Tag Archives: Holy

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

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

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 2-3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Samuel 3 – The LORD Calls Samuel

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Judges 20

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

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

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

A Plea for Justice (20:3-7)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“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

Samson and Delilah (Judges 16-17)

Scripture reading – Judges 16-17

Today’s study in the Book of Judges brings us to an event in the life of Samson that is as dramatic, as it is tragic.

Samson’s super-strength exploits, his infatuation with Delilah, her betrayal, and the tragic finale of his life has filled childhood imaginations, and been the inspiration for plays, operas, and Hollywood films. It might be said, never has a man been born with such promise, and died with such infamy. He was the hope of Israel, and his strength was legend; however, his moral failures shadowed his life, and ended inglorious.

This final chapter of Samson’s life opens with a reminder of his flawed character. Though set apart by the LORD, and dedicated by his mother when he was yet in her womb (13:3-5), Samson’s lusts eclipsed his calling as the judge of Israel (15:20+). While his physical acts of valor were renown, his unbridled lusts were ultimately his demise.

Judges 16 – Samson, Delilah, and the Philistines

The early verses of Judges 16 placed Samson in Gaza, a Philistine town fifty miles southwest of Jerusalem, and was only a short distance from his home. Unafraid of the Philistines, Samson visited with a harlot of Gaza (16:1), and the men of that city waited at the gate, plotting to kill him (16:2). Sensing the danger, he arose at midnight, and stormed out of the city, pulling the great gate up by its posts, and carrying them a distance of nine miles where he sat them at “the top of an hill that is before Hebron” (16:3).

Delilah, the Temptress, and Vixen (16:4-21)

The story of Samson and Delilah is well known, and I feel no need to be detailed in my commentary; however, let it serve as a warning to any who might trifle with sexual immorality.

Samson came to love Delilah (16:4), with whom he not only indulged his lusts, but trifled with his Nazarite vow, under which he had been born. When the Philistines offered Delilah a bribe of “eleven hundred pieces of silver” (16:5), she began to entice, and plot to betray Samson into the hands of his enemies (16:6-14). Three times she urged Samson to reveal the secret of his strength, and three times he deceived her, and foiled the plot to capture him (16:6-14).

Delilah’s unrelenting pleas for him to trust her with his secret, weakened Samson’s resolve, until he confessed “all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man” (16:17).

Knowing his secret, Delilah betrayed him, and as he slept she sent for a man to shave his head (16:18-19). With the locks of his hair shaved, Delilah awoke Samson, and “his strength went from him” (16:19). She lifted up her voice as she had in the past, and said, “The Philistines be upon thee, Samson” (16:20), and when he rose from his bed to face his enemy, “he wist not that the Lord was departed from him” (16:20).

Seized, Enslaved, and Scorned (16:21-31)

With the Spirit of the LORD no longer upon him, Samson was bound by the Philistines, his eyes gouged out, and like a dumb beast, he was forced to push the mill wheel to “grind in the prison house” (16:21). Days and weeks passed, and Samson’s hair began to grow (16:22). We know the disgrace he endured in prison; however, it was the humiliation he suffered when he was taken from prison that turned his thoughts to the LORD. Led by a boy to the temple of Dagon, the once mighty Samson become an object of buffoonery for the Philistine men and women (16:23-25).

Samson asked the boy to guide him to the main pillars that supported the roof of the temple, and there he prayed, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes” (16:28). Standing in the midst of the two pillars, Samson pushed against them, and prayed, “Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life” (16:30).

The story of Samson’s life ends with a sad scene, as his brethren (the tribe of Dan), and those of his father’s house, claimed his body from the rubble of the temple of Dagon, and buried him with his father (16:31).

Judges 17 – Wickedness, and Idolatry in Israel

To illustrate the wickedness and depravity that had taken hold in Israel, we are introduced to a man of the tribe of Ephraim named Micah.  Micah was a wicked sort, for he is introduced as one who had stolen eleven hundred shekels of silver from his mother! When he learned his mother had uttered a curse on the thief, he returned her silver, and excused his theft on the pretense of religious piety, claiming it was his desire to have an idol shaped from the silver and revered in his “house of gods” (17:3).

Micah’s mother, no doubt deluded by her son’s pretext of spirituality, rewarded him with two hundred shekels of silver, which he melted at a foundry, and poured into a mold of the image that would serve as one of his idols (17:4-5).  Increasing his wickedness further, Micah employed a Levite priest to serve him and his gods (17:7-13).

I close today’s devotional with a revelation of the sin problem that was present in Israel, for 6in those days there was no king [no ruler, no judge] in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes”(17:6).

Samson had been the hope of his nation, but his moral failures overshadowed his life, and ministry as Israel’s judge.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Samson: The Legend, and the Man (Judges 13)

Scripture reading – Judges 13

Today’s Scripture brings us again to the cycle we have observed throughout our study in the Book of Judges: Sin, leading to Servitude, leading to Sorrow, and leading to Salvation (Repentance). Judges 13 begins with a sad, and all too familiar condition: for “the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord” (13:1).

Faithful to His promise, “the Lord delivered [Israel] into the hand of the Philistines forty years” (13:1). The LORD, merciful, and forgiving, had not forgotten Israel, and we find Him sending a man who would be the judge, and deliverer of His people.

The focus of Judges 13 is the angelic announcement of Samson’s conception, and his unique dedication in his mother’s womb. His father’s name was Manoah, of the tribe of Dan, and one whose wife was barren. Though barren, Manoah’s wife gives evidence that she was a woman of faith.

The LORD sent one described as “the angel of the LORD” to Manoah’s wife (13:3), and she received the news, “thou shalt conceive, and bear a son” (13:3). Because her son was chosen of the LORD, she would live under special prohibitions, and was to drink no wine, strong drink, nor eat anything unclean (13:4). The son she would bear would be “a Nazarite unto God from the womb,” and his hair was never to be cut (13:5; Numbers 6:1-8). He was destined to be the champion of Israel, and would “begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines” (13:5).

Manoah’s wife came to him with the news that “a man of God” had appeared to her, whose “countenance was like the countenance of an angel of God, very terrible: but I asked him not whence he was, neither told he me his name” (13:6). She told her husband what had been prophesied to her, and that her son was to be “a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death” (13:7).

Manoah did not discount his wife’s tale of her visitor, nor of his prophecy; however, he longed for the “man of God” to appear to him, and he asked the LORD to send the messenger again. He prayed, “teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born” (13:8). What a wonderful request, and prayer for every parent. “Lord, ‘teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born!’”

The LORD heeded Manoah’s prayer, and “the angel of God came again unto the woman as she sat in the field: but Manoah her husband was not with her” (13:9). It was in her solitude, that the heavenly messenger returned, and she ran to her husband and said, “Behold, the man hath appeared unto me, that came unto me the other day” (13:10). Manoah, assured this was the “man of God” who had announced his wife would bear a special son (13:11), asked, “How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?” (13:12)

The “angel of the LORD” repeated those things that were prohibited of his wife (13:14). Desiring to be a gracious host, Manoah asked the man to stay for a meal, not realizing “he was an angel of the Lord” (13:16). His guest declined, but urged Manoah to “offer a burnt offering…unto the LORD” (3:16). Manoah asked for the name of his guest, that he might honor him when his son was born (13:17), but the “angel of the LORD said unto him…it is secret [literally, “It is Wonderful]” (13:18; Isaiah 9:6).

Manoah then prepared, and offered a young goat to the LORD (13:19), and suddenly a “flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, [and] the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground” (13:20). In that moment, Manoah and his wife realized their guest had been more than “a man of God,” and Manoah confessed, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God” (13:22). He feared they would die, but his wife expressed her faith, and said, “If the Lord were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands, neither would he have shewed us all these things, nor would as at this time have told us such things as these” (13:23).

True to God’s promises, Manoah’s wife conceived “a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him” (13:24). “25And the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times in the camp [tribe] of Dan” (13:25).

If you are a father or mother, I urge you to follow the example of Samson’s parents, and pray daily to the LORD…

“Teach us what we shall do unto the child” (13:8).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Broken Covenant, and a Path to Forgiveness (Judges 9-10)

Scripture reading – Judges 9-10

The last years of Gideon’s rule as judge left Israel ill-prepared for the years that followed his death (Judges 8:29-35). Upon Gideon’s death, Israel forsook their covenant with the LORD (8:34).

Judges 9 – The rise of Abimelech, son of Gideon

We remember how Gideon had many wives, and “threescore and ten sons” (8:30); however, there was another son, not numbered with the seventy sons born to Gideon’s wives. His name was Abimelech, a son of Gideon born of a concubine (and not a wife). After Gideon died, he aspired to claim his father’s leadership in Israel, and stirred the men of Shechem, his mother’s people, to make him king (9:1-2).

Abimelech plotted to murder the seventy sons of Gideon, and his mother’s people reasoned they would be better off with one of their own ruling Israel, rather than one of Gideon’s other sons (9:3). With seventy pieces of silver, Abimelech hired wicked mercenaries, described as “vain and light persons” (9:4), and they “slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal…notwithstanding yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left; for he hid himself” (9:5). Imagine the breadth of depravity present in Israel, that men in their midst would slay the sons of Gideon!

Jotham, Gideon’s youngest, and only surviving son, stood upon “the top of mount Gerizim,” towering eight hundred feet about the plain. Lifting up his voice against the men of Shechem who had made Abimelech king (9:6-21), he told a parable (9:8-15) how the olive trees, fig trees, and vines invited a bramble bush to be king, saying, “Come thou, and reign [i.e. be king] over us” (9:14).

A prickly, thorny bramble is a wild bush, and lacks the majesty, beauty and height of other trees. The parallel Jotham drew with his parable, was that his brothers had been great men, like the cedars of Lebanon (9:15), and Abimelech was nothing more than a bramble bush, and yet they had chosen him to be their king. Jotham cursed the men of Shechem (9:15), and they would come to hate Abimelech, and he would hate them, to their destruction (9:17-49).

Three years passed, and the men of Shechem’s plot to kill Abimelech failed, forcing them to flee into a tower. Abimelech set fire to the tower, and “a thousand men and women” died (9:46-49). He then went to Thebez, and the men of the city fled into their strong tower, and Abimelech would have burned the tower, but “a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and all to brake his skull” (9:53).  Realizing he was dying from his wounds, Abimelech commanded his armorbearer to slay him with his sword, lest it be said of him, “A woman slew him” (9:54).

Judges 10 – The LORD Sends Revival in Israel

Two judges ruled in Israel after Abimelech died (10:1-5). If we assume that Shamgar was the third judge (3:31), Deborah the fourth judge (4:4), and Gideon the fifth judge (6:12; 8:28), Tola would have served the LORD as the sixth judge, and he judged Israel twenty-three years (10:1-2). After Tola, Jair judged Israel twenty-two years (10:3-5).

Following Jair’s death, Israel turned from the LORD, and “did evil again in the sight of the Lord,” and served many gods; however, they “forsook the LORD” and did not serve Him (10:6). Then the LORD turned Israel over to her enemies, to be chastened by them eighteen years, until they cried out to Him (10:7-10). Humbled, broken, and oppressed by their enemies, Israel confessed, “We have sinned against thee” (10:10).

The LORD answered their cry, and rebuked Israel’s ingratitude, and reminded them of the times He had delivered them out of the hand of their enemies (10:11-12). He admonished Israel, saying, “14Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation” (10:14).

The children of Israel, however, cried out the more, and not only confessed their sins, but surrendered to the LORD to do with them as He pleased (10:15). Israel repented, and destroyed the idols they had worshipped, and set their hearts to serve the LORD (10:16).

Judges 10: 6-16

What a wonderful lesson in repentance we have in today’s devotional! Israel realized it was not enough to confess they had sinned. They knew their fellowship, and covenant with the LORD could not be restored until they put away their idols. Then, in a beautiful act of God’s grace, we read, the LORD “was grieved for the misery of Israel” (10:16). With their sins forgiven, and the covenant restored, Israel was ready to go to war, knowing the LORD was on their side (10:17-18).

Observe the cycle: Sin, leads to Slavery, that leads to Sorrow, and leads back to the LORD for to Salvation.

God takes no pleasure in the sorrows that befall us because of our sin. He is gracious, merciful, and longs to forgive, and restore us.

1 John 1:99If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Gideon: Gone, and Forgotten (Judges 8)

Scripture reading – Judges 8

I invite you to return with me to Judges 7, as we continue our study in the Book of Judges. Gideon had obeyed the LORD’S command, and in return, his army was reduced to three hundred men (7:7). Humanely, the task before Gideon was an impossible one; Israel was about to face an army that numbered one hundred thirty-five thousand men (8:10).

The night before the battle, the LORD came to Gideon and “said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand” (7:9). Knowing Gideon’s heart, the LORD gave him an opportunity to assuage his fear, and invited him to go with his servant, Phurah to the host of Midian, to “hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host” (7:11).

Providentially, Gideon overheard the telling of a soldier’s dream, and the interpretation that predicted how God had “delivered Midian, and all the host” into his hand (7:14). Gideon then worshipped the LORD, and returned to his soldiers, and exhorted them, “Arise; for the Lord hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian” (7:15).

Dividing his army into three companies of one hundred men, Gideon gave each man a trumpet, a pitcher, and a lamp whose light would be concealed within the pitcher (7:16). Under the cover of darkness, Gideon commanded his men to encircle the encampment of the Midianites. He instructed his men, when they heard him blow his trumpet, they were to blow their trumpets, break the pitchers that concealed the light of their lamps, and cry with one voice, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon” (7:20).

The sudden blaring of the trumpets, the shouts of the soldiers, and the piercing lights of their lamps made Israel’s army appear to be a great force. In the confusion, the Midianites turned “every man’s sword against his fellow” (7:22). They fled toward the waters of the Jordan, and Gideon sent messengers to the tribe of Ephraim, whose men pursued them, and slew “two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb…and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side Jordan” (7:25).

Judges 8

What a glorious moment in Israel’s history; however, though the armies of Midian were routed, Gideon would not be satisfied until all the leaders of Midian were slain.

One would think all Israel would have rejoiced with Gideon, but that was not the case. The men of Ephraim came to Gideon, and complained that he should have invited them to the battle against Midian. According to Judges 6:35, he had summoned only the tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali. How shallow, and self-centered was this protest! For seven years, Ephraim had suffered the Midianite invasion, and there is no evidence that tribe had made any effort to stand against their foe. Rather than chiding Gideon out of their wounded pride, they should have shown gratitude for his leadership!

Pursuing a remnant of the Midianite army, Gideon and his men crossed the waters of the Jordan, and entered the territory of the tribe of Gad. Passing by Succoth, Gideon appealed to its men, saying, “Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they be faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian” (8:5). The men of Succoth were of the tribe of Gad, and brethren of Israel; however, they refused to give Gideon’s men bread. He vowed to return after the battle, and warned he would “tear [their] flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers” (8:7).

Gideon went next to Penuel, another city of the tribe of Gad, and they refused his request. Angered by their heartlessness, Gideon vowed he would return, and break down their strong tower (8:9).

God blessed Gideon, and he captured the “two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and discomfited [terrified] all the host” (8:12). Faithful to his oath, he returned to Succoth, and fulfilled his promise, and “took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and with them he taught [punished, disciplined them]” (8:16). Gideon continued to Penuel, and there “he beat down the tower of Penuel, and slew the men of the city” (8:17).

Following his victory over the Midianites, there were some in Israel who would have made Gideon king, and said to him, “Rule thou over us…for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. 23And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you” (8:22-23)

I conclude today’s devotional, on a sad note. Though Gideon was used greatly by the LORD, he was a man who made foolish decisions in the later years of his life. He raised up a memorial to his victory over Midian, overlaid it with gold, and it became an idol to some in Israel, and “a snare unto Gideon, and to his house” (8:27). He took “many wives,” and had seventy sons (8:30). When he “died in a good old age…as soon as Gideon was dead…the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim” (8:32-33).

Gideon’s life serves as a warning to any who desire to build a name, or raise up a monument to themselves. In spite of his heroism, and the adulation of the people, “the children of Israel remembered not the Lord their God…35Neither shewed they kindness to the house of Jerubbaal, namely, Gideon, according to all the goodness which he had shewed unto Israel” (8:34-35).

Gideon, gone, and forgotten! If you want to have a lasting legacy; remember, it is not in what you build, but whom you serve!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Deborah: Prophetess and Judge (Judges 4-5)

Scripture reading – Judges 4-5

A personal note from the author of a Heart of a Shepherd: Passages with difficult, unfamiliar, and hard to pronounce names may be taxing, but I challenge you to persevere, and allow the ancient names of men, and places to serve as a reminder that God has preserved every word for His purposes. The names, though forgotten by man, are not forgotten by the LORD. The geographical locations may be unknown, but are real places, nonetheless, where historical events occurred. Agnostics, and atheists have scoffed at historical events found only in the Scriptures, but archaeological excavations in the past two centuries have unearthed evidences that support the Bible narrative as an accurate rendering of history.

Judges 4 – The Spiritual Cycle Continues: Sin, Servitude, Sorrow, and Salvation

With the death of Ehud, the second judge of Israel (Judges 3:12-30), “the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord” (4:1), continuing the cycle of sin, servitude, sorrow, and salvation. Because Israel had sinned against the LORD, He “sold them [children of Israel] into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor” (4:2). For twenty years, Israel suffered under the military rule of Sisera, captain of Jabin’s army, who commanded nine hundred chariots, not including foot soldiers (4:2-3).

When the LORD heard Israel’s cry, He moved on the heart of “Deborah, a prophetess…[who] judged Israel at that time” (4:4). She “sent and called Barak…and said unto him, Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun?” (4:6).

Deborah prophesied that God had commanded Barak to muster ten thousand soldiers, promising to draw Sisera and his chariots “to the river Kishon,” where they would be defeated by Barak (4:6-7). Barak, however, was a reluctant leader, and he would not rally Israel’s men of war without Deborah’s promise to go with him (4:8). Deborah agreed to Barak’s terms, but she warned he was sacrificing his honor, “for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman” (4:9).

Time and space prevent a thorough commentary on the battle between Barak’s ten thousand men who came out of the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali (4:10), against Sisera’s army of nine hundred chariots (4:13). The LORD was with Israel, and Sisera’s army was thoroughly defeated (4:14-16). When he realized the battle was lost, Sisera fled the battlefield on foot, and sought shelter in the “tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite: for there was peace [a covenant or treaty of peace] between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite [the Kenites were a nomadic people]” (4:17).

“Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle” (4:18).

The events that follow are graphic, and fulfill Deborah’s warning that “the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman” (4:9). Realizing Sisera, and his army were defeated, Jael took advantage of his exhaustion, and while he slept, she took a hammer, and drove a tent stake through his temple, killing him (4:19-21).

Barak, in pursuit of Sisera, came to Jael’s tent, and learned his enemy was dead (4:22). On that day, “God subdued…the king of Canaan…and the hand of the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed…until they had destroyed Jabin, the king of Canaan” (4:23-24).

Judges 5 – A Song of Victory

Israel’s victory over Jabin, and the defeat of his captain Sisera, was celebrated in a song that praised the LORD for avenging Israel, and memorialized how He had heard, and answered the cry of His people (5:1-3).

Deborah’s song recalled Israel’s distresses (5:8-11), and how the people had turned from the LORD to idols. Israel’s enemies had disarmed the people (5:8), and they could not draw water from a well, without fearing archers (5:11). There was no justice found at the gates of the city (where judges held court).

The balance of the song recalls how the LORD stirred Deborah to call upon Barak to rally the men of Israel (5:12-13). Some of the tribes responded to the call to arms (5:14-15a, 18). There were other tribes whose shameless failure was memorialized, for they had failed to go to war with their brethren (5:15b-17, 23).

The song concludes with a testament of praise to Jael, for how she had driven a stake through the temples of Sisera (5:24-26a), and how “she smote off his head” (5:26b). The LORD blessed Israel during Deborah’s rule as judge, “and the land had rest forty years” (5:31).

We have seen a spiritual cycle in Israel: Sin leads to Servitude (slavery), bearing the bitter fruit of Sorrow, until the people call upon the LORD for Salvation. That cycle is seen in the lives of individuals, families, churches, schools, and nations.

When a people, and nation embrace moral depravity, it will inevitably become the servant, and slave of its enemies.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Third Generation: A Tragic Rejection of Spiritual Leadership (Judges 3)

Scripture reading – Judges 3

Today’s Scripture introduces the beginning of a new era in Israel’s history, as the LORD began to raise up judges to rule the nation. Why judges, and not a king? Because the LORD Himself was to be the Sovereign Ruler of His people, and Israel, was bound by covenant to the LORD, and the people were to be ruled by His Law and Commandments.

After Joshua died, and the generation that followed had passed (2:6-10a), Israel turned from the LORD, and “knew not the Lord…[and] did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2:10-11). In His mercy, “the Lord raised up judges, which delivered [the children of Israel] out of the hand of those that spoiled [made spoil, or plundered]them” (2:16); however, when the judge died, the people “corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them” (2:19a).

Judges 3 – The LORD Raised Up Judges

Because Israel had broken covenant with Him, the LORD determined He would not drive out the enemies of His people, and left them in their midst to “prove [test; try] Israel by them” (3:1).

To what end was this testing? It was to test, and prove a generation that did not know the hardships, and trials of war as had their fathers before them. Longing for Israel to turn to Him, and obey His commandments, the LORD did not drive out those enemies with whom His people had compromised (3:2-7).

How far, and how wretched had the third generation become?

They allowed their sons and daughters to intermarry with idolaters, until they “served their gods…and forgat the LORD their God,” and committed whoredom in their groves (3:6-7). Thus, the sins of Israel provoked “the anger of the LORD” (3:8), and “He sold “them into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Chushan-rishathaim eight years” (3:8).

Othniel, the First Judge in Israel (3:9-11)

When the people began to cry to the LORD, He heard their cry, and raised up “Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother” (3:9) who served as Israel’s first judge, and delivered the nation from their enemy (3:10). God blessed Othniel’s rule as judge, and Israel was at peace forty years (3:11).

Ehud, the Second Judge in Israel (3:12-30)

Judges 3:12-30 records a fascinating series of events. “The children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord: and the Lord strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they [Israel] had done evil in the sight of the Lord” (3:12). Israel had strayed far from the law and commandments, and found themselves humbled, and enslaved by an enemy (3:12-13). For eighteen years, “the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab…15But when [they] cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man lefthanded” (3:14-15). (The men of Benjamin were known as an ambidextrous people, and skilled marksmen, Judges 20:16; 1 Chronicles 12:2).

It was Ehud’s skill with his left hand, that gave him an advantage when he plotted, and carried out his attack on Eglon, the king of Moab (3:16-22). Thrusting the dagger into the obese king, the blade went so deep that Ehud left the knife in the king’s intestines, when he fled the palace (3:21-22). Returning to mount Ephraim, Ehud blew the trumpet, and rallied Israel to go to battle against Moab, and they slew “about ten thousand men” (3:27-29).

Shamgar, the Champion of Israel (3:31)

Judges 3 concludes with the heroism of a man named Shamgar (3:31). He is not identified as a judge; however, he is noted for slaying six hundred Philistines “with an ox goad [a sharp metal point on the end of a pole]” (3:31).

An Invitation

You will observe the emerging of a spiritual cycle as you study the Book of Judges. A cycle that was not only true of Israel, but is also true of believers through the ages: Sin leads to Servitude [enslavement], that leads to Sorrow, and moves the hearts of men to turn to the LORD for Salvation (3:11-19).

Sin…Servitude…Sorrow…Salvation: We are, as the songwriter penned, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; Prone to leave the God I love.”

Where are you in that spiritual cycle?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Joshua – Strength and Courage (Joshua 22-23)

Scripture reading – Joshua 22-23

Proving the propensity of humanity is often war, and little peace, Israel’s victories over the nations that had occupied Canaan, and the division of the land among the tribes, was immediately followed by a misunderstanding that brought the nation to the brink of civil war (Joshua 22).

Joshua 22 – A Misunderstanding, and a Threat of Civil War

With the battles over, and the nation secure, Joshua summoned the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half of the tribe of Manasseh (22:1). Those tribes had chosen the land of Gilead, on the east side of the Jordan River (Numbers 32; Deuteronomy 3:12-20) as their inheritance. Their families had remained behind, while their men went to war with their brethren, as they had promised Moses and Joshua (Joshua 1:12-18). With the nation at rest, and the land divided, the warriors of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh were discharged, and allowed to return to their families and lands on the east side of the Jordan (22:1-9).

Acting as the shepherd leader, Joshua challenged the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh to take “diligent [highly disciplined] heed [observe; keep; obey] to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave [abide in His presence] unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul” (22:5).

A Provocation of War (22:10-20)

Crossing the Jordan, the tribes on the east side determined to memorialize their relationship with the LORD and Israel, and built an altar as a testimony to the generations that would follow (22:10).

Misunderstanding the purpose of the altar, some in Israel feared the tribes on the east side had departed from worshipping the God of Israel at His altar in Shiloh, and determined to go “to war against them” (22:11-12). Fortunately, a delegation of leaders that included Phinehas, the son of the high priest, were sent to investigate, and question the purpose of the altar (22:13-14).

Learning the altar was a monument, and meant to serve as a testimony of their relationship with the LORD and Israel, and not as a place of worship (22:21-29), the tribes on the west side accepted the explanation, and made peace with Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh (22:30-34).

Joshua 23 – Joshua, “Old and Stricken in Age”

This chapter is the first of two final assemblies called by Joshua as he recognized his life was numbered, not in years, or months, but in days and hours. We are reminded, Joshua is “waxed old and stricken in age” (23:1).

Summoning the leaders of the nation, Joshua said, “I am old and stricken in age” (23:2). He then reminisced all the LORD had done for Israel, how He had driven the nations out of Canaan, and given them their inheritance as He had promised (23:3-4).

Like the great leader he was, Joshua foresaw the challenges Israel would face in the years after his death. His words herald the passion of every godly leader who longs to see God’s people walk in the ways of the LORD.  He reminded them how the LORD had fought for Israel, and never forsook His people (23:4-10). He challenged them to be “very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left” (23:6). He admonished them to separate themselves from the heathen who continued to live in parts of the land (23:7). He promised, as the LORD had driven out nations greater than Israel, He would bless them and do the same if they would love, and obey His Law and Commandments (23:8-11).

Joshua warned: should the people fail to love the LORD, keep His law, and separate themselves from the heathen and their ways, “the anger of the Lord [would] be kindled against [them],” and they would perish (23:16).

What a tragedy! The LORD longs to bless His people, but His blessings are conditioned upon us loving, and obeying Him.

Joshua 22:55But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the Lord charged you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith