Tag Archives: Sanctification

“I AM hath sent me unto you.” (Exodus 3-4)

Scripture reading: Exodus 3-4

Moses was forty years old when he fled Egypt into the wilderness (2:11), and he spent the next forty years of his tending his father-in-law’s sheep. He had been safe from the reign of Pharaoh, and lived far from the travail of the children of Israel. In fact, he might have contentedly lived out his days with his wife Zipporah (2:21), and his sons, Gershom (2:22) and Elizer (18:4).

Though the children of Israel were far from the thoughts of Moses, they were never beyond God’s loving compassion. When the “king of Egypt died” (2:23), and the people found no relief from their sorrows, they “cried, and their cry rose up to God by reason of the bondage [slavery; forced labor]” (2:23b).

“God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.25And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect [acknowledged] unto them” (2:24-25).

Exodus 3 – Called and Commissioned (3:1-14).

God found Moses tending his father-in-law’s sheep on the backside of the desert (3:1). He had providentially made his way to Horeb, “the mountain of God” (3:1). [This same mount, also named Sinai, would become the base camp for Israel when Moses received the Ten Commandments, Exodus 19:10-11.]

At Horeb, “the angel of the Lord appeared unto [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush… and the bush was not consumed” (3:2).

The sight of a burning bush in the desert was not unusual; however, when it was not consumed–that’s when God got Moses’ attention. He turned aside to see the sight (3:3), and God called him by name from the burning bush (fire being a symbol of God’s presence in the Scriptures, Exodus 19:18).

Instructing Moses to remove his shoes, the voice said, “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (3:6a).

What did Moses, a prince of Egypt, know about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? His knowledge of the God of Israel was not acquired in the palace of Pharaoh’s daughter, but instead, he was taught from the loving arms of his Hebrew mother, Jochebed (2:2, 8-10; 6:20).

God awakened in Moses a memory of the sufferings of the children of Israel (3:7), and He announced He would deliver His people out of bondage (3:8). God then commanded Moses, “10Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt” (3:10).

Moses asked, “Who am I?” (3:11). No longer the proud prince of Egypt, his question evidenced a humility that had been born in the solitude of the desert. No doubt the LORD had prepared Moses; however, the matter of his calling was not who he was, but who had called and commissioned him. God assured him, “I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain” (3:12).

Moses wondered aloud, “Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?” (3:13)

“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you” (3:14).

God promised, not only would the children of Israel heed his voice (3:15-18a), but the king of Egypt would bow to his will. The LORD promised He would smite Egypt until that great nation bowed to His will (3:18b-22).

Exodus 4 – God Overcame Moses’ Objections

Overwhelmed by the task he had been given, God provided Moses with three miraculous signs to prove the LORD was with him. The first sign, his shepherd’s staff became a serpent (4:2-5). The second sign showed his skin turning leprous, and then completely healed (4:6-8). Turning water into blood was the third miraculous sign (4:8-9).

When Moses objected that he lacked the eloquence or language needed to stand in Pharaoh’s court (after being exiled from Egypt forty years, 4:10), God rebuked him saying, “Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord?” (4:11) The LORD overcame Moses’ objection, promising to send Aaron on his behalf (4:12-16).

Moses departed for Egypt, but along the way became deathly ill (4:18-24). He might have died, but his wife Zipporah, intervened by circumcising their son (4:24-25). She then returned to her father’s house (4:24-26), and did not reunite with Moses until Israel encamped at Sinai (18:2-3).

Arriving in Egypt, Aaron gathered the elders of Israel, and Moses demonstrated the power of God was upon him (4:30). When the people witnessed the signs of God’s power, they believed, and worshipped the LORD (4:31).

The stage is set for the contest between the most powerful king on the earth, and a shepherd whom God had anointed to lead His people to the Promised Land.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Dreams Do Come True” (Genesis 42)

Scripture reading – Genesis 42

Joseph’s dreams were coming to pass (37:5-11), but the path from the favored son of Jacob, to the role of a ruler in Egypt, had been one of disappointments, challenges, and injustices. He was little more than seventeen years old (37:2) when his brothers sold him to Midianite merchantmen, who then sold him as a slave in Egypt (37:27-28, 36).

Wrongfully accused by his master’s wife, Joseph had found himself a prisoner, forgotten by man, but faithful to God. Nevertheless, “the Lord was with [Joseph], and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper” (39:23).

Headline: Thirty-Year-Old Hebrew Becomes Second Ruler of Egypt! (Genesis 41:38-57)

God had providentially worked throughout the highs, and lows of Joseph’s life. For thirteen years, he had suffered the indignity of slavery and imprisonment, but when he was thirty years old, he was dramatically promoted to sovereign of Egypt, second only to Pharoah (41:47).

Entrusted by Pharaoh to oversee the preparations for seven years of famine, “Joseph went out from [his] presence… and went throughout all the land of Egypt” (41:45-46).” For the next seven years, he served as the overseer of all that was harvested, and stored in Egypt’s granaries (41:38-44). Pharaoh also honored Joseph, giving him the name Zaphnath-paaneah (meaning, “a giver of secrets”), and “Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah priest of On” as his wife (41:45).

“Before the years of famine came” (41:50), Asenath conceived, and God blessed Joseph with two sons. The firstborn he named Manasseh, meaning “forgetting,” for he had forgiven the hardships and mistreatments of his past (41:51). The second son he called Ephraim, meaning “fruitful,” for his life had become abundantly blessed (41:52).

As he had foretold, when the seven years of abundant harvests had passed (41:53), the seven years of famine began in Egypt (41:54). When the people cried for food, Pharaoh commanded them to go to Joseph, and he opened the granaries and began selling grain to the people (41:55).

Genesis 42 – Famine in Canaan

As famine spread (41:57), word reached Canaan, “that there was corn [grain] in Egypt, [and] Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another?”(42:1). “Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die” (42:2).

Ten sons of Jacob, less Benjamin, the youngest, made their journey to Egypt (42:3). Perhaps suspecting his sons had a hand in Joseph’s disappearance, Jacob refused to allow Benjamin to accompany his brothers, “for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him” (42:4).

A Long-Awaited Family Reunion (Genesis 42:5-38)

Seeking food for their households in Canaan, God had providentially brought Joseph’s brothers to Egypt. I am sure it was incomprehensible that the brother whom they had sold as a slave, would now hold their fate in his hands (42:1-20).

Nine years had passed since he was promoted (seven years of plenty, and two years of famine), and Joseph was thirty-nine years old when he spied his brothers standing in the midst of a crowd that had gathered to purchase grain (42:5-6). Recognizing the dress of Hebrew shepherds, Joseph looked into the faces of the men who stood before him, and “made himself strange unto them [speaking through an interpreter], and spake roughly unto them…Whence come ye? And they said, From the land of Canaan to buy food” (42:7).

Joseph “knew his brethren, but they knew not him” (42:8). Though twenty-two years had passed, the memories of his childhood dreams rushed over him (37:5-11). He “remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them, and said unto them, Ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come” (42:9).

The brother’s protested their innocence, but also revealed in their reply that Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, and his father were alive and well in Canaan (42:13). Searching out whether or not his brothers had repented of their sinful ways, he imprisoned them for three days (42:14-17). On the third day, he directed that nine of the brothers would remain in prison, and one would be allowed to return to Canaan. To prove they were not spies, Joseph demanded the youngest brother be brought to Egypt to stand before him (42:18-20).

The brothers were overcome with guilt and grief (42:21), and Reuben, the oldest brother, rebuked them, saying, “Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required” (42:22). The brothers did not know that the ruler who stood before them was Joseph, and that he understood their guilt-charged conversation, and admission of the sin they had committed against him (42:23).

Emotions swept over Joseph, “and he turned himself about from them, and wept; and returned to them again, and communed with them, and took from them Simeon, and bound him before their eyes” (42:24). Commanding that their sacks be filled with grain, and the money they had brought to purchase provisions, Joseph sent the brothers away (42:25-26). Along the journey, one of the brothers opened his sack of grain, and discovered his money had been returned to him (42:27-28). Fate, it seemed, had cast its long shadow over their lives, and they asked one another, “What is this that God hath done unto us?” (42:28)

Arriving in Canaan without Simeon, the brothers shared with their father the rough words of the ruler in Egypt, and his demand that Benjamin must return with them if Simeon was to be freed from prison (42:29-34). As they emptied their sacks of grain, each man discovered his money had been returned (42:35). Fear and grief followed the discovery, but Jacob refused to allow Benjamin to return with his brothers (42:36-37).

We leave Jacob, finding his sorrows seemingly overwhelming his faith (42:38). Famine would continue five more years, and eventually Joseph’s brothers would be forced to return to Egypt. However, they will soon learn, what Jacob knows: God is in control.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Scandalous Grace and Divine Providence (Genesis 38-39)

Scripture reading – Genesis 38-39

Genesis 37 concluded with Joseph’s brothers returning to Canaan with his bloodied tunic. Deceiving their father, and breaking his heart, they led him to believe Joseph was dead (37:29-35). Meanwhile, Joseph had been transported to Egypt, and there he was sold to an Egyptian named “Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard” (37:36).

Genesis 38 – Judah, an Inauspicious Beginning of a Royal Lineage

The study of Joseph’s life was intersected briefly as the focus shifted to Judah (29:35), the fourth born son of Jacob (38:1). Although his lineage will be a royal one of whom King David, and Jesus Christ will be born (Mary and Joseph were both descendants of Judah), our introduction to Judah in Genesis 38 is an ignoble one.

Failing to evidence the character of a righteous man, we find Judah had a close friendship with “a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah” (38:1). Adullam was located in the pastoral lands of southern Judah, and it was probably while shepherding his father’s flocks that he became an acquaintance of Hirah. Judah’s questionable friendship led to an interest in a woman named Shuah, a Canaanite, and not one God or his father would have approved (38:2).

Judah took Shuah as his wife, and she conceived three sons (38:3). The firstborn was named Er (38:3), the second son was Onan, (38:4), and the third born son was Shelah (38:5). Er, Judah’s firstborn, took a wife named Tamar; however, before she conceived, the LORD slew him because he was “wicked in the sight of the LORD” (38:6-7). Following the custom of a man marrying his brother’s widow to perpetuate his lineage, Onan, Judah’s second son, rejected Tamar and the LORD “slew him also” (38:10). Twice a widow, Judah then sent Tamar to her father’s home, vowing she would be given opportunity to marry his youngest son, a promise he had no intent to keep (38:11).

Learning Judah was a widower (38:12), and realizing she had been deceived by him, Tamar set on a course to ensnare her father-in-law. Concealing her identity, and posing as a prostitute (38:14), she tempted Judah. He foolishly turned aside, and negotiated a price for her favors (38:15-17). Tamar, however, was a shrewd woman, and until Judah could fulfill her fee, she demanded a pledge, a deposit, that would serve as her security. Judah then presented her with personal items that would be easily identifiable: a “signet” that would be used to seal documents, his bracelets, and his staff (38:18).

Genesis 38:18-30 – “She conceived by him.” (38:18b)

Although a simple, four-worded phrase, it serves as a reminder that actions have consequences. Three months after she conceived, Judah learned that Tamar was with child, and he was told that “she [was] with child by whoredom” (38:24).

Hypocritically, Judah condemned Tamar to “be burnt” (38:24b); however, she produced the personal items, he had left with her: “the signet, and bracelets, and staff” (38:25). Acknowledging they were his, he confessed, “She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more” (38:26).

Tamar conceived twin sons by Judah, and Pharez, the oldest son, and Zarah, became his heirs. He evidenced sincere repentance when he confessed his sin, which was seen in his withdrawal from her (38:26b).

The story of Judah and Tamar is a testimony of God’s grace and forgiveness, for they and their sons are named in the lineage of kings and Christ (Matthew 1:3). Pharez, the firstborn son is in the direct line of the Messiah.

Genesis 39 – The Providence of God: The LORD is with us!

Following the life of Joseph is akin to a spiritual rollercoaster with wonderful highs, followed by events that would threaten to plunge most men into a slough of despair.

Rather than give in to despondency and bitterness, Joseph’s faith in the LORD remained unshaken, and he rose from slave to steward over Potiphar’s household (37:36). Even when his master’s wife endeavored to entrap him in her lusts (39:7), Joseph refused her advances, and reasoned “how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (39:9)

Though a young man, Joseph did not rationalize sin, but resisted it (39:9-11). When Potiphar’s wife thrust herself upon him, he ran from her embrace, leaving behind the garment she had seized from him (39:12-13). When she falsely accused him of indiscretion, Joseph held his peace, and was sentenced to prison (39:19-23). When he was a prisoner, and wrongfully accused, Joseph prospered, “because the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper” (39:23).

I look forward to sharing the rest of the story, and the testimony of God’s providences in Joseph’s life, and how God made him prosper even in the darkest times!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Home, Not So Sweet Home (Genesis 33-34)

Scripture reading – Genesis 33-34

Jacob was glad to be free from servitude to his father-in-law, and after he made his peace with him (31:53-55), he departed from Mount Gilead, and journeyed west to the border of  “Edom,” the land where his brother Esau had made his home (32:3).

Fearing his brother’s approach, Jacob had prepared his family for the confrontation he believed was inevitable. By trickery and deceit, he taken his brother’s birthright, and stolen his father’s blessing. Although twenty years had passed, the memory of his deception was fresh in his heart, as was the memory of his brother’s threat to kill him (27:41).

Jacob and Esau meet Genesis 33:4

The news that Esau was coming with four hundred men had filled Jacob’s heart with dread (32:6-7). Knowing he would face his brother the next day, Jacob had spent the night at Peniel, and there the LORD had met him “face to face” (32:30) and promised to preserve him, and his household.

Genesis 33 – Jacob and Esau’s Reunion

As the sun began to rise the next day, Jacob, bearing a limp he would carry the rest of his days (32:31), “lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men” (33:1a). Jacob divided his family in preparation for the meeting with his brother, not knowing if Esau’s coming was for good or for revenge (33:2). Seven times he bowed himself to Esau, “until he came near to his brother” (33:3).

In an instance, the bitterness and hardness that had separated them for twenty years, was dissolved, and “Esau ran to meet [Jacob], and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept” (33:4). The years, and God’s blessings on the two men, had given neither cause for continuing their hostility (33:10-11).

Esau offered to accompany his brother as he continued his journey; however, Jacob declined, giving the cause was to give his children, flocks, and herds a time of rest from the arduous journey (33:12-14). Bidding his brother go on without him, and promising to join him later, Jacob remained behind, a fateful decision that would cause him and his household much sorrow.

Jacob stopped at Succoth, where he built an house, and sheltered his cattle. He “bought a parcel of a field,” from a man identified as “Hamor, Shechem’s father” (33:17-19). Failing to go on to Bethel, he erected an altar in Shalem (33:18-20).

Genesis 34 – “To See and To Be Seen: A Tragic Story of Love and Murder”

Jacob’s failure to go to Bethel took a tragic turn when his daughter Dinah, born to Leah, “went out to see the daughters of the land” (34:1). Her father had made the decision to settle his family among the heathen, idol worshipers of that day, and his children were not insulated from the fatal attraction of the world. The influence of the “daughters of the land,” inevitably brought Dinah into the company of Shechem, the son of a wealthy, powerful man of Shalem, named Hamor.

When Shechem looked upon Dinah, he seized her forcefully and “took her, and lay with her, and defiled her” (34:2). Though he had raped her violently, Hamor’s “soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved [sexually desired] the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel [speaking to her heart and emotions]” (34:3), and desired to take her as his wife (34:4).

News of Dinah’s rape reached Jacob, but he “held his peace” (34:5) until his sons came home. Hamor, Shechem’s father, came to arrange his son’s marriage to Dinah (34:6); however, her brothers were furious that their sister had been shamed, and mistreated (34:7). Hamor suggested a compromise, but such an agreement would have been a breach of Jacob’s covenant with the LORD, and would have put the promises of God in jeopardy (34:8-10). Shechem pled for forgiveness, and offered to pay whatever dowry was required (34:11-13). Plotting revenge (34:13), Jacob’s sons agreed to accept Shechem as Dinah’s husband, but only if all the men of the city agreed to be circumcised (34:14-24).

Unbeknownst to Jacob, on the third day after the men of the city were circumcised, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, drew their swords and slew all the men of the city (34:25-26). With the men of the city dead, Jacob’s other sons joined Simeon and Levi, raided the livestock, and took their children and wives captive. (34:27-29).

Jacob protested the actions of Simeon and Levi, and expressed his fear that their act of revenge would have dire consequences for his household (34:30). Dinah’s brothers, however, evidenced no remorse, and challenged their father, asking, Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?” (34:31)

The heartache, and division that was within Jacob’s household is often mirrored in today’s homes. No home is exempt from the sorrows and violence of yesteryear. Fathers  should be attentive, and ever mindful to look ahead and see the evil., remembering, “that the friendship of the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Not So Happy Family (Genesis 27-28)

Scripture reading – Genesis 27-28

When we concluded our study of Genesis 26, we found Isaac, his wife Rebekah, and his family living in Gerar, a Philistine area of Canaan, that he named Beersheba (26:32-33). Knowing he was 60 years old when Rebekah conceived twin sons, we can assume Isaac was one hundred years old at this time, for his sons were forty years old. Esau the older son, had committed bigamy, by taking two Hittite women to be his wives (26:34). Those heathen wives were from a lineage of idolaters, and “were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah” (26:35).

Genesis 27 – “Esau the Carnal, and Jacob the Conniver”

Time marches on for all, and Genesis 27 opens with a sad statement: Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see” (27:1a). Nearly blind, perhaps due to cataracts from the effect of the desert sun and sand, he had determined it was time to put his household in order, and prepare for his death. Calling for his oldest son, Esau came to his father and said, “Behold, here am I” (27:1b).

Isaac engaged Esau to take his bow, and go out “to the field, and take some venison” (27:3), stating his purpose was to eat, and then bless Esau before he died (27:4). Now, the father’s blessing in ancient times carried a far greater meaning, than it does today. The blessing was essentially a statement of the father’s “Will and Testament,” the passing of the torch of leadership, and the dispensing of his possessions.

Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, had overheard Isaac’s instructions to Esau, and she realized her husband’s plans were contrary to God’s will (25:23). Rather than trust the LORD to providentially work His will according to the divine promise that Jacob, the second born son was his chosen heir (25:23), Rebekah determined to deceive her husband (27:6-10). She readied Jacob to masquerade as his brother Esau (27:11-17), and prepared a meal for him to present to his father. Isaac, although he had his doubts, nevertheless gave his blessing to Jacob, and not his oldest son (27:18-29).

When Esau returned from the hunt, and came before his father (27:30-32), Isaac physically trembled when he realized he had been deceived (27:33). Esau, overcome with grief, bewailed the loss of his father’s blessing (27:34).

The consequences of Jacob’s scheming had infuriated Esau. Jacob had not only taken his birthright (i.e. the spiritual priesthood of the family which Esau had despised and sold for a bowl of soup, 25:33-34), but now his inheritance. Learning of Esau’s threat to kill Jacob (27:41), his mother appealed to Isaac, and requested that Jacob be sent away to her family in Haran, not only for his safety, but also to find a wife among her people (27:42-46).

Genesis 28 – On the Run, and Alone: When God Speaks—Listen!

Knowing the blessing he had bestowed upon Jacob was irrevocable, Isaac confirmed God’s covenant blessing on his youngest son, and commanded him to flee to “Padan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother” (28:2).

Jacob’s flight from Beersheba to Bethel, where he stopped for rest, was a distance of some forty miles (28:10). Physically and emotionally exhausted, Jacob went to sleep, and the LORD came to him in a vision of a ladder that reached from heaven to earth, and upon the ladder he beheld “the angels of God ascending and descending on it” (28:11-12).

The LORD confirmed to Jacob that He had been chosen by God, and the promises of the Abrahamic covenant would pass through him to his heirs (28:13-14). With the promise, “I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (28:15), Jacob awoke, and recognized that as God had been with Abraham, and his father Isaac, he would be with him (28:16).

Fearing God, and revering the place where the LORD had appeared to him, Jacob dedicated the place, calling it Bethel, “the house of God” (28:17-19). Jacob then dedicated himself to the LORD (28:20-21), promising. “I will surely give the tenth unto thee” (the “tenth” being a tithe, 28:22).

The next chapters in our study will follow God’s work of grace as Jacob, the deceiver, is transformed into the man whom God will call Israel, the man who had “power with God.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Here Comes the Bride” (Genesis 24)

Scripture reading – Genesis 24

Faithful to His promises, God had blessed Sarah in her old age, and as a 90-year-old wife, she had given Abraham a son when he was 100-years-old. She died when she was “an hundred and seven and twenty years old” (Genesis 23:1), meant that Isaac was 37-years-old at the time of his mother’s death.

Genesis 24:1-9 – An Urgency to Find a Suitable Wife for Isaac

We read, “Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things” (24:1). The three years that had passed since Sarah’s death (25:20), had impressed Abraham with an urgency to prepare his son to become not only the master of the household, but also the heir of God’s covenant with Abraham’s lineage. An essential part of that preparation was the choosing of a wife for Isaac.

Burdened that Isaac would have a fitting wife, Abraham summoned his eldest servant (24:2), and charged him that Isaac “shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites [a heathen, idolatrous people], among whom I dwell: 4But thou shalt go unto my country [the country out of which God had called him, Genesis 12:1-3], and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac” (24:3-4).

The servant questioned Abraham concerning the considerations for choosing Isaac’s wife, and was admonished that, should a young woman be unwilling to return with him to Canaan (24:5), he must not permit Isaac to leave the land God had given him as an inheritance (24:6-9).

Genesis 24:10-67 – The Search for Isaac’s Wife

A caravan of ten camels, servants, and supplies accompanied Abraham’s trusted servant for the 500-mile journey across the desert, from Canaan to the city of Nahor in Mesopotamia (24:10).

Arriving at the well in Nahor in the evening, the servant was aware the young women of the households would come to the well for water, and there he compelled the camels to kneel (24:11-13). Abraham’s servant made a passionate plea to the LORD to guide him (24:11-14), and “before he had done speaking…Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder” (24:14).

Rebekah was God’s answer to the servant’s prayer, for she was “very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her: and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up” (24:16). Beautiful, chaste (24:16), considerate (24:18), diligent in serving (24:19-20), and of a household that called on Jehovah (24:31a), the servant broke out into a prayer of praise and thanksgiving, testifying, “I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren” (24:27).

Rewarding Rebekah with “a golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold” (24:22), she invited Abraham’s servant to her family’s household where he would meet Laban, Rebekah’s brother (24:23-29).

The servant refused to be comforted by food or shelter until he had stated his mission, and given testimony of God’s providences in leading him to their home (24:30-50). Declaring, “I am Abraham’s servant” (24:34), he shared how God had blessed his master with great wealth (24:35), and a son who would be his heir (24:36).

Hearing how God had providentially led the servant to Rebekah, her brother and father gave their blessing for her to become Isaac’s wife (24:50-56). When Rebekah was requested to give her consent to depart with Abraham’s servant, and to be the wife of Isaac, she consented saying, “I will go” (24:58). With the blessing of her family (24:59-60), Rebekah departed with her attendant, and journeyed with the Abraham’s servant to Canaan (24:61).

As they entered the land Abraham and Isaac called home, they spotted Isaac coming toward them (24:62-63), and Rebekah covered herself with a veil, expressing both modesty and humility (24:64).

Isaac listened to the servant’s report, and how the LORD had led him to Rebekah (24:66), and “Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent… and she became his wife; and he loved her” (24:67).

Though their marriage was not always a picture of peace and happiness, the union of Isaac and Rebekah has served as an enduring testimony of God’s personal interest in our lives, and His providential leading in our marriages, and families.

Oh that we all might choose to walk in righteousness, be able to say with Abraham’s servant, “I being in the way, the LORD led me” (24:27). 

Do Right, and you will not only do the will of the LORD, you will be confident in it!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Tragic Consequences of Sin and One’s Father’s Sinful Choices (Genesis 19)

Scripture reading – Genesis 19

Abraham had interceded with God, and prayed that the city of Sodom might be spared “peradventure ten [righteous souls] shall be found there” (18:32a). The LORD honored Abraham’s request, and agreed saying, “I will not destroy it for ten’s sake” (18:32b).

Genesis 19 – The Tragic Judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Cities in the Plain

After separating from Abraham, Lot had inched his way from pitching his tent toward Sodom, to finally becoming one of its leaders and judges who “sat in the gate” (19:1), the gate of a walled city being a place where government and commercial business was transacted. The two angels that had appeared in front of Abraham’s tent (18:2, 16), arrived at the gate of Sodom, and were immediately greeted by Lot who “rose up to meet them…bowing himself with his face toward the ground” (19:1). Knowing those “men” were not like the wicked of Sodom, Lot urged them to accept refuge in his home (19:2-3).

Lot made his guest “a feast, and did bake unleavened bread,” (19:3), but “before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: 5And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them” (19:4-5).

The wickedness and depravity of the city was displayed that night as the sodomites (homosexuals) of the city encircled Lot’s house, and demanded that he turn his visitors out into the street to be violently, and sexually assaulted (19:4-6).  Lot pleaded with the sodomites, defining their lusts as wicked (19:7), and offered his virgin daughters to satisfy their lusts (19:8-9).

Though he had been a citizen of the city, and one of its leaders, his righteous judgment of their sinful desires infuriated the men who mocked and ridiculed his hypocrisy as a sojourner, an alien, and an outsider. The angels saved Lot when they “pulled [him] into the house, and struck the sodomites with blindness (19:10-11).

Displaying God’s grace, the angels pressed on Lot to go to his married sons and daughters, and urged them to flee Sodom before the LORD destroyed the city for its wickedness (19:12-13). His family refused to heed his pleas, and despised him (19:14).

As the morning light crested the mountains surrounding the cities in the plain, “the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city” (19:15).  Though knowing the judgment of God was imminent, Lot “lingered,” and the angels mercifully took hold of him, his wife, and daughters and “brought him forth, and set him without the city” (19:16).

Though admonished to “escape for [his] life; [and] look not behind…escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed” (19:17), Lot protested God’s place of safety and pleaded that a nearby city, “a little one” (19:20), might be spared as his refuge (19:19-20). The LORD heeded Lot’s request (19:21), and spared the city called Zoar (19:22).

With the sun risen, and Lot safely removed from Sodom, the fire of God’s judgment “rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; 25And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground” (19:24-25). It was as though hell itself rained from heaven upon the wicked.

Tragically, Lot’s “wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt” (19:26). She had deliberately disobeyed God’s command. Why did she look back? Was it a look of disbelief? Did she look with longing upon all that she was leaving behind? Perhaps it was a look of sorrow, for her sons and daughters were suffering the consequences of Lot and she moving their family into a city of such great wickedness.

Abraham rose early that morning, and he went “to the place where he stood before the LORD” (19:27). There he “looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah…and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace” (19:28). Perhaps anxious that Sodom might have been spared, he saw the severity of God’s judgment upon that wicked city and its inhabitants.

Why was Lot, and his daughters spared God’s judgment? Because “God remembered Abraham,” and honored him by sparing his family (19:29).

One would hope Lot’s straying from the LORD would end with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; however, he became drunk with wine and his daughters committed incest with him (19:30-36).  The eldest daughter conceived a son she named Moab, the father of the Moabites (19:37).  The youngest daughter conceived a son she named Ammon, the father of the Ammonites (19:38).  Both nations, the Moabites and Ammonites, would become a curse and perpetual trouble for the nation of Israel.

We are once again reminded of the tragic consequences of one’s man’s sinful choices.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Too Late!” (Genesis 17-18)

Scripture reading – Genesis 17-18

Genesis 17 – The Temptation to Settle for Second Best

God had renewed His covenant promise that He would give Abram a son and heir in Genesis 15, and we read, “Abram believed in the LORD” (15:6). Thirteen years would pass, and when Abram was 99 years old and Sarai was 89 years old, God rehearsed his covenant with Abram, reminding him, “I am the Almighty [El Shaddai] God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. 2And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly” (17:1-2).

Realizing a covenant is a binding agreement between two parties, Abram was bound by two responsibilities: “walk before me, and be thou perfect” (17:1). To satisfy God’s covenant expectations, Abram was to “walk before” the Lord; he was to be conscious of God’s abiding presence, as a servant is conscious of his master’s supervision. The perfection God commanded was a conformity to God’s will. God’s expectation was for Abram to be an upright man; a man of integrity (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Now, “Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, 4As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations” (17:3-4). As an assurance of His covenant with Abram, God honored him by changing his name to Abraham, meaning “the father of a multitude” (17:5).

Another confirming sign of God’s covenant was His command for Abraham, and all the males of his household, to be circumcised (17:9-14). While circumcision did not make a man a part of the covenant, it did serve as a physical reminder, an outward sign of a son’s identification with God’s covenant promise to Abraham and the sons of his lineage.

A third reminder of God’s covenant promise was to be fulfilled with Abraham’s wife, Sarai. Her name would become Sarah, meaning princess, for she was to be the mother of the heir of God’s covenant promise.

When God announced that 90-year-old Sarah “shall be a mother of nations” (17:15-17), Abraham “fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, “Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?” (17:17)

Betraying his lack of faith, and willing to content himself with less than God’s best, Abraham protested and suggested that Ishmael should be his heir (17:18). God, however, renewed His covenant with Abraham, and stated that Sarah would bear him a son and his name would be Isaac (17:19).  While God refused Ishmael as Abraham’s heir, He comforted him promising Ishmael would be father to a “great nation” (17:20).

God repeated His assurance that Sarah would bear the son who would be Abraham’s heir (17:21), setting the time for the child’s birth “the next year” when Abraham would be 100 years old, and Sarah 90 years old. Abraham accepted God’s will, obeyed His command, and circumcised every male of his household (17:22-27).

Genesis 18 – A Heavenly Visitation (18:1-15)

A “theophany,” the LORD appearing in the form of man, occurs in Genesis 18 when He and two angels appeared as men before Abraham’s tent, and bringing news within Sarah’s hearing that she would bear a son. Sarah “laughed within herself” at the thought that she, a woman “waxed old” (past child-bearing years) should bear Abraham’s son (18:12).

The LORD questioned Abraham, “Wherefore did Sarah laugh?” (18:13).

Sarah was surprised that Abraham’s visitor not only knew she scoffed at the promise that she would bear a son in her old age, but that she laughed at the thought of it!  The LORD asked Abraham, “Is any thing too hard for the LORD?” (18:15), and asserted that He would return when the promised son was born (18:14).

Sarah, perhaps fearing the visitor who knew her thoughts, denied she laughed at the birth announcement, and the LORD rebuked her for lying (18:15).

Genesis 18:16-33 – Standing on the Precipice of God’s Judgment

The closing verses of Genesis 18 contain the fateful message that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were to be judged, and destroyed for their wickedness (18:20-22).  Knowing his nephew Lot, and his family lived in Sodom; Abraham interceded that the LORD might spare the city (18:23-33). Six times Abraham entreated the LORD for His grace and mercy, and requested that the cities might be spared for the sake of the righteous souls who lived there. When Abraham proposed that the city of Sodom be spared if only ten righteous souls be found there, the LORD mercifully agreed.

Ten righteous souls; perhaps the size of Lot’s own family, would have spared a city of lost, hell-bound souls. Lot’s presence in Sodom was not the leading of the LORD, nor was Lot’s interest the lost souls of his neighbors. Abraham, however, cared for the inhabitants and interceded for the city. Sodom, however, was doomed when Lot failed to stir the hearts of his family members to flee before God’s judgment (Genesis 19).

I close by suggesting that you and I have a sphere of influence, a providential presence, among mankind.  While the fate of a whole city does not rest within our realm of influence, I wonder who might?

Compare Abraham and Lot and consider which of the two you most resemble?  Abraham, who made passionate intercession for that wicked city, or Lot who waited too late to plead even for the souls of his children?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God Keeps His Promises (Genesis 14-15)

Scripture reading – Genesis 14-15

Genesis 13 – Review

Lot, the nephew of Abram (Abraham), had separated from his uncle, and had chosen the “plain of Jordan” (13:10), and “dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom” (13:12). Giving us a tragic indication of the direction Lot was leading his family, we read, “13But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly” (13:13).

Genesis 14 gives us a brief history of the nations and people that inhabited the land of Israel in ancient times.

Genesis 14 records the age-old drama of war and politics as nine kings were named, and each king ruled a walled “city-state” with its own governance (14:1-3). The lesser kings had been in servitude to the stronger, and paid tribute to them for twelve years, “and in the thirteenth year they rebelled” (14:4). To put down the rebellion, a coalition of kings led by Chedorlaomer king of Elam, invaded and defeated the smaller city-states. Numbered among those that were defeated was the city of Sodom and its inhabitants (14:8-11).

Lot, no longer content to pitch “his tent toward Sodom” (13:12b), had moved his family into that wicked city, and he and all his goods had been taken as spoils of war (14:10-12). Learning of Lot’s capture, Abram gathered 318 armed men of his household, and pursued and defeated the kings that had conquered Sodom and taken Lot captive (14:13-16).

Abram returned victorious, and was greeted by a king identified as “Melchizedek king of Salem” [scholars identify “Salem” as the ancient name for Jerusalem] (14:18).  This Melchizedek was described as “the priest of the most high God” (14:18), and he pronounced a benediction upon Abram who rewarded him with a tithe (14:19-20), a tenth of the spoils that had been taken in battle.

The king of Sodom came, and acknowledging Abram as victor, proposed that he should retain all the goods he had retrieved in battle (14:21), with the exception of the citizens of his city. Abram, however, refused the spoils of Sodom, less that wicked king boast one day that he had enriched Abraham (14:22-24).

Genesis 15 – God’s Covenant Promises Renewed

God came to Abram in a vision and revealed to him that He was his “Shield” (his protector), and “exceeding great reward” (15:1). Abram, however, protested that he had no son, and therefore no heir (15:2-4). The LORD once again assured Abram that he would have a son born to him and his wife Sarai (15:2-4), and his lineage would be as great in number as the stars in the heavens (15:5). We read of Abram’s faith, “he believed the LORD; and He [the LORD] counted it to him [Abram] for righteousness” (15:6; Romans 3:25; 5:18).

God revealed to Abram in the closing verses of Genesis 15, that his heirs would one day be “strangers,” aliens, foreigners, in another country (15:13), but they would return to the land with great possessions (15:14).  This prophecy would be fulfilled when the Twelve Tribes of Israel departed Egypt after 400 years of servitude (Exodus 12-14).

Genesis 15 concluded with the LORD rehearsing His covenant promise to give Abram’s heirs the land, and stating the boundaries of that land (15:18-21).

A Closing Thought: God had assured Abram he had no cause to fear, for the LORD was his “Shield,” his protector and defender (15:1). Abram not only had God’s promises, he also had His assurance that He was with him!

My friend, God keeps His promises!

A Bonus Study: An Introduction to the First Mention Principle

Genesis is a book of “Firsts,” and serious Bible students follow the “First Mention Principle” for Biblical interpretation. In his book, Principles of Biblical Hermeneutics, J. Edwin Hartill wrote, “God indicated in the first mention of a subject, the truth with which that subject stands connected in the mind of God…The first occurrence of a word, expression, or utterance, is the key to its subsequent meaning, or it will be a guide to ascertaining the essential truth connected with it….The first time a thing is mentioned in Scripture it carries with it a meaning that will be carried through the Word of God.”

There are several “firsts” found in Genesis 14-15. There is the first mention of war (14:2), and the first mention of “the word of the LORD” (15:1). There is the first mention of the LORD described as a Shield (a protector), and Rewarder (15:1) for His people.

Faith is first defined, when we read that Abram “believed in the LORD” (15:6a). Justification is described as the LORD counted it [Abram’s faith] to him for righteousness (also the first mention of righteousness in the Bible, 15:6). Those great doctrines will occur again and again throughout the Scriptures, and are rooted in today’s Scripture reading.

Copyright – 2021 – Travis D. Smith

God is Faithful, His Promises Are Sure (Genesis 12-13)

Scripture reading – Genesis 12-13

After a lengthy study of the life and afflictions of Job, we return to our study of the Book of Genesis, chapters 12-13. Genesis 11 concluded with the Scriptures focusing on the lineage of Shem, through whose bloodline Abram (i.e. Abraham) would be born (11:26). Abram is not only a central figure in the Scriptures, he is also one of the pivotal men in history, and three of the world’s great religions, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, consider him to be a foundational character in their faith.

Genesis 12 – God’s Covenant with Abram and His Lineage

The LORD came to Abram in Genesis 12, and commanded him to separate from his country, his kindred (relatives), and the influence of his extended family (12:1).  God promised, if Abram obeyed, He would covenant with him to fulfill seven promises (12:2-3).  Although he was elderly (75 years old, 12:4) and childless, God promised to bless Abram with a son, make him great, his name famous, and that through his lineage “all families of the earth [would] be blessed” (a promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ, 12:3).

Abram obeyed God, and he traveled from Haran to Canaan, the land he had been promised as his inheritance (12:5-6). When the LORD appeared once again to Abram, He rehearsed His covenant promises, and “there [in Canaan] builded [Abram] an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him” (12:7). Continuing his sojourn in Canaan, Abram arrived at Bethel, and again “he builded an altar unto the LORD” and worshipped Him (12:8).

Genesis 12:10-20 – A Crisis of Faith

Abram’s resolve to obey the LORD was soon tested by a crisis of faith when “there was a famine in the land” (12:10). Abandoning his faith in God to provide and keep His promises, Abram left Canaan and journeyed to Egypt, putting in jeopardy all of God’s covenant promises, including giving him and his wife Sarai a son in their old age (12:10-13).

Sarai was a beautiful woman, and Abram feared she would be taken from him, and he would be put to death. Rather than trust the LORD, he requested that Sarai would tell others that she was his sister and not his wife (12:11-13). When Sarai’s beauty came to Pharaoh’s attention (12:14), he took her into his harem to become one of his wives (12:15), and thereby put at risk God’s covenant promise that she would bear a son and heir to Abram.

In spite of Abram’s faithlessness, God intervened and spared Sarai, sending a plague of judgment on Pharaoh’s household and revealing to the king that he had been deceived by Abram (12:17-19). Providentially, Pharaoh did not harm Abram, and sent him, Sarai, and his household out of Egypt (12:20).

Genesis 13 – “A Lot to Remember”

Genesis 13 reminds us that Abram was a mere mortal. Although he was a man of faith, and an object of God’s grace, he once again faced the consequences of another failure: He had failed to leave all of his kindred and his father’s household (12:1). Abram had journeyed to Canaan with his brother’s son (13:1), and there arose a strife between his servants and those of his nephew Lot (13:1-7).

Abram’s and Lot’s wealth exceed our imaginations. Including their servants, and their families, their households might have consisted of hundreds of men, women and children. For example, when Lot’s family and  possessions were taken captive in Genesis 14:14, Abram took 318 armed men of his household to pursue and rescue Lot’s family. Assuming those men had wives and children, the members of Abram’s household alone would have numbered more than a 1,000.

It was a major undertaking for Abram and Lot to move their flocks and herds to new pastures, and the caravan formed by their households would have stretched far into the distance. When they encamped, hundreds of tents would have dotted the valley and hillsides where Abram and Lot pitched their tents.

Seeking to avoid conflict, Abram suggested he and Lot separate, divide their households, and graciously offered his nephew the first choice of the land (13:8-9).

Failing to defer to his elder, Lot betrayed his covetous spirit, and chose the best of the land for himself (13:10). The land he chose included the cities in the plain, and among them the wicked city of Sodom (13:10-13). After Lot departed, God once again renewed His covenant promises with Abram (13:14-18).

I close inviting you to observe some major distinctions between Abram and Lot.

Abram’s love for the LORD, and Lot’s love for the world were incompatible. Abram’s affections were eternal, and God-centered; Lot’s affections were earthly, and self-centered. Unlike his uncle, there is no mention in the Scriptures of Lot building altars for worship, or offering sacrifices to the LORD.

We will see in future devotionals that Lot continued to move closer to Sodom [a city that was indicative of gross wickedness], and further away from Abram and the LORD.

Which way is your life moving? Closer to the LORD, or closer to the world (1 John 2:15)?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith