Tag Archives: Morality

Political Correctness is a Moral Cancer (Psalm 12)

Scripture reading – Psalm 12

Make no mistake, “political correctness” is neither new, nor correct.  Psalm 12:1-8 exposes “political correctness” for what it is—a vehicle for attacking Truth and silencing those who believe God’s Word and accept its morality as just and right.

Psalm 12 is titled, “A Psalm of David,” and is the cry of a king who witnessed the retreat of a godly remnant, and in the king’s words, were all but extinct. David lamented:

Psalm 12:1 – “Help [deliver; save; avenge], LORD; for the godly man [saint] ceaseth [come to an end]; for the faithful [true; people of faith; believers] fail [disperse; disappear] from among the children of men.”

The date and setting that inspired Psalm 12 is not given, but the time of Absalom’s insurrection would certainly stir the sentiments we find in this passage. David cried out to the LORD to save the faithful, and avenge those who obey His law and revere Him (12:1).

Psalm 12:2-4 – “They speak [say; declare] vanity [deceit; evil] every one with his neighbor [friend; companion]: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.
3  The LORD shall cut off all flattering
[smooth] lips [language; speech], and the tongue that speaketh [declares; tells] proud [great; magnify] things:
4  Who have said
[declared; tell], With our tongue will we prevail [strengthen; act insolently]; our lips are our own: who is lord [master; sovereign; owner] over us?

Remembering the manipulative ways of Absalom (2 Samuel 15:1-2), and the way he won the heart of the people by self-promotion at the expense of the king’s reputation (2 Samuel 15:3-5), we can identify David’s description of the smooth lips and double-tongued nature of the wicked (12:2).  With a “double heart,” and insolent “flattering lips” the wicked assail the godly, rejecting the authorities in their lives (12:4).

The believers of our day would do well to take a page out of David’s “playbook” and realize the nature of man has not changed!  The wicked are emboldened by their peers (12:2), and should they go unchallenged by the righteous, they will prevail against those in authority (12:4b).

Though the wicked revel in their lies, and boast with their lips, David assured the godly, “The LORD shall cut off all flattering [smooth] lips [language; speech], and the tongue that speaketh [declares; tells] proud [great; magnify]things” (12:3). Believer, take solace in this; The LORD will “cut off,” expose, and take vengeance against those who deny Him and rail against His people.

Psalm 12:5 – “For the oppression [spoil; destruction] of the poor [afflicted; depressed; needy], for the sighing [groaning; cries] of the needy [beggar; destitute], now will I arise [stand up], saith the LORD; I will set [array; appoint] him in safety [salvation; safety; liberty; prosper] from him that puffeth [scoffs; kindles as a fire] at him.”

David reminded his faithful followers that God is patient, longsuffering, and merciful toward sinners. However, He is just, and He will avenge the wicked who oppress the poor and needy. In this instance, the “poor and needy” are not necessarily financially challenged or destitute, but are afflicted and oppressed by the actions of the wicked.

The wicked boast, and oppress others, not understanding that the LORD is longsuffering, and extends liberty to sinners for a season. However, He declares He will rise up against the wicked, and pour out His wrath on those who “puffeth” and scoff at the poor and afflicted (12:5).

Psalm 12:6-7 – “6  The words [speech; commands] of the LORD are pure [clean; fair; no falsehood] words: assilver tried [refined] in a furnace of earth, purified [purged; refined] seven times.
7  Thou shalt keep
[preserve; guard; protect] them [the poor and needy of vs. 5] , O LORD, thou shalt preserve [guard; protect] them from this generation [age] for ever.”

Unlike the speech of the wicked (12:2-4), the words of the LORD (His Laws and Commandments) are pure, like refined silver that has passed through the furnace seven times (12:6).  The words of the wicked are full of vain promises; however, the Word of the LORD is faithful and true from generation to generation (12:7).

Psalm 12:8 – “The wicked [immoral; guilty; criminal] walk [go; behave] on every side [every place], when the vilest [worthless] men are exalted [raised up; high; emboldened].”

You need only read Psalm 12:8 to understand what has become of our world! Citizens of this world have invited the wrath of God by promoting the vilest of men and women to rule over them. God’s people should not be surprised, nor wonder why lawlessness abounds in the 21st century. David states the principle cause for pervasive wickedness: “The wicked [immoral; guilty; criminal] walk [go; behave] on every side [every place], when the vilest [worthless] men are exalted [raised up; high; emboldened]” (12:8).

Closing thoughts – My own country has “exalted…the vilest men,” prompting lawlessness as wickedness runs unchecked in our communities. A spirit of rebellion, promoted as a demand for rights, has seized upon the spiritual vacuum in our youth, while fanning the flames of anarchy in the hearts of our children. When the godly are silent, the wicked are strengthened, and will “walk on every side.” Continue to elect the “vilest men,” and lawlessness will prevail.

In spite of how “badly” things might go in society, God’s people should never forget the LORD’S promises are forever true. King David aptly stated: God’s words are “pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of wrath, purified seven times (12:6). Those who trust in the LORD, He will “keep…and preserve” (12:7).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Blessed Joy of Forgiveness (1 Chronicles 20; Psalm 32)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 20; Psalm 32

Today’s Scripture reading in 1 Chronicles 20 is a brief summary of our preceding study in 2 Samuel 11-12. The historian did not chronicle David’s sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:2-5), nor the king’s foolish attempt to conceal his sin (2 Samuel 11:6-13), eventually staining his hands with the blood of Uriah (2 Samuel 11:14-24; 12:7-12). The chronicler did record the king’s failure to accompany his servants to war and the siege of Rabbah, the Ammonite city (1 Chronicles 20:1).

Today’s devotional will consider Psalm 32. The setting of the psalm is not given; however, it is believed to be about the time of the king’s tragic sin with Bathsheba. Psalm 32 echoes the joy of every believer who has found redemption when he turned from sin, confessed, and found forgiveness.

Two Beatitudes (32:1-2)

Psalm 32:1 – “Blessed [happy; favored] is he whose transgression [sin; trespass] is forgiven [removed; lift; carried away], whose sin is covered [hide; conceal].”

Beatitudes typically begin with the word, “Blessed” (Psalm 1:1; Matthew 5:3-11). Those who are “blessed” are confident in, and the object of God’s grace and mercies. The “blessed” are joyful, and their happiness is independent of favorable circumstances. The truly “blessed” are believers who know the relief, and joy of having their sins forgiven. They have acknowledged their sin (Romans 3:23), but know their transgressions have been covered by the blood of Christ (32:2; Romans 6:23). They can sing with the saints, “Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It!”

Psalm 32:2 – “Blessed [happy; favored] is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth [count; reckon; devise]not iniquity [sin; fault], and in whose spirit [breath; temper; mind] there is no guile [deceit; treachery].

The sins of the “blessed” have been reckoned, and accounted by God as a debt to Him that has been paid in full. The “blessed” are honest, and transparent before the LORD, and the weight of their guilt, and chastening has been removed.

The Agony of Unconfessed Sin (32:3-4)

Psalm 32:3-4 – “When I kept silence [peace; speechless], my bones [body; life] waxed old [spent; wear out; consumed] through my roaring [rumbling; moaning; cries] all the day long. 4  For day and night thy hand [arm; rule] was heavy [made heavy; grievous; burden-some] upon me: my moisture [vitality] is turned [overthrown; changed] into the drought [heat] of summer [harvest]. Selah. [pause; i.e. suspend music]

Psalm 32:3-4 is David’s vain attempt to conceal his sins (32:3-4). He endured the guilt and shame of his sins for a year, until the LORD sent the prophet Nathan to confront him.  He was guilty; guilty of adultery with Bathsheba; guilty of engineering the murder of her husband Uriah, and guilty of deceit in a futile effort to conceal his sins.

He had been silent, and unwilling to confess his sin. His life was consumed with guilt, and his conscience roared against him day and night (32:3).  The heaviness of God’s hand, and the inescapable reality of His justice pressed on the king day and night.  Failing to confess his sin and repent, David felt his strength and vitality drying up like water consumed in the heat of a summer drought (32:4).

Repentance (32:5)

Psalm 32:5 – “I acknowledged [know; perceive; understand] my sin [offence; guilt; punishment] unto thee, and mine iniquity [sin; fault] have I not hid [cover; conceal]. I said [answered; promised], I will confess [make confession] my transgressions [trespass; sin] unto the LORD; and thou forgavest [take away; remove] the iniquity [sin; fault] of my sin [offence; guilt; punishment]. Selah.”

There is a way for the burden and guilt of sin to be lifted; however, it will cost you your pride, but its reward is like fresh water to a thirsty soul (32:5).

There is one solution to sin: honest confession and sincere repentance.  No more excuses; no more blame shifting; David said, I am guilty. He knew his offence. and would no longer conceal it (32:5a). The king confessed his sins… adultery, murder, and deceit! Oh, the joy of God’s response to his confession: “Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” (32:5b).

The Penitent Prayer and the Delight of Forgiveness (32:6-7)

Psalm 32:6-7 – For this shall every one that is godly [saint; pious] pray [i.e. intercede] unto thee in a time [season] when thou mayest be found [found out; present]: surely in the floods [deluge; overflowing] of great [many] waters they shall not come nigh [touch; reach] unto him.
7
Thou art my hiding place [protection; secret; cover]; thou shalt preserve [keep; guard; watch] me from trouble [distress; tribulation]; thou shalt compass [surround; encircle] me about with songs [shout; ringing cry] of deliverance [escape]. Selah. [pause; musical term for suspension]

“Forgiven,” what a wonderful truth!  More than the absolution of guilt; it is the response to one who has acknowledged the guilt of their sin, and a Redeemer that lifts that burden, taking away the sin and the guilt.

An illustration of forgiveness is the “scapegoat” that was sent out of the camp of Israel on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:15-22). The priest would sacrifice a goat, and acknowledge the sins of the nation (Leviticus 16:15-19). After sprinkling the blood of the sacrifice on the altar, the high priest would symbolically place his blood-stained hands on the living goat, and confess the sins of Israel (Leviticus 16:20-22). Sending the “scapegoat” out of the camp was an illustration, a living symbol of God’s promise to forgive the sins of the nation.

David’s Advice (32:9)

Psalm 32:9 – Be ye not as the horse [i.e. which is swift], or as the mule [i.e. a beast of burden], which have no understanding [regard; prudent; discernment]: whose mouth must be held [muzzled; i.e. held in check; lit. to hold in] in with bit and bridle [halter; i.e. device for restraining], lest they come near [approach; draw near; ]unto thee.

David had learned concealing sin carries grave consequences for the sinner, and those he loves. The king urged God’s people to be humble, and obedient before God! Don’t be a “mule-headed,” hard-hearted, irrational believer (32:9).

David’s Admonition: Choose the Path of the Righteous (32:10-11)

Psalm 32:10 – Many [abundant; great many] sorrows [pain; grief; affliction; sufferings] shall be to the wicked [ungodly; guilty; i.e. immoral]: but he that trusteth [confident; secure]  in the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God], mercy [loving-kindness; goodness; steadfast love] shall compass [surround; encircle] him about.

Psalm 32:11 – Be glad [rejoice; be merry] in the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God], and rejoice [be joyful], ye righteous [just; lawful; blameless; innocent]: and shout [cry out; sing; i.e. be overcome]for joy, all ye that are upright [right; just] in heart [mind; understanding].”

Closing thoughts – David described the egregious effects of failing to confess and repent of sins. Are you bearing the weight and consequences of secret sins? I urge you to confess your sins, and God will forgive you, and restore unto you the life of the “blessed.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

How Far Will a Man Fall? (2 Samuel 11-12)

Daily reading assignment: 2 Samuel 11-12

2 Samuel 11 – “And it came to pass, after the year was expired”

“Came to pass” is an apt description of the passing of life. No one knows what a day may bring forth, but each day presents us with an array of choices and consequences that leave their mark on our existence.

Events were about to unfold in David’s life that would inevitably follow him to his grave, and forever cast a shadow over his reign as king. If it were possible, we might strike this tragic moment from David’s life. What sin! What sorrow!

2 Samuel 11 challenges all believers to consciously abide in the presence of the LORD.

We have followed the king from his humble beginnings as a shepherd, and witnessed the surprise of his father and brothers when Samuel anointed him to be the next king of Israel. When he slew Goliath, the Philistine giant, he had become a household name in Israel. His transition from boyhood to manhood, brought a string of victories, as the fugitive of Saul emerged to become Israel’s warrior king, for “the LORD preserved David whithersoever he went” (1 Chronicles 18:13b).

Israel had celebrated David’s victories in 2 Samuel 10; however, 2 Samuel 11 introduced a sad foreboding of tragedy that would befall him. We read, “at the time when kings go forth to battle…David tarried still at Jerusalem” (11:1).

Probably in his fifties, and having served twenty years as Israel’s king, David’s exploits on the battlefield had inspired songs that celebrated his valor (1 Samuel 18:7); however, he was but a man. There are many spiritual lessons we could take from 2 Samuel 11-12, and some should serve as a sobering warning to all believers.

Grave consequences inevitably befall a man who underestimates the sinful bent of his nature (Psalm 51:5).

Disobeying the law (Deuteronomy 17:16-17), David had given rein to the pleasures of the flesh and taken to himself “more concubines and wives” (2 Samuel 5:13). He had foolishly indulged in carnal pleasures, and neglected his duty to the nation.  He was at the pinnacle of his success, and enjoying God’s blessings. Israel was strong and prosperous. However, when his army went to war, David remained behind in the comfort of his palace (11:2). The king’s idleness and lack of accountability became the catalyst for a tragic series of decisions that would forever scar his life, and unravel his reign (2 Samuel 11:3-15).

How far will a “man after God’s own heart” fall?

I will not take the time to outline the obvious in the story of David’s sins recorded-in 2 Samuel 11, but lust, adultery, deceit, guile, and murder are all found here (11:4-17).  Those were the sins that haunted David to his grave.  The consequences of his sins, for himself, his family, servants and Israel were incalculable (11:18-25). Guilt, shame, sorrow, and humiliation shadowed David to his grave. We read:

“The thing that David had done displeased the LORD” (11:27).

David attempted to maintain a facade of routine for nearly a year as he sat on his throne, and conducted the affairs of state.  On the outside, things might have appeared as usual; however, David was conscious of God’s displeasure and later wrote:

Psalm 32:3-4 – “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.  [4] For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.”

2 Samuel 12 – “The LORD sent Nathan unto David” (12:1a).

In God’s timing, He sent a man of courage and integrity to speak to the king. Evidencing both wisdom and caution, the prophet Nathan approached David with a story that contrasted a rich man’s abuse of a poor man (12:1-6). Intrigued by the story and incited to anger, David passed sentence against the rich man, proclaiming, “As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: 6 And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity” (12:5b-6).

Having pronounced sentence, David and his attendants fell silent when Nathan pointed his finger, and raised his voice, boldly confronting the king, saying, “Thou art the man” (12:7).

David’s heart was smitten with conviction; he was indeed the man: adulterer; murderer; hypocrite and a wretched, miserable soul (12:8-12). His heart was convicted, and his proud, hypocritical façade crushed (12:13). David soon realized the sorrow his sin would bring on his family (12:15-17).  The king then prayed,

Psalm 51:3-4For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.  [4] Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

Closing thoughts – I invite you to turn the spotlight of truth on your heart. Realize the danger of idleness, and the tragedy that comes when we trifle with sin and temptation. I challenge you, “Flee also youthful lusts” before it is too late (2 Timothy 2:22)!  Solomon would later warn his son, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper” (Proverbs 28:13a).  When it comes to sin, the question is not “if,” but “when” the consequences of secret sins will befall you. I close with a blessed promise:

Proverbs 28:1313He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Character Traits of the Righteous (Psalm 15)

Scripture reading: Psalm 15

Our preceding devotional considered five characteristics of the “blessed” man’s life (1:1-3). Today’s devotional will observe seven character traits that define the hearts of those whose citizenship is with God (15:1-5). The brackets within the following verses are by the author, and present a broader application of word definitions.

Remembering the psalms were worship songs, and not merely poems, David invites the congregation of Israel to ponder two questions in the opening stanza (15:1).

Psalm 15:11 LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah], who shall abide [dwell] in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell [remain; continue] in thy holy hill?

In essence, the psalmist asks: Lord, what manner of man or woman, desires to “abide in [dwell in] thy tabernacle [i.e. where the Ark of God was located]? David had prepared a new tent (1 Chronicles 16:1) to shelter the Ark as it arrived in Jerusalem, and it remained there throughout his reign. The king expressed in other psalms, his preference to worship the LORD in His sanctuary, over the opulence and comforts of his palace.

“Who shall dwell [abide; remain; continue] in thy holy hill? (15:1b) What manner of man seeks, and longs to abide on Mount Zion, where the Ark was located? (The Ark represented the throne of God, and His presence in the midst of His people.) David answered those questions, and stated seven characteristics of those who sincerely seek, worship, and enjoy the presence, and favor of the LORD.

1) The lives of the righteous are defined by integrity. They are trustworthy, sincere, and morally upright (15:2a).

Psalm 15:22  He that walketh uprightly [blameless; with integrity], and worketh righteousness [lawful; just], and speaketh [declare] the truth in his heart.

2) The righteous speak the truth, for it resides in their hearts and thoughts (15:2b; Ephesians 4:15).

3) Those who abide in the presence of the LORD are neither mean-spirited, or vengeful. Their words and deeds are loving (15:3).

Psalm 15:33  He that backbiteth [gossips; slanders] not with his tongue, nor doeth evil [sin] to his neighbour [friend; companion], nor taketh up [bear; carry] a reproach [contempt] against his neighbour [lit. near; nearest kinsman].

4) The sins of the wicked are loathsome to the righteous, and the godly have no desire for their company (15:4a;Psalm 1:1). The righteous give honor and respect to those who fear the LORD, and walk according to His Law and in the likeness of Christ (15:4b; Philippians 2:2-8).

Psalm 15:44  In whose eyes [sight of the righteous] a vile person [loathsome; reprobate] is contemned [despised; disdained]; but he honoureth [glorify] them that fear [revere] the LORD. He that sweareth [makes an oath] to his own hurt [affliction], and changeth not [.e., does not vacillate].

5) The righteous are promise keepers (15:4c). They keep their word, and honor their vows (and contracts), even at the sacrifice of themselves, and their own interests.

6) The righteous have compassion for the poor, and do not charge them excessive interest they can ill afford (15:5a; Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:35-37).

Psalm 15:55  He that putteth not out [gives] his money [silver] to usury [high interest; i.e. indebtedness], nor taketh [accepts] reward [bribe;a gift] against the innocent [guiltless]. He that doeth [make; perform; do] these things shall never be moved [waver; fall; slide; slip].

7) The righteous are above reproach. They cannot be bribed, nor swayed in their judgments (15:5b; Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19; Proverbs 17:23).

The summary answer to the questions that introduced Psalm 15, (“1Lord, Who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?”), are satisfied in the last phrase of Psalm 15:5.

“He that doeth these things shall never be moved” (15:5c). Those who dwell in the presence of the LORD have integrity, speak truth, hate the sins of the wicked, are not vengeful, keep their promises, have compassion for the less fortunate, and live above reproach. Are those traits true of you?

An Application – Do you have integrity in what you say and do? Do you speak the truth, and never lie? Do you hate the sins of wickedness, and find them loathsome? Are you forgiving? Do you keep your word? Do you make a vow, sign a contract, and commit yourself even at the sacrifice of your own interests? Do you show compassion for those less fortunate than yourself? Are you above the influence of a bribe?

An Invitation – If your answer to any of those questions raises a sense of guilt, and brings conviction: Confess your sins to the LORD, and vow to make right with others where you have failed.

1 John 1:9–109If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Loneliness: No Man Cared for My Soul (Psalm 142)

Scripture reading – Psalm 142

At what time David penned Psalm 142 is uncertain; however, the title of the psalm gives us an occasion: “Maschil of David; A Prayer when he was in the cave.” Our study in 1 Samuel placed David in a cave on two occasions. When he first grasped Saul’s intent to kill him, he sought refuge in the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1), where he was joined by his family. Later, when he retreated to “the wilderness of Engedi” (1 Samuel 24:1), David and six hundred men, hid in a cave overlooking Saul’s encampment (24:2-4). Providentially, it was the same cavern where Saul retreated for privacy (24:2-4).

Before we consider 1 Samuel 25, I invite you to read Psalm 142, for I believe it reflects David’s state of heart when he received the news that the prophet Samuel had died (25:1).

Perhaps it was the loss of that spiritual leader, the man who had anointed him to succeed Saul as king (1 Samuel 13:14, 16:11-13), that moved David to express in Psalm 142:4, 4I looked [beheld; gazed intently] on my right hand, and beheld, But there was no man that would know me [no one took notice]: Refuge failed me; No man cared [sought for; inquired after] for my soul.”

Someone reading today’s devotional might reflect that sentiment, for we are social creatures by nature, and loneliness is a haunt of us all at some point in life. Before God created Eve, He observed in Adam, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Trying circumstances can leave us feeling lonely, and abandoned. Disappointments, failure, sickness, or the death of a loved one intensifies a sense of isolation, and a feeling no one cares.

Where do you turn, when you struggle with thoughts, and feelings of abandonment?

David models the answer to that question, writing: “1I cried unto the Lord with my voice; With my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication. 2I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble” (142:1-2).

David attested, “I cried [out loud]…I [made] my supplication [I asked for His favor, and mercy]. I poured out my complaint [telling the LORD all his anxieties]” (141:1-2), and “I shew before him my trouble” (141:2b). The LORD knew David’s troubles, but it was freeing for him to acknowledge, and state them specifically in his prayer. He confessed, “my spirit was overwhelmed within me,” and admitted he did not see a way forward (141:3a). Though it did not lift the cloud that shadowed him, David took comfort knowing the LORD realized the hard place where he found himself (141:3b).

In his despair, David looked, and hoped there was someone who might come to encourage him (141:4), but he found no man to offer strength, or comfort (141:4). Tragically, he felt there were none who seemed to care, or take notice of his despair (141:4b).

Having exhausted every hope of comfort or rescue, David cried to the LORD, and said, “Thou [the LORD] art my refuge [shelter] and my portion [share] in the land of the living” (142:5). He had come to realize there was no one who could rescue him. No one who could save him from “persecutors” that were stronger than he (142:6).

With boldness of faith, and believing the LORD would hear and answer his prayer, David petitioned, “Bring my soul out of prison” (142:7a), the spiritually gloomy place he found himself. Renewing his trust in God, he promised to use his deliverance as an occasion to praise the LORD’S name, and to declare His goodness to the righteous (142:7).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Reject God’s Law, and Man Will Do That Which Is Right In His Own Eyes” (Judges 21)

Scripture reading – Judges 21

Today’s Scripture marks the conclusion of our study in the Book of Judges. The era known as the “Judges,” began with the death of Joshua (Judges 1), and concluded with the death of Samson (Judges 16). As I mentioned in an earlier commentary, it is my opinion that the events in Judges 17-21, fall chronologically between the death of Joshua, and the appointment of Othniel (Judges 3:9-10), as the first judge in Israel.

Judges 21 concludes the time when judges ruled in Israel, and soon after the love story of Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 1-4), we will see the prophet Samuel step onto the stage of Israel’s history. As Samuel begins ministering in Israel, the tribes will come to demand a king to rule over the nation. Remember, it was God’s will to rule His people as the benevolent King of Israel, and His Law and Commandments serve as their guide. Yet, Samuel will anoint Saul to be king, and following him the LORD will establish the Davidic lineage through whom Jesus Christ will be born the rightful heir to the throne of Israel (Matthew 1:1).

Judges 21 – A Crisis in Israel

Though victorious, the tribes of Israel were broken over the sin and wickedness that had taken hold in the land, and left one of the twelve tribes nearly destroyed (21:2-6). The tribe of Benjamin was decimated by its battle with the children of Israel (Judges 20), and the sin of that tribe had been so dreadful, “the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh [most likely a military outpost], saying, There shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife” (21:1).

Though bound by their oath, the people sought the LORD, wept (21:2), “and said, O Lord God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that there should be to day one tribe lacking in Israel?” (21:3). Israel lamented the devastation of Benjamin’s population, as a judgment for the sins of Gibeah. The thought that one of the twelve tribes would cease to exist, and be cut off forever was surely beyond the demands of the Law. And so the people went up to Bethel, “the house of God,” and they “built there an altar, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings” (21:4).

A Resolution to Seek Wives for the Tribe of Benjamin (21:5-7)

A survey was taken, and the question asked, what tribes in Israel had failed to go up to Mizpeh, and therefore not vowed that their daughters would not marry any man of the tribe of Benjamin? (21:4) Any who had failed to join Israel at Mizpeh, and meet the LORD there, were to be put to death (21:5). It was decided that the virgin daughters of any who had failed to come to Mizpeh would become the wives of the men of Benjamin who had survived the battle, and retreated to “the rock of Rimmon” (20:47-48; 21:5-7).

Attendance was taken, and it was discovered that no man of Jabesh-gilead had come to Mizpeh (21:8-9). Israel then sent “twelve thousand men of the valiantest, and commanded them, saying, Go and smite the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the children” (21:10). All the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead were killed, but “four hundred young virgins [were spared], that had known no man by lying with any male: and they brought them unto the camp to Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan” (21:12).

Messengers carried a word of peace to Benjamin, and the six hundred survivors of the tribe of Benjamin, came to Israel and were given “wives which they had saved alive of the women of Jabesh-gilead: and yet so they sufficed them not [there were six hundred Benjamites, but only four hundred virgins of Jabesh-gilead]” (21:14). The people then contemplated what more could be done to give wives to the men of Benjamin, for they had sworn an oath not to give them their daughters (21:15-18).

Catch a Wife, and Flee (21:19-23)

A decision was made, and an invitation given to the men of Benjamin who did not have a wife, to go up to Shiloh for an annual feast (either the feast of the Tabernacles, or the Passover, 21:19). The Benjamites were instructed to lie in wait in the vineyard, and when the virgin “daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances” (21:20), they were to “catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin” (21:21). Should the virgins’ fathers protest, the leaders of Israel assured the men of Benjamin, they would intercede for them (21:22). And so, Benjamin returned to their territory, claimed their inheritance, and began to rebuild their cities (21:23). With the future of Benjamin assured, the children of Israel returned to their land and families (21:24).

I close with a reminder of what becomes of a nation when men refuse to hear, and heed God’s Law and Commandments:  “Every man [will do] that which [is] right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25b)

Does that statement not describe our day?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Lawlessness Breeds Moral Degeneracy” (Judges 19-20)

Scripture reading – Judges 19-20

A familiar refrain in the latter chapters of the Book of Judges is: “It came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel” (19:1).

Consider the question, “When was there no king [literally, no ruler or judge] in Israel?” The answer gives us a different perspective for the events recorded in today’s Scripture reading. I believe Judges 17-21 falls chronologically between the death of Joshua (Joshua 24:29-33, Judges 1:1-2:15), and the beginning of the era of the judges (Judges 2:16), when “the Spirit of the LORD came upon [Othniel], and he judged Israel” (3:8-10).

A contemporary application: The tragic events that occur in today’s Scripture reading, Judges 19-20, are a reflection of the lawlessness, and moral degeneracy of a society when men reject the Law of the LORD, and His Commandments.

Lesson: When spiritual leaders fail to preach, and teach the Word of God, they not only fail the LORD, they fail their families, community, and nation. Consider with me a time of lawlessness, much like our day, “when there was no king [no judge, no ruler] in Israel” (19:1).

Judges 19 – The Levite, and His Unfaithful Concubine

A man of the priestly tribe of Levi, passed through Mount Ephraim (near the place where the Tabernacle was located), and took to wife “a concubine out of Beth-lehem-judah [Bethlehem of Judah]” (19:1). The woman was most likely a concubine, because she had come to the marriage without a dowry. She would have been considered a lesser wife, and her children would have had no right of inheritance.

Tragically, the Levite’s concubine played the harlot, and left the Levite and returned to her father’s house (19:2). Four months passed, and the Levite and his servant, determined to travel to Bethlehem, and with kind words, endeavor to “bring her again” to his home (19:3). The concubine’s father rejoiced when the Levite came to claim his daughter (19:3). The man pressed upon his son-in-law to accept his invitation to continue in his home, and “he abode with him three days: so they did eat and drink, and lodged there” (19:4).

For four days, the Levite, his concubine, and servant continued with his father-in-law, and on the fifth day, though the father protested, the Levite set out on his journey to Shiloh (where the Tabernacle was located, 19:18). Because the hour was late, the servant pressed the Levite to stay the night near “Jebus” (ancient Jerusalem, 19:10-11). The Levite, however, refused to spend the night in Jerusalem, for it was occupied by Jebusites, and not the children of Israel. Instead, they made their way to Gibeah, a city occupied by the tribe of Benjamin, and arrived in the city as “the sun went down upon them” (19:14).

The Tragedy of Depravity in Gibeah

Contrary to the Law’s injunction to show compassion to the sojourner, no man of Gibeah offered the Levite, and his concubine provision or lodging for the night, and he settled to spend the night in the city street (19:15). An old man, however, whose birthplace was Mount Ephraim, resided in Gibeah, and spied the Levite and his company. The old man offered them lodging for the night (19:16-20), and though the Levite resisted his invitation, he pressed upon him, saying, “lodge not in the street” (19:20).

The old man was entertaining his guests, when “the men of the city, certain sons of Belial [wicked, immoral men], beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him” (19:22).

Like Lot, who found his household beset by the wicked men of Sodom (Genesis 19:4-9), the old man’s endeavor to reason with the sodomites of Gibeah proved futile (19:23). Though he defined their passions as wickedness, and folly (19:23), their immoral desire, and lust would not be assuaged. Following the manner of Lot, and to save the Levite from the violence of the mob, the old man offered his virgin daughter, and the Levite’s concubine to “do with them what seemeth good unto you” (19:24). Even that shameless attempt to pacify the lusts of the sodomites failed, and did not deter them from their debased objective (19:24).

Tragically, choosing to save himself, and his host from the degenerate mob, the Levite thrust his concubine out of the house. The men of Gibeah raped, and “abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go” (19:25), and retreated to their households (19:26).

What a hideous thought, that a man would give his wife to a mob to be abused, while he sheltered in the security of a household! Nevertheless, we read, the Levite “rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold” (19:25).

Can you picture this tragic moment? With a callousness that defies love, the Levite opened the door, not to search for his wife, but to go on his journey (19:27). He knew the violence of the Sodomite culture, and what she would have suffered, and no doubt believed she would be dead. Instead, she had made her way to the threshold of the house; battered, bruised, bleeding, and demeaned, she found the door closed to her cries, and died (19:27).

What manner of man would give his beloved to suffer, and himself be spared? The same who would fail to stoop, and caress her, and say, “Up, and let us be going” (19:28). The abused woman did not stir, and she did not answer. Her life was gone, her soul departed. She had died from the violence of the mob that had made her the object of their lusts. Taking up her lifeless body from the threshold, the Levite placed her upon his donkey, and went to his house (19:28).

Remembering there was no king, judge, or ruler in Israel, the Levite had no place to appeal for justice.

The city of Gibeah, and the tribe of Benjamin had sheltered, and tolerated a great evil in their land, and the Levite determined to appeal to all Israel for justice. He “took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her [body parts] into all the coasts [boundaries, tribes] of Israel” (19:29). The Levite’s deed left Israel shaken, and the children of Israel gathered to weigh the spiritual state of their nation, and what must be done (19:30, 20:1).

Author’s note: In a later devotional, I hope to consider the events that follow in Judges 20, and their application to our own society, and world.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The 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

When Third Generation Leaders Lack Spiritual Fortitude (Judges 1-2)

Scripture reading: Judges 1-2

The Book of Judges begins with a revealing statement indicating a void in leadership left by Joshua’s death. We read, “1Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the Lord, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?” (Judges 1:1)

Though Israel possessed the land, they still faced the presence of enemies in their midst. The LORD answered Israel’s inquiry, not with the name of a man, but with that of a tribe: “2And the Lord said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his [the tribe of Judah’s] hand” (1:2).

In the absence of Joshua, the LORD chose Judah to be the first to wage battle in the post-Joshua era. Why Judah? Judah had the largest population of the twelve tribes, and was the most powerful among them. Judah, Jacob’s fourth born son, was blessed by Jacob (Genesis 49:8-12), and his lineage bored the noble character out of whom would emerge the line of kings, beginning with David, and concluding with the LORD Jesus Christ, the lion of Judah (Matthew 1:1-3).

Judah accepted the challenge, and invited the tribe of Simeon saying, “Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I likewise will go with thee into thy lot.” (1:3). The people of Simeon accepted Judah’s invitation, for their land was encircled by Judah’s territory (Joshua 19:1).

In the midst of victories, a repetition of failures emerges in Judges; failures that would haunt the people as a nation for generations to follow. Though Judah and Simeon fought against the Canaanites and the Perizzites, and God blessed them with victories over their enemies (Judges 1:2-20); regrettably, they fell short of the LORD’S will. The LORD had not failed Judah, but Judah had failed to trust the LORD, and they “could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron” (1:19).

A pattern of failing to obey the command of the LORD, and drive out Israel’s enemies continues throughout Judges 1. The tribe of Benjamin failed (1:21), and Manasseh failed (1:27-28). Ephraim did not “drive out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer” (1:29). Zebulun, failed to “drive out the inhabitants of Kitron” (1:30), and Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of cities in their land (1:32). Naphtali failed (1:33), and “the Amorites forced the children [tribe] of Dan into the mountain” (1:34).

Judges 2 – A Crisis in Third Generation Leadership

Judges 2 begins with an ominous declaration from “an angel of the LORD” (whom I believe to be a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ). Israel’s failure to drive the idol worshiping nations out of Canaan was a breach in their covenant with the LORD. He reminded them of His promise: “I will never break my covenant with you” (2:1). The people, however, had failed to drive the inhabitants out of the land, and destroy their altars (2:2).

God warned, “I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you” (2:3). When they heard what would befall them because of their sins, the people “sacrificed there unto the LORD” (2:5); however, the consequences of their sinful failures followed them.

Notice the narrative in Judges 2 turns briefly to a reflection on the death of Joshua (2:6-10), and his influence on his generation, and the one that followed. We read, “the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that he did for Israel” (2:7). When that generation passed from the scene, a third generation arose, and “did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim” (2:11). That generation “ forsook the Lord God of their fathers…and followed other gods…and provoked the Lord to anger. 13And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth” (2:12-13).

The LORD did not altogether forsake Israel, and He began raising up judges in Israel, to call the people to return to the LORD, His Law, and Commandments (2:16). He would bless the judge of His people, and deliver them “out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge” (2:18). Nevertheless, “when the judge was dead, [the people] returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers…[and] ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way” (2:19).

I close on a personal note: I have witnessed the failings of transitional leadership throughout my lifetime. A nation, organization, corporation, school, and a church are never more vulnerable than in a time of leadership change. Judges 2 proves the nation of Israel was no exception.

Why are third generation ministries so vulnerable? I believe the reason is summed up in an old adage: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Israel’s third generation in the land had not experienced the sacrifices, or the victories of the generations before them. They had grown comfortable, and familiar with the heathen in their midst. Invariably, their parent’s failure to drive the wicked out of the land proved to become a fatal attraction, and invited God’s judgment (2:20-23).

What about you? Have you become so familiar with sacred truths, and the blessings of the LORD, that you have become insensitive to the conviction of His Word?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Life for a Life (Joshua 20-21)

Scripture reading – Joshua 20-21

After the Twelve Tribes of Israel were allotted their lands (Joshua 14-19), the LORD commanded Joshua to speak to the tribes, and require them to appoint “cities of refuge… 3That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be [a] refuge from the avenger of blood” (20:2-3).

The purpose for the cities of refuge has been discussed in earlier devotions, so suffice it to say we are again reminded of the sanctity of all human life (Genesis 9:4-6; Exodus 20:13), and the principle of capital punishment established by the LORD in Genesis 9:5-6. The cities of refuge afforded a safe place for those who had unintentionally taken the life of another (20:3-4). The cities provided a place where a man’s case could be judged by the elders of the city, and his life protected from those who felt compelled to avenge the death of a loved one (20:5).

Joshua 21 – Cities Designated for the Tribe of Levi

Having divided the land among the Twelve Tribes, the priestly tribe of Levi requested the cities they had been promised for their inheritance in the land (Joshua 21:1-3).  Each tribe was to give cities, and their surrounding lands, wherein the Levites would dwell (21:4-42). Forty-eight cities were given to the Levites, and assigned by family (21:41).

Joshua 21 concludes with three affirmations of the LORD (21:43-45): He had given Israel the land He had promised their forefathers (Genesis 12:7; 15:18; Joshua 1:3-4). He had given Israel victory over her enemies (21:44; Deuteronomy 12:9-10). Finally, He had not failed to fulfill “any good thing” of all that He “had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass” (21:45).

 A Lesson Regarding the Sanctity of Human Life, and Capital Punishment

 There are many who naively oppose capital punishment, and argue it is an act of barbarity, and is inhumane. The opposite is true! Because man was created an eternal soul, and in the image of God (Genesis 9:6), his life is sacred in the eyes of God. Willfully taking a human life, a life God deems sacred, demands the ultimate act of justice…the forfeiture of one’s own life (Genesis 9:5-6; Exodus 20:13).

Concerning abortion: The Word of God upholds the sanctity of life in a mother’s womb. Exodus 21:22 gives an example of where two men were fighting, and a mother with child was injured, and the baby was born prematurely. The law demanded, should the mother and her child live, the judgment was there was “no mischief,” and the man who injured the woman would need only pay a fine. However, should the mother or her infant die, the judgment was “give life for life” (21:23).

Imagine God’s judgment upon a 21st century mother, father, or abortionists who daily, and routinely kill the unborn!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith