Tag Archives: Separation

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

Choices Always Have Consequences (Deuteronomy 24-27)

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 24-27

Moses continues his final challenge to Israel in today’s scripture reading, and his speech covers nearly every aspect of life in the new land.

Deuteronomy 24

Marriage and divorce are the subject of the opening verses of Deuteronomy 24, and we are reminded that divorce was never God’s will. God’s plan from creation was that man would be the husband of one wife (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:8). The principles on divorce stated in this passage were given to stress the solemnness of marriage and the sobriety of divorce (24:1-5).

Various life principles follow (24:6-22)

1) Never take a pledge of indebtedness against a man’s “millstone,” meaning his means to grind wheat and provide bread for his family (24:6). Stated in a different manner: Don’t take from a man his livelihood and means to provide for his family.

2) Don’t engage in “man stealing” (the 21st century describes this as “human trafficking” and its victims are often children). The penalty of such is death (24:7).

3) Never oppress the poor by taking advantage of their impoverished state (24:10-15). In ancient times, the sole possession of a poor man might have been nothing more than the robes he wore. Explanation: While a poor man might offer his outer robe to secure a loan and the lender take possession of it during the day, the debtor was not to be denied the warmth and comfort of his robe at night.  That principle is timeless!  While people should not assume debts, they cannot pay; neither should lenders be harsh in charging usury, seeking justice, and restitution.

4) Employers are to pay employees their due (24:16).

5) Everyone was to bear the punishment for their own sin and not another in their stead (24:16).

6) Compassion for the poverty of the orphan, widow, and foreigner was a burden shared by Hebrew society (24:19-22).

Deuteronomy 25

Because justice is essential for the peace and well-being of a society, corporal punishment that fit the crime was to be administered, but within reason and without excessive harshness (Deut. 25:1-4).

Even the ox that labored in the field was to be an object of compassion and allowed the reward of eating some of the grain as it labored (25:4; 1 Timothy 5:18).

Hebrews were expected to be men of integrity in business, and weights and measurements used in commerce were to be “perfect and just” (Deut. 25:13-16).

Though commanded to have compassion on a foreigner in other passages, Israel was not to appear weak or trivialize offenses an enemy’s (25:17-19).

Deuteronomy 26

Because the LORD had chosen Israel and blessed the people, Moses reminded them they were to demonstrate their gratitude by bringing the first fruits of the harvest to the sanctuary (26:1-15).

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

Reminded of their covenant with the LORD, Israel was to promise to “walk in his ways, and to keep His statutes, and His commandments” (26:16-17). In response, the LORD promised to promote Israel above all the nations of the earth (26:19).

Deuteronomy 27

Lest the people forget, a memorial pillar of stones was to be inscribed with the law and raised up on the west side of the Jordan River as a reminder of the LORD’s promises and commandments (Dt. 27:1-2).  An altar was to be built to sanctify the place and the LORD’s covenant with Israel (27:2-10).

Admonishing the people “Choices have Consequences”, the elders of the twelve tribes were charged to remind them obedience to the Law brought the LORD’s blessing, and disobedience His curse and judgments (27:14-26).

A series of twelve curses were pronounced, and the tribes affirmed they accepted the LORD’s covenant (Dt. 27:15-26).

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

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

3) Stealing the property and possessions of another is cursed, a violation of the eighth commandment (27:17; Ex. 20:15).

4) Taking advantage of the infirmed or disabled is cursed (27:18).

5) Unjust treatment of “the stranger, fatherless, and widow” is cursed (27:19; Ex. 22:21-24).

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

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

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

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

9) Incest with one’s mother-in-law is cursed (27:23).

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

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

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

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

When the people were asked to affirm they accepted the LORD’s covenant, they answered, “Amen” (27:26).

In case you are tempted to believe the law and commandments have no application to you, I remind you:

1 Peter 1:15-16 – “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16  Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Moral Foundation of Societal Laws (Deuteronomy 21-23)

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 21-23

We find in today’s scripture reading the basis from which we derive our societal views on the sanctity of life, compassion, and decency. Signs of moral decay are around us; however, there are glimpses of compassion, rightness, and a sense of justice that continues to prevail.

Our neighbors may be ignorant of the source of their outrage when animals are mistreated, the weak are abused, or women are victims of violence. In today’s scripture you will discover the moral basis of justice and our conviction that demands kindness and fairness.

Moral Decency and Compassion (Deuteronomy 21)

Deuteronomy 21 sets forth various laws Israel was to follow. The sanctity of human life is demonstrated in the regard of a slain man whose body was discovered with no witnesses to identify his killer (21:1-9).

The just treatment of an alien woman taken as the spoil of war is addressed and the dignity of womanhood was demanded (21:10-12). Should a Hebrew man take a foreign woman as his wife, she was to be given a season of mourning (21:13). Should the husband later declare he did not desire her, she was to be treated with dignity and not to be sold as a slave. She was to be granted her freedom (21:14).

The birthright of inheritance as a firstborn son was established (21:15-17). The firstborn son’s right of a double inheritance could not be diminished, even if he was born to a least favored wife. He was his father’s firstborn and his privilege could not be reduced.

The nation was to be intolerant of rebellion in its youth (21:18) and a rebellious, stubborn son given to gluttony and drunkenness was to be put to death by the men of the city after due process (21:19-21).

Love Thy Neighbor (Deuteronomy 22)

There are many life principles we follow as a nation that originate in the Old Testament scriptures. What we consider civil behavior has its roots in Old Testament laws.  For example, your neighbors might try to find and return a stray pet to its owner. That compulsion is founded in the Israelite law that a man was required to preserve his neighbor’s property, have compassion on stray livestock (22:1-2), and hold a lost object until it was claimed by its owner (22:3).

A militant movement in the 21st century has attempted to normalize “transsexualism,” but God’s law addressed this aberration of His divine order and demanded the dress and fashion of the male and female to be distinctive (22:5).

Remembering God is Creator and life is sacred, the Israelites were to value and preserve life; even the smallest bird and her nestlings were to be treated with compassion (22:6-7).

Traditional homes in the Middle East were flat roofed and families would escape the interior heat of a home by seeking refuge on the roof at night. Demonstrating the sacred nature of human life, a “battlement” or low wall was required on the roof to prevent accidental falls that would result in injury and death (22:8).

Unlike the heathen, Hebrew women were given protections and the right of due process should their purity and testimony be called into question (22:13-21).  Practical laws and guidelines regarding the sanctity and purity of marriage were stated and adultery and rape were condemned (22:13-30). Incest was prohibited and was an abomination to God (22:30).

Deuteronomy 23

Males who underwent sexual mutilation (23:1), such as what you and I might identify as “sex change” in the 21st century, were to be put out from God’s people.

The rights of inheritance and those prohibited to have any inheritance in Israel are listed (23:2-8). Principles concerning hygiene and sanitation are enumerated, even the use of a shovel to cover human waste was endorsed (23:12-14).

A slave fleeing a foreign master was to be given safe haven in Israel (23:15-16) and female whores and sodomite men were to be excluded from the nation (23:17-18).

A Hebrew was forbidden to charge interest (usury) on a loan to another Hebrew; however, interest was allowed when loaning to a non-Hebrew (23:19-20).

Principles concerning vows are stated: 1) Making a vow is binding and is not to be entered into lightly and when failed is a sin (23:21). 2) In fact, it is better to not make a vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it (23:22-23).

Finally, we notice a lesson in civility and an expression of compassion for others: Strangers were permitted to eat fruit in vineyards and fields as they passed by; however, they were forbidden to employ a vessel to carry more than they could eat at one time (23:24-25).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Rules of Law, Justice, and War (Deuteronomy 17-20)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 17-20

Moses challenge to Israel and his rehearsal of the laws and regulations the nation was to follow continues in today’s scripture reading.

Capital Punishment (Deuteronomy 17)

Capital punishment is a God-ordained exercise of human authority (Romans 13:4); however, a sentence of death required two to three witnesses (17:2-7).  When judicial matters were too difficult to be settled, the matter was taken to priests who were instructed to enquire diligently into the accusation (17:9-11). Judgments were binding and when a man refused to accept a sentence the penalty was death (17:12-13).

Israel was not to pattern herself after other nations (17:14).

Should the people demand a king, he was to be a Hebrew whom the LORD would choose (17:15). Unlike heathen kings, Israel’s king was to reflect humility and integrity.

Three rules applied to the king: 1) He was not to seek his strength in a stable of horses (17:16); 2) He was not to practice polygamy (17:17); 3) He was to write with his own hand a copy of the law to read and continually meditate upon its statutes (17:18-19).

Principle – The effect of knowing the law was that the king would “learn to fear the LORD…That his heart be not lifted up” (17:19-20).

The rights of priests, Levites, and prophets is the subject of Deuteronomy 18.

The physical needs of priests, Levites, and their families were to be met through the offerings and sacrifices of the people (18:1-8).

Fearing Israel might be tempted to follow the wicked practices of their neighbors, Moses warned, “thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations” (18:9).

Enumerated among the sins was human sacrifice (18:10a), soothsaying, witchcraft, and other sources of darkness (18:10b-14). False prophets, identified as those who claim to speak in the name of the Lord, but whose prophecies did not come to pass, were to be put to death (18:20-22).

Cities of Refuge is the subject of Deuteronomy 19.

Three cities on the east side of Jordan (Numbers 35:14) and three cities in the Promised Land were established as sanctuaries where a killer might flee until justice would prevail (19:1-8).  Three additional cities (making nine total) were to be established should Israel take possession of all the land the LORD had promised as an inheritance (19:9).

Two types of killing are identified: Unintentional manslaughter (19:3-5) and premeditated murder (19:11-13). The cities of refuge were to be safe cities for those who had accidentally taken the life of another; however, they were not to give refuge to a murderer (19:11-13).

The demand for two to three witnesses is repeated (19:15) and false witnesses are warned they would suffer the judgment of the law for the crime they might falsely accuse another (19:16-21).

Deuteronomy 20 is a continuation of Moses’ instruction to Israel in times of war. 

The Canaanite nations were greater and more powerful than Israel; however, Moses challenged the people to, “be not afraid of them” (20:1). They were not to trust in their own strength, but place their confidence in the LORD.

Three exemptions for enlisting in the army were given: 1) A man who built a new house, but had not dedicated or taken possession of it was exempted (20:5); 2) A man who planted a new vineyard, but had not yet enjoyed its fruit was exempted  (20:6); 3) A man who was betrothed to a woman, but had not taken her to his house was exempted (20:7). According to Deuteronomy 24:5, a newlywed husband was afforded a one-year exemption from military duty.

A city under siege was to be offered peace and servitude (20:10-11); however, when an offer of peace was rejected the males of the city were to be put to death and women, children, and livestock taken as spoil (20:12-15).

Remembering the LORD is a jealous God and He had chosen Israel to be His people, Moses commanded the cities nearby when Israel invaded Canaan were to be annihilated: “That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the LORD your God” (20:18).

Let us remember the God of Israel is our LORD and He is Holy and Jealous for our affections (Exodus 34:14).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Baldheads, Charity, Generosity, and Blind Justice (Deuteronomy 14-16)

Scripture reading assignment – Deuteronomy 14-16

Today’s scripture reading covers a wide swath of rules, laws, and regulations Israel was to follow as a nation in the Promised Land.

Outward Signs of Mourning Forbidden (14:1-2)

Deuteronomy 14 opens with an unusual command: “Ye are the children of the LORD your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead” (14:1).

Shaving one’s head as an outward sign of mourning had been a practice of the Hebrews (Micah 1:16; Amos 8:10; Ezekiel 7:18) and other ancient cultures. Reminding Israel, they were “an holy…chosen…peculiar people unto [the LORD]”, Moses commanded the men to no longer follow that practice when they entered the Promised Land (14:3).

The people were to be different, set apart in their diet, distinguishing between the clean and unclean as the LORD had commanded (14:4-21). They were to remember to give the LORD His tithe, and when the distance to bring tithes of beasts or fruits was too far, they were to sell them and bring the money to the sanctuary (14:22-26).

They were to be a charitable people, supporting the Levites who ministered before the LORD and caring for the poor, widow, orphan, and foreigner (14:27-29) with the promise the LORD would bless them “in all the work of thine hand which thou doest” (14:29b).

Deuteronomy 15 reminded the nation they were to observe the Sabbath year which occurred every seven years.

The Sabbath year was the year debtors would be forgiven their debts (15:1-5) and Hebrews who had enslaved themselves due to their impoverished state were released from servitude (15:12-15).

Permit me to invite you to consider several monetary principles and spiritual truths found in this chapter. The first, a sign of the LORD’S blessing on Israel was His prohibition against that nation ever becoming a debtor nation.  While they might lend to nations, they were to never borrow from them less they become their servants (15:6). Sadly, we as citizens of the United States, now over 20 trillion dollars in debt, find ourselves debtors to our adversaries.

A second truth is the perpetual presence of the poor in the world. We read, “the poor shall never cease out of the land” (15:11). The Hebrews were to be known for their generosity to the poor and needy.

A third principle is the requirement of generosity toward those who served their master or employer faithfully (15:12-18). A Hebrew slave who was given his freedom on the Sabbath year was not to be sent away empty-handed (15:12-14).  The nation was to remember they had been slaves in Egypt and were to extend compassion to their brethren.

Some who had served out their debt, and so loved their masters that they voluntarily accepted a lifetime of servitude, were marked by a hole in their ear (15:16-17). Hired servants were generally obligated to a three-year term; however, some were “double hired,” serving six years and were to be honored with the promise “thy God shall bless thee in all that thou doest” (15:18).

Three feasts are recorded in Deuteronomy 16 (Feast of the Passover, Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles) and were given to all Israel to observe. The men of Israel were commanded to observe them each year in Jerusalem (16:1-16). The standard for giving at the feasts was, “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee” (16:17).

I close today’s devotional commentary inviting you to consider the justice system Israel was to implement (16:18).  Knowing the tribes of Israel would be scattered in the Promised Land, it was essential that judges be appointed by each tribe. God valued justice, and judges were to be impartial and not prejudiced by bribes (16:19-20).

The law of God requires impartiality; however, in all fairness, I fear equity has been lost in our world, and the scales of justice weigh heavily in favor of the rich and powerful.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Remember and Never Forget (Deuteronomy 11-13)

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 11-13

Memories and experiences shape us and can forever change us.

My grandparents’ generation experienced the Great Depression of the 1930’s, and frugality was their lot and practice to their graves. The bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 was an event that catapulted the United States into World War II but also birthed at the close of the war a prosperity the world had never known.

The extraordinary terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 introduced my generation to the horrific nature of militant Islam as we faced our own vulnerability and witnessed the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York City.

Like our parents and grandparents, I fear we fail to pass on to our children the deep, heart-felt emotions and wisdom life experiences has afforded us. Moses understood the children born during the wilderness journey would not appreciate all the LORD had done for Israel. Moses observed,

I speak not with your children which have not known” (11:2), “but your eyes have seen all the great acts of the LORD which He did” (11:7).

There is a wisdom that comes to those who “walk the walk.” Moses challenged Israel: Remember both God’s deliverance and His judgments, “keep all the commandments…be strong” (11:8). Moses promised the people, “keep all these commandments…to do them, to love the LORD your God… There shall no man be able to stand before you” (11:22-25).

God’s People Are to Be Intolerant of Sin (Deuteronomy 12)

It was not enough to conquer their enemies and take possession of the Promised Land. Israel was to destroy their idols and places of worship lest they be tempted to worship (12:1-3).  One place was to be holy to the LORD, and there the people were to bring and offer their sacrifices (12:4-14).

Remembering the abominations committed by the heathen, in particular, sacrificing their sons and daughters “in the fire to their gods” (12:31), Israel was admonished, “Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them” (12:30).

Warning: Don’t be dismissive of Deuteronomy 13 and its principles.

Moses warned the nation to not be ensnared by false prophets (13:1-5). So grave was his concern, he warned the people to be intolerant of the enticements of family and friends who would draw them away from the LORD (13:6-11).

False prophets are a constant presence in the 21st century. Many come under the guise of spiritual leaders; however, there are politicians, teachers, and media personalities who constantly promote a false narrative that is atheistic and baseless.

Shut out the clamor and noise of the world. Love the LORD, obey His law, heed His commandments, and rest in His promises.

1 Peter 1:14-16 – “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15  But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16  Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith