Tag Archives: Morality

“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

Two Paths: The Path of Blessing, and the Path of Punishment (Deuteronomy 29-30)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 29-30

Moses had declared God’s covenant with Israel, and restated the Laws and Commandments the people were to obey in the new land (Deuteronomy 5-28). His second oration completed; he called upon Israel to renew the covenant (29:1-2) they had entered into at Mt Horeb forty years prior (Exodus 24). Moses reminded the people of all the LORD had done for them in Egypt. He conceded how they had been blind to the ways of the LORD (29:4), and reminded them how He had lovingly sustained them in the wilderness (29:5-6).

Moses then summoned the people to gather, and challenged the nation to keep the words of the covenant. From the captains of the tribes, their elders, and officers, to the women, children, and lowly servants; all were called upon to “enter into the covenant with the LORD” (29:10-12).

Exhorting the people to obey the commandments, Moses admonished, should they break God’s covenant, and turn to idols, the nation would be punished with plagues, sicknesses, and the ground would be cursed (29:16-29). He warned the judgment of the LORD would leave the land like the “overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah” (29:23). He prophesied how the nations would look upon the desolation of Israel with amazement, and would ask, “Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?” (29:24). Men would answer, “Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt” (29:25).

Though the LORD promised to punish Israel for her disobedience, He also promised to be gracious, merciful, and forgiving if the people would repent of their sins, and turn back to Him (30:1-7). Should the people repent, God would renew His covenant with them, and He would “make [them] plenteous in every work of thine hand…for the Lord will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers” (30:9).

Summoning heaven and earth to be his witness, Moses warned: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (30:19).

I close, being reminded that everyone faces the dilemma of a choice between two paths in life. The way of faith, and righteousness, is the path of blessing, and eternal life; the way of sin, inevitably ends in death, and hell.

What path have you taken?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Curse of a Dying Nation: Feminine Men, and Rebellious Women (Deuteronomy 28)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 28

The sum of today’s Scripture reading is essentially two words: Blessings and Cursings. Deuteronomy 27concluded with the people affirming their understanding of God’s Covenant, and agreeing to both its blessings and penalties (27:15-26). Deuteronomy 28 continues the same proclamation, detailing the LORD’S promise of His blessings if the people would obey His Laws and Commandments (28:1-14), and curses should they disobey (28:15-68).

The Rewards and Blessings of Faithfulness (28:1-14)

The promise of blessings was conditional, and would be fulfilled, but only if the people would “observe and to do all His commandments.” If the people would “hearken…observe…and do all His commandments,” the LORD promised He would “set [Israel] on high above all nations of the earth” (28:1). All would be blessed, both city and field (28:3), and would be fruitful and increase. Children would be born; cattle would calve, and the flocks of sheep would increase. The fields would give forth a great harvest (28:4-6).

Israel’s enemies would fall before them, and be scattered (28:7). Her storehouses, and treasuries would overflow (28:8-14).  The LORD promised He would open the treasury of heaven, send rain upon the land, and the nations of the world would become debtors to Israel (28:12). All this was promised, if Israel obeyed the LORD’s Law, and His Commandments (28:13-14).

The Penalties of God’s Judgment for Disobedience (28:15-68)

The balance of Deuteronomy 28 predicts the punishments that would befall Israel as a nation, should the people turn from the LORD, and disobey His Law, and Commandments (28:15-68). In the same way the LORD promised to bless the nation if the people obeyed Him, the opposite was true should they disobey Him. The curses are far too extensive for me to address individually; however, we should notice the sum of them in our Scripture reading.

Should Israel reject Him, the LORD warned He would abandon them to their enemies (28:45-47), and the people would become slaves to their enemies (this would come to pass during the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, and be repeated in the Roman era). The fruitfulness of their lands, trees, and storehouses would be eaten by their enemies. Their cattle, and flocks would be destroyed (28:48-51).

When the cities would be besieged, the starving people would turn to cannibalism, and eat “the flesh of [their]sons and of [their] daughters (28:52-53). Their men would become effeminate, “tender among you, and very delicate” (28:54), and their women would no longer be “tender and delicate” (28:56). The eyes of a wife would “be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter” (28:56). Leaving her natural affection, Moses warned a mother “shall eat [her children] for want of all things secretly in the siege” (28:57).

Because the people had rejected the LORD, and disobeyed His Law, the LORD promised to bring upon the nation “great plagues…and sore sicknesses” (28:59). Israel would be overcome with plagues (28:58-60), and the births of the children would be few (28:62-63). The nation would be conquered, the people scattered, oppressed, and enslaved (28:64-65).

Fear, dread, and depression would haunt the nation, and the people would dread the night, and the dawn (28:66-67). Eventually, they would be taken from their land, “see it no more again…[and] be sold unto [their enemies]” as slaves (28:68). All of this did come to pass in AD 70 when Titus, the Roman General, destroyed Jerusalem, and the Jews were scattered throughout the nations.

I close, being reminded, the pattern of decline seen in today’s Scripture is a foretelling of judgment upon all nations that reject God. History records the rise and fall of nations, and no nation can long reject God without experiencing moral decay, and the judgment of God.

My own country, is following the path God promised to curse.

Everywhere I look, I see the evidences of a nation whom God has turned over to its enemies. We are enslaved, and become a debtor nation to our enemies. The women of our nation, take the lives of their unborn in grotesque abortions, as surely as if they cannibalize them from the womb (28:52-53). Effeminate men, “tender [and]delicate” (28:54) are celebrated, and rebellious women blight our society, and with an “evil eye,” look upon their husbands and children (28:56-57). We are experiencing epidemics, a failing birthrate, and a fear, and dread of the future such as I have not witnessed in my lifetime.

If America does not repent of her sins, and turn to God, she is doomed.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Choices Always Have Consequences (Deuteronomy 26-27)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 26-27

Moses continues his charge to Israel, with laws and spiritual principles that were to guide the people as they became a nation in their own land (26:1).

Remembering the blessing of the harvest comes from the LORD (26:1-11), the first-fruits offering was to be taken to the place of worship (Tabernacle), and given to the LORD, thus supporting the priests, the Levites, and their households.

A special tithe was given in the third year, and one that coincided with the tither’s confession that he had honored the LORD’S commandments and obeyed them. The tithe of the third year, was used locally to meet the immediate needs of one’s own community, and to support “the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled” (26:12-15).

The Benefit of Obeying the LORD, and Keeping His Commandments (26:16-19)

Beginning with Deuteronomy 26:16, and continuing to Deuteronomy 31:13, Moses expounded the benefits of obeying the LORD and keeping His commandments. Reminding the people that God had chosen Israel “to be His peculiar people…and to make thee high above all nations…” (26:16-19), Moses admonished the nation to “be an holy people unto the LORD thy God” (26:19b).

Renewing the Covenant (Deuteronomy 27)

Lest the people forget all the LORD had done for them, the elders of Israel were commanded to build a pillar of uncut stones on the west side of the Jordan River (27:2-8). The stones were to be plastered, and engraved upon them was to be the Commandments of the Lord, serving as a lasting memorial of the LORD’S promises and commandments.  An altar was to be built to sanctify the place (27:5-8).

Reminding the leaders of Israel that “Choices have Consequences,” Moses charged the people to remember that obedience to the Law would bring the LORD’S blessings (27:11-12), and disobedience would invite His judgments (27:14-26).

Should the people disobey the LORD, and reject His Law and Commandments, a series of twelve curses was pronounced (27:15-26), and all the people gave their assent by an oath:

1) Idolatry, a violation of the first and second commandments was cursed (27:15).

2) Dishonoring one’s parents was cursed (27:16), a violation of the fifth commandment (Ex. 20:12).

3) Stealing the property and possessions of another by deceit was cursed, a violation of the sixth commandment (27:17; Ex. 20:15).

4) Taking advantage of one infirmed or disabled was cursed (27:18).

5) The fifth curse was upon one who would treat “the stranger, fatherless, and widow” unjustly (27:19; Ex. 22:21-24).

The sixth through ninth curses addressed sexual purity, a violation of the  seventh commandment (27:20-23; Ex. 20:14).

6) Incest with one’s stepmother was cursed (27:20; Lev. 18:8-9, 17; 20:11).

7) Bestiality was cursed (27:21; Lev. 18:23).

8) Incest between siblings, and parents was cursed (27:22).

9) Incest with one’s mother was cursed (27:23).

The fifth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Ex. 20:13), was the subject of the tenth and eleventh curses (27:24-25).

10) Intentional murder of one’s neighbor was cursed (27:24).

11) Hiring an assassin to kill another was cursed (27:25).

12) The twelfth and final curse is addressed to any child of Israel who failed God’s Law and Commandments (27:26).

Deuteronomy 27:26 – “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Moral Dilemmas: Divorce, Debt, and Human Trafficking (Deuteronomy 24-25)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 24-25

Our Scripture reading continues with Moses setting forward various laws that would guide Israel in matters of marriage, family, societal civility, business, and government.

Principles Regarding Marriage and Divorce (24:1-5)

The matter of divorce is raised, and it is indicative of the heart of man. Moses allowed for divorce in this passage; however, I remind you that was never God’s plan, or will. What is the will of the LORD? The sum of God’s will for marriage is this: “A man…shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

The Pharisees questioned Christ saying, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife [divorce] for every cause?” (Matthew 19:3) The LORD answered, citing the “one flesh” principle. and added, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6).

Displeased with His answer, the Pharisees pressed Him, asking, “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?” (Matthew 19:7). The LORD answered the matter of divorce, and diagnosed the moral basis for Moses permitting divorce in Deuteronomy 24.

Matthew 19:8–98He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered [allowed] you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
9And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

A Moral Guideline for the Borrower and Lender (24:6)

The matter of taking the upper millstone is foreign to most, until you understand Moses was talking of the stones used to grind grain into flour. A lender was warned, he could not take the “upper millstone,” for by it a family was able to grind grain into flour, and then bake bread for the family.

A Solution to Human Trafficking (24:7)

One of the great abominations of the 21st century is human trafficking. Forcefully taking children, women, and men and subjecting them to the darkness of moral depravity is an appalling wickedness. In the words of the Scripture, anyone found who “maketh merchandise…or selleth him” shall be put to death (24:7). Were the judgment of the Scriptures practiced today, innocent victims of human trafficking would receive justice, and human traffickers would be dispatched to swift judgment: “Thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deuteronomy 19:21).

Charitable Obligations (24:10-22)

False teachers have led many to believe the laws of the Old Testament were lacking in grace, and boast that we live in an “Age of Grace.” Indeed, we do, but to characterize the Law and Commandments as “graceless,” is to suggest the LORD was the same.

Deuteronomy 24:10-22 give evidence that God was sensitive, and compassionate concerning the condition of the poor, the weak, the orphan, and the widow. For example, in ancient times the poor often had nothing more than the “clothes on their backs.” Robes were the attire, and men generally had an inner, and outer robe. The inner robe afforded modesty, the outer robe protection against the elements, and warmth in the night. Should a poor man borrow, it was his outer robe that might serve as the security or pledge of his debt (24:10-11). The lender was not to humiliate the borrower, and forcefully take the robe of a poor man while he was in his house (24:10-11), and in the evening the lender was to return the outer robe, that the man “may sleep in his own raiment, and bless thee” (24:13).

Admonitions Against Injustices (24:14-18)

Day laborers were to be paid their due at the end of the day (24:14). Everyone was to bear the consequences, and punishment for their sins. Therefore, a father was not to be punished for the sins of his children, nor were his children to be punished for the sins of their father (24:16).

Charity Was the Law (24:19-22)

There was no welfare system for the poor in ancient times, and they were a perpetual presence on the earth. Widows were forsaken by their children, orphans suffered neglect, and foreigners found themselves homeless. Moses reminded the people how Israel had suffered bondage in Egypt; therefore, they were to remember, and allow the poor to glean the leftovers from their fields, olive trees, and grapevines.

Time and space prevent a commentary on Deuteronomy 25; however, I suggest the following for an outline: I. Principles for Capital Punishment, and Civil Justice (25:1-4); II. Principles for Family Posterity (25:5-12); III. Principles Regarding Business and Commerce (25:13-16); IV. Principles Concerning the Offence of an Enemy (25:17-19).

I close, inviting you to ponder the Grace of God: Not only the grace we find expressed in Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, but also the grace of God we have seen throughout His laws, and commandments.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Feminization, Sanitation, and Compassion (Deuteronomy 23)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 23

We continue our study of Moses’ challenge to Israel, as he prepared that nation to go forward without him as its leader. Some of the principles in today’s Scripture may seem mundane; however, such was not the case for a nation that had suffered the humiliation of bondage for four centuries. Moses was teaching the children of Israel how they were to conduct themselves in the sight of the LORD, and preserve their sanctity as His people. We will consider the right of citizenship in ancient Israel, and the exclusion of some from “the congregation of the LORD” (23:1).

The Feminization, and Castration of Men Was Forbidden (23:1)

The topic of mutilation, or castration is one in which we shall use discretion; however, the LORD was clear in His instruction concerning honoring one’s vessel. There was to be no mutualization of a man’s private parts, for such was unnatural, and against God’s created order.

Illegitimate Sons (23:2)

Sons born of adultery, or incest, were to be excluded in Israel, unto the “tenth generation” (23:2). Sons borne of extra-marital relationships were excluded, for their conception was contrary to the will, and design of God’s order.

Ammonites and Moabites Were Not Permitted in Israel (23:3-6)

These nations were the offspring of Lot’s incestuous relationship with his daughters (Genesis 19:30-38). The Ammonites, and Moabites had made themselves adversaries of Israel, and hired Balaam to curse the people (23:4-6).

Edomites and Egyptians (23:7-8)

Though not friends of Israel, the Edomites and Egyptians had a history that prevented their being excluded entirely. The Edomites were of the lineage of Esau, and therefore distant kin of Israel through the lineage of Jacob, Esau’s brother (23:7). Egypt had been the host of Israel during their sojourn in that land.

Cleanness and Purity in Times of War (23:9-11)

Remembering the presence of the LORD was represented by the Tabernacle in the midst of the encampment, the people were reminded to keep themselves clean (23:9-10). A man who was not clean, was to remain outside the camp until the evening, and “wash himself with water” before entering the camp (23:11).

A Lesson in Sanitation (23:12-14)

The sanitation guidelines given by Moses to Israel placed that nation centuries ahead of other nations. The people were to practice cleanliness, and basic sanitation. They were not to answer nature’s call (i.e. to relieve themselves), within the camp. They were instructed to go outside the borders of the camp and “have a paddle” (a spade or shovel), and cover over their excrement.

We understand much about sanitation, and disease today; however, only in the past two centuries has the need for sanitation been fully appreciated. The sanitation commanded by the LORD was not only because He dwelt in the midst of His people, but also because it was proper, and good for the health of the people (23:14).

Compassion for a Fleeing Slave (23:15-16)

A slave that had fled from his master seeking refuge with another, was not to be returned to the former (23:15). Instead, he was to be given shelter in the land, and allowed to dwell where he chose (23:16).

Prostitution and Sodomy Condemned (23:17-18)

All manner of gross immorality accompanied the worship of idols in ancient times. Whoredom, and sodomy were ever present among the heathen nations. No daughter of Israel was to fall into whoredom, and no son was to be a homosexual (described as “the price of a dog,” thus graphically describing the debasement of sodomy, 23:18).

Usury: Charging Interest on Debts (23:19-20)

Israelite men were not to charge their fellow man (“thy brother”) interest for borrowing money (23:19). A “stranger;” however, a non-Hebrew, was charged interest on debts (23:20).

To Vow, Or Not to Vow (23:21-23)

Swearing an oath, or vowing a vow, was a serious matter with the LORD, and was not to be taken lightly (23:21). No man was to “vow a vow unto the LORD,” and fail to fulfil it without delay (23:21b). Indeed, it would be better to not have committed oneself to a vow, than to do so and fail to fulfill it (23:22-23).

To Eat, or Not to Eat (23:24-25)

Suppose a man is hungry, and lacks the means to feed himself. Should that man be permitted to take from another’s field or vineyard, and satisfy his hunger?

The answer is found in Deuteronomy 23:24-25, and reminds us again that the God of Israel was compassionate and merciful.

A hungry man was allowed to eat grapes from his neighbor’s vineyard, and take kernels of wheat into his hand from his neighbor’s field. He could not, however, go into his neighbor’s field with a vessel, and fill it. He was allowed take only what he needed to quench his hunger.

I close, trusting you are developing an appreciation for the judiciousness of the LORD, and the evidence of His grace and compassion in His Law and Commandments.

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With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith