Tag Archives: Pray

Whom or What are You Serving? (Joshua 22-24)

Daily reading assignment: Joshua 22-24

Joshua 22 – A Misunderstanding Led to a Threat of Civil War

The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half of the tribe of Manasseh had requested of Moses to grant them the pasture lands on the east side of the Jordan River (Numbers 32; Deuteronomy 3:12-20).

Seven years had passed before the new land was at peace and the warriors of Israel were allowed to lay down their swords and shields. With Israel at rest and the lands assigned by tribe, the warriors of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh were discharged from their duties and allowed to return to their families and lands on the east side of the Jordan (22:1-9).

Joshua challenged the men returning to their families to be diligent to observe the Commandments and the Law given by Moses. He urged them to cleave to the LORD and serve Him with all their hearts. (22:5).

Erecting a memorial to their covenant with the other tribes, the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an altar on the east side of the Jordan that nearly became a provocation for war (22:10).  A threat of civil war soon followed as the western tribes misunderstood the purpose of the altar and feared the other tribes had departed from the God of Israel (22:11-12).

Wisely, before blood was shed, a delegation was sent to investigate the intent of the structure. Rather than a place of worship and sacrifice as they feared, they found the altar was a memorial for future generations to remember their covenant with the LORD and the Twelve Tribes of Israel  (22:13-34). The investigation embodies a spiritual principle for us all:

Proverbs 18:13 – “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

Joshua 23-24 – Joshua’s Final Challenge and Address

“Old and stricken in age”, Joshua gathered the leaders of Israel for a parting exhortation before his death (23:1-2).  Like the great leader he was, he foresaw the challenges Israel would face in the years ahead when he was departed. Joshua’s words echo the passion of every godly leader who longs to see God’s people walk in the ways of the LORD.

He reminded them how the LORD had fought for and never forsook them (23:4-10).  He challenged them to keep God’s Word (23:6), cleave to the LORD (23:8), and love the LORD (23:11).  He warned: Compromise with the heathen and you will invite God’s judgment (23:12-16).

At Shechem (24:1), the same place Abraham had received God’s promise that his lineage would inherit the land (Genesis 12:6-7), Joshua began to rehearse God’s promises and providences.

He recalled how God had chosen Abraham (24:2-4), delivered Israel out of Egypt (24:5-7), and guided them through the wilderness (24:7-10).  He reminded the people that God had given them the land as He had promised (24:11-13) and challenged them to revere and serve the LORD (24:14-28).

The Book of Joshua closes with the death of a generation of leaders and three burials.  Joshua, the successor of Moses died at 110 years old and was buried (24:29-30).  Fulfilling Joseph’s request (Genesis 50:25), his bones were buried on the land owned by his father Jacob (24:32).  Finally, Eleazar the high priest, the son of Aaron, died and was buried (24:33).

Lastly, Joshua exhorted the people to declare their devotion to the LORD with a covenant to memorialize their vow to serve Him (24:25-28).

Like it was with Israel, so it is with every man and woman reading this devotional:

We must individually decide whether or not we will serve the LORD with our whole heart (24:14-24).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Three Affirmations Concerning the Faithfulness of God (Joshua 19-21)

Daily reading assignment: Joshua 19-21

Joshua 19 – A selfless, godly leader

The business of dividing the Promised Land and assigning portions to the seven tribes (18:2-3) that had not yet taken possession of their inheritance continues in Joshua 19.

After dividing the land according to tribe, Joshua was the last to receive his inheritance. Honoring him for his years of faithful service, the “children of Israel gave an inheritance to Joshua… [and]they gave him the city which he asked, even Timnathserah in mount Ephraim: and he built the city, and dwelt therein” (19:49-50).

A word of caution: Don’t make the mistake of glibly passing over the names of cities and territories listed in Joshua 19 and miss an important lesson. Although the names of the cities may be foreign and difficult to pronounce, they remind us of an important truth: God fulfilled His promise, and Israel was settled in her land.

Joshua 20 – Cities of Refuge for the Innocent Accused of Murder

The LORD commanded Joshua to establish six “cities of refuge” in the land (20:1-2). Moses had already assigned three cities on the east side of the Jordan River (20:8; Deuteronomy 4:41-43). To those three remaining Joshua designated three cities west of the Jordan (20:7).

Reflecting the sanctity of human life and the principle of capital punishment established by God (Genesis 9:5-6; Exodus 20), the cities of refuge afforded a safe place for those who had unintentionally taken the life of another man (20:3-4).  Because there was no law enforcement, the cities of refuge 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).

Two regulations governed who might find refuge from an avenger (20:6). The first was the responsibility of the inhabitants of the city to determine if a man was guilty or innocent of murder. If guilty, the accused would be turned over to the avenger. If innocent of murder, but guilty of manslaughter, the accused must remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest.

Joshua 21 – Cities Assigned to the Tribe of Levi

We have been reminded on several occasions that the priestly tribe of Levi would not receive its own land.  Serving the LORD and the congregation, the Levites’ physical needs were to be met by the sacrificial gifts of God’s people.

The tribe of Levi requested the cities they had been promised for their inheritance in the land (Joshua 21:1-3) and were assigned forty-eight cities, by family, and scattered throughout the tribal lands (21:4-42).  It was the ministry of the Levites to minister to the people and teach them the Word and Law of God (2 Chronicles 17:9).

I invite you to consider three affirmations concerning the faithfulness of God as we close today’s commentary.

1) The LORD gave Israel “all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers” (21:43).

2) He gave the nation victory over her enemies and “gave them rest” (21:44).

3) Not one “good thing” the LORD had promised failed (21:45).

What a great and faithful God we serve!

2 Corinthians 1:2020  For all [every one of] the promises of God in him [Christ] are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.

Copyright 2020– Travis D. Smith

Joshua: Finishing Strong (Joshua 9-11)

Daily reading assignment: Joshua 9-11

Joshua 9 – Failure to Seek the LORD’S Counsel

With Jericho destroyed (Joshua 6) and Ai utterly defeated (Joshua 8), word of the conquests went throughout Canaan. The city of Gibeon, fearing they would be the next to fall, sent a delegation to Joshua who disguised themselves as a people who lived a great way off (9:3-13).

Joshua and the elders of Israel, without seeking wisdom from the LORD, made a treaty with the Gibeonites (9:14-15). Three days passed when Joshua realized he and the elders of Israel had been duped, learning Gibeon was a neighboring city (9:16-17). The foolish league with Gibeon gave occasion for the children of Israel to murmur against the leaders of their tribes (9:18).

Accepting the treaty as binding, it was determined that the Gibeonites would become servants doing menial tasks in the midst of Israel (9:19-27).

Joshua 10 – Strategy for Success

Israel’s ill-advised peace treaty with the Gibeonites was a violation of the LORD’S command for Israel to not seek ties with the heathen. The decision made without “counsel at the mouth of the LORD” (9:14), soon drew Joshua and Israel into battles with neighboring city kingdoms in the land (Joshua 10).

In making an alliance with Israel, the Gibeonites had betrayed their former alliance of five city-states whose kings gathered to make war against Gibeon (10:1-5).  God used the gathering of the heathen kings and their armies as an opportunity for Joshua and Israel to defeat the whole confederation in one swift blow.

Facing a great foe, the LORD assured Joshua, “Fear them not: for I have delivered them into thine hand” (10:8).  Joshua believed God and he rallied Israel to march through the night (10:9) to come upon the enemy suddenly (10:10). The LORD intervened for Israel and sent hailstones slaying the enemy (10:11).

Joshua called out to the LORD, and said “in the sight of Israel, ‘Sun, stand thou still’…and the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies” (10:12-14).

How could God stop the rotation of the earth and extend the length of a day? Because He is God. The prophet Jeremiah observed,

Jeremiah 32:17 – “Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:”

The LORD answered, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27).

Joshua 11 – Lesson Learned

After Israel defeated the southern kings in Canaan (10:28-41), Joshua set his eyes on completing the task of conquering Canaan by attacking the northern kingdoms (11:1-23).

A string of successes in battle under Joshua’s leadership raised the ire of Israel’s enemies and became the catalyst of a gathering of adversaries against God’s people (Joshua 11:1-5).

Having learned well the lesson of not presuming upon the LORD’s blessing or moving ahead of His leading (11:6), Joshua went to war obeying God’s plan for the battles (Joshua 11:6-23).  We read, Joshua “left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses…Joshua took all the land [and] made war a long time” (11:15-18).

What a great example Joshua is for all leaders. He believed the LORD, and his faith and example inspired Israel until we read, “the land rested from war” (11:23).

Joshua’s failure to seek the LORD’S counsel (9:14) was one he regretted; however, he learned from his mistake and did not repeat it!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

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

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

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The frailty of old age is not an excuse for tolerating sin. (Deuteronomy 30-31)

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 30-31

True to the nature of God, having promised in His justice He would punish Israel for breaking covenant with Him (Deuteronomy 29:24-29), He promises in Deuteronomy 31 to be merciful should the people repent and restore them to their land (30:1-14).

Deuteronomy 30 concludes with a strong challenge to Israel to know the Word of the LORD is sure and He will bless the people when they keep His covenant.  However, should they disobey His Laws and Commandments, He will surely bring judgment upon the nation (30:15-20).

Mindful of his own mortality and knowing the days of his earthly sojourn were ending, Moses reminded the nation he is “an hundred and twenty years old” and the LORD had said, “Thou shalt not go over this Jordan” (31:1-2).

In the tone of a loving, aged father who knows his days with his children are concluding, Moses encouraged the people, “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not” (31:6).  The same God who delivered Israel out of Egypt and preserved them in the wilderness will “not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (31:6).

Moses publicly affirmed Joshua’s ordination “in the sight of all Israel” (31:7-8) and challenged the spiritual leaders of the nation to be the custodians and teachers of the LORD’s Law and keep the Law and Commandments before the people (31:9-13).

Reminded God is Omniscient, the LORD revealed to Moses that after his death, the people would break their covenant with Him and “go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land” (31:14-18).  The power and influence of worship music is shown when the LORD commanded Moses to write a song to remind the people of their covenant with the LORD (31:19-22).

Deuteronomy 31 concludes with Moses giving a final charge to Joshua as he assumes the leadership of the nation (31:23).  Gathering the people, Moses challenged the Levites to take the record of the LORD’s Law and “put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD” (31:24-26).

There are many lessons we might take from today’s scripture reading; however, the one that strikes a chord with me is:

The frailty of old age is not an excuse for tolerating sin.

At one hundred and twenty years old, Moses was “feeling his age” and was conscious of the inevitableness of his death.  The pressures of leading a rebellious people “forty years in the wilderness” and old age had taken its toll on the man (29:5).

Moses confessed, “I am an hundred and twenty years old this day; I can no more go out and come in” (31:2).  “And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thy days approach that thou must die” (31:14).   We read again, “And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers” (31:16).

Moses was old and frail; however, the fire of his convictions and dedication to the LORD had not abated. 

I am afraid the same cannot be said of my generation.  There is a growing tolerance of sin and carnality in Christian homes, Bible preaching churches, Christian schools, Bible colleges and universities.  In an effort to appease rebellious children in their own households, leaders of my generation are compromising spiritual disciplines and precepts of the ministries they are leading.

The fears Moses expressed in Deuteronomy 31:29 are, I believe, a foreshadow of what will become of many fundamental churches, schools, and institutions.

Deuteronomy 31:29 – “For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands.”

How about you, my friend? Does the fire of godly convictions still burn in your spirit and soul?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Blessings of Faithfulness and the Curse of Sin and Disobedience (Deuteronomy 28-29)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 28-29

Deuteronomy 28 – The Blessing of Faithfulness

Having declared God’s Covenant with Israel as His chosen people (Deuteronomy 5-28), Moses concludes with a challenge for the people to affirm the covenant they entered into at Mt. Horeb 40 years earlier (Exodus 24), and acknowledge their obligation to the LORD to obey His Laws and Commandments (Deuteronomy 29-30).

Moses promised Israel, the nation would be blessed above all nations of the earth on the condition they would hear, obey, and follow His commandments (Deuteronomy 28:1-15).  We find fifteen verses enumerating the multitude of God’s blessings should they obey His Laws and Commandments (28:1-14).

Of course, because the covenant was a binding agreement between the LORD and Israel, Moses warned the nation would bear the curse of God’s judgment should they turn away from the LORD, break His covenant, and live like the heathen people in whose land they were entering (28:15-68).

The promise of God’s blessings on Israel is stunning! Every area of the nation’s life would be blessed… “in the city…in the field” (28:3).  Universal fruitfulness was promised…the womb of women, cattle, sheep and the fields would reap a harvest of God’s blessings (28:4-6).  Israel’s enemies would fall before her, and their storehouses and treasuries would overflow (28:7-14).

In the same way God promised to bless the nation if the people obeyed Him, the opposite was true should they disobeyed Him. The curses that would befall Israel are listed in a series of judgments that are alarming to read (28:15-68). Should the people disobey the LORD, they were assured “all curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee” (28:15).

The cities, fields, storehouses, wombs of wives, livestock, and fields would all be cursed (28:16-18). Pestilence, physical disease, and drought would follow (28:20-24). The promise of God’s judgment for disobeying His Laws and Commandments continues another forty-eight verses! Humiliation before Israel’s enemies (28:25-29), poverty (28:30-31), slavery (28:32, 47-48), and disease (28:35) are all listed.

The siege of Israel’s cities and conditions of her poverty and hunger would become so severe the people would turn to cannibalism (28:49-57). All the diseases that befell Egypt would befall Israel (28:58-61).  The people would know no rest and would be terrified day and night (28:62-68).

Deuteronomy 29

The basis of Israel’s obligation to honor the Covenant with the LORD was not only the sacrifices they had offered to seal the Covenant at Mt. Horeb (Exodus 24), but also the LORD’s loving care of the nation over the course of their forty years wandering in the wilderness (29:2-9).

The nation, its leaders (“captains…elders…officers”), and “all the men of Israel” (29:10), representing every man, woman, boy and girl…even “thy stranger that is in thy camp” (those in the midst of the tribes, but not of the Twelve Tribes), were to affirm the covenant with the LORD (29:11-15).

Moses warned the people (29:16-29), should they turn to idols and follow in the sins of the heathen nations, and fail to obey the LORD’S Laws and Commandments, the nation will be punished with plagues and sickness (29:22), and the ground would be cursed (29:23).

“Choices Have Consequences,” and no nation, people, or family can expect to disobey the LORD’s Law and Commandments and be blessed! 

I close with good news. Although a promise received by king Solomon for Israel, I invite you to covet the same for our nation:

2 Chronicles 7:1414 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Hype, Hysteria, and Hope (in the midst of uncertainty)

March 16, 2020

Dear Heart of A Shepherd readers,

I have been away from Tampa for only one week, however, the world and our nation have dramatically changed in that short span of time.

While I am not generally a conspiracy theorist, I believe there is a dark purpose behind what is happening in our nation. I think there are unseen, dark figures driving the present crisis and I wonder if this is a “dry run” for something diabolical and more malicious. Knowing the spiritual character of this generation is far different than the faith of our nation a century ago, I fear the potential of violent societal conflict.

The hype around the Coronavirus is a potential catalyst for an overreach of government that is, in my opinion, the perfect stage for a socialist agenda. The draconian measures that are being suggested and taken by federal and state governments (closing schools, churches, restaurants, and businesses; threatening curfews and outlawing gatherings of more than 50) threatens to ruin the economy and plunge our nation and world into an economic depression. Unless sanity prevails, businesses, ministries, and families will soon be forced into bankruptcy. (I do not write that sentence lightly).

No one could have foreseen the events of the past two weeks, nor can we predict the future ripple effect across our lives, families, and ministries. I have many concerns that I am sure are shared across our nation.

What impact will current events have on employers and employment?  What is the economic impact on businesses and families who survive paycheck to paycheck?  With hoarding on a scale never witnessed in my lifetime, how secure are our food supplies and staple goods?

In the immediate, I offer you counsel and encouragement:

Pray – Someone has said, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”

Mark 11:22-24 – “22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. 23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. 24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”

Plan – The distance between a panic attack and confidence is a plan.

Definition of “Plan” – “Since God knows exactly what would happen in every situation, He plans for the best thing to happen. God takes counsel, puts all things under advisement, and chooses the best way.” – Practical Word Studies in The New Testament.

Purpose – Put your trust in the LORD and hope in Him.

Isaiah 26:3-4 – “3  Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. 4  Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

http://www.HillsdaleBaptist.org

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith