Tag Archives: Spiritual warfare

New Sermon Series: Persevering in Tribulations (2 Timothy)

I am excited about the opportunity of preaching a new sermon series, beginning this Sunday, April 11, 2021, 10:30 AM at Hillsdale Baptist Church, and also broadcast live at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

Persevering in Tribulations is the title of my new series, and is taken from Paul’s Second Epistle to Timothy. Written during his second imprisonment in Rome, the letter was not only the apostle’s last will and testament, but also a letter of exhortation to a young man Paul described as his “dearly beloved son” (2 Timothy 1:2).

The setting of the letter is pertinent to our day, knowing it was written during a rise of persecution, and a falling away of many who had once professed faith in Christ. You will notice an earnestness in Paul’s letter, as he urges Timothy to not be ashamed of the LORD, or “me His prisoner” (1:8).

This Sunday’s sermon will consider the spiritual requisites, and disciplines for ministry that Paul encouraged in Timothy. We will notice the ministry of Onesiphorous, a man who had sacrificially served Paul at a time in his life and ministry when he desperately needed a friend who would unashamedly minister him in prison.

I pray this study will renew a passion for the LORD in your heart, and a revival for ministry and serving others in trying times.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
https://tv.gab.com/channel/HeartofAShepherd1
https://mewe.com/p/heartofashepherdinc

Where has Justice Gone? Capital Punishment, and the Law of Retribution (Leviticus 23-24)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 23-24

Leviticus 23 – Feast Days on Israel’s Religious Calendar

Although not a festival, the LORD commanded Moses to remind the people of the fourth command: “3Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings” (23:3; Exodus 20:8-11).

Leviticus 23:6-41 itemizes the annual feasts Israel was to observe as a nation.

The Passover (23:5), commemorating the LORD sparing the firstborn, and delivering the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery, was observed with the sacrifice of a one-year-old lamb. On the following day after the Passover, the people were to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, remembering Israel’s departure out of Egypt. Its observance lasted seven days, and was a reminder of how swiftly the people had to leave Egypt.  The first and last days of Unleavened Bread are counted as Sabbaths [High Sabbaths], though these days may not necessarily fall on the weekly Sabbath (23:6-8).

There was the Offering of the First Fruits, also known as the wave offering (23:9-14). A sheaf of wheat was brought to the priest, who waved the grain before the altar as a sign of praise and thanksgiving. Accompanying the wave offering was the Burnt Offering (23:12, the sacrifice of one male lamb, not more than one year old), the Meat (or meal) Offering (23:13), and a Drink Offering (23:13). All were reminders of God’s bountiful provision, even as we should pray and give thanks at every meal.

Pentecost (meaning fifty), also known as the Feast of Weeks or the Feast of Harvest (23:15-22; Exodus 23:16; Deuteronomy 16:9), was observed fifty days after the Passover (remember, fifty days after Christ’s Resurrection, Pentecost was the day the Holy Spirit came upon the LORD’S disciples, whom He told to remain in Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost (Acts 2).

Two loaves of wheat bread with leaven (23:17a) were also offered as “firstfruits unto the LORD” (23:17). Pentecost was observed with a burnt offering consisting of seven lambs, one young bull, and two rams, “all “without blemish of the first year” (23:18). There was also a meat offering (an offering of grain), drink offering, and a sin offering of “one kid of the goats…and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offering” (23:19).

Reminding the people, “I am the LORD your God,” the people were commanded to not harvest the corners of their fields, and “leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger” (non-Hebrews) to gather (23:22).

The Feast of the Trumpets was observed the seventh month, on the first day of the month in the Hebrew calendar (23:23-25). The Day of Atonement was observed on the tenth day of the same month (23:26-32; Leviticus 16-17).

The final feast on the Hebrew calendar was the Feast of Tabernacles (23:33-41), and was observed on “the fifteenth day of this seventh month” (23:34), the last day of the harvest. Each family would gather “on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook,” and live in the booths for seven days (23:40). Dwelling in booths commemorated Israel’s years of wandering in the wilderness, and living in tents (23:43).

Leviticus 24 – God’s Laws were not suggestions, they were commands.

After rehearsing the laws and guidelines regarding the for the lamps, and the lighting of the Tabernacle (24:1-9), we are alerted to a judicial crisis that arose in Israel, and demanded the death of the offender (24:10-16).

The son of Israelite woman, whose father was Egyptian, was witnessed cursing and blaspheming the name of the LORD, a violation of the third command, and one demanding the death of the offender (24:10-11; Exodus 20:17).  Realizing the severity of the offense, Moses did not rush to judgment, but “put [the offender] in ward [under guard], that the mind of the Lord might be shewed them” (24:12).

After hearing the witnesses, and seeking God’s will, Moses demanded the blasphemer be taken out of Israel’s camp, and those who witnessed his sin, lay hands on him as a testimony against him (24:14). The judgment was made that the blasphemer should be stoned to death (24:15-16), and “the children of Israel did as the Lordcommanded Moses” (24:23).

The Law of Retribution (24:17-22)

I close, reminding you God is merciful, and just. A murderer was to be punished by death (24:17, 21b). A man who killed the beast that belonged to another, was to restore the same, “beast for beast” (24:18). Injure or maim a man, and the law demanded you should suffer the same: “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (24:19-20).

A Closing Thought: Our world has lost its good sense of justice, and our judicial system has become a demoralizing failure. Too often in our society we find criminals are pampered, and their victims are left scarred, wounded, and frustrated with no hope of reprieve. Do you wonder why there is no justice, no fairness, in society? You need look no further than Proverbs 29:2.

Proverbs 29:22When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: But when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Justice for All, and A Whole Lot of Separation (Exodus 23)

Scripture reading – Exodus 23

The instructions that gave practical applications of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) to Israel’s daily life continues in Exodus 23.

Exodus 23:1-9 addressed the demand for Judicial integrity – Justice for All.  The ninth commandment stated, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (20:16).

Exodus 23:1-9 emphasized God’s mandate for Israel’s judges to be above reproach, and intolerant of any who might pervert justice. A witness must not bring a false accusation against an innocent man in a judicial matter, nor lie to spare the guilty their due punishment (23:1-2). There was one law, and one standard, and not even the poor were granted a charitable judgment nor spared the weight of the law (23:3).

There are some 21st century leaders in the broader latitude of “American Christianity” that are guilty of teaching that the Old Testament is all Law, and no grace. Those who express such a sentiment are either ignorant of the Word of God, or purposefully, and intentionally misleading believers. For example, Exodus 23:4-5 commanded Israel to be ready to show kindness to an enemy should he suffer harm (23:4; Proverbs 25:21-22), and be ready to express sympathy and assistance to even one who hates you (23:5).

Exodus 23:6-9 returns to judicial matters, and the demand for impartial judgment in legal matters. Under God’s Law, the poor were not to be denied representation or justice (23:6), and judges were to see that righteous judgment prevailed for all (23:7). Judges were not to be bribed (23:8), and non-Hebrews (“strangers”), were to be judged fairly (23:9).

The Sabbath Year (23:10-12)

Emphasizing the significance of “Sabbath Rest” (20:8-11), Israel was commanded to observe a “Sabbath Year.” The land would not be plowed, and crops would not be planted (23:10). The land was to rest, and if seeds volunteered and grew to bear fruit, the poor and the “beast of the field” were given liberty to eat (23:11).

Three Festivals to be Observed by Israel (23:14-19)

The men of Israel were commanded to observe three annual festivals (23:14-19). There was the “feast of unleavened bread” and the Passover (23:15, 18), that commemorated the Passover in Egypt when the LORD spared the firstborn of Israel. The “feast of the harvest,” known as the Firstfruits, and later celebrated as Pentecost, was observed at the beginning of harvest (23:16a). The first fruits of the harvest were to be offered to the LORD (23:19a). There was also the “feast of the ingathering,” observed at the end of the harvest season (23:16b), and was a time of thanksgiving.

Three Promises (23:20-28)

The LORD made three promises to Israel, whose fulfillment was conditioned upon the people hearing and obeying His Law and Commandments (23:20-28).

He promised to “send an Angel” before the nation. The LORD’S Angel was sent to “keep” Israel in the way, and bring them into the Promised Land (23:20), if the people obeyed the “voice” of the Angel (23:22; I am of the opinion this “Angel” was a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ).

The LORD also  His “Angel” would “go before” the nation, and cut off those nations that occupied the land of Canaan (23:23). The Angel would give Israel protection (23:23), provisions (23:25), and posterity (i.e. future generations; 23:26).  Unlike other nations that adopted and sacrificed to the gods of the land they conquered; Israel was to destroy the idols of the people (23:24).

God promised to set the boundaries of the land He had covenanted with Abraham (23:31), and He warned that His people were not to befriend or make any covenant with the people they conquered, nor worship their gods. God warned Israel that, the conquered people “shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee (23:33).

This principle of radical separation is found throughout the Scriptures, though it is rarely preached in the pulpit, nor practiced the pew.

Israel was admonished: Fail to drive the ungodly out of the land, and the people would invariably adopt the sins of the heathen (23:33). That same principle is true for today’s believers. We are commanded, 17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17a).

1 Corinthians 15:33 warns, “33Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” We are commanded, “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

As Israel was called to separate from the wicked nations they conquered, and to destroy their gods, believers are to separate, and put a distance between themselves and the ungodly, lest we become like them!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“That ye may know…I Am the LORD” (Exodus 9-10)

Scripture reading assignment: Exodus 9-10

Our study in the Book of Exodus continues with the contest between Moses, God’s messenger, and Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Four judgments have befallen the nation, and each has been followed by Pharaoh hardening his heart and refusing to let the children of Israel go to offer sacrifices to the LORD.

Exodus 9 – The Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Plagues

The fifth plague that befell Egypt afflicted the “cattle which [was] in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep” (9:3). The disease was “a very grievous murrain,” an epidemic so severe that “all the cattle of Egypt died.” As a testimony of God’s sovereignty and love of His people, none of the livestock of Israel perished (9:4-7). Yet, “the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go” (9:7b).

The sixth plague began when Moses gathered “handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and [sprinkled] it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh” (9:8), and boils broke out on man and beast (9:8-11). The affliction of the boils was so painful, that even Pharaoh’s magicians “could not stand before Moses” (9:11). And yet, “the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had spoken unto Moses” (9:12).

The seventh plague destroyed all the crops of Egypt when the LORD rained down hail upon the crops (9:13-35). This time, however, some of Pharaoh’s servants believed the warnings of Moses, and made their servants and livestock take shelter in their houses (9:20). Pharaoh confessed, I have sinned this time: the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked (9:27). He promised to let Israel go and sacrifice to their God; however, when the hail ceased, “the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the Lord had spoken by Moses” (9:35).

Exodus 10 – The Eighth and Ninth Plague

Egypt’s losses in crops, and livestock brought upon the nation the suffering of hunger and famine. Perhaps you wonder, why the LORD did not simply deliver Israel from bondage, rather than judge Egypt with ten plagues? The answer is found in Exodus 10.

Exodus 10:2 – “And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the LORD.”

More than delivering His people from slavery, the LORD wanted Israel to know, and remember through successive generations all He had done in Egypt.  His dealings with Pharaoh were to serve as a lasting testimony of God’s person, power, and presence among His chosen people.  Israel was a nation of slaves, but their God was the Creator, and Sovereign of nature. He would bring the greatest ruler, and the most powerful nation in the ancient world to her knees.

The eighth plague of locusts devastated Egypt, and devoured what was left of the nation’s vegetation (10:3-20).  A heavy darkness was the ninth plague that befell Pharaoh and Egypt (10:21-29). The Egyptians were oppressed and frightened by the darkness, but Israel was spared, and God’s people enjoyed the warmth of light in their dwellings.

Pharaoh sought a compromise with Moses, and would have allowed the people to depart, but not with their livestock (10:24-25). Moses, however, refused (10:26), and “the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go” (10:27).

Furious with Moses, Pharaoh warned, “take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die” (10:28).

Moses, strong, and confident in the LORD, answered the king truthfully, “Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more” (10:29). The stage is set for the final judgment, and the humiliation of Pharaoh.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Tragedy of a Hardened Heart (Exodus 8)

Scripture reading: Exodus 8

“And [the LORD] hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as [He] had said.” (Exodus 7:13)

Throughout the contest between Pharaoh and Moses, a pattern will emerge in the narrative: Moses will contend with the king of Egypt, and Pharaoh will reject the LORD’s messenger, and the LORD will harden his heart through the natural consequences of refusing God’s Word.

What is the nature of a hardened heart? A hardened heart is a heart that rejects God’s Word, to the point that it is calloused, and insensitive to Truth. It is spiritually cold, and becomes openly rebellious. When calamities come upon a man, they have the potential of either humbling, or hardening his heart.

Proud, stubborn, and defiant; God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (7:13), and turned the fresh waters of Egypt to blood. The fish were killed, and the stench of putrefying flesh filled the land (7:20-22). For seven days, the blood red waters of the Nile were a testimony of the power of Israel’s God.

Frogs filled the land (8:1-15)

We are not sure how much time passed between the first plague (the river being turned to blood), and the second contest between Moses and Pharaoh. The day came when the LORD commanded Moses to go before Pharaoh, and should he fail to let the children of Israel go, the land would be filled with frogs (8:1-4).

Aaron stretched forth his rod as Moses commanded, and frogs came out of the rivers, streams, and ponds, until all the land of Egypt was filled with them (8:5-7). Frogs were in the houses, on their beds, in the ovens, and in flour kneading troughs. Pharaoh begged Moses to appeal to the LORD to take away the frogs, and promised he would “let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the Lord” (8:8b).

Rather than appeal to the LORD to instantly remove the frogs from the land, Moses deferred to Pharaoh, and invited him to name the time when he should ask the LORD to “destroy the frogs” (8:9). Proud and stubborn, rather than seek immediate relief, the king chose the next day for the frogs to be purged from the land (8:10).

The following day, “Moses cried unto the Lord… and the frogs died…14And they gathered them together upon heaps: and the land stank” (8:13-14). Pharaoh, however, hardened his heart and would not allow Israel to go, and offer sacrifices to the LORD (8:15).

Lice Infested the Land (8:16-19)

When Pharaoh failed to keep his word, Moses commanded Aaron to smite the dust of the land, and the LORD sent “lice throughout all the land of Egypt” (8:17). The lice may have been some form of gnat or other biting insect. Unlike other miracles, which the magicians emulated, they failed to turn dust into lice, and counseled Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God” (8:19a). Yet again, “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said” (8:19b).

Swarms of Flies Plague Egypt (8:20-31)

The class or type of the flies has been a topic of speculation. There is in Egypt today a fly that is identified as a biting “dog fly,” and is similar to the deer flies that inhabits the southeastern United States.

The harassment of the flies moved Pharaoh to suggest a compromise to Moses. The king would allow Israel to offer sacrifices to “God in the land” (8:25), but not permit the people to go beyond the borders of Egypt. Moses, however, refused Pharaoh’s proposal, for fear that Israel’s sacrifices would be seen as an “abomination” to the Egyptians, who would then stone the people (8:26).

Moses demanded the people be allowed to go a three-day’s journey into the desert; however, the king offered a compromise (8:28). Moses promised to pray for the LORD to remove the flies, but only if Pharaoh would not default on his vow to release Israel to go and sacrifice to the LORD (8:29a). When the flies were removed; however, Pharaoh “hardened his heart” and would not “let the people go” (8:32).

Pride stood in the way of Pharaoh’s failure to humble himself. The king’s unwillingness to acknowledge Israel’s God as LORD, paved the way to sorrow and death.

Proverbs 16:1818Pride goeth before destruction, And an haughty spirit before a fall.

Is pride and a hardened heart preventing you from humbling yourself, confessing your sin, and turning to the LORD?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

God Must Break You, Before He Will Fully Bless You! (Genesis 32)

Scripture reading – Genesis 32

The Backdrop to Events in Genesis 32

After twenty years of shepherding his father-in-law’s flocks, the LORD commanded Jacob to go home: “Return unto the land of thy fathers…and I will be with thee” (31:3).

Fearing his father-in-law would forbid his parting, Jacob secretly departed Padanaram, the place he had served his father-in-law Laban (31:17-20). Crossing the Euphrates river, and putting as much distance between himself and Laban, Jacob set his face toward Canaan, and arrived at Mount Gilead, on the east side of the Jordan River (31:21).

His stealth parting had given Jacob a three-day start before news reached Laban that he and his family had taken flight (31:22). Laban set out in anger, and pursued Jacob for seven days, before overtaking him at Mount Gilead. What ill intentions Laban might have had, were confronted by God who came to him “in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad” (31:24).

The verbal confrontation between Jacob and Laban is recorded in Genesis 31:26-42, and the amicable resolution between the two is recorded in Genesis 31:43-55. Setting a pillar of stones as a memorial to their covenant of peace, “Laban departed, and returned unto his place” (31:55)

Genesis 32 – Facing Your Greatest Enemy, and Greatest Fears

Jacob set out on his journey, and God gave him a vision of an angelic host that would accompany him, and he named the place, Mahanaim, “God’s Camp” (32:1-2).

Twenty years had passed since Jacob stole his brother’s birthright, and fled Canaan. His return home would take him through Edom, his brother Esau’s land and country (32:3). Though two decades in the making, his reunion with his brother had revived the memory of Esau’s threats and his fears. I am reminded of the proverb, “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle”(Proverbs 18:19).

Knowing his brother was a warrior (27:40), and he a shepherd, Jacob feared Esau. Understanding he might face his brother’s wrath, Jacob plotted and planned how he might defuse his brother’s fury (32:4-8). When he received news that Esau was coming with four hundred men (32:6), Jacob prepared for the worst, and divided his household, hoping to spare his family and possessions from a total loss should Esau attack (32:7-8).

Jacob had evidently forgotten about the host of angels that had appeared to him along the way (32:1-2), and he prayed to the LORD, reminding Him how He had commanded him to return to his homeland, with the promise, “I will deal well with thee” (32:9-12).

Jacob then sent gifts to his brother, in hopes of appeasing his wrath (32:9-23). Knowing he would face his brother the next day, Jacob spent the night alone, perhaps pondering what the morning might bring upon him and his family (32:13, 24-32).

It was in the solitude of the night that the LORD appeared to him in the physical form of a man, and wrestled with both Jacob’s body and soul (32:24-32).  Even with his hip out of joint, Jacob wrestled with the LORD until he was assured of His blessing (32:25-28).

The LORD blessed Jacob (whose name meant trickster or schemer), and gave him the name of “Israel,” meaning one who has power with God (32:28).

The next morning, it was Israel, a man transformed by the grace of God, that faced his enemy. He had spent his life scheming, and wrestling with God; however, he was transformed after seeing “God face to face” (32:30).  No longer a man that relied on his wit, the painful limp in his stride was as a reminder of the night God broke his will (32:30-31).

Jacob had come to the end of himself, and the God of his grandfather Abraham, and his father Isaac, was his God. Jacob’s life was so transformed. If you saw him, you would know him; for he was a man with a limp, whose faith was in the LORD.

In the words of A.W. Tozer, “The Lord cannot fully bless a man until He has first conquered him.”

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

Singing the Desert Blues (Job 30-31)

Scripture reading – Job 30-31

Our previous devotional (Job 29) found Job remembering the way life used to be. He had enjoyed the blessings of God’s favor, and had been esteemed by his family, friends, and fellow citizens. Young men had shied from his company, and elders stood in his presence (29:8). He had been valued for his counsel (29:7-17), and had believed he would enjoy God’s favor forever (29:18-23). Of course, those were the “good old days,” before he had experienced catastrophic losses and afflictions.

Job 30 – The Reality of Present Sorrows

Job’s situation had changed, and he found himself mocked by lesser men (30:1-14). Young men, whose lineage Job would not have entrusted the care of sheep dogs, held him in disdain (30:1). They were the sons of a line of men who were like wild dogs. They were slothful, and he loathed their company (30:2-4). They were the “children of fools” (30:8), and sang ballads mocking his afflictions (30:9). They spat in his face (30:10), and the sorrows God had permitted in his life (30:11) had given them cause to treat him spitefully (30:12-13).

Job’s body was wrecked by disease (30:16-18).

Grief had taken hold deep within (30:16), and the toll of his afflictions pierced him to the bone (30:17a). His muscles ached (“my sinews take no rest”), and open sores had caused his clothes to cling to his flesh (30:17b-18). Job had come to feel that God was opposed to him, and refused to hear his cry for pity or compassion (30:19-20). He had accused God of being cruel (30:21); he felt abandoned (30:22-24).

Job complained that all the good he had done had been forgotten, and he had been rewarded evil for good (30:25-26). He moaned and groaned (30:27-30), and in the words of the late preacher J. Vernon McGee, he began to sing “The Desert Blues” (30:31).

Job 31 – Job’s Final Response, and His Defense

Job’s concluding deposition of his righteousness, and his assertion of innocence has been recorded in Job 31. Consider briefly eleven virtues he claimed in his summary defense.

Personal chastity was the first virtue Job claimed. Declaring he was not guilty of lust, he stated, “1I made a covenant [vow; agreement] with mine eyes; Why then should I think [i.e. lust after] upon a maid?” (31:1) Though accused of lies and deceit by his friends, Job declared that he was innocent, and desired to be “weighed in an even balance,” for he was certain that God knew he was a man of integrity (31:5-6). Thirdly, Job asserted he had committed himself to purity and uprightness; his hands were clean of wrongdoing, and there was no stain on his life and character (31:7-8).

The fourth virtue Job claimed was marital fidelity. He declared he was innocent of adultery (31:9-12). He had been a “one woman kind of man” throughout his life. He had also been a faithful master, and a kind employer, to those who served him. He believed himself no better than his servants, for he understood God was Creator of them both (31:13-15).

Though he had been accused of abusing those less fortunate, Job declared he had been charitable to the poor, widows, and fatherless (31:16-20). He wished his arm would fall off, if he had taken advantage of others (31:21-22).

Though he lived in the midst of an idolatrous people, Job declared he was innocent of idolatry, for his trust and faith were in God alone (31:23-28). He had been kind to his enemies, and never took satisfaction in their misfortune (31:29-30). Job had been a man given to hospitality, and had been generous to strangers (31:31-32). Unlike Adam who sinned, and then sought to hide his transgressions from God (31:33), he was innocent of hypocrisy, hiding no secret sins (31:33-37).

Lastly, Job declared he had been honest in business (31:38-40). For example, he had not leased another man’s field, and failed to pay what was owed when harvest time came.

Job 31:40 concludes Job’s longest speech. Sadly, what is true of us was also true of Job. Though he could boast of many great virtues, he was blinded by pride, and was unwilling to see his flaws.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Troubles are Inevitable in a World That Bears the Curse of Sin. (Job 14-15)

Scripture reading – Job 14-15

Job 14 brings us to the third of three chapters outlining Job’s reply to Zophar (Job 11). Unlike Eliphaz, Zophar made no pretense of comforting his suffering friend (11:1-3), and instead charged him with concealing sin and deserving what he believed was God’s punishment (11:4-6).

Job’s reply to Zophar began in Job 12 when he mocked his friends’ delusion that they had wisdom into the ways of God that he did not (12:1-4). Reserving the right to test and examine their counsel (12:11), he contended they had spoken much, but said nothing (13:1-2), and condemned them as “forgers of lies” (13:4). Stating his unshaken faith in God’s providence, Job declared, “though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (13:15).

Job 14 – An Elegy to Death

Job’s response to Zophar continues in Job 14 with an observation that is as beautiful as it is tragic. We read, 1Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble” (14:1).

There may be many joyful days in our earthly sojourn; however, there is no escaping the reality that humanity has a shared universal experience—trouble. Contradicting his friends’ counsel that his troubles were the afflictions of the wicked, Job challenged that troubles, trials, sorrows, and death are inevitable for sinner and saint alike. Job goes on to observe that the life of a man is like a flower that is soon cut down and perishes, and like a shadow that is soon gone when light is extinguished (14:2).

Confessing God sees, and knows man intimately (14:3-4), Job declared that a man’s “days are determined” (14:5a), and the “bounds” of his life “he cannot pass” (14:5b). In other words, God orders your birth, and your death. Wise men are conscious that it is inevitable that “man dieth, and wasteth away: Yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? …12So man lieth down, and riseth not” (14:10-12a). Desiring to escape his afflictions and sorrows, Job pled with God, “hide me in the grave…keep me secret, until thy wrath be past…set a time, and remember me” (14:13).

Though he was a man of ancient times, and did not have the privilege of the written Word that we possess today, nevertheless, Job was confident that physical death was not annihilation. Asking and answering the question of death, Job proposed, 14If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, Till my change come” (14:14).

On what was Job waiting? The Resurrection! He affirmed to the LORD, “15Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee” (14:15a).

Job 15 – Eliphaz’s Second of Three Speeches (Job 4-5; Job 22)

Eliphaz again picks up his accusation that Job’s troubles were indicative of what wicked men suffer. Rejecting Job’s plea of innocence (15:1-3), he charged him with folly, and turning away from God (15:4-6).

Eliphaz then stated a foolish supposition regarding the way and fate of the wicked (15:17-35). Beginning with a false premise, he stated, 20The wicked man travaileth with pain all his days” (15:20a). Rather than prove his assertion, he continued in his lie claiming that the prosperity of the wicked eventually comes to destruction (15:21). He contended that the wicked will be overcome by trouble (15:24), and “he shall not be rich, neither shall his substance continue” (15:29).

I close reminding you that Eliphaz’s conclusions were false. Contrary to his assertion, the wicked often prosper, and many die surrounded by their wealth, and often praised by their peers. Like many who profess wisdom, Eliphaz lacked understanding and godly discernment. He began his dispute with a false premise, and added to poor Job’s sorrows.

Lesson – Don’t assume your sorrows are the consequence of some wrongdoing;  troubles are inevitable in a world that bears the curse of sin.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Who Needs Enemies When You Have Job’s Friends? (Job 4-5)

Scripture reading – Job 4-5

The Book of Job is a study in Hebrew poetry, and as we have seen, a record of one man’s suffering and his righteous response to earthly trials and sorrows. It is the story of a heavenly drama pitting Satan’s assertion that Job would curse God, should trials befall him (1:7), against God’s confidence that his servant was “a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth [shunned] evil” (1:8). Job was unaware that his trials were initiated by Satan, but limited by His omnipresent, loving Creator.

With his sons and daughters deceased, his possessions lost, and his body afflicted with sores from head to foot, Job’s wife looked upon him with disdain, and asked, “Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die” (2:9).

The arrival of three friends (2:11-13), brought the hope of encouragement in the midst of sorrows, but we will see in today’s Scriptures that the opposite would be true. Shaken by his troubles, and overcome with sorrow, Job shared with his friends his longing for death as a deliverer from his suffering (Job 3).

Job 4 – The Counsel of Eliphaz the Temanite

Eliphaz was the first of Job’s three friends to respond to his longing to escape his suffering by death (that does not imply suicide, but the natural course of life that inevitably ends in death). The first of three speeches given by Eliphaz to his friend Job is recorded in Job 4-5, the second and third in Job 15 and Job 22.

Eliphaz’s manner began with a kind, comforting tone (4:3-5), but soon turned to an indictment of Job’s character (4:6), asserting his troubles were those faced by wicked men: “They that plow iniquity, And sow wickedness, reap the same” (4:8).

Claiming he had received a vision (4:12-16), and heard a voice, Eliphaz asked Job, “17Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his maker?” (4:17). The implication was that Job’s troubles had come upon him because he had failed to confess his sin (4:18-21).

Job 5 – Eliphaz Proclaims the Greatness of God

Continuing his contention that Job’s trials were a consequence of his sins, Eliphaz questioned, “To which of the saints wilt thou turn?” (5:1) In other words, “Job, to whom will you turn, if you don’t turn to the LORD for help?”

Eliphaz accused Job of failing to respond to God with humility, and warned, “2For wrath killeth the foolish man, And envy slayeth the silly one” (5:2). Adding a greater assault on Job’s character, he seemed to have implied that the deaths of his children were a result of his sin (5:4; 1:18-19). Continuing his discourse, Eliphaz encouraged Job to accept his troubles as a sign of God’s chastening, and urged him to “despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty” (5:17; 5:18, Hebrews 12:5; Proverbs 3:11-12)

Eliphaz challenged Job to accept that there are seven troubles (seven being the number of perfection and wholeness), from which the LORD is able to deliver His people: Famine unto death (5:20a); death in war (5:20b); a slanderous tongue (5:21a); natural calamities (5:21b); fear of famine (5:22a); fear of wild beasts (5:22b); and a fear of early death (5:26).

The implication of Eliphaz’s observation was, “If the LORD is able to deliver His people out of their troubles, why has he allowed Job to suffer so much?”

Lest some dear saint accepts Eliphaz’s counsel as truth, and applies his statements to themselves, remember that Job’s trials were not caused by sinful failures or unconfessed sins. The LORD allowed Job to suffer as a means of testing, that would ultimately bring blessing. We cannot grasp all that is in the mind of God; however, we must accept that He is Sovereign.

Remember, when trials and sorrows come, they are temporal; however, you can be confident in this: The way of the LORD is perfect (Psalm 18:30).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith