Tag Archives: Sanctification

“A Right Motive, and a Wrong Method Invite God’s Judgment” (Psalm 132; 2 Samuel 6)

Scripture reading – Psalm 132; 2 Samuel 6

We continue our chronological study of the Scriptures with today’s reading taken from the Book of Psalms (Psalm 132), and 2 Samuel 6 where the Ark of God is transported to Jerusalem. That event should be familiar to my readers, for we considered the same event in 1 Chronicles 13. Psalm 132, titled “A Song of Degrees,” was one of several psalms that were sung by pilgrims going up to Jerusalem, and by the Levites when the priests ascended the Temple Mount. Today’s devotion will consider the spiritual lessons we can derive from the transport of the Ark of God to Jerusalem.

2 Samuel 6

Remembering the Ark of God symbolized God’s heavenly throne, and was a testimony of His presence among His people (Psalm 80:1; 99:1), David set his heart to bring the Ark to Jerusalem, his capital (2 Samuel 6:1-2). Neglected throughout the reign of King Saul, David longed to return the Ark to its prominence in Israel, and he had prepared a new tent that would serve as its tabernacle. The movement of the Ark to Jerusalem was a cause for celebration, and “David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand” (6:1) to accompany its journey.

Celebration turned to tragedy when David “set the ark of God upon a new cart,” and failed to employ the “staves” or poles God had prescribed for its movement in the wilderness (Numbers 4:5-6). When the Ark appeared ready to topple from the cart, Uzza placed his hand on the Ark to steady it, and was struck dead for defiling that which the LORD had sanctified for Himself (6:3-7).

A faithful servant died because David had failed to search the Scriptures and seek the mind of the LORD in transporting the Ark. We read, “David was displeased,” he was angry with the LORD (6:8). His anger then turned to fear, and the king complained, “How shall the ark of the Lord come to me?” (6:9)

The balance of the now familiar story continues with its temporary placement in the household of Obededom the Gittite, whom the LORD blessed abundantly in the three months it resided with him (6:10-12). David then renewed his plan to retrieve the Ark, and celebrated and offered sacrifices to the LORD as it was carried by the Levites (6:13-15).

It seemed that all Israel celebrated the entrance of the Ark of God into Jerusalem, with one exception: “Michal Saul’s daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart” (6:16).

After celebrating the appointment of the Ark of God in its place on Mount Zion, David blessed the people, and sent them home with “a cake of bread, and a good piece of flesh, and a flagon of wine” (6:19). Sadly, for David, he “returned to bless his household,” but was greeted by his wife who scorned the king’s delight in the LORD (6:20-23).

Closing thoughts – Though observed in an earlier devotion, it is worthwhile to be reminded of some spiritual principles we can take from 2 Samuel 6.

The first: Right motives can never justify wrong methods. The failure to seek the LORD, and His pattern for moving the Ark, came at the expense of a faithful servant’s life (6:3-7).

A second lesson: Never treat as common what God has declared and deemed holy. Uzza touching the Ark violated God’s holiness (1 Chronicles 13:3; Numbers 4:15).

I close with a quote by the late evangelist Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.- “It is never right to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right!”

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

Home Sweet Home: A Family Portrait (Psalms 128)

Scripture reading Psalms 128

Psalm 128 continues our study of the Psalms titled, “A Song of Degrees” (Psalms 120-134), and is a song of rejoicing for the LORD’S blessings.  The central focus of the psalm is the promise of the LORD’S blessings on the household of the man who fears the LORD, and walks in His ways.

Notice the promise of happiness found in the first two verses of Psalm 128.

Psalm 128:1–21Blessed [Happy] is every one that feareth [reveres; worships] the Lord; That walketh in his ways. 2For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: Happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well [pleasant] with thee.

Is there anyone who does not desire, and long for happiness? Some look for affirmation as a way to happiness, but trophies, medals, and applause never gratify. Some climb the ladder to success, pursue wealth and acquire possessions, but find happiness just isn’t there. Sadly, the happiness the world promises is temporal, and never satisfies!

To whom does the psalmist promise happiness? To those who fear the LORD, and walk in His ways (obeying His Laws, and Commandments). Such a man will be happy and satisfied, and has the promise he will enjoy the fruit of his labor. (128:2). The man who loves and serves the Lord is physically blessed through his seed.  His wife is compared to a fruitful vine, and in Scripture vines symbolize a life-giving force.

The psalm continues with how the blessing was given: “The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion [the mountain upon which the Temple was built]: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life” (Psalm 128:5).The Temple was a majestic symbol of God himself.  It represented life, and Israel’s prosperity.

We have observed two family portraits in our study of Psalm 128. The first was of a man and his wife who, under the shadow of her husband’s love and piety (128:1-3a), was like “a fruitful vine,” and a source of joy to her husband. The second portrait was of the couple’s children, sitting around the table. The children had not grown up to become wild weeds, but were like olive plants; trained and cultivated. They were growing up to be a blessing (128:3).

The third family portrait was one of contentment (128:5-6), and the concluding verses of Psalm 128 served as a benediction.

The man that had feared the LORD (128:1) was now old, and stooped in age. His body was weak, but his spirit was strong as he aspired to see God’s blessings on his nation (128:5). Because the LORD is the rewarder of them who love and fear Him, the old man was promised, “6  Yea, thou shalt see [look; discern] thy children’s children[grandchildren], and peace [Shalom; prosperity] upon Israel” (128:6).

Closing thoughts: There are some reading this devotional who long for their family to be a picture of happiness and joy. You long for the LORD to pour out His blessings on your marriage, and to see your “children’s children” living in a nation that enjoys “Shalom,” the peace and prosperity of the LORD (128:6).

Those are admirable desires; however, they are promised only to them who fear the LORD, and walk in His ways (128:1).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Divine Providence: The Steps of a Good Man are Ordered By the LORD (1 Samuel 29)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 29

Today’s Scripture reading sets the stage not only for the death of Saul, Israel’s first king, but also for that of his son Jonathan (28:19).

We find the armies of the Philistines gathered against Israel, and Saul and his army pitched across the way “by a fountain which [was] in Jezreel” (29:1). David found himself in a conflicting place, for he had been chosen by Achish, the king of the Philistines, to be that king’s bodyguard (28:2).

As the Philistine soldiers mobilized, and began their passage to the battlefront, providentially, David and his men were placed in the rereward with Achish, and were spared from warring against their countrymen (29:2).

Though King Achish entrusted his life to David, the Philistine generals were far less trusting, and protested the thought of going to war against Israel with David and his men in their midst (29:3-4). Arguably, more astute than the king, the Philistines reminded Achish how David had served as Israel’s champion, and had led men of Israel to slay “ten thousands” (29:5).

Achish reluctantly consented to the demands of his generals, and with affirming words, commanded David and his men to remove themselves from the battlefield (29:6-7). Though David offered a weak protest to the king’s command (29:8-10), in the providence of God, the next morning he and his men returned “into the land of the Philistines” (29:11). As the Philistines prepared to wage war against Israel, the LORD wonderfully spared David from lifting his sword against the LORD‘S chosen people.

Psalm 37:23–2423The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: And he delighteth in his way. 24Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: For the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Resignation, and a Parting Challenge (1 Samuel 12-13) – part 1 of 2 devotionals.

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 12-13

1 Samuel 12 – A Resignation, and a Parting Challenge

The LORD had comforted Samuel, and assured him the people’s demand for a king was not a refusal of him as their judge, but was in fact, a rejection of the LORD Himself as Israel’s King (8:6-7). 1 Samuel 11 had concluded with the people gathering before Samuel in Gilgal, where it was affirmed that Saul would be king, followed by sacrifices to the LORD (11:14-15).

1 Samuel 12 continues that same assembly at Gilgal, and records the formal changing of the guard in Israel. Samuel affirmed he had conformed to the will of the people, given them a king (12:1), and would resign his governance as the judge of the people.

We have thus far followed Samuel from his childhood (1 Samuel 1-3), and in his own words, he was “old and grayheaded” (12:2). Samuel expressed a strong testimony of what should be the desire of all believers; that our lives would be a testimony of faithfulness to the LORD, and spiritual integrity before the people (12:2-3). He called on the nation to give witness to his life, and ministry before them, and declared he had not misused his office, nor prejudiced in his judgments. Indeed, he challenged the people, tell me wherein I have failed you, and “I will restore it you” (12:3)

With one voice, the people affirmed Samuel’s words, and confessed, “Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man’s hand” (12:4). With the people looking on, Samuel called on the LORD to be a witness to the words of the people, and “they answered, He is witness” (12:5).

Samuel then magnified the LORD, and rehearsed His faithfulness from Egypt, through the wilderness, and in conquering the land (12:6-8). He reminded them that it was their sins, and disobedience that had given cause for the LORD to raise up adversaries whom He used to turn their hearts to Him (12:9). When they cried to the LORD, and confessed their sins, He sent judges to deliver them (12:10-11). Yet, for all that, the people had rejected the LORD, and demanded a king (12:12).

The old prophet declared, “behold the king whom ye have chosen, and whom ye have desired! and, behold, the Lord hath set a king over you” (12:13). Nevertheless, a king would not deliver them from their enemies, nor preserve them as a nation. Only if they feared, served, and obeyed the LORD, would they be assured of His blessings (12:14). He also gave a clear warning, that should they “rebel…then…the hand of the Lord [would] be against [them], as it was against [their] fathers” (12:15).

Samuel called on the LORD to reveal Himself, and He sent unseasonable rain and thunder (for the wheat harvest came during the dry season), and reminded the nation how they had rebelled and demanded a king (12:16-18). Fearing the LORD, and Samuel, the people confessed they had committed a great wickedness in demanding a king (12:19).

The prophet admonished the nation with these words: “fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart…[but] if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king”(12:24-25).

Conclusion of part 1…

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God?” (1 Samuel 6)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 6

As Israel despaired the loss of the “Ark of the LORD” (4:11), the Philistines came to fear that its presence had brought the LORD’s judgment not only upon their god Dagon (6:3-4), but also upon the cities where it had been located. Ashdod, the capital city of Philistia, was physically afflicted and the men of that city declared, “the ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us” (5:7). When the Ark was moved to Gath, they felt the “hand of the LORD against the city with a very great destruction” (5:9). When the Ark was moved to Ekron, the people of that city “cried out, saying, They have brought about the ark of the God of Israel to us, to slay us and our people” (5:10). The Ekronites demanded the Ark be returned to Israel, for the judgment of the LORD fell heavily upon the people, “and the cry of the city went up to heaven” (5:12).

Desperate, the Philistines Return the Ark (1 Samuel 6:1-12)

The Ark of the LORD remained in Philistia for seven months, and its presence became a symbol of God’s judgment, rather than a trophy of war (6:1). Desperate, the Philistines called upon their religious leaders, and urged the ark be returned to its place (6:2). The priests suggested the Ark be returned to Israel, with “a trespass offering,” that He might be appeased and his hand of judgment be lifted (6:3).

It was determined the trespass offering should reflect the symbols of the plagues the people had suffered. They fashioned “five golden emerods [possibly skin boils, others suggest hemorrhoids], and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines [there were five major Philistine cities]” (6:4). The priests reminded the leaders that Egypt and Pharaoh had suffered when they hardened their hearts against Israel’s God (6:6).

The Philistine priests proposed the leaders “make a new cart, and take two milch kine [milk cows], on which there hath come no yoke, and tie the kine [cows] to the cart, and bring their calves home from them: 8And take the ark of the Lord, and lay it upon the cart; and put the jewels of gold…in a coffer [wooden chest] by the side thereof; and send it away, that it may go” (6:7-8). This they did to prove whether the plagues they had suffered were indeed God’s judgment, or simply chance. With the Ark sitting on the cart, and beside it the chest of gold ornaments for a trespass offering, the Philistines watched as the cows did not return to their calves, but instead pulled the cart a distance of nine miles, turning neither to the left, nor to the right (6:9-12).

Rejoicing, Turned to Sorrow (1 Samuel 6:13-21)

Reaping wheat in their fields, the people of Beth-shemesh “lifted up their eyes, and saw the ark, and rejoiced” (6:13). The cows pulled the cart into a field owned by a man named Joshua, and they stopped by a great stone (6:14). Remembering that Beth-shemesh was a Levite city (Joshua 21:13-16), we are not astonished when the men of that city removed the Ark from the cart, and cutting up the cart for its wood, they “offered the kine [cows as] a burnt offering unto the Lord” (6:14).

Unfortunately, rejoicing turned to tragedy, when the people of Beth-shemesh violated the sanctity of the Ark. Rather than cover the Ark, the inquisitive people looked inside the chest, and “fifty thousand and threescore and ten men (50,070)” were slain (6:19). They had treated as common, that which represented the throne, and the holy presence of God (6:19). As they mourned the deaths of their loved ones, the people asked, “Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God? and to whom shall he go up from us?” (6:20). Messengers were sent “to the inhabitants of Kirjath-jearim, saying, The Philistines have brought again the ark of the Lord; come ye down, and fetch it up to you” (6:21)

Closing thoughts: The LORD guided the cows pulling the cart bearing the Ark from Ekron, to His people in Beth-shemesh, and the lords of the Philistines were satisfied that all they had suffered was from Israel’s God (6:16). Sadly, the indiscreet people of Beth-shemesh, a Levite town, violated the law (Numbers 4:20), and by looking inside the Ark, defiled its holy nature.

“Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?” (6:20)

The slain of Beth-shemesh serve as a reminder of God’s holiness, and judgment. Rightly, the Ark of the LORD was returned to Israel, and sovereignly, God had prepared a man to call the nation to repent, and turn to Him. His name was Samuel.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Speak, For Thy Servant Heareth” (1 Samuel 2-3)

“Speak, For Thy Servant Heareth” (1 Samuel 2-3)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 2-3

Before she conceived, Hannah promised the LORD she would give Him her first born son. Her prayers were answered, and she gave birth to a son, “and called his name Samuel” (1:20). Hannah did not forget her vow, and when Samuel was no longer nursing (1:22-23), she took him to Shiloh, and presented him to the high priest (1:24-27). There she confessed, “I have lent [given, offered] him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord” (1:28).

1 Samuel 2  – Hannah’s Prayer of Thanksgiving and Praise (2:1-11)

After dedicating her only son to the LORD, Hannah prayed with a overflowing joy and thanksgiving. Her prayer was full of imagery, revealing a knowledge of the LORD that was both personal, and perceptive. The LORD had answered her prayers, and she exulted that He was her strength (“mine horn”), and salvation (2:1). She declared, the LORD is holy, and there is none like Him; He is a Rock, strong and mighty (2:2).

Though she had been mocked, and scorned by Elkanah’s other wife, she took comfort knowing the LORD was wise, and sovereign (2:3). He is to be praised, for by Him strong men are made weak, and the weak are made strong (2:4). He is sovereign over death, and life, and chooses whom He will bless, and who will be abased (2:6-8a). The LORD is the Creator, and Sustainer, and “the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he hath set the world upon them” (2:8).

When Hannah’s prayer of praise concluded, Elkanah, and his family went home to Ramah, leaving Samuel at Shiloh where he “did minister unto the LORD before Eli the priest” (2:11). He had been taught the Scriptures as soon as he could speak (Deuteronomy 6), and though a child, he exhibited his parent’s love, and passion for the LORD.

Year after year, Hannah returned to Shiloh, and there she found Samuel ministering “before the Lord, being a child, girded with a linen ephod” (2:18). As his loving mother, she “made [Samuel] a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.” (2:19). Eli prayed Hannah would be blessed, for her sacrifice, and rewarded for giving her son to the LORD.  “The Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the Lord” (2:21), “and was in favour both with the Lord, and also with men” (2:26),

The Wickedness of Eli’s Sons (2:12-17)

Amid the backdrop of Samuel’s innocence, and service to the LORD, we are introduced to the sons of Eli the high priest, and read of them: “12Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord” (2:12).

How could this be? They were not only the sons of the high priest; they were by birth of the priestly order. Tragically, they were illustrative of “the sons of Belial,” godless, wicked, and immoral (2:12), and “they knew not the LORD” (2:12).

It has been observed that, “familiarity breeds contempt,” and surely it did for the sons of Eli. They grew up in the cloistered life of the priesthood, and did not fear, and obey the LORD’S Law and Commandments. They profaned the sacrifices and demanded for themselves, the choice portions of burnt offerings. They lacked restraint, taking portions of fat, which was forbidden in the Law (2:13-16). Their disdain for the LORD, and the sacrifices gave cause for men to abhor “the offering of the LORD” (2:17).

A Father’s Failure, and a Tragic Prophecy (2:22-36)

The Scriptures do not reveal how many years passed from the time Samuel began service in the Tabernacle, and the blatant wickedness perpetuated by the sons of Eli in the priesthood. Old and weakened, Eli heard of the wicked, immoral acts committed by his sons, but he did nothing to restrain them (2:22-24). His feeble attempt to reason with his sons fell woefully short (2:25), for they demonstrated calloused hearts with no respect for him as father, nor fear of the LORD. So great was their wickedness, the LORD determined He “would slay them” (2:25).

The LORD sent “a man of God,” a prophet to Eli, who foretold the imminent judgment that would befall his sons (2:27-28). The LORD rebuked Eli, admonishing him for putting his sons above His God (2:29). Eli’s lineage would be cut off, and die in their youth (2:31-33). “Hophni and Phinehas [Eli’s sons]; [would] in one day die both of them” (2:34).

1 Samuel 3 – The LORD Calls Samuel

The LORD never leaves His people without His Word, and though Eli’s sons had disgraced the priesthood, and caused the people to abhor the offerings of the LORD (2:17), He was preparing Samuel to be His servant, and prophet (1 Samuel 3).

It was a tragic time in Israel, for “the word of the Lord was precious [rare] in those days; there was no open vision [no prophet]” (3:1), and the “lamp of God” in the Tabernacle was neglected, and “went out…where the ark of God was” (3:3).

Although he was a child, the LORD was ready to speak directly to Samuel (3:2-6, 3:7). Three times the LORD called to Samuel while he slept, but Samuel did not know it was the voice of the LORD. Eli comprehended the LORD was calling upon the young boy, and instructed him, “Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth” (3:9).

When the LORD called upon Samuel the fourth time, he answered as he had been instructed, and the LORD revealed the tragedy that would soon befall the house of Eli, and his sons (3:11-14). Samuel was stunned by the revelation the LORD had given him, and “feared to show Eli the vision” (3:15). Eli, however, demanded he reveal all the LORD had shown him, and Samuel told him everything, “and hid nothing from him” (3:18a).

Samuel’s reputation grew throughout Israel, and the people realized there was a prophet among them, and “the LORD was with him… all Israel from Dan even to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord” (3:19-20).

Though Eli, and his sons had failed the LORD, Israel knew there was a prophet in the land, for “the Lordappeared again in Shiloh: for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord” (3:21).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Here Comes the Bride! (Ruth 3-4)

Scripture reading – Ruth 3-4

Naomi had left Bethlehem during a time of famine (1:1), and ten years later returned from Moab as a widow, and childless. She buried her husband, and two sons in Moab, and her sojourn had proven bitter. In her words, “I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty” (1:21). Only a Moabitess named Ruth was with her, and she was Naomi’s daughter-in-law, and a widow herself.

From an earthly perspective, life had dealt some significant, harsh blows against Naomi, and Ruth. There are many details I could cite to justify that observation, but suffice it to say, that both these women faced deep sorrows, a feeling of destitution, and a loss that left them without a provider. Entering the Land, Ruth was a young widow, a stranger in Israel, far from her family, and country. She was the daughter-in-law of a widow, who was bitter (1:20-21). She was an outsider, and dependent upon the charity of those who were not her countrymen.

She was far from home; however, never far from the providence of the LORD, whom she confessed to be her God (1:16-17). In a testimony of the LORD’S sovereignty, Ruth found herself gleaning grain in the fields of Boaz, a mighty, and wealthy man, who was the kinsman of her mother-in-law (2:21-23).

Ruth 3 – Naomi, the Matchmaker

Sensing the providence of God at work in her, and Ruth’s life, Naomi declared she would not rest until she knew it would be well with her widowed daughter-in-law (3:1). Naomi revealed to Ruth that Boaz was their kindred. She knew he would not go home while the grain was being winnowed (culled out of its outer shell), and would sleep on the threshing floor to secure his harvest (3:2). Naomi instructed Ruth to bathe, put on a fresh robe, and make her way to the threshingfloor, where she was to lie down at the feet of Boaz unnoticed (3:3-4). Ruth agreed to Naomi’s instructions, and did as she was told (3:5-7).

Boaz aroused from his sleep at midnight, and discovered Ruth sleeping at his feet (3:8). When she declared he was her “near kinsman,” she had, in essence, made her plea to be his wife (3:9). Boaz praised Ruth’s godly character (3:10), and pledged he would honor his role as her kinsman, but only after one closer than himself disavowed his right to be her redeemer (3:11-12).

Ruth 4 – From Bitterness to Joy

Boaz set out early the next morning, and sat in the gate of the city, where he met the man who was the “nearer kinsman” of Ruth (4:1). With ten elders of the city as witnesses, Boaz offered to the “nearer kinsman” the right to purchase the land, but with a reminder that the responsibility would mean taking Ruth as his wife (4:1-5). Confessing it would complicate his “own inheritance” (meaning his will), the “nearer kinsman” deferred his right to redeem the land, saying, “redeem thou my right to thyself; for I cannot redeem it” (4:6).

With ten witnesses watching, the “nearer kinsman,” surrendered his right of ownership by taking off his sandal (as was the custom to transfer ownership of land), and gave it to Boaz as a sign of transfer. Boaz acknowledged his obligation to redeem the land from Naomi, and thereby redeeming Ruth to be his wife (4:10). All who witnessed the transaction, and Boaz’s pledge, blessed his union with Ruth, and prayed that she would bear sons to him, as had Rachel and Leah, the wives and mothers of Jacob’s sons (4:11).

Boaz took Ruth, “and she [became] his wife: and when he went in unto her…she bare a son” (4:13). Naomi’s shroud of bitterness was lifted, and the people rejoiced with her (4:14). They praised Ruth, the Moabitess, and outsider, and said she had been better to Naomi than had she given birth to seven sons (4:15).

A closing thought: The son born to Ruth and Boaz was named Obed, and he would be the father of Jesse, and the grandfather of David (4:17-22). David, would become the king of Israel, of whose lineage Jesus Christ would come. Ruth, the Mobaitess, became the great-grandmother of David, Israel’s beloved king (4:22). The romance of Ruth and Boaz will culminate in the birth of Jesus Christ!

What an amazing story of romance, grace, and redemption!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Ruth: A Testimony of Sovereignty and Providence (Ruth 1-2)

Scripture reading – Ruth 1-2

The Book of Ruth is a bridge between two eras: Its historical context is in the time, and “days when the judges ruled Israel” (1:1), but before kings reigned in the land. It is a book beloved by Jews, and Christians alike. It establishes the ancestry of King David, and also the genealogy of Jesus Christ in the lineage of David, and a descendant of the tribe of Judah (Ruth 4:17-22; Matthew 1:5-6).

We will see in our brief study of this book, a testimony of God’s sovereignty, for He overrules in the affairs of man, and providentially is ever working out His will through the infirmity of human decisions. The Book of Ruth is also a testament of the LORD’S redemption, for it reveals how Ruth, a Moabite, who had no right of inheritance among God’s people, came to be named in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

Ruth 1 – A Prodigal Family, and A Journey from Death to Life

The introductory verses of Ruth introduce us to a family that is facing a crisis of faith, “there was a famine in the land,” and the decision was made to leave “Bethlehem-judah” (Bethlehem, a village of Judah), and travel to “the country of Moab” (1:1).  To escape the famine in Israel, Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and sons Mahlon and Chilion, descendants of Ephraim, moved to Moab where they would live ten years (1:4). Tragedy followed Elimelech’s decision to leave Bethlehem, and he died in Moab leaving Naomi a widow, and her two sons (1:3). Continuing to live in Moab, Naomi’s sons took wives of the Moabites, and continued in the land. Mahlon took Ruth as his wife (4:10), and his brother Chilion married a woman of Moab named Orpah.

Tragedy again struck Naomi’s life, when both of her sons died, leaving her in desperate straits as not only a widow herself, but with daughters-in-law who were also widows (1:5). Remembering the culture of the day would have provided no welfare for widows, the three faced a future that would prove desperate, especially for Naomi who was not living among her own people. Naomi, facing a dismal future living outside of Israel, and hearing the famine was past, set her heart to return to Bethlehem (1:6). Naomi urged her daughters in law to return to their parents, with hopes of marrying Moabite men (1:8-9). Yet, Ruth and Orpah set their hearts to accompany Naomi, but she blessed and encouraged them to go home, and seek a husband (1:9).

The bond of love between Naomi and her daughters-in-law was strong, and as they parted “they lifted up their voice, and wept” (1:10-14). “Orpah kissed her mother-in-law [and departed]… back unto her people, and unto her gods” (1:14-15); however, Ruth refused to go back. In one of the great confessions of faith in the Scriptures, Ruth said to Naomi, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: 17Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me” (1:16-17).

Although Ruth was a Moabite, and outside God’s covenant with Israel (1:18), Naomi accepted her promise, and they journeyed together to Bethlehem (1:19). As they entered the village of Bethlehem, the people were stirred, and began questioning, “Is this Naomi?” (1:19)

Ten years of sorrows had taken their toll, and no doubt Naomi’s physical appearance revealed the hardships and disappointments she had suffered. Naomi, evidencing the sorrows of her sojourn from the Promised Land to Moab, answered their inquiries, confessing, “20b …Call me not Naomi [pleasant], call me Mara [bitter]: for the Almighty [El Shaddai] hath dealt very bitterly with me…21b the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent One]hath testified against me, and the Almighty [El Shaddai—Eternal; All powerful; All Sufficient One] hath afflicted me?” (1:20b-21).

Naomi and Ruth’s arrival in Bethlehem coincided with the time of “the beginning of barley harvest,” and about the month of April (1:22).

Ruth 2 – The Will of God, and Your Responsibility

Although Ruth was a Moabite woman, and a stranger in the midst of God’s people, the LORD used the wisdom of Naomi to sovereignly direct her daughter in law to the fields of Boaz, “a mighty man wealthy,” and “kindred” of Naomi and Elimelech, her deceased husband (2:1). True to her character, Ruth went out to glean grain in the fields belonging to Boaz (2:2-3). When he came to visit the workers in his field, Boaz found a stranger among them, and asked, “Whose damsel is this?” (2:5)

The servant supervising the field workers, identified Ruth as “the Moabitish damsel that came back with Naomi out of the country of Moab” (2:6). He went on to explain how Ruth had requested to join the poor and “glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves” (2:7a). More than a pretty face, she was a woman of exceptional character, and the servant commented, “she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house” (2:7b).

Boaz, a Model of God’s Grace (2:8-23)

Boaz, understanding Ruth was a widow of his kindred, typified God’s grace and love for sinners, spoke kindly to her, and insisted she labor only in his field, and among his maidens where she would find not only provision, but also safety (2:8-9). Humbled by his favor, Ruth fell before Boaz, and asked, “Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?” (2:10)

Boaz acknowledged Ruth’s testimony in Bethlehem, and how she had left her country, and kindred, and accompanied Naomi to a land and people she did not know (2:11). He realized she was a woman of faith, and prayed she would be rewarded by the LORD, and enjoy His favor (2:12). Ruth accepted Boaz’s expression of grace with humility (2:13), and he displayed his affection by inviting her to his table (2:14). She instead, took her place with the “reapers,” the hired servants, and ate enough to not only satisfy her hunger, but leaving some leftovers to bring home with her to Naomi.

I close, encouraging you to consider three ways Boaz displayed grace to Ruth. He offered her protection, and charged the men they were not to touch her (2:9). He made provision for her by leaving behind handfuls of grain (2:15-16). She was promoted, and was the object of Boaz’s attention and affection (2:14).

That evening, when Ruth came home to Naomi, she revealed to her how she had been blessed by Boaz (2:18-19). When Naomi realized the probability of the LORD’S leading, she rejoiced, and encouraged Ruth, thereby dispelling her own bitterness by the hope of redemption! (2:21-23)

As you will see, this book that began with famine, death, sorrow, and bitterness, is emerging to be a wonderful story of love and redemption.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Moral Degeneracy, and Civil War” (Judges 20) – A Bonus Father’s Day Devotional Post

Scripture reading – Judges 20

Happy Father’s Day to fathers who follow http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com. Today’s Scripture reading is Ruth 1-2; however, I decided to post a bonus devotional from Judges 20. This passage was the subject of my Father’s Day message to Hillsdale Baptist Church, Tampa, FL. A recording of that sermon will be posted on Monday on my GabTV Channel

The Levite’s brutal actions, cutting the battered, and lifeless body of his concubine into twelve pieces, and sending them to the tribes, had the desired effect (19:29). The children of Israel were stirred and challenged to deliberate the deed that had been done, and speak to it (19:30). In the absence of a judge, ruler, or king (19:1), the elders of the tribes sent a summons for the children of Israel to gather “together as one man, from Dan [the northernmost tribe in Israel] even to Beer-sheba [the southernmost town in Canaan], with the land of Gilead[the tribes on the east side of the Jordan], unto the Lord in Mizpeh [probably a military outpost]” (20:1-2).

“Four hundred thousand footmen that drew sword,” gathered from “all the tribes of Israel, [and] presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God” (20:2). Though the tribe of Benjamin had heard how the tribes of Israel had gathered at Mizpeh, and was perhaps summoned, there was no man sent to represent the tribe in the matter.

A Plea for Justice (20:3-7)

The Levite, whose wife had been slain in Gibeah, was summoned by the tribal leaders, and questioned: “Tell us, how was this wickedness?” (20:3) The Levite then proceeded to give testimony of the horrific events that had taken place at Gibeah, and how he and his concubine had come to lodge there (20:4). He described how the house in which he sheltered was “beset…round about,” and the men of Gibeah would have slain him, and assaulted his concubine, leaving her dead (20:5).

He described how he had taken the body of his concubine, “and cut her in pieces, and sent her throughout all the country…for they [the men of Gibeah, and Benjamin] had “committed lewdness [wickedness; evil] and folly[disgrace] in Israel” (20:6). The Levite then appealed to all Israel, “give here your advice and counsel” (20:7).

A Resolution to Exact Judgment (20:8-11)

All Israel was moved by the Levite’s testimony (20:8), and it was decided that judgment should not be delayed in the matter (20:8), and the men of Gibeah would answer for their evil deeds (20:9).

Men were chosen to search out provisions for the thousands of men who were prepared to go up against Gibeah, and deal with them “according to all the folly that they have wrought in Israel” (20:10). “All the men of Israel were gathered against the city [Gibeah], knit together as one man” (20:11).

Judgment, and the Punishment of the Men of Gibeah (20:12-19)

The elders of Israel sent messengers throughout the tribe of Benjamin, and they enquired, “What wickedness is this that is done among you?” (20:12). The messengers demanded, that “the children of Belial, which are in Gibeah,” (those ungodly, immoral men), be purged from their tribe, “that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel” (20:13).

In spite of the gross wickedness committed by the men of Gibeah, “the children of Benjamin would not hearken to the voice of their brethren the children of Israel[and they] gathered themselves together out of the cities unto Gibeah, to go out to battle against the children of Israel” (20:13-14). Benjamin made the decision to tolerate, and protect the sexual deviancy of Gibeah, and gathered “out of the cities twenty and six thousand men that drew sword, beside the inhabitants of Gibeah, which were numbered seven hundred chosen men” (20:15).

The children of Israel found themselves at a spiritual crossroads. (20:17-20)

Defy the law of God, and tolerate the wickedness that brought His judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), or confront the sin in its midst, and go to war with “four hundred thousand men that drew sword” (20:17).

Israel chose the LORD’S side, and “went up to the house of God [not the Tabernacle, but “Bethel”], and asked counsel of God, and said, Which of us shall go up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin? And the Lord said, Judah shall go up first” (20:18). The next day, “Israel rose up in the morning, and encamped against Gibeah. 20And the men of Israel went out to battle against Benjamin; and the men of Israel put themselves in array to fight against them at Gibeah” (20:19-20).

The men of Benjamin came out of Gibeah, and won the first day’s battle, killing “twenty and two thousand men” of Israel (20:21). Although twenty-two thousand men had died, Israel’s men stirred themselves to prepare for the second battle (20:22), and wept before the LORD that same evening, “and asked counsel of the Lord, saying, Shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother? And the Lord said, Go up against him” (20:23).

On the second day, the army of Israel came near Gibeah, and the men of Benjamin once again rushed upon them, and eighteen thousand soldiers of Israel were slain (20:25). Israel retreated, and went up to Bethel, “and sat there before the Lord, and fasted that day until even, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. 27And the children of Israel inquired of the Lord, (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days” (having been relocated to Bethel from Shiloh, perhaps for the battle, 20:26-27). “Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron” was the high priest,” enquired of the LORD for Israel, “Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease?” (20:28) The LORD assured Israel, “Go up; for to morrow I will deliver them into thine hand” (20:28).

With the assurance the LORD was with them, Israel “set liers in wait,” men who would ambush the soldiers of Benjamin when they gave chase out of Gibeah (20:29). On the third day of the battle, the men of Benjamin rushed out of the city as before, not knowing there were soldiers of Israel lying in wait to attack the city (20:29-30). Israel’s soldiers retreated, thus drawing the men of Benjamin away from the city (20:32). As Benjamin pursued Israel, ten thousand men of Israel overran the city of Gibeah (20:33-34). With the LORD on their side, Israel “destroyed of the Benjamites that day twenty and five thousand and an hundred men” (20:35).

When they saw the flames and smoke rising over Gibeah, the men of Benjamin realized “that evil was come upon them. 42Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel unto the way of the wilderness; but the battle overtook them; and them [other citizens of Benjamin] which came out of the cities they [Israel] destroyed in the midst of them” (20:41-42).

When the day’s battle was finished, Israel had killed all the people of Benjamin, burned their cities, and killed their beasts (20:42). There remained only six hundred men of Benjamin, who had fled and found safety “in the rock Rimmon four months” (20:47).

The tribe of Benjamin had tolerated, and protected the sodomite sins of Gibeah, and the toll of that decision brought the tribe nearly to extinction. Benjamin was decimated, and only six hundred men remained alive (20:47-48).

The final chapter in our study of the Book of Judges will find Israel bewailing all that had come to pass in Israel (21:1-3).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith