Tag Archives: Separation

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

Daily reading assignment: Joshua 22-24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Daily reading assignment: Joshua 19-21

Joshua 19 – A selfless, godly leader

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

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

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

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

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

Reflecting the sanctity of human life and the principle of capital punishment established by God (Genesis 9:5-6; Exodus 20), the cities of refuge afforded a safe place for those who had unintentionally taken the life of another man (20:3-4).  Because there was no law enforcement, the cities of refuge provided a place where a man’s case could be judged by the elders of the city and his life protected from those who felt compelled to avenge the death of a loved one (20:5).

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

Joshua 21 – Cities Assigned to the Tribe of Levi

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a great and faithful God we serve!

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

Copyright 2020– Travis D. Smith

Slackers Stumble, but the Faithful Claim God’s Promises (Joshua 16-18)

Scripture Reading – Joshua 16-18

Today’s devotional reading does not have the drama of battle or the clash of personalities we have observed in earlier chapters. For the Twelve Tribes of Israel, this begins the division of the Promised Land after the heathen, idolatrous people were driven out of Canaan.

We have considered the land assigned to the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and the half-tribe of Manasseh on the east side of the Jordan River (Joshua 12:6, 13:8, 15, 23-32). Of course, the Levites would receive no land for an inheritance, but the tribes would allot them cities and land in their midst for their service to the LORD (13:33; 14:3-5). The tribe of Judah was assigned its land (14:6; 15:1-63).

Joseph, the eleventh born son of Jacob, was abundantly blessed for his faithfulness to the LORD in Egypt, and his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, born in Egypt, were each given their own inheritance in the land (Joshua 16:1-4). The inheritance of the tribe of Ephraim, Joseph’s younger son, is outlined (16:1-10) as well as the failure of the tribe to drive out “the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer” (16:10).

Joshua 17

The tribe of Manasseh, Joseph’s eldest son, received a double portion, not only a portion of the land on the east side of Jordan, but also on the west side of Jordan (17:1-18). Two daughters, born to a father who had no sons and therefore no male heir, had petitioned Moses, and Joseph was reminded they ought to receive an inheritance in the absence of a male heir (17:3-4). Like Ephraim, we notice the failure of Manasseh to “drive out the inhabitants” of the land (17:12-13).

A humorous exchange takes place between Joshua and Ephraim and Manasseh when those tribes complained they were not receiving a rightful portion of land based on the size of their tribes (17:14-18). Joshua challenged them to go to war against the “Perizzites” and the “giants” in the land and claim the land for their children (17:15). Joshua refused to accept their protests and challenged them a second time, “Thou art a great people, and hast power” (17:17-18).

Joshua 18

The LORD commanded the Tabernacle to be erected in Shiloh where it would remain throughout the era of the Judges (18:1). The narrative concerning the dividing of the land among the twelve tribes continues in Joshua 18.  Seven tribes had failed to claim their land and Joshua confronted them saying, “How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which the LORD God of your fathers hath given you?” (18:3)

Joshua then set forth a plan for dividing up the remaining territories among the seven remaining tribes (18:4-28).  He challenged them to survey the land and come back with a description of the towns and the land to be divided up at the Tabernacle in Shiloh (18:10).  The tribe of Benjamin was also assigned its land with its boundaries stated (18:11-28).

Half-hearted (18:2-3), what a tragic flaw of humanity we see in the seven tribes that we too often see in ourselves! The land was at peace and theirs to claim and settle, and yet they were slackers. They failed to take and possess what the LORD had given them!

Let us not be numbered among the spiritually half-hearted slackers.  May we, like Joshua, be diligent in following the LORD’s commands, claim the blessings that come from faithfulness, and rest in His love, promises, and bountiful care.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Joshua: Finishing Strong (Joshua 9-11)

Daily reading assignment: Joshua 9-11

Joshua 9 – Failure to Seek the LORD’S Counsel

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

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

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

Joshua 10 – Strategy for Success

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joshua 11 – Lesson Learned

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The End is the Beginning (Joshua 1-4)

Scripture Reading Assignment: Joshua 1-4

In his book on Spiritual Leadership, J. Oswald Sanders observes concerning the death of great leaders:

“When a movement develops around a dominant personality, the real test of the quality of his leadership is the manner in which that work survives the crisis of his removal.” [Moody Press, 1967, p. 210]

The death of God’s servants never takes God by surprise. The leader’s family will be shaken and mourn. His co-laborers may be dismayed at the loss. His followers, no doubt, shaken by his sudden removal. God’s work is not built upon dominant personalities and no leader is indispensable. Ministries will be blessed as long as God’s purposes are accomplished.

When Moses died, Joshua, his successor, and Israel acutely felt the loss of their leader (Deuteronomy 34:7-9). Some might have despaired. Others may have panicked and asked: “What will we do without Moses?” Many were dismayed that God would remove Moses just as they faced the greatest test of their nation’s life – crossing the Jordan River and taking possession of Canaan.

Joshua 1 – God’s Work Did Not End with the Death of Moses

Alexander Maclaren writes, “No man is indispensable. God’s work goes on uninterrupted. The instruments are changed but the Master’s hand is the same, and lays one tool aside and takes another out of the tool-chest as He will.”  [Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Southern Baptist Convention, p. 87]

For thirty days Israel had mourned the death of Moses, but when that time was passed the LORD wasted no time and commanded Joshua: “2  Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel” (1:2).

God described the borders of Israel’s Promised Land as the mass of land between Lebanon in the north and the “wilderness” or desert of Arabia in the south; from the river of Euphrates in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west (1:4).  The land was inhabited by the “Hittites,” an ancient people known elsewhere as the Canaanites. They were eventually driven out of the land and became assimilated into the nomadic tribes of Arabia.

An indisputable sign of God’s person and sovereignty over the nations is the existence of an ancient, distinct people, not limited to, but known today as Jews. While tribes and nations of ancient times are little more than a footnote in history; the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob continues.

The LORD reminded Joshua that Israel’s existence as a nation was dependent on the people obeying God’s Law.

Joshua 1:88  This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

With the assurance of His blessing, God promised Joshua, “the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (1:9). The order to prepare being given (1:10-11), Joshua reminded the two and one-half tribes that had requested the lands on the east side of the Jordan for an inheritance, of the obligation of their men to cross over the Jordan and battle beside the other tribes until the land was secured (1:12-18).

Joshua 2 – A Harlot’s Step of Faith

Two spies were sent over to view the land and investigate the city of Jericho and its defenses. Providentially taking refuge in the lodge of a harlot named Rahab (2:1), their presence in that ancient city was soon noticed (2:2-3). Fearing rumors she had heard of all God had done for Israel, Rahab hid the spies on her rooftop and requested they remember her and show grace to her household when Jericho fell to Israel (2:4-14).

Lowering the spies by means of a scarlet rope from a window of her home on the wall, Rahab was instructed to tie the rope in that same window as a sign that she and her household were to be spared (2:15-22).

Delivering the report that the inhabitants of Jericho were terrified, the spies affirmed to Joshua, “Truly the LORD hath delivered into our hands all the land” (2:24).

Joshua 3 – The Order Given to Break Camp

Commanding the tribes to encamp for three days on the shores of the Jordan, Joshua ordered the people to prepare to cross the river (3:1). The Ark of the Covenant, a symbol of the LORD’s presence in their midst, would be carried by priests and lead the way across the Jordan River (3:3-11).  Joshua commanded the people to not only prepare for war, but more importantly, to be sanctified, meaning they were to be ceremonially cleansed and purified before the LORD (3:5).

As the waters of the Red Sea parted before Moses, the waters of the Jordan parted when the priests carrying the Ark stepped into the water (3:12-16). The waters stood up as a wall as Israel crossed to the other side (3:17).

Joshua 4 – A Memorial of Stones in the Midst of the Jordan

When Israel had passed over, Joshua commanded one man from each tribe to take up a stone and establish a memorial to of the dividing of the waters as “a sign among you,” a lasting testimony of what the LORD had wrought (4:1-12).

Safely over the Jordan and for the first time encamped in the Promised Land, forty thousand men were ordered to prepare for battle (4:13).

Though the memory of Moses’ death was still fresh, “the LORD magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him (revered; respected, reverenced), as they feared Moses, all the days of his life” (4:14).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

An Obituary: “The Greatest of Men Have Their Appointment with Death” (Deuteronomy 32-34; Psalm 91)

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 32-34; Psalm 91

Deuteronomy 32 – The Elegy of Moses

The Lord commanded Moses to write and teach the nation of Israel a song (Deuteronomy 31:19-22); the purpose of the song was to memorialize the LORD’S covenant with the people, and remind them of His promises. As a song, the words would serve as “a witness for [the LORD] against the children of Israel” (31:19). While some foolishly dismiss the law and commandments today and contend they are irrelevant; the fact is they serve for us as a reminder that God is holy and requires the same of His people.

Deuteronomy 32:1-43 records the words and message of the song Moses was to teach to the people before his death. Verses 1-2 serve as the introduction to the song and admonishes the people to “give ear,” listen up, open your ears.

Notice a contrast is drawn between the character of the LORD and the character of the people He had chosen (32:5-6).

The LORD is described as the “Rock,” and compared to the vastness of a great boulder, a mountain, a place of refuge. He is perfect in His work. His judgment is truth, without sin or prejudice. He is a just, righteous God (32:5).

The people, however, were “corrupted,” decaying, dirty, wasting, and perverse (32:5-6). The LORD had blessed them with His loving favor; however, Israel was a rebellious nation (32:6).

Moses invited the children of Israel to remember the LORD had preserved them from generations past, and even before they existed as a nation, He counted them as His people (32:7-9). Like an eagle stirs up her nest and protects her young with her wings, the LORD had watched over, loved, disciplined, and provided for Israel as a father (32:10-14).

Yet for all the good the LORD had done for them, the nation had rebelled and turned from Him to worship idols (32:15-18), and provoked the LORD to jealousy (32:19-43). When Moses’ song was finished, He challenged the people to “observe to do, all the words of this law” (32:44-47).

The LORD then commanded Moses to go up into the mountain where he would see the “land of Canaan” as God had promised and there he would die and “be gathered unto thy [his] people” (32:48-50). Moses was reminded he had sinned against the LORD and would not be allowed to accompany Israel into the Promised Land (32:51-52).

Deuteronomy 33 – The Blessing of Moses

Before Moses went up into the mountain he graced the people with words of blessing and affirmation (33:1-3) and reminded them how the LORD had been with them and established His covenant with the nation.

The Twelve Tribes of Israel are individually named and each received its own blessing from Moses (33:6-25). His blessings being ended, Moses rejoiced in the LORD’s care of His people and reminded them God was their refuge, their fortress, their security (33:26-27). He promised them the land would be fruitful because the LORD had chosen to bless them and He alone could preserve them (33:28-29).

Deuteronomy 34 – The Death of Moses

What an incredible, intimate moment we are permitted to share when the LORD takes Moses up mount Nebo (34:1), and the faithful old servant is shown by God the land He had promised Israel for an inheritance. We read,

Deuteronomy 34:44  And the LORD said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.

Moses died that day and the LORD buried him “in a valley in the land of Moab…but no man knoweth of his sepulchre” (34:6). Some suggest the LORD, not man, burying the body of Moses was intended to preserve it from decay. I believe the place Moses was buried was never revealed lest some in Israel be tempted to memorialize the man, and not the God he served.

Though old in years, the scriptures indicate God had preserved Moses from some of the ravages of old age; “his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated” (34:7).

Moses never came down from the mount and for thirty days (34:8) the people mourned His death. There was never again a prophet-leader like Moses “whom the LORD knew face to face” (34:10-12). His passing was not only the passing of a man, it was also the passing of an era. God had already chosen and prepared Joshua, a man “full of the spirit of wisdom” (34:9), to lead Israel into the Promised Land

When the days of mourning were past, the LORD gave Joshua the command, “arise, go over this Jordan” (Joshua 1:2).

Psalm 91 – Providentially, my scripture text for this Sunday morning’s message to the Hillsdale church family is Psalm 91.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 28-29

Deuteronomy 28 – The Blessing of Faithfulness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deuteronomy 29

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith