to murder him (27:41).  Before Esau was able to make good on this threat, Rebekah interceded with Isaac and requested that Jacob be sent away to seek safety and find a wife among her people (27:42-46).

Jacob’s flight from home is recorded in Genesis 28.  Cut off from his parents, family, and land (28:1-5);  Jacob is at the end of himself.  In his flight to Haran, the ancestral home of Abraham (11:31; 28:10), the LORD appeared to Jacob in a dream and assured him he was heir to the covenant promises God made to his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac (28:11-15).

Traveling east, Jacob came to Haran, and there he met Rachel, the beautiful young woman who would become his wife (29:9-12).  [As a side note, Rachel was Jacob’s cousin and their marriage in our day would be genetically ill advised; however, nearly 4,000 years ago the bloodlines of humanity were free from many of the genetic disorders that plague our day].

Falling in love with Rachel, Jacob soon realized he had met his match in her father Laban who was a notorious schemer in his own right!  Laban required Jacob labor seven years for the right to take Rachel as his wife (29:15-20).  In a beautiful poetic portrait of love, Jacob agreed to the father’s terms and we read the seven years he labored for Rachel’s hand “seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her” (29:20).

The seven years being ended, Jacob demanded his right to marry Rachel (29:21), but was beguiled by Laban into marrying her elder sister Leah (29:17).  Veiled as a bride, Jacob discovered the morning after his wedding that he had been deceived and had married Leah and not his beloved Rachel (29:24-25).  Demanding his right to marry Rachel, Laban forced Jacob to agree to another seven years of labor for her hand (29:26-30).

A passing phrase in this story forewarns us to the troubles that will follow Jacob’s household in the years ahead: Jacob “loved also Rachel more than Leah” (29:30).

An old idiom reads, “Chickens come home to roost!”  As it is the nature of chickens to roost in their coop each night, it is also true that sinful choices invariably catch up with us all.

Although he was hundreds of miles from home, Jacob fell victim to his father-in-law’s schemes and was reminded of the consequences of his own scheming ways;  Be sure your sins will find you out!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Lesson in LAW and GRACE (Genesis 22-24)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 22-24

Genesis 22 puts the faith of Abraham to the test as God proves his faith by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac, the son of God’s covenant promise.  Isaac’s question, “Where is the Lamb?” (22:7) is answered 2,000 years later when John the Baptist says concerning Jesus, “Behold the Lamb” (John 1:29, 36).

Reminding us God’s people are sojourners in this world of sin, we read, “Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2  And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her” (Genesis 23:1-2).

I close this historical crossroads in Abraham’s life inviting you to consider spiritual lessons concerning Law and Grace illustrated in the births of Ishmael and Isaac (Galatians 4:21-31). 

Ishmael, born a slave of a slave woman, was the fruit of Abraham’s effort to have a son and heir apart from God (Galatians 4:22a, 23a).   Isaac, born a free man of a free woman, was the son of promise whose birth was miraculous and the work of God (Galatians 4:22b, 23b).

The mothers, Hagar and Sarah, represent two covenants: Hagar, the LAW, the covenant between God and man (Galatians 4:24-25) reminding us the impossibility of man fulfilling the demands of the Law (Romans 3:19-20).  Sarah, represents God’s covenant of GRACE, His provision and unmerited favor (Galatians 4:26-27) extended to man.

Ishmael’s birth is a tragic reminder of man attempting in his own efforts to do and fulfill what only God can do.  Isaac’s birth, fulfilling God’s covenant promise to Abraham and Sarah, is a portrait of GRACE, God doing what only He could do.

My friend, that is why salvation is not by works that merit God’s favor, but is an act of God’s grace alone.

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

My theme for Genesis 24 is “Here Comes the Bride”.   Following the death of his beloved Sarah (23:1-2), Abraham was burdened that Isaac, his son and heir of God’s covenant promises, should have a fitting wife.

Fearing Isaac might be tempted to take a wife of the heathen tribes that dwelled in Canaan, Abraham determined to send his “eldest servant”  (24:2-4) to his kindred residing in “Ur of the Chaldees” (11:27-31).  Reflecting the faith of his master, Abraham’s servant prayed for the LORD to make His will clear in choosing the young woman who would become Isaac’s wife  (24:12-14).

God heard and answered the servant’s prayer even as he was praying (24:15-26).  In a prayer of praise that should comfort all who call upon and desire the will of the LORD, the servant prayed, I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren” (24:27).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Two New Sermon Series to Begin a New Year at Hillsdale

After a couple of weeks of vacation, I look forward to beginning two new sermon series for the New Year this Sunday at Hillsdale Baptist Church.

In the 10:30 AM worship service I will introduce a new verse-by-verse study of Paul’s Epistle to the churches in Galatia titled, “Freedom That Lasts.”

Unlike the majority of his letters to the early churches, the Epistle of Galatians is short and direct.  In Paul’s absence, false teachers had entered the churches in Galatia, not only questioning his authority as an apostle, but attacking the very heart of the Gospel of Christ which he had taught and preached while he was in the churches.

What was the heresy that had disrupted the churches and threatened the Gospel? Judaizers had entered the churches teaching believers that salvation was not only a matter of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ’s substitutionary death, burial and resurrection; but also required works of righteousness [observing the ordinances of Judaism and obeying the Law] contrary to what Paul had taught when he was among them (Galatians 2:16, 21).

I am also beginning a new series in the Book of Proverbs in our 6:00 PM worship service. The theme of the series is “Heavenly Wisdom for Earthly Problems” (my subtitle is, “Uncommon Common Sense”).

This Sunday’s introductory message is titled, “Common Sense is Dead.”

I am not sure when “Common Sense” died, but I am convinced she was buried in an unmarked grave and an impostor named “Political Correctness” has usurped her place in our society.  Common Sense has been expelled from our schools, demonized by politicians and scorned by adherents of godless ideologies promoting progressivism, socialism and liberalism.

Join us Sunday evenings as Hillsdale resurrects Common Sense in our study of Proverbs!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

 

The Consequences of Faithlessness (Genesis 16-18)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 16-18

Today’s Bible reading brings us to not only a crisis of faith in the lives of Abram and Sarai, but also to a crossroads for humanity as we realize the failure of one man’s faith in God’s promises bears consequences that shadow the world in our day…twenty-three centuries after Abram’s sojourn on this earth.

Years passed and Abram’s longing for a son went unfulfilled.  Abram complained, “I go childless…to me thou hast given no seed” (15:2-3).  God patiently assured him his posterity would be in number as the stars of heaven (15:5).

Genesis 16 introduces a crisis of faith for Abram when we read, “Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children” (16:1).  Eighty-five years old (16:16) and his wife seventy-five years old, Abraham’s faith waned and the complaints (the word “voice” in Genesis 16:2 indicates a constant complaining, like the bleating of sheep) and barrenness of his wife Sarai moved the man to make a faithless decision.  Contrary to God’s will, Abram turned his back on the LORD’s promises and yielded to Sarai’s proposal that he have a son by her Egyptian servant Hagar (16:1-3).

Hagar conceived Ishmael (16:4); however, instead of joy, the conception and birth of Ishmael brought division and sorrow into Abram’s household (16:4-10).  Ishmael, the son of Abram born of Hagar, would become the father of the people of Arabia, many of whom are followers of Mohammad and Islam.

The character of Ishmael and his lineage is described as “a wild man [lit. “wild donkey”]; his hand will be against every man [i.e. a man of hostility], and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren” (Genesis 16:12).  The fulfillment of that prophecy is evidenced in today’s world as we see the perpetual turmoil afflicted on Israel and the world by Ishmael’s lineage.

God renewed His covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17 and ten years later when he was nearly one hundred years old, God announced the impossible: His ninety year old Sarah “shall be a mother of nations” (17:15-17).  Abraham laughed, saying 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)

Willing to content himself with less than God’s best, Abraham suggested Ishmael should be his heir (17:18); however, God refused the son of Hagar.   Comforting Abraham with the promise that Ishmael would be father to a “great nation” (17:20), God renewed His covenant and assured Abraham that Sarah would bear him a son and his name would be Isaac (17:19).

Genesis 18 contains the fateful message from the LORD that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were to be judged and destroyed for their wickedness (18:20-22).  Knowing Lot, his wife, and their sons and daughters lived in Sodom; Abraham made intercession to the LORD that Sodom be spared if ten righteous people would be found living in the city (18:23-33).

Of course, the rest of the story will be found in Genesis 19 and we will consider its lessons tomorrow.  I close with a reassuring quote concerning God’s promises.  Some has observed:

Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible, and receives the impossible.”  (Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations: Signs of the Times)

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Closing Thoughts on Life’s Trials, Fair-weather Friends, and the LORD’s Unfailing Grace (Job 40-42)

Daily reading assignment: Job 40-42

The LORD continues His interrogation of Job in chapter 40; however, he is now given an opportunity to respond  (40:3-5).  The first words from Job’s lips confessed his unworthiness (“Behold I am vile” – 40:4).  Humbled and at a loss for words, he is silent (40:4-5).

The LORD responds to Job, speaking to the man from the midst of the storm, Job is asked why he questioned His dealings as anything less than just (40:6-8). To summarize the LORD’s questions to Job in a modern context, “Who do you think you are to question me?” (40:9-14).

The beast described as the “behemoth” (40:15) is highly debated among scholars. Given the early writing of the book of Job, it is possible a dinosaur is described. Others suggest the behemoth was a hippopotamus, elephant or perhaps a water buffalo.

The LORD continues to question Job in chapter 41 and invites him to consider the “leviathan” (Job 41:1).  The identity of this great creature is also uncertain; however, some suggest it to be a giant saltwater crocodile.  Perhaps a giant creature of the sea that is extinct, but whose remains are identified today as those of a dinosaur.

Either way, the analogy is meant to draw Job to conclude that man is foolish to question his Creator when he pales in size and strength to the majestic beasts of His creation (41:1-9). The Lord challenged Job, if man cannot tame a “leviathan,” he has no right to question God (41:10-34).

Having heard the LORD’s revelations of Himself and pondered the evidences of His power and might as sovereign of creation, Job confessed, I abhor [despise] myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).

Accepting Job’s humble confession and repentance, the LORD turned the focus of His wrath upon Job’s “friends” (42:7-9) and commands “Eliphaz the Temanite” (perhaps the elder of the friends) to go to Job with sacrifices, humble themselves, and ask the very man they had condemned to pray for them (42:8-9).  [An additional observation: It is interesting that Elihu, the youngest “friend” of Job’s friends, is not named among those who went to Job in humility.  Elihu had been the most vociferous of Job’s judges; however, he fails to be named among those who sought to be restored to his fellowship].

Evidencing the grace and humility of a sincere repentant man of God, Job “prayed for his “friends” and God blessed him with “twice as much as he had before” (42:10).

Consider with me a few closing thoughts on “Fair-Weather Friends”:

Job 42:11 Then[i.e. the trials now passed and God having prospered Job “twice as much”] came there unto him all his brethren [kindred], and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance [i.e. friends and neighbors] before [before Job’s trials], and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned [i.e. showed sympathy] him, and comforted [pitied] him over all the evil [troubles] that the LORD had brought [i.e. allowed to enter] upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold.”

Where were these “brethren” and “sisters” when Job lost everything?  Where were Job’s acquaintances when he lost his sons and daughters, servants, home, physical health and possessions?  Why appear now to show sympathy and comfort?  Why wait to bring Job “a piece of money” and gold earrings after the LORD has begun to pour out his blessings on him and he has need of nothing?

I close our study of Job’s life rejoicing in how the LORD blessed him and he lived another “one hundred and forty years.” Job lived to witness the birth of “his sons, and his sons’ sons, even four generations” and“died, being old and full [satisfied] of days” (Job 42:10, 16-17).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

What is Man? Where Were You When God Created? (Job 38-39)

Daily reading assignment: Job 38-39

Elihu’s overzealous, arrogant rebuke of Job (Job 32-37) was suddenly answered, not by Job, but by the LORD Himself.  We read, Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind” (Job 38:1).

With the wind of a storm raging, God begins to challenge his servant with a series of questions that should silence every man, especially those who dare boast they have knowledge and understanding of God apart from His revelations.  Let’s briefly consider the profoundness of the LORD’s questions to Job (38:4-41).

1) Where were you when I (the LORD) laid the foundations of the earth (38:4)? 2) Who do you think has measured and set the boundaries of the earth? (38:5)

We do not know what a man of antiquity like Job could have known about the stars and planets singing together after the foundations of creation were laid (38:6-7); however, we know some details recorded in this chapter were not proved scientifically until the 20th century! For instance, NASA has discovered there are sounds in space!

Consider the sounds of space and the planets (Saturn’s rings, the sounds of Neptune, the sounds of the Earth, and the sound of the Sun).  Such wonders give new meaning to Psalm 19:1 where we read, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalm 19:1).

Unlike evolutionists who propose to know the hidden secrets of nature and relegate the wonder of life to a primordial sea out of which life is supposed to have emerged; Job knew design demands a designer and creation a Creator (38:8-41).  The apostle Paul declares the same in the 1st century writing, “For the invisible things of Him [Creator] from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

God’s loving invitation for Job to ponder all He had created and sustains continues in Job 39.

The LORD invited Job to consider the wonders of nature and how He, the Creator, has set in order the lives and life cycles of beasts and birds (39:1-4).  Six beasts, including the wild unicorn (not the mystical horse, but a one horned species of antelope, 39:9-11), and birds are named as examples of God’s care and providential oversight of His creation (39:12-30).

Appreciating “the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handywork” (Psalm 19:1), we agree with the psalmist when he writes, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Word of Advice for Self-flattering Youth (Job 35-37)

Daily reading assignment: Job 35-37

Job’s “fourth friend,” the younger “Elihu,” began his monologue in chapter 32 and continues his criticism of the beleaguered man through chapter 37. Displaying youthful pride and knowing little of sorrows or suffering, Elihu continues his verbal assault over what he perceives as the sins of Job that precipitated his troubles (I confess, I too have grown weary of Elihu’s pride).

Elihu supposes to quote Job (35:1-3), but his words are hardly those of Job when he suggests the man has said, “My righteousness is more than God’s” (35:2).  Job has searched his heart and declared his innocence (10:7; 12:4; 27:6); however, nowhere has he claimed to be more righteous than God!

Indicative of youthful pride, Elihu’s words and manner evidence “selective hearing.”  Rather than ponder and heed the words of his elder, Elihu’s thoughts race to make his case against Job and his friends.

In the opening verses of chapter 36, Elihu presumes to “speak on God’s behalf” (36:1-2) and begs his small audience to be patient, perhaps sensing his “friends” felt they had heard enough from the young man (36:2a).  Lacking humility and implying he is “perfect in knowledge” (36:3-4), Elihu continues to assert that Job’s trials were a testament to the manner God deals with the wicked (36:5-17).

The younger Elihu’s arrogant monologue dribbles on through chapter 37.  Sensing a restlessness in his audience, he again urges Job and his friends to be patient and “hear attentively” (37:2).

With eloquence, Elihu displays a great knowledge of God, His sovereignty over creation and His mighty person (37:3-13).  Like a college sophomore who has learned much, but knows little; Elihu demonstrates he is nearly void of wisdom. The humility he urges in Job, he lacks himself!

I close with a quote attributed to the late president Theodore Roosevelt that is fitting counsel for youth who feel they have wisdom superior to their elders:

“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care!”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith