Tag Archives: Ministry

Setting Boundaries and Finishing the Job (Joshua 12-15)

Daily reading assignment: Joshua 12-15

Joshua 12 – Taking Possession of the Promised Land

Joshua 11 closed with the statement, “And the land rested from war” (11:23). With the conquest of Canaan complete, the next task was to divide the land by tribe.  Joshua 12 gives us a record of the Canaanite kings Israel had defeated on the east side of the Jordan River (12:1-5). This was the land Moses had promised would be the inheritance of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh (12:6).

On the west side of the Jordan under Joshua’s leadership, we find a list of thirty-one kings conquered by Israel and named in order of their defeat beginning with Jericho (12:9-24).

Joshua 13 – Too Old to Go On

The first verse of chapter 13 reminds us that all men and women have their day, but the passing of years inevitably take its toll. We read,

Joshua 13:11  Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the LORD said unto him, Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.

Most likely one hundred years old or more, Joshua was reminded he still had a job to do (13:1). Five Philistine kings are named who had not yet been conquered (13:2-6).

The LORD commanded Joshua to divide the lands among the tribes and direct the tribes to drive out the inhabitants of the land God had given them for an inheritance (13:2-33).  We are reminded that the priestly tribe of Levi was given no inheritance because God promised He would provide for them through the sacrifices of His people (13:14, 33).

Joshua 14 – Caleb: Aged Man with a Burning Passion

Israel had waited over four centuries to claim the land God had promised Abraham for an inheritance. Trusting the division of the land to the providence of God, the tribes were assigned their geographical territories by lot  (Joshua 14:1-5).  Caleb, one of only two faithful spies (Joshua being the other) who believed the LORD had given the land to Israel forty-five years earlier, petitioned Joshua to remember he had been promised a specific inheritance in the land (14:6-9).

What an inspiration Caleb is to all who face the inevitable reality of old age, but can be passionate in their faith.

Though 85 years old, God had preserved his strength, and the fire of a young warrior still burned in his soul (14:10-13).  Caleb declared, “Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day” (14:12)!

Joshua 15 – The sum and boundaries of the Promised Land.

Joshua 15 identifies the boundaries of the Promised Land, as well as the great narrative of Caleb’s conquest of his inheritance (15:13-19). The eighty-five-year-old claimed his land, but only after driving out enemies identified as giants (Numbers 13:28, 33).  We are also reminded that this giant of the faith was also a mortal man. Caleb promised the man who would assist him in battle would win the hand of his daughter in marriage (15:16-20).

Two prominent failures are exposed in today’s scripture reading.

Jealous for the affection of the people He had chosen, and concerned for their sanctification (separation, dedication, and holiness), the LORD had commanded Israel to drive the heathen nations out of the land.

Two examples of Israel’s failures are identified. The first failure revealed that “the children of Israel expelled not the Geshurites, nor the Maachathites”  (Joshua 13:13).  The second failure of the same is stated in Joshua 15:63,  “As for the Jebusites the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out.” Israel’s failure to obey the LORD would one day have grave consequences for the nation.

Ponder Caleb’s inspiring example as we close today’s devotional commentary.

Six times the scriptures state that Caleb “wholly followed the Lord” (Numbers 14:24; 32:12; Deuteronomy 1:36; Joshua 14:8-9, 14). Born a slave in Egypt, he was obedient. He had faith in the LORD when all others fainted. When he was eighty-five years old, not even the passing of years had quenched his desire to claim God’s promise!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Virtual Invitation to Hillsdale’s Sunday Services and Today’s Devotional

You are invited to join Hillsdale’s Virtual Sunday Services at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.
Youth Pastor Justin Jarrett will present a Bible study for teens titled “Finding the Cure for Cabin Fever” at 9:45 AM.

At 10:30 AM, Pastor Smith will be sharing Three Principles for Overcoming Fear and Anxiety in a message titled, “The Sanctuary and Security of the Saints” at 10:30 AM.

Please click on this link to view a video invitation and recording of today’s Devotional Commentary (feel free to share).

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Charge to Joshua and a Challenge to Israel (Deuteronomy 3-4)

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 3-4

Moses rehearsed with Israel the LORD’S faithfulness in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 2-3:17).  He reminded Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh (the tribes that had chosen the land on the east side of the Jordan) of their covenant with the nation to go to war with their brethren (3:18-20).

Yearning for the LORD to grant him a reprieve, Moses prayed he might be permitted an opportunity to enter the Promised Land (3:23-25). The LORD, however, denied Moses his request and commanded him to “speak no more” of it (3:26).  True to God’s nature, in an act of grace Moses was promised an opportunity to see the land (3:27).  Sin had cut short Moses’ leadership and the consequences were a lesson for all Israel to heed (4:21-22).

Joshua, Moses’ successor, must now take up his mantle and lead Israel into the Promised Land. As a final act of leadership before he is taken, the LORD commanded Moses to “charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see” (3:28).

Accepting the LORD’s prohibition on entering the Promised Land, Moses challenged the people to hear and obey the statutes and judgments of the LORD (4:1).  Unlike any other nation, Israel was chosen by the LORD and were custodians of His Laws and Commandments (4:2-20).

All that the LORD had promised, He wished to fulfill; however, the covenant He had established was conditioned on the nation’s heeding and keeping the vows they had made.

Lest the people be disheartened, Moses acknowledged he would not accompany them into their inheritance for, “I must die in this land, I must not go over Jordan” (4:21-22).

Who is Israel’s God? 

He is a “consuming fire, even a jealous God” (4:24). He is merciful, longsuffering, and forgiving (4:29-31). He is man’s Creator and the God of heaven (4:32).  He is God alone, and “there is none else beside Him” (4:35).  He is Sovereign of heaven and earth (4:39). He is just and ready to pour out His blessings on those who obey His law and commandments (4:40).

Moses was aware his days on the earth were ending and he would soon perish. Choosing not to wallow in self-pity, he challenged and encouraged the people to remember the LORD’s providences and claim His promises.

Words and example matter, and some of the most powerful words you will ever speak are parting words.

May your words be Truth and seasoned with grace.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Coronavirus of Ecumenical Compromise: Are You Infected?

Proverbs 22:28“Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.”

Twentieth century philosopher George Santayana observed, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  I fear that truth has befallen many churches, Bible colleges, and institutions in recent years.

Beloved leader and mentor of BJU “Preacher Boys”

I am old enough to remember the reminisces and exhortations of Dr. Gilbert Stenholm, Dr. Richard Rupp, and Dr. Bob Jones Jr.  Those men and many others of their generation (Drs. Bob Jones Sr., Monroe Parker, Wayne Van Gelderen, Sr., Ed Nelson…) had fought ecumenical battles against progressives of their day and warned Bob Jones University “Preacher Boys Classes” in the 1970’s that the day would come when faithful Bible-believing pastors of my generation would have to take our stand.

I have never forgotten the passion of those men when they warned us that a failure to identify men who denied the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith and separate from those who fellowshipped with them would inevitably prove disastrous to our ministries (Romans 16:17).

In those days an oft-cited example of the tragedy of compromise was Evangelist Dr. Billy Graham who practiced, if not spearheaded, evangelical pragmatism by openly embracing various stripes of “Christianity,” including Roman Catholicism and Russian Orthodoxy. Graham’s compromises and the effects of pursuing a lifetime of theological inclusivism were undeniable when he stated in an interview with his friend Robert Schuller,

“I think that everybody that loves or knows Christ, whether they are conscious of it or not, they are members of the body of Christ … [God] is calling people out of the world for his name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they have been called by God. They may not know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something they do not have, and they turn to the only light they have, and I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in heaven.” (Cited in Iain MurrayEvangelicalism Divided (2000), pp. 73–74)

A half-century has passed since those men waged war for the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.  Although in the latter years of their ministries when I sat under them, their passion had not abated. They were determined to pass on to the next generation not only a knowledge of the past, but a warning against compromise and cooperation with evangelicals.

I graduated Bob Jones University knowing collaboration with those who reject the fundamentals of the Christian faith or trifle with the doctrine of sanctification and personal holiness would eventually introduce a cancer that would destroy ministries, churches, Bible colleges, and mission boards.

Sadly, I have lived to witness the failures of venerable Bible-preaching churches, closures of Bible colleges, and compromises of Christian institutions led by men either ignorant of the lessons of the past or dismissive of the spiritual heritage of the fundamental institutions.

The result of leadership that either lacks spiritual discernment or is contemptuous of the past is the same: those fundamental Bible institutions either close their doors or become a shadow of what they were in their golden years.

Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., Evangelist and founder of Bob Jones University.

Whether in word or practice, when spiritual leaders compromise, distance themselves from, or deny the spiritual legacy of the institutions they lead, they inevitably forget God’s providences past, and, in the words of Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.,

“Sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

* The majority of readers who follow “Heart of A Shepherd” do so for the daily devotionals. It is my joy to have hundreds across the globe who are part of my faith journey. In addition to devotionals, I periodically post articles that I pray will move my peers “on the frontlines” of fundamental Bible ministries to sincerely evaluate their course and convictions. Today’s article is such an appeal.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Changing of the Guard (Numbers 26-27)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 26-27 

Numbers 26 records a census of males in Israel, twenty years and older.  The census count will be the basis of assigning each tribe their geographical territory in the Promised Land (Numbers 26:52-56).

The Twelve Tribes of Israel are named, and the number of the young men age twenty years and older was 601,730 (note – 26:51). Not counted in the general census was Levi, the thirteenth tribe that was to serve the LORD and Israel as priests (26:52-62).

The closing verses of Numbers 26 remind us only two men of all those who were twenty years and older when they left Egypt would enter the Promised Land, Caleb and Joshua (26:63-65).

A changing of the guard and the end of an era is recorded in Numbers 27.

The LORD commands Moses, “Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel. 13 And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered” (27:12-13).

Moses accepted the LORD’S command and the consequences of his sin with humility.  Thinking not of himself but of the people he loved, Moses requested of the Lord, “set a man over the congregation” (27:16).

Moses wanted a man of God’s choosing, a man with a shepherd’s heart, “that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd” (27:17). God chose “Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit” (27:18).   Leaving no uncertainty that Joshua was God’s man (27:18), Moses confirmed him before “all the congregation” (27:19) and challenged the people to honor him and “be obedient” (27:20).

Convincing “Eleazar the priest and all the congregation” that God had chosen Joshua, Moses “laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the LORD commanded” (27:23).

I close, with this reminder: “The greatest of men, are men at best.”

Moses would not be allowed to lead God’s people into their inheritance (27:13). His death shy of the Promised Land was a consequence of his sin, and the LORD reminded him, “Ye rebelled against my commandment” (27:14).

Lesson: Death is inevitable, and wise men and women plan for it.

James writes of life, “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14).

The author of Hebrews warns, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Are you ready?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Familiarity with Sin Breeds Contempt for God (Numbers 23-25)

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 23-25

Our Scripture reading in the Book of Numbers continues the spiritual joust between Balak, the king of Moab, and Balaam the reluctant prophet (Numbers 23-24).

Arriving in the mountain range overlooking the encampment of Israel, Balaam was met by an anxious king who chided the prophet for not coming at his bidding (22:36-37).  Balak, king of Moab, asked the prophet, “Wherefore camest thou not unto me? Am I not able indeed to promote thee to honour?” (22:37).

Numbers 23 and 24 record a contest between a king who demands Balaam curse Israel and the LORD who was determined to bless His people. Four times Balak demands Balaam curse Israel (22:41; 23:1-2, 7, 13-14, 25, 24:10-11); four times Balaam obeyed the LORD and blessed the nation (23:8-12, 18-24; 24:1-9, 15-25).

Tragedy: Israel Plays the Whore with the World (Numbers 25)

The opening verses of Numbers 25 come as a shock after the three prior chapters where the LORD exhibited His protection and loving care of Israel (Numbers 22-24). We read,

Numbers 25:11  And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.

Shittim was the staging ground for Israel before that nation crossed the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land.  Consider three spiritual lessons on display in Numbers 25.

The first is a tragic lesson concerning the Lure of Sin, in particular, sexual immorality.

Provoking the LORD to wrath, some men in Israel had committed sexual immorality with heathen neighbors (25:1). Having become familiar with the sinful ways of the heathen, some had cast aside all moral restraint. Whoredom, offering sacrifices to idols, eating meat offered to idols, and worshipping Baal, the Canaanite god of fertility represented as a bull, displayed the complete moral degradation of the people (25:1-3).

The apostle Paul warned New Testament believers of the lure of sin, writing: Be not deceived [seduced; led astray]: evil [worthless; wicked; immoral] communications [companions; company] corrupt [defile] good [kind; gracious] manners [morals; character] (1 Corinthians 15:33).

A second lesson is the tragic Consequence of Sin (25:3b-5). 

The sins of the people were so egregious the LORD demanded swift justice (25:3b-4).  Rather than punish the nation, the LORD demanded His judgment fall upon the leaders, described as “the heads of the people.” These men were either party to the wickedness or had knowledge of the sins and failed to address it in the midst.  The leaders were hanged in the sun as a warning to the nation (25:4-5).

A third lesson is the swift justice required when a faithful minister witnesses a man’s contempt for the LORD, His commandments, and the LORD’S congregation (25:6-18).

One sin led to another until one man, a prominent prince of the tribe of Simeon (25:14), openly sinned “in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel” (25:6).

Phinehas, the son of the priest Eleazar and grandson of Aaron the late high priest, rose up and slew the man and the Midianite woman (25:7-8).  Commended by the LORD for his zeal and swift action to stay God’s judgment, Phinehas was promised he and his family would be benefactors of the LORD’s blessings (25:10-13).

Nevertheless, twenty-four thousand “died in the plague” (25:9).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Look and Live…And a Little Hee-Hawing! (Numbers 21-22)

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 21-22

Forty years after Israel departed Egypt, the nation is nearing the culmination of her 40-year sojourn in the wilderness. The generation that departed Egypt, but refused to trust the LORD to enter Canaan, has perished.  Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ sister and brother, are dead (20:1, 28). I wonder what loneliness Moses have borne?

Forty years of trials and hardships has prepared the people for the battles that lie before them. 

Numbers 21 opens with a victorious battle against a Canaanite king. These were the people before whom Israel had fled forty years prior (Numbers 21:1-3; 14:44-45). Soon after, in spite of their victory, the people fell to murmuring against the LORD and Moses (21:4-5).

Responding to the accusations that He and Moses had led them out of Egypt to die, the LORD sent “fiery [poisonous] serpents” among the congregation (21:6). Chastened by the LORD, the people confessed their sin and asked Moses to pray the LORD would “take away the serpents from us” (20:7).

The LORD answered Moses’ prayer by providing a way of salvation, a serpent of brass he was instructed to make and suspend above the people (21:8).  The LORD promised that when the people looked upon the brass serpent they would live (21:9). It was that symbol, the brass serpent, Jesus mentioned when He foretold His own sacrificial death on the cross.  Jesus prophesied:

John 3:14-16 – “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: [15] That whosoever believeth in Him [Jesus Christ] should not perish, but have eternal life.  [16] For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

As the brass serpent suspended on a pole was the object God provided for Israel to be saved, Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross is the LORD’S provision for our salvation and deliverance from the curse of sin.

We find Israel within months of entering the Promised Land, the land God promised Abraham would be an inheritance for his lineage (Genesis 12). Knowing the adversaries they would face when they cross the Jordan River, it was necessary that Israel conquer and destroy her enemies on the east side of the Jordan River less they fall victim.

War and More Wars (Numbers 21:12-22:41)

Ancient enemy states, whose ruins modern archaeology have identified, are named here: the Amorites, Moabites (21:13-23), and Ammonites (21:24).

Balak, a king of the Moabites (22:1), is renowned for his desperate attempt to have Balaam, a heathen prophet, intercede for him against Israel (22:2-6).  After refusing the king’s petitions, Balaam yielded to take his journey with representatives of the Moabite king after God directed him to go with the men (22:20-21).

Insuring the prophet would obey Him, the LORD sent an angel to stand in the path of Balaam (22:22). An argument ensued that is a favorite of children and one of the most unusual conversations in the Scriptures…an exchange between a man and his donkey! (22:23-35)

Terrified by the appearance of an angel bearing a sword, the donkey rushed out of the way as Balaam desperately attempted to guide him. Seeing the angel, the donkey fell down and refused to move in spite of Balaam’s abuses (22:27).

Miraculously, the LORD gave the donkey the ability to speak, and Balaam, seemingly without thought, found himself in a heated conversation with his donkey until the “LORD opened the eyes of Balaam” (22:28-31). Complying to the angel’s bidding, Balaam continued his journey to Balak, king of Moab (22:34-35).

I close today’s devotional with the stage set for a dramatic confrontation between a heathen king (22:36-41), a wayward prophet, and the LORD, the King of Heaven!

To be continued…

Copyright  2020 – Travis D. Smith