Tag Archives: Morality

The Trouble with Settling for Second Best (Genesis 19-21)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 19-21

Genesis 19 opens with two angels arriving at the gates of the city of Sodom.  Appearing in the physical form of men, the angels entered Sodom and were greeted by Lot whom they found sitting “in the gate” (the place where city leaders transacted business and made judgments in disputes).  Realizing the men were not citizens of Sodom, Lot urged them to find refuge for the night in his home (19:2-3).

As the darkness of night settled on the city, the wickedness and depravity of Sodom emerged when the Sodomites (i.e. homosexuals) of the city encircled Lot’s home demanding he turn his visitors out into the street to be sexually assaulted (19:4-6).  Describing their lusts as wicked (19:7), Lot pled with the men of Sodom, offering to sacrifice his own daughters to their lusts (19:8-9) to protect his guests.

Striking the wicked men of Sodom with blindness, the angels saved Lot  from their violent attack (19:10-11). Displaying God’s grace, the angels urged Lot to flee the city with his family, warning him the LORD would destroy the city for its wickedness (19:12-13).  Sadly, Lot’s married sons and daughters refused his plea to flee the city (19:14).  Warned to not look back, only Lot, his wife, and two daughters fled the city (19:15-23).  Adding to his sorrow, Lot’s wife looked back and “became a pillar of salt” as God rained fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah (19:24-29).

One would hope Lot’s drifting from the LORD would end with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; however, he became drunk with wine and his daughters committed incest with him (19:30-36).  The eldest daughter conceiving a son she named Moab, the father of the Moabites (19:37).  The youngest daughter conceiving a son she named Ammon, the father of the Ammonites.  Both nations, the Moabites and Ammonites, would become a curse and perpetual trouble for the nation of Israel.

With the ash and salt from God’s judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah settling on the land, Abraham makes a fateful decision to journey from the land God had promised and traveled south to Gerar and the land ruled by the heathen king Abimelech (20:1-2).

Although ninety years old, Sarah is described as a beautiful, desirable woman and Abraham foolishly demanded she again conceal her identity and say she was his sister (20:2).  Once again putting at risk God’s covenant promise that Sarah would bear him a son, the LORD intervened and warned Abimelech in a dream (20:3) that should he would be a dead man should he violate Sarah (20:3-8).  Rising early, Abimelech confronted Abraham and sent him and his household out of his kingdom (20:9-13).

Continuing our study of the life of Abraham, we come to the conception and birth of Isaac, the long-awaited son fulfilling God’s covenant promise, “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee” (Genesis 12:2).  Abraham had received and believed God’s promise of a son when he was seventy-five years old (Genesis 12:4); however, 25 years passed before he saw that promise fulfilled (21:5).

Hagar, the Egyptian mother of Ishmael, greeted the celebration of Isaac’s birth with jealousy and animosity, knowing her son would not be Abraham’s heir (21:9).  In spite of her having initiated the faithless act of Abraham having a son with her handmaid, Sarah demanded that Hagar and her son be dismissed from their home (21:10).

We have seen in our study of the life of Abraham how he often allowed circumstances and doubt to shadow his confidence in God’s promises. In spite of his faithlessness, God renewed his promise that Sarah would bear him a son in her old age, she being 90 and he nearly 100 years old (17:15-19).

Understanding the weight of his transgressions was also borne by his family, Abraham was comforted by God’s promise to bless Ishmael (21:12-13) though he and his mother must be driven from his home (21:14-21).

A tragic reminder as I close today’s devotion is God’s promise that the effects of a father’s sins will fall “upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate” Him (Exodus 20:5).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Consequences of Faithlessness (Genesis 16-18)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 16-18

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

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

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

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

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

God renewed His covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17 and ten years later when he was nearly one hundred years old, God announced the impossible: His ninety year old Sarah “shall be a mother of nations” (17:15-17).  Abraham laughed, saying in his heart, “Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?” (17:17)

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God is Faithful, His Promises Are Sure (Genesis 12-15)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 12-15

Genesis 11 closed with Abraham (Abram) departing from “Ur of the Chaldees” (located in the vicinity of what would become Babylon) with his father Terah (Genesis 11:27-32). Journeying north from Ur, Abram stopped in Haran where he remained until his father’s death (11:32).

Genesis 12 is one of the great pivotal crossroads in history and God’s plan of redemption.

The LORD commanded Abram, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (12:1).  The LORD set a covenant of seven promises He would fulfill in and through Abram’s lineage (Genesis 12:2-3) if he obeyed.

Although he was elderly (“seventy-five years old” – 12:4) and childless, Abram believed God’s promises and obeyed; departing from Haran, he traveled to Canaan.  Arriving at Bethel, he built an altar and there he worshipped the Lord (12:7-8).

Soon after Abram faced a crisis of faith when we read, “there was a famine in the land” (12:10). Abandoning the land and his faith in the LORD to provide and keep His promises, Abram journeyed to Egypt; a decision that put in jeopardy God’s covenant promise of a son (12:10-13).

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, was a beautiful woman.  Fearing for his own life, Abram requested she to tell others she was his sister (12:11-13).  Sarai’s beauty was soon noticed and Pharaoh took her into his harem putting into jeopardy God’s covenant promise of an heir she was to bear to Abram. The LORD mercifully intervened and sent a plague of judgment on Pharaoh’s household and revealed to the ruler he had been deceived by Abram (12:17-20). Sarah was spared and Abram led his household out of Egypt and back to Canaan.

The vastness of their wealth and possessions soon provoked a conflict between Abram’s servants and those of his nephew Lot (13:1-7).  To avoid strife, Abram suggested they divide their households and possessions, graciously offering to Lot the first choice of the land (13:8-9).  Rather than defer to his elder, Lot revealed the covetousness of his heart and chose the best part of the land that included the cities in the plain; among them the wicked city of Sodom (13:10-13).  Lot departed and God again renewed His covenant promises with Abraham (13:14-18).

Genesis 14 gives us a history of the nations that inhabited the land of Israel in ancient times; in the midst we read, “the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled…And they took Lot…and his goods” (14:10-12).  Abram had become rich and powerful; arming 318 servants (14:14) he led a mission that saved Lot, his household, and the citizens and material possessions of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (14:15-16).

Genesis 15 begins a narrative regarding Abram’s longing for a son and heir.  The LORD assured Abram he would have an heir, a son born to his wife Sarai (15:2-4) and his lineage would be as great in number as the stars in the heavens (15:5). In spite of their age, Abram “believed the LORD; and He (the LORD) counted it to him [Abram] for righteousness” (15:6).

God also revealed to Abraham that his heirs would be “strangers”, foreigners, in another country for 400 years (15:13); however, when the 400 years were fulfilled, they would return to Canaan with great possessions (a prophecy fulfilled when the Twelve Tribes of Israel departed Egypt after 400 years of servitude – Exodus 12-14).  Genesis 15 sets the boundaries of the land the LORD promised to give Abram and his heirs (15:18-21).

I close today’s devotional commentary with this promise:

God assured Abraham he had no cause to fear, for the LORD was his “Shield”…his protector and defender (15:1). 

Friend, you may be at a time in your life that is a place of “spiritual famine.”  You are tempted to resign to fear or plan and plot your own course…Don’t abandon your faith.

Trust God to be your “Shield”, your protector and Savior.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Adultery is to a Marriage What Fire is to a Home” (Job 31)

Job 31 is the conclusion of Job’s defense against the accusations of his “friends” that his sufferings must be the consequence of unconfessed sin.

The opening verse of Job 31 is one every man should vow in his soul before God:

I made a covenant [a binding agreement] with mine eyes [i.e. within his soul]; why then should I think [consider; inquire] upon a maid [a virgin; an unmarried woman]?” (Job 31:1)

What a powerful vow for 21st century believers to embrace…purity in heart, thoughts and emotions! Pornography over the internet via computers, tablets, and phones is destroying the innocence of our youth and the pervasive nature of that sin has become a cancer to marriages and families. It is not an exaggeration to conclude…

Marital infidelity is epidemic in the 21st century church.  

Some might protest that pornography is not as “bad” as adultery; however, our Lord taught in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5:27-28 – “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: [Exodus 20:14 – 7th Commandment] 28  But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

Adultery was not to be tolerated among God’s people and under Old Testament Law was punishable by death: “the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 20:10).

Adultery destroys a man’s reputation, scars his life, and brings reproach he will carry to his grave.

Proverbs 6:32-33 – “But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding [without moral principle]: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul [life]. 33 A wound and dishonour [disgrace] shall he get; and his reproach [shame] shall not be wiped away.”

Asserting his innocence and marital fidelity, Job declared, let him suffer the consequences of his sin if he had lusted after another man’s wife (Job 31:9-12)!

Job 31:12 – “For it [adultery] is a fire that consumeth [eats; devours; burns up] to destruction, and would root out [pluck up; uproot] all mine increase [good; income].”

Too many learn too late the truth Job declares in verse 12—

Adultery is like a consuming fire and divorce will rob you of the fruits of your labor.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: None are Too Great to Fail (Genesis 8-11)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 8-11

The historical account of the universal flood began in Genesis 6 where we read, “5 the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man…” (Genesis 6:5, 7).

Credit:The Illustration Art Gallery

Noah and his family escaped God’s judgment for he “found grace [divine favor] in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:8) and “was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).

Noah was a man of faith; just, righteous, walking according to God’s Law, not yet written, but passed down from generation to generation. Unlike any other of his day, Noah believed and “walked with God.”

Because he was a man of faith, God extended His grace and favor to Noah, sparing him and his family from the greatest cataclysmic event to ever come upon the earth.  For forty days and nights it rained upon the earth (7:12,17) and, when the rains were stopped, the waters covered the earth another 150 days.

“God remembered Noah…” (Genesis 8:1)

Noah’s family remained in the Ark a total of 370 days (Genesis 8:14-16).  Disembarking from the vessel, Noah’s first act as the father and priest of his household was to offer sacrifices (Genesis 8:20-21a), acknowledging God’s salvation, mercy and grace for sparing him and his household.  Accepting Noah’s sacrifice, God set a rainbow in the sky as a symbol of His covenant with man to never again destroy the earth with universal floodwaters (Genesis 9:11-13).

The best of men are sinners at best.

Noah planted a vineyard (Genesis 9:20), made juice, and contented himself with the fruit of his labor.  Inevitably, the juice fermented and Noah, failing to realize his drunken condition, left himself naked and exposed.  In such a state we read, Ham saw [i.e. with a mocking, scornful gaze] the nakedness of his father” (Genesis 9:22).  Awakening from his drunken stupor, Noah learned of Ham’s scorn and prophesied his lineage would be “a servant of servants…unto his brethren” [the descendants of Shen and Japheth] (Genesis 9:26-27).

Lesson: A man’s weakness is often exposed in the aftermath of his greatest success.

Before the flood, Noah had been a faithful preacher to a dying world and a godly testimony to his family.  After the flood, he allowed himself a liberty that proved tragic.

We might conjecture, in an effort to explain the failure of this noble man, that Noah’s physical strength was failing. He must have reflected on the world that was lost and, with no mention of his wife, perhaps the loneliness of his last days. Whatever the excuse, Noah’s life was marred by one failure and the sorrow of a son who held him in contempt.

Let us all be reminded that the greatest of men are not above temptation. (Genesis 9:21)

1 Corinthians 10:12 – Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. 

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Whatsoever a Man Soweth, That Shall He Also Reap” (Numbers 25-26; Galatians 6:7)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 25-26, Psalm 52, and Luke 8. Our devotional is from Numbers 25-26.

Today’s reading assignment (Numbers 25-26) sets the stage for the beginning of the end of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness.  

Reminding us “evil communications (companions) corrupt good manners (morals)” (1 Corinthians 15:33), Numbers 25 opens with a tragic decision made by some in Israel.  We read, “the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab” (25:1).  The influence of the Moabite women did not stop with the lust of the flesh, for we read in the next verse they invited the men of Israel to share in sacrificing, eating, and bowing down to their gods (25:2).

Consider three spiritual lessons from today’s Bible reading.

The first, familiarity with the ways of the wicked leads inevitably to the Temptation of Sin.  Having cast aside all moral restraint (Numbers 25:1-3), the people provoked the LORD to wrath, worshipping Baalpeor, the Canaanite god of fertility represented as a bull (25:3).

A second lesson is the Tragic Consequences of Sin (25:3b-5, 9).  The sins of the people were so egregious they provoked the LORD to anger and He demanded justice (25:3b-4).   Placing the responsibility for the sins upon the “heads of the people” (25:4), the LORD demanded they be slain and their bodies hanged in the sun as a warning to the nation (25:5).

One sin led to another until one man was so brazen in his sin he “brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel” (Numbers 25:6, 14-15).  Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, and grandson of the late high priest Aaron, was so moved with godly zeal, he rose up and slew the man and the woman, and the LORD stopped the plague leaving 24,000 dead in Israel. (25:10-13).

Numbers 26 opens with a reminder of the plague that had taken 24,000 lives (26:1; 25:9) and closes with a review of an entire generation that perished in the wilderness, save two men, Caleb and Joshua (26:65).

The LORD commanded Moses and Eleazar to take a second census of the males, 20 years and older, by tribe and household, before they crossed the Jordan River.  The census served two purposes: The first, to number men by tribe who were old enough to go to war (25:2).  The second, to use the count of each tribe as the basis for assigning geographical territory in the Promise Land (Numbers 26:52-56).  With the exception of the tribe of Levi, twelve tribes of Israel are named and include a total of 57 families (26:5-50).

The priestly tribe of Levi and its households is also named and numbered (26:57-62).  Unlike the other tribes that will be assigned lands, the Levites were assigned forty-eight cities in the Promise Land (Numbers 35:1-8).

A third lesson from today’s Bible reading is, the LORD is faithful to His Word and promises.

“The LORD had said…They shall surely die in the wilderness” (14:29; 25:65a).  Murmuring, faithlessness, and a love for the sins and idols of Egypt had dominated the affections of the first generation and all had died with the exception of two men, Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 26:65).  I close with a timeless truth:

Galatians 6:7 – 7  Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

“Thou art the man!” (Psalm 51; 2 Samuel 12:7-13)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 21-22 and Psalm 51. Our devotional is from Psalm 51.

Psalm 51 is a prayer of brokenness, confession, repentance, and a plea for restoration.

Written after the prophet Nathan’s dramatic confrontation with king David (2 Samuel 12:7-13), Psalm 51 introduces us to a man brought low by sin. David’s adultery with Bathsheba, her conception of his illegitimate son, and his failed attempt to conceal his sin had led to the murder of her husband Uriah the Hittite on the battlefield.  David’s hush-hush sins were secret no more and the king’s disgrace was exposed in his court.

Many a great man and woman have found themselves in the unenviable position we find king David…at the pinnacle of success and power and unaccountable to any who might mercifully and lovingly warn, “Thou art the man!”  (2 Samuel 12:7).

Late 19th century British historian Lord Acton made the observation, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”   Such is true, not only of monarchs, politicians, business leaders, teachers, and pastors; but also, men and women who, in their own little fiefdoms have roles that go unchecked.

One should ponder how David falls from the innocence of a boy tending sheep in his teens, a national hero in his young-adult years (1 Samuel 18:7; 21:11), crowned king by age 30, but at 50 years of age descends to become an adulterer and murderer.

Be forewarned: Given the right provocation, the potential of such egregious sins lies within us all.   David acknowledged the nature and bent of sin within us when he writes, “I was shapen in inquity: and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).  Indeed, the inclination for sin is within the heart of all, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).

Even more disconcerting, while in the throes of sin David continued to act as judge in other men’s matters while tolerating the curse and burden of his own sins.  One wonders how long David might have continued his charade if God had not commanded his prophet to confront the king.  Remembering oriental monarchs like David held absolute authority and the power of life and death rested with them, we appreciate the tenuous position Nathan found himself.

The words, “Thou art the man!”(2 Samuel 12:7) echoed in the king’s judgment hall and resonated in David’s heart who cried out to the Lord, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness… 2  Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3  For I acknowledge my transgressions…4  Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done thisevil in thy sight…”(Psalm 51:1-4a).

David prayed, “10Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me… 12  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (Psalm 51:10, 12a).

I find three failures in David’s life that are the haunt of men and women. 

The first, David entertained unbridled passions that inevitably led to a neglect of his duties and responsibilities as husband, father and king. The second, David’s role as king had insulated him from accountability.  His moral failure occurred when he was alone.  Finally, until confronted by Nathan, David was too proud to confess his sins and humbly accept the consequences (2 Samuel 11:6-22).

Friend, if you are concealing sin, be forewarned: You are living on borrowed time before the consequences catch up with you and your loved ones (Galatians 6:8; Psalm 32:3-4).

I invite you to humble yourself before God knowing He has promised, “whoso confesseth and forsaketh [his sins] shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith