Tag Archives: Spiritual warfare

Minimizing the Sinful Character of An Enemy is Not Only Foolish, It is Dangerous. (Psalm 56, 120, 140-142)

Scripture reading assignment – Psalm 56, 120, 140-142

Psalms 120

Our scripture reading today is taken from a section of fifteen psalms, Psalms 120-134, titled “A Song of Degrees”.  The designation “degrees” might refer to one’s elevation or ascent to higher ground and the psalms in this section are believed by some to have been sung by priests ascending the steps to the Temple.

The author of Psalm 120 is believed to be King David and was written as a reflection on a time of trouble and affliction.   The title of Psalm 120 in by Bible is, “David prays against Doeg and reproves his tongue.”  Who was this Doeg and why did he cause David such distress?

We first met “Doeg the Edomite” (1 Samuel 21:7) when he overheard David’s request for bread from Ahimelech, the high priest (21:3-6). Doeg, identified as “a certain man of the servants of Saul” (1 Samuel 21:7), soon after conveyed the news of Ahimelech’s aid as the act of a traitor against the king.  When Saul’s soldiers refused to attack the priests, Doeg rose up and slew eighty-five priests in a brutal act of vengeance (22:16-18).

With that as our background, we understand when David writes, “In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and He heard me” (Psalm 120:1).

David was downcast when he learned the fate of Ahimelech and the priests who had given him bread. Doeg perpetuated the lie that David was Saul’s enemy. David prayed for the LORD to deliver him from his enemies (120:2) and wondered what would become of his enemy (120:3).

David longed for peace, but confessed those who sought him were bent to mischief and hated peace (120:3-7).

Minimizing the Evil Character of An Enemy is Not Only Foolish, It Is Dangerous.  (Psalms 140-142)

Psalm 140 is thought to be the occasion when David fled from the presence of King Saul and was a fugitive in the wilderness.  Scholars believe David penned Psalm 141 when his son Absalom rebelled and forced him to flee Jerusalem.  The circumstance of Psalm 142, is uncertain; however, its message is clear; whenever David faced troubles and the threats of enemies, the first thing he did was pray (Psalm 142:1).

Psalm 140 – Know Your Enemy

David prays, “Deliver me, O LORD, from the evil man” (140:1).

David not only knew his enemy, he defined the character of his enemy: “evil, violent, wicked, and proud.”

Psalm 140:1 – Deliver me, O LORD, from the evil man [wicked; immoral]: preserve me from the violent man [unjust; cruel; malicious];

Psalm 140:2 – Which imagine [devise; plot; purpose] mischiefs [evil; wickedness] in their heart; continually [always; daily] are they gathered together [assembled] for war [battle; fighting].

Psalm 140:3 – They have sharpened [pierced] their tongues [talk; speech] like a serpent; adders’ [viper] poison [fury; wrath; rage; indignation] is under their lips. Selah.

Psalm 140:4 – Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from the violentman; who have purposed [devised; plotted] to overthrow [cast down; i.e. with intent to harm; to drive away] my goings [steps].

Psalm 140:5 – The proud [arrogant] have hid a snare [trap] for me, and cords [a noose]; they have spread a net [i.e. a trap for catching animals] by the wayside; they have set gins [traps] for me. Selah.

David did not make the mistake of some who underestimate their enemy’s malicious ways and evil intent.  He understood his enemies were ever scheming, plotting, fighting, and threatening. He knew they would not tire in their attacks until they realized their objective…to see David overthrown and destroyed.

David’s portrayal of his enemies might shock us in today’s world; however, it should not. Underestimating the evil designs and influence of a foe can prove catastrophic.

I fear there is a naiveté regarding the depths of depravity in the hearts of sinful men. Living in a society set upon political correctness at the rejection of moral absolutes, has produced a reticence among preachers and believers when it comes to identifying and confronting the sins of our nation.

David reminds us it is not enough to know the enemies of the LORD and His people. We must identify what manner of people they are…evil, wicked, violent, and proud (140:1-5).

Paul’s challenge to Timothy from his prison cell in Rome should be our mandate:

2 Timothy 4:2, 5 – Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine…5  But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

No Longer a Slave to Fear (Psalms 7, 27, 31, 34, 52)

Devotional reading assignment – Psalms 7, 27, 31, 34, 52

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Follower, because we are reading the Scriptures chronologically, you will notice the interspersion of parallel passages of Scripture with a book of the Bible we are reading. In this instance, events in David’s life are recorded in 1 Samuel and contemplated in his psalms (a psalm being a sacred song that would be accompanied by musical instruments and sung in the Temple). Today’s psalms reflect David’s plight and flight from King Saul. It is impossible to present a thorough commentary on each psalm and for that reason I will choose one or two psalms as my focus.

Psalm 7 – David’s Cry of Innocence

Scholars believe Psalm 7, titled by one writer the “Song of the Slandered Saint”, was written when David was the object of slander and lies from Cush the Benjamite (he is identified in the title of Psalm 7).

King Saul was jealous of David’s popularity and Cush the Benjamite used his envy as an opportunity to accuse David of treason. It was Cush’s proximity to the throne that gave credence to the slanderer who subtly undermined David’s strained relationship with the king.  Already suspected by the king, David turned his appeal for justice and vindication to the LORD.

Psalm 7:1-2 – “O LORD my God, in thee do I put my trust [my refuge and hope]: save [deliver; help; preserve] me from all them that persecute [pursue; chase] me, and deliver [recover; defend; save] me: 2  Lest he tear [tear in pieces] my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces [break; tear apart], while there isnone to deliver [recover; save].”

David turned to the Lord and confessed, “O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust” (7:1). It was not his body, but his soul that endured the attacks of those who would tear and destroy his reputation (7:2).

Slander, gossip, lies and disloyalty are frequently the sorrows borne by God’s servants who serve Him with integrity.  The servants of the LORD do not aspire to popularity, but to faithfulness.  They seek not earthly applause, but heavenly commendation and to hear the LORD say: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21, 23).

David’s cry for justice and vindication is recorded in Psalm 7:3-5.

Psalm 7:3-5 – “O LORD my God, if I have done [make; wrought] this; if there be iniquity [wickedness; unrighteousness; injustice] in my hands; 4  If I have rewarded [treat; recompense; compensated]evil [sin; wickedness] unto him that was at peace with me; (yea, I have delivered [take off; plundered]him that without cause [empty; vain] is mine enemy [adversary]🙂 5  Let the enemy persecute [pursue; chase] my soul [life; person], and take [overtake; hold] it; yea, let him tread down [oppress; trample upon]my life upon the earth, and lay [settle] mine honour [glory; reputation] in the dust. Selah.”

I have learned that vindication of one’s life and testimony is often a process of years, not days or months.  Protestations of innocence are usually to no avail when some are more willing to believe the slanderer than they are to weigh a lifetime of faithful ministry.  When accusers attack one’s character and assault one’s testimony, the righteous must prevail to trust the Lord for vindication.

Psalm 7:6-8 – “Arise, O LORD, in thine anger, lift up [remove; depart; carry away] thyself because of the rage of mine enemies: and awake [stir up; raise up; incite] for me to the judgment [sentence; justice] that thou hast commanded [charged; appointed]. 7  So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about: for their sakes therefore return [return again] thou on high [exalted; above; dignity]. 8  The LORD shall judge [plead the cause; execute judgment] the people: judge [plead; avenge; vindicate] me, O LORD, according to my righteousness [justice; rightness before the law], and according to mine integrity [completeness; innocence; blameless] that is in me.”

With humility and confidence in God’s justice, David appealed to the LORD to be the judge of his enemies and the redeemer of his rightness and integrity.

Psalm 7:9 – “Oh let the wickedness [sin; evil] of the wicked [ungodly; immoral; guilty] come to an end [cease; fail]; but establish [prepare; ready; set up; confirm] the just: for the righteous  [just; lawful] God trieth [prove; test; examine] the hearts and reins [i.e. mind; inward parts].”

David made two requests in verse 9: 1) That the wicked would fail in their designs to destroy him. 2) That God, knowing David’s heart, would affirm his integrity and establish his testimony.

Some reading today’s devotional might be on the verge of resigning or leaving a post or ministry.  You have suffered personal attacks. You bear the sorrow of betrayal.  You feel abandoned.

Follow David’s example and cry out to the LORD knowing He is a God of justice and will vindicate His servant in due time.  Trust the Lord!

Psalm 27 – Breaking from the Tentacles of Enslaving Fear

Not all fear is negative and there are some things that warrant a good healthy dose of fear.  For instance: It is good to fear and revere authority when it guards us from the consequences of foolish or unlawful choices. We are wise to fear the dangers of a fiery blaze, the deadly potential of a lightning strike, the fast approach of a train at a railroad crossing, and the penalty of failing to study for an exam.

Fear might also be negative and enslaving. Some fears can paralyze and render one incapable of making decisions. Fear can spawn doubt, ambivalence, and drive one to retreat from relationships.

How can you overcome fear?  Let’s take some spiritual lessons out of David’s life experiences (Psalm 27:1-3).

Psalm 27:1 – “The LORD [Jehovah; Eternal God] is my light [brightness] and my salvation [Deliverer]; whom shall I fear? the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal God] is the strength [fortress; hold; rock; protection; refuge] of my life; of whom shall I be afraid [fear; tremble]?”

We notice three assertions of David’s courage and faith in verse 1.  The first, “The Lord is my Light:  David’s confidence was not in himself or in human thought or philosophy. His courage arose from his conviction that the LORD Who is Jehovah, Eternal God, was the source of light to his soul (John 1:4-5, 9; 1 John 1:5).

David’s second assertion was, “The LORD…is my Salvation.”  The Lord was his Deliverer and able to save his soul from the curse of sin.

David asks, Whom shall I fear?”  Is anyone too big for God?  Is anyone stronger than the LORD?  Is any circumstance greater than the LORD?

David’s third assertion was, The LORD is the Strength of my life.”  The LORD was his Rock, Fortress, and Refuge!  Why be afraid of mortal men if the Lord is your Protector?  Why scurry from a foe like a rat retreating from a predator?

Having stated the LORD is the object of his faith; David considered His providences and protection in the past (27:2).

Psalm 27:2 – “When the wicked [evil], even mine enemies [adversary] and my foes [hostile], came [approached; drew near] upon me to eat up [devour; consume; feed] my flesh [body], they stumbled [became weak; overthrown; staggered] and fell.”

David had experienced the threats of adversaries who savored besmearing his character and gloating in his sorrows.  His soul had been cannibalized by malicious attacks and disparaging lies.  Of those enemies David testified, “they stumbled and fell” (27:2b).

Remembering God’s faithfulness, David was emboldened and declared he would not be overcome with fear.

Psalm 27:3 – “Though an host [camp; great company] should encamp [pitch; lay siege] against me, my heart [mind; understanding] shall not fear [tremble; be afraid]: though war [battle; warfare; combat] should rise against me, in this will I be confident [trust; secure].”

Take heart friend!  If the LORD is your Light, Salvation, and Refuge, and He has proven faithful in the midst of trials that are past, cast aside your fears and affirm with David:

I will not be overcome with fear. I will not allow the threat of the unknown to rob me of my faith, joy, and confidence in the LORD.  

Romans 8:31 – “If God be for us, who can be against us?”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Caution: Revenge straight ahead! (1 Samuel 18-20; Psalm 11; Psalm 59)

Today’s Bible reading is 1 Samuel 18-20; Psalm 11; Psalm 59; 

An explanation on our Chronological Reading Plan: Today’s Scripture reading covers not only 1 Samuel 18-20, but also Psalm 11 and Psalm 59. This latticework that pulls together various passages   will become a pattern as we read the Scriptures chronologically. For instance, the events in 1 Samuel 18-20 are patterned in both Psalm 11 and Psalm 59. Because the Scripture passages are long, I will limit the length of my devotional commentary.

1 Samuel 18-20

We find David residing in the king’s palace, befriended by Jonathan, the son of Saul (18:1-4; 19:1-2).  The slaying of the Philistine giant Goliath had propelled David from shepherd and court musician to national hero. David’s fame as a warrior, and the affection of the people, had stirred jealousy in the heart of the king.  Believing David was a threat to his reign, Saul determined to kill him (18:5-30).

Nevertheless, the bond between Jonathan and David was never broken in spite of Saul’s attempts to kill him (1 Samuel 20:1-23). Jonathan, believing David was God’s anointed and the heir to the throne, vowed to befriend, support, and love David to the end of his life (20:35-42).  Thrust out of the kingdom by the king’s attempts to kill him, David began a ten-year journey of hardship and loneliness. Separated from his friend and his father’s household, the future king would live in the wilderness, hiding and seeking refuge in caves.

A Lesson from David’s Life: Serving God does not come with a guarantee of comfort or favor. Faithful servants of God are not insulated from criticism.

Psalm 11 – There are times when retreat is the wiser choice. 

David fled from Saul when the king attacked him. In Psalm 11 we do not know if the foe David faced was within or without his kingdom; however, the threat was significant and the king’s counselors advised him to flee (11:1b-2).  David answered his frightened counselors saying,

Psalm 11:1 – “In the LORD put I my trust [confide; flee for protection; make refuge]: how say [speak; command] ye to my soul [life; person; mind], Flee [disappear; remove] as a bird to your mountain?

The counselors reminded the king the plot of the wicked was to destroy the just and upright (11:2), and as king, he was the moral pillar, the foundation of the nation (11:3).

Psalm 11:2-3 – “For, lo, the wicked  [ungodly; immoral; guilty] bend their bow, they make ready [prepare; set up; fix] their arrow upon the string, that they may privily [secretly] shoot at the upright [right; just; righteous] in heart [mind].  3 If the foundations [purpose; support; moral pillars] be destroyed [thrown down; broken in pieces], what can the righteous [just] do?”

David’s counselors reasoned, not only was his life at risk, but so also were the lives of the people and the future of the kingdom (11:3b).  In other words, what will become of the righteous should the king fall?

We find David’s response in Psalm 11:4-7.

Psalm 11:4-5 – “The LORD is in his holy [sacred; hallowed] temple, the LORD’S throne [seat] is in heaven: his eyes behold [perceive; look; gaze], his eyelids try [examine; prove], the children of men. 5 The LORD trieth [proves; examines] the righteous [just; law-abiding]: but the wicked [ungodly; immoral; guilty] and him that loveth violence [injustice] his soul hateth [as a foe].”

What a great reminder! Regardless the threats of an enemy or his demands, we must not compromise our integrity. The LORD has not abdicated the throne of heaven; the ways of the righteous will not go unrewarded, nor the ways of the wicked unpunished!

Our devotion ends with the assurance, “the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright” (Psalm 11:7). The righteous are the objects of the LORD’s love!

Is there is an enemy who haunts your life with threats, maligning gossip, or with disapproving gazes?  Take confidence in this…the LORD loves the righteous and He is just. Trust the LORD!

Isaiah 40:31 – “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD is God and There is None Other! (1 Samuel 15-17)

Daily reading assignment: 1 Samuel 15-17

1 Samuel 15 – “To Obey is Better Than Sacrifice”

The LORD directed Samuel to go to King Saul and command him to lead Israel to war with the Amalekites, revenging how that nation had attacked His people when they “came up from Egypt” (15:2; Exodus 17:8-14). Saul’s marching orders were nothing short of the complete annihilation of Amalek. He was not to spare one “man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (15:3).

Saul’s army, now two hundred thousand strong (15:4), experienced a glorious victory over the Amalekites. Saul, however, disobeyed the LORD’s command and spared Agag, the Amalekite king, and the best of the livestock (15:9).  We read the king spared “all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them” (15:9).

Saul’s act of disobedience and his foolish attempt to hide his sin by lies and blame shifting (15:12-15) bring us to a spiritual principle that should be seeded in the heart of every believer:

1 Samuel 15:22-23 – “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 23  For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is asiniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”

1 Samuel 15 closes with a miserable portrait of the disastrous consequences of disobedience and rebellion.  Saul had disobeyed the LORD’s command, and now the LORD rejected him from being king (15:23).  Even in confessing he had sinned, he refused to humble his arrogant heart and accept unqualified responsibility for his wicked choices (15:24).

Making a pretense of spiritual piety, Saul asked Samuel to “turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD” (15:25). When Samuel refused, the king forcibly grasped the prophet’s upper robe, renting it in two (15:26-27). Provoked by Saul’s desperation, Samuel rebuked the king and prophesied his throne had been given “to a neighbor of thine, that is better than thou” (15:28).

Reminding us the LORD is longsuffering, but His justice is not to be trifled with, Samuel prophesied, “the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent” (15:29).

1 Samuel 15 ends on a tragic note when we read, “Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death; nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel” (15:35).

1 Samuel 16 – The Lord has Chosen a New King

Although he would reign for several more years, we find King Saul was a miserable soul, conscious the LORD had withdrawn His blessing from him as Israel’s king.

The LORD stirred up Samuel’s spirit, asking the prophet, “How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel?” (16:1a) He had genuinely mourned what had befallen Saul; however, the nation needed to look forward, and God informed Samuel He had chosen Israel’s new king (16:1c).

What a touching, but sad commentary on Samuel’s strained relationship with the king.  While the prophet mourned Saul’s ruin, he also feared the king would kill him should they cross paths (16:2).

Unlike Saul, whose physical presence impressed the people, God would choose a man not based on outward appearance, but rather, on his heart and love for the LORD. The youngest son of Jesse, and the shepherd of his father’s sheep (16:6-11). David is the man whom God chose to lead Israel (16:12). Taking a “horn of oil,” Samuel anointed David to be king in the presence of his father and brothers (16:13).

Now the Spirit of the Lord left Saul, and the spiritual emptiness of his soul was filled with “an evil spirit” (16:14) that continually troubled and saddened him. Realizing the healing powers of soothing music, Saul’s servants counseled him to seek a skillful musician to play the harp and calm his spirit (16:15-17).

God providentially orchestrated that David, the LORD’S anointed, would be the musician (16:18-19).  The stage was providentially set by the LORD for David, a mere shepherd boy, to be schooled in government and the role of a king (16:20-23)!

1 Samuel 17 – From Court Musician to a National Hero

We find the Philistines’ great army arrayed against Israel in 1 Samuel 17.

Israel’s king was sullen, and the nation was terrified. The people had lost confidence in Saul. Unlike the man he had been, the king showed no initiative to face the Philistines, let alone Goliath, the giant warrior of Gath (17:3-7).

There is much drama in this well-known story that pits a giant adversary against a shepherd boy whose faith in the LORD was greater than the enemy he faced. David’s success before all Israel would in God’s sovereign plan move a shepherd boy from court musician to a household name in Israel.

I leave you with a thought: When you face giants (and we all do), the important thing is not the size of your enemy, but the strength of your faith and confidence in God.

The LORD is greater than all your giants!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Character flaws in leaders breed insecurity in their supporters. (1 Samuel 13-14)

Daily reading assignment: 1 Samuel 13-14

The theme of today’s devotional is a truth that arises not only from our scripture reading, but also out of my own observation after forty-one years in ministry.

I have learned that flawed leaders are apt to blame others (i.e. family, employees, followers) for their failures. However, tried and true leaders assess their character deficiencies honestly, accept liability, and sincerely address them. Sadly, today’s scripture reading illuminates in King Saul’s life the character flaws that often surface in the public and private lives of leaders.

1 Samuel 13 – Big Man, Small Character

Two years have passed since Saul was anointed king of Israel. In the second year of his reign, the king organized his army into three divisions, appointing his son Jonathan over one while he led the others (13:1-2).

Evidencing a youthful zeal to be admired, Jonathan led his division of one thousand men in a successful assault on the Philistine garrison in Geba (13:3). Learning of the raid, a character weakness in Saul emerged when he assumed the glory of his son’s victory for himself.

While there is no evidence the king ordered the attack on the Philistines, we read, Saul “blew the trumpet” (13:3) and “all Israel heard say that Saul had smitten a garrison of the Philistines” (13:4).  Saul had opportunity to praise his son’s success and deflect the praise from himself; instead, he jealously embraced the glory of the victory for himself.

When the Philistines learned of the attack on their garrison, they were stirred to war and assembled a great army (13:5).  Seeing the size of their enemy’s army, Israel panicked, and many deserted Saul hiding “themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits” (13:6). Others fled the land and sought refuge on the east side of the Jordan River (13:8).

Knowing fear had taken hold in Israel, Saul feared all would soon be lost if the people’s confidence was not restored.

Samuel had appointed seven days for Saul to wait for him to come, offer sacrifices, and confirm the king before the people at Gilgal (10:8). Weary of waiting and fearing the people would continue to desert him, on the seventh day, Saul usurped Samuel’s leadership as God’s prophet and offered sacrifices in the prophet’s absence (13:9-10).

Saul’s flawed character was exposed in three lies. (13:10-12)

The first deception was the king’s disingenuous greeting when he “went out to meet [Samuel], that he [Samuel] might salute [bless; kneel] him [Saul]” (13:10). Saul greeted the prophet as though all was well when in reality he had usurped the prophet’s role in Israel. The second lie was Saul’s refusal to take responsibility for his sin when he said, “the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest notwithin the days appointed” (13:11).  The third ruse was the king’s assertion he was “forced(compelled)and “offered a burnt offering” (13:12).

The flaws in Saul’s character produced insecurity in the lives of his followers (13:15-18).

The size of Israel’s army declined from over 3,000 soldiers (13:2) to 600 frightened men (13:15).   The threats against Israel increased in direct proportion to the weakness evidenced by Saul’s army (13:17-18).   Finally, Israel had become so subservient to the Philistines, they no longer had blacksmiths to produce sword or spear and were dependent on their enemies to sharpen their plows and axes.

Under Saul’s flawed leadership, Israel was weakened militarily, faced increasing national threats from within and without, and had lost the capability of producing their own tools and weapons. Sound familiar?

1 Samuel 14 – The King’s Flawed Character Imperiled the Nation and His Family.

The consequences of Saul’s failures continue to surface in 1 Samuel 14. While Saul demonstrated no initiative for battle and “tarried…under a pomegranate tree” (14:2), his son Jonathan set his heart to attack the Philistines with only his young armourbearer accompanying him (14:3-13).

God blessed Jonathan’s faith (14:6), and twenty Philistines fell before his sword (14:14).  The noise of the attack and an earthquake set off a panic in the camp, and the Philistines turned their swords on each other (14:15).

When Saul’s watchmen alerted him there was a disturbance in the Philistine camp and the enemy was fleeing (14:16), rather than a call to arms, Saul issued a roll call to determine “who is gone from us” (14:17).  Learning his son and armourbearer were gone, Saul called for the Ark of God to be brought up (14:18), and the LORD gave Israel a great victory that day (14:19-23).

Another foolish act of the king came to light when he issued an order for his soldiers to fast in the course of the battle, leaving his army physically weakened and ultimately imperiling his son who had no knowledge of his father’s ill-advised order (14:24-28).

After taking honey to sustain his strength (14:27), Jonathan was informed of the king’s order to fast and pronounced an undeniable fact saying: “My father hath troubled the land” (14:29-30).

Faint with hunger, Israel’s soldiers began to eat the spoils of the battle. Slaughtering the Philistines’ livestock, they began to “eat them with the blood” (14:32), thus violating the law: “Ye shall not eat any thing with the blood” (Leviticus 19:26).

“Saul asked counsel of God,” but the LORD “answered him not that day” (14:37).

Saul supposed the failure of the LORD to answer him was because a soldier had sinned and violated his command that the army fast (14:38-40). When he learned his own son had violated his command, the king would have killed Jonathan had the people not rescued him from Saul’s maniacal intent (14:41-45).

Inspired by Israel’s victory, Saul’s army increased, and Israel once again experienced victories over the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, and Amalekites (14:47-52).

Make no mistake: in spite of the victories, the flaws of Israel’s king will become a source of national sorrow.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Every Man Did That Which Was Right In His Own Eyes” (Judges 19-21)

Daily reading assignment: Judges 19-21

Judges 19 – The Infamy of Wickedness in Gibeah

Judges 19:1 reminds us there was “no king in Israel” and no judge to advocate God’s Law and call the nation to repent. The depth of wickedness and moral depravity to which Israel had descended is revealed in the story of the Levite whose concubine (a wife of lesser stature) had “played the whore against him, and went away…unto her father’s house” (19:2).

The same Levite pursued his wife to her father’s home and was persuaded to tarry with him several days before commencing his journey home to Bethlehem with his wife and servants (19:3-10).

Along the way it became necessary to seek lodging in the city of Gibeah that was of the tribe of Benjamin (19:12-15).  Unable to find shelter in Gibeah, an elderly man offered the Levite and his company housing for the night (19:16-21).

As it was in Sodom for Lot and his family (Genesis 19:6), we find the moral debauchery of homosexuality had become the practice of the men of Gibeah. That night the men of Gibeah surrounded the home of the old man and demanded he put the Levite priest out of his house so they might sadistically rape him (19:22).

Desperate to spare his guest the reprehensible demeaning of sodomy, the elderly man offered his daughter and the Levite’s concubine to satisfy the immoral demands of the sodomites (19:23-24). Scandalously, the men of Gibeah took the concubine, “abused her all the night,” and left her for dead (19:25).

Traumatized, degraded, and violently raped, the concubine fell at the door of the elderly man’s home where she was found at morning light (19:24-26).

Finding his wife dead, the Levite took her lifeless body and transported her to his house (19:28). When he arrived at home, the Levite took a knife and cut her corpse in twelve pieces that he sent as a rebuke and testimony to the great wickedness that had befallen the twelve tribes of Israel (19:29).

Judges 20 – Civil War in Israel

Understanding the wickedness of Gibeah, warriors of eleven tribes were stirred with indignation (20:1-11) and demanded the tribe of Benjamin deliver the sodomites of Gibeah into their hands (20:12).

When the men of Benjamin refused, the tribes determined to go to battle against the tribe (20:13-17).  At first, the fight went in favor of the rebellious tribe of Benjamin (20:18-25); however, after weeping, praying, and offering sacrifices, the LORD assured Israel of victory (20:26-46).

The tribe of Benjamin was nearly decimated, and only 600 men remained after the battle was done (20:47-48).

Judges 21 – Victory, But Overwhelming Sorrow

The Benjaminites were isolated from the other tribes that had determined their daughters would not be allowed to marry any men of Benjamin (21:1).   Though victorious, the tribes of Israel were broken over the sin and wickedness that had taken hold in the land, leaving one of the twelve tribes nearly destroyed (21:2-6).

The book of Judges ends with the reminder: “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (21:25). 

I am afraid those words describe our day. We are living in a world that has rejected God, His Word, Law, and Commandments.  Pulpits are filled with preachers who deflect the duty of declaring the Word of God, and people who love the world sit in the pews and classrooms of our churches and schools (1 John 2:15-17).

Such compromise, whether in the pulpits or in the home, will inevitably lead to God’s judgment.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“God Hath Chosen the Foolish Things” (Judges 10-12)

Daily reading assignment: Judges 10-12

Judges 10 – The Consequences of a Broken Covenant

A string of judges followed the death of Abimelech (9:53-56); however, there are none whose achievements are recorded (probably because there was nothing noteworthy about them).

Israel soon fell into a familiar pattern of breaking God’s covenant and forsaking His Law (10:6). Angered by the sins of the people, the LORD removed His protection, and Israel suffered decades of oppression under the Philistines (something that would continue until David became king).

Out of her sorrows, Israel repented of her sins and called upon the LORD (10:9-16) as the Ammonites gathered for war against the nation (10:17-18).

Judges 11 – Jephthah: An Unlikely Hero

Judges 11 brings to mind that God uses the “foolish things of the world to confound the wise…And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen” (1 Corinthians 1:26, 28).

We read that Jephthah was “a mighty man of valour [warrior] (11:1),  a man whose lineage was less than stellar from humanity’s perspective. He was the son of an adulterous woman (11:2), and an illegitimate heir of his father in the eyes of his brethren (11:2). Rejected by his father’s children (11:3), Jephthah found refuge “in the land of Tob” (11:3) where he was joined by nefarious (wicked) men.

Though scorned by his family, when the Ammonites rose up against Gilead, Jephthah was asked to defend and lead his people against them (11:4-6). Shrewdly, he did not miss the opportunity to confront the irony of their rejection and now their invitation for him to be their leader (11:7-11).

Jephthah first petitioned for peace with the Ammonites (11:12-13). When his offer was rejected, he suggested four arguments to refute why the Ammonites’ demand for their ancestral lands was unfounded.

1) Israel had taken the land when the ancestors of the Ammonites made war against Israel (11:14-22). 2) The LORD had given Israel the land according to His promises (11:23-24). 3) Israel had occupied the land as their own for three centuries (11:26). 4) The Ammonites were not making war against Israel, but against her God (11:27-28).

When Jephthah’s offering of peace was rejected, he sought the LORD’s blessing and went to war (11:29-30), but only after foolishly promising to dedicate and sacrifice the first who greeted him after his victory over the Ammonites (11:31-33).

Victorious, Jephthah returned home and was greeted by his only child, a daughter, and the thrill of victory turned to overwhelming sorrow.  [On a personal note: Scholars argue over whether or not Jephthah intended a human sacrifice. I believe that is a foolish proposition since Jephthah had evidenced a great knowledge of Israel’s history (11:15-26) and would have known the LORD did not require, nor would accept human sacrifice]. 

Because she was a virgin and his only child (11:34, 37), Jephthah’s dedication of his daughter was a very real sacrifice for both, knowing she would never bear a child and heir (11:37-40).

Judges 12 – The Hypocrisy of the Ephraimites

You may recall the tribe of Ephraim had complained when Gideon failed to call them to battle against the Midianites (Judges 8:1).  On that occasion, Gideon pacified their complaints by demeaning his own achievements (8:2-3).

Jephthah, however, was in no mood to hear the hypocritical protests and threat of Ephraim after they had refused to go to war when he summoned them (12:1-3). When Ephraim could not share in the spoils of victory, they were ready to war against Jephthah and the Gileadites (12:4).  The civil war between Gilead and Ephraim resulted in the deaths of forty-two thousand Ephraimites (12:5-6).

I close with a word of encouragement: Jephthah, like Joseph, stands out as a most unlikely hero. Joseph was rejected by his brothers, but emerged in Egypt to be the one God chose to save his brethren. Jephthah, the son of a harlot and rejected by his brothers, was the man God prepared to deliver Israel from the Ammonites.

Lesson: I don’t know who you are or what you are; but if you are willing to humble yourself and yield to God, He will use you (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

From Hero to Disgrace and Sorrow (Judges 8-9)

Daily reading assignment: Judges 8-9

Judges 8 – What is important? Not Where You Begin, but Where You End!

Our study of Gideon’s life continues with his leading a mere three hundred men to rout an army of Midianites (7:16-25). Judges 7 closes with Gideon sending messengers to call the men of Ephraim to take up arms and pursue the Midianites across the Jordan River (7:23-25).

Remembering Gideon was of the Abiezrite family and member of the tribe of Manasseh (one of Joseph’s two sons, the other being Ephraim), the Ephraimites alleged Gideon had slighted them by not inviting them to war against the Midianites (8:1).

Charged unfairly, nevertheless, Gideon humbly appeased the anger of the Ephraimites, proposing that tribe had achieved more than he in slaying two princes of Midian (7:25; 8:2-3).

 

Gideon requested food for his men while in pursuit of the Midianites; however, both Succoth and Penuel denied him aid and suggested Gideon would fail to dispose of the Midianites and their kings (8:6-10). Incensed, Gideon warned he would return after the battle and the men of Succoth and Penuel would pay for their rejection (a threat Gideon fulfilled – 8:11-21).

With the battle over, the men of Israel proposed to make Gideon their king (8:22). Gideon wisely refused and encouraged the nation, “The LORD shall rule over you” (8:23).

Judges 8:24-35 – No Fool Like an Old Fool

The battle being ended and his status as a victor secured, Gideon took a path that ultimately led him and the nation far from the LORD.

Requesting earrings of gold taken from the Ishmaelites (of whom the Midianites were descended), Gideon foolishly venerated his victory with a commemorative ephod that became an idol to Gideon and his household (8:27).

An old adage comes to mind when I read the concluding verses of Judges 8: “The best of men are men at best.” Gideon, known as Jerubbaal (“Baal fighter”), embraced his hero status and took “many wives” of whom were born seventy sons (8:30).

Gideon lived to be an old man; however, his sin so compromised his life and testimony that when he was dead, “the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim” (8:33).  The tragedy is heightened by the observation that the people not only forgot the LORD, but they did not honor the memory of Gideon or his household (8:34-35).

Judges 9 – The Tragic Culmination of Gideon’s Sins

Abimelech, one of the seventy sons of Gideon, was born to a Canaanite woman, a concubine in Shechem (8:31; 9:1). Abimelech hated his brothers and set in motion a plan to annihilate his father’s household.  Hiring wicked men to assist him, Abimelech ordered the murder of Gideon’s sons (9:1-5).

Only Jotham, Gideon’s youngest son, was spared death because he hid himself (9:5). When Jotham heard Abimelech had gathered men to crown him king (9:6), he stood eight hundred feet above the plain and shouted from mount Gerizim a parable about trees that proved to be a prophetic curse against Abimelech (9:7-15).

Judges 9:8-13 – A Parable of Trees

For the sake of interpretation, the olive tree, fig tree, and even the grape vine represent noble men (9:8-13). The bramble, a worthless vine of briars and thorns, was meant to represent Abimelech as a worthless man whom noble men had foolishly appointed to rule over them (9:14-15). Portraying the bramble as a worthless vine devoured by fire (9:19-20), Jotham prophesied Abimelech would die an ignoble death.

Abimelech reigned for three years (9:22) when there arose a rebellion. Attempting to put down the rebellion, Abimelech was mortally wounded by a woman who “cast a piece of a millstone” and fractured his skull (9:53). Rather than leave the account he was slain by a woman, Abimelech demanded his armorbearer thrust him through with his sword and kill him (9:54-57).

An Ignoble End

The tragic end of Gideon’s legacy is a lesson for all believers. When he was young and insecure, he was conscious how much he needed the LORD (6:12, 15-16). When he became famous and prosperous, he forgot the LORD and led his family down a path of sin and self-destruction.

What path are you taking, and where are you leading others?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Where is the Gideon of Our Day? (Judges 6-7)

Daily reading assignment: Judges 6-7

Judges 6 – Gideon: An Unlikely Champion

Judges 6 opens with Israel in a distressed state. Having turned from the LORD, they have suffered seven years of oppression under the Midianites and Amalekites (6:1-2).  Abandoning their homes and towns, the children of Israel retreated to caves and dens in the mountains.

Seven years Israel had sown their crops, only to have their enemies gather and pillage the land at the time of harvest (6:3-6).  Impoverished and distressed, Israel cried out to the LORD, and He sent a prophet to remind the people that He had delivered the nation out of Israel and given them the land, but they had broken covenant and failed to obey His law and commandments (6:7-10).

Having heard the cry of His people, the LORD dispatched “the angel of the LORD” (in my opinion, a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ – 6:11) to raise up a savior, deliverer, and judge over Israel, a man named Gideon (6:11). The angel found Gideon hiding in a winepress threshing wheat (6:11).

The angel greeted Gideon as a “mighty man of valour” (6:12); however, the salutation itself seemed to ridicule the man’s present state. Notice it was the angel’s observation concerning Gideon that set him apart from the rest of Israel: “The Lord is with thee” (6:12).

Promised the LORD’S presence, Gideon protested, “If the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all His miracles?” (6:13).

When the angel exhorted he had been chosen to “save Israel from the hand of the Midianites,” Gideon objected saying, “My family is poor…and I am the least in my father’s house” (6:15). The LORD encouraged Gideon saying, “Surely I will be with thee” (6:16).

Judges 6:17-40 is a rich passage of events too lengthy for this brief devotional commentary. Study the verses and notice how the LORD transformed Gideon from a timid farmer to Jerubbaal, “the Baal fighter” and a man bold in his faith (6:27-32).

When the Midianites and Amalekites gathered their armies to raid Israel, the LORD moved Gideon to blow a trumpet and gather men to go to war (6:33-35). When doubt took hold on his heart (6:36), Gideon requested the LORD assure him with signs to which God patiently complied (6:36-40).

Judges 7 – Fear and Fervency

Gideon sent out a call for men of Israel to gather and 32,000 men responded to his appeal (Judges 7:1).   Looking across the plain, Israel’s army could see in the day the hordes of Midian gathering and at night a multitude of campfires burning on Mount Moreh (three miles to the north).

Incredibly, though facing a great enemy, the LORD came to Gideon and said, “The people that are with thee are too many” (7:2).  Why?  Fear and restlessness were gripping the hearts of Gideon’s soldiers, but now the LORD says, “Gideon, you have too many!”

God gave Gideon two tests for reducing his troops (7:3-7).

1) Test of Fear: God commanded Gideon to send home any who were afraid (7:3). The number of soldiers was reduced by 22,000 men, leaving 10,000 in the camp.

2) Test of Fervency: His army reduced by more than two-thirds, the LORD again said to Gideon, “The people are yet too many” (7:4).  Commanding he reduce his army to those who drank water at a stream, bringing water up to their mouth by cupping their hands while allowing their eyes to be vigilant for the ambush of an enemy (7:5-7), Gideon was left with only 300 men to face an army so vast it was described as a “multitude…without number” (7:12). Three hundred men would face an army of skilled, veteran warriors!

The odds were impossible that Gideon and Israel would be successful, and that is exactly where God wanted His people!  God fortified Gideon’s spirit with the dream and interpretation of his enemies (7:9-15). God was going to give Israel the victory; however, He was not going to share His glory with anyone!

Israel’s triumph was so astonishing that the people knew God alone had given them the victory! (7:18-25)

Where is the Gideon of this generation? (I invite you to click on that question and enjoy this recording by my dear friends in ministry, Matt Herbster and his twin brothers, Mike and Mark Herbster).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Tragedy of Disobedience – (Judges 3-5)

Scripture Reading – Judges 3-5

Israel’s failure to drive the heathen nations out of the land soon brought home a sorrow and heartache to many in Israel. We read,

Judges 3:6-76  And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods. 7  And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves.

Unspeakable wickedness is reflected in those two verses. Having failed to drive out the heathen and separate themselves from them and their idols, Hebrew families suffered the loss of their sons and daughters who intermarried with the wicked and followed in their ways (3:6). Their children not only turned from the LORD, but they began committing all manner of whoredom in the groves (3:7).

A history of Israel under the Judges is recorded beginning with Judges 3:7 and continuing to Judges 16:31.

From liberty to servitude, Israel provoked the LORD’S anger and He delivered them “into the hand of Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia” whom the people served for eight years (3:8).

Evidencing His grace, when Israel cried to the LORD He sent Othniel, Caleb’s younger brother, to judge and call the nation to turn to the LORD (3:9-10). The LORD delivered His people and gave the nation rest for forty years as long as Othniel was judge in the land. (3:11).

After Othniel’s death, Israel followed a pattern of rebellion that invited God’s judgment and each time the LORD raised up a judge to call the nation to repent (3:12-31).

An intriguing story unfolds of a brave Benjaminite named Elud who stealthily made his way into the palace where he slew Eglon, the Moabite king with a dagger (3:15-26). Ehud’s courageous example and his faith in the LORD, not only delivered Israel from servitude, but also gave the people rest for eighty years (3:27-30).

Judges 4 – Deborah: A Prophetess in the Land

Israel once again turned from the LORD and the nation fell victim to a powerful king, “Jabin king of Canaan” (4:2-3).  This time the LORD called upon a woman named Deborah, identified as a “prophetess” (4:4-5), to judge the nation.

Deborah summoned a man named “Barak” (4:6) of the tribe of Naphtali, to lead the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun against Jabin (4:6-7). When Barak insisted he would only go if Deborah accompanied him, she warned it would be said that “the LORD shall sell Sisera [the Canaanite general] into the hand of a woman” (4:8).

When the Canaanite general Sisera realized he was defeated (4:9-16), he fled the battle on foot, and sought to hide in the tent of a woman named Jael (4:17-19). When he fell asleep, Jael rose up and drove a tent peg through Sisera’s temple (4:20-22).

Judges 5 – A Song of Victory

The prophetess Deborah breaks into song (5:3-11) and leads the people to recall their glorious history (5:3-5), and their decline as a wayward, suffering people (5:6-8).

Deborah’s song turns to rejoicing in the victory the LORD had given his people (5:9-23), and the courage of Jael, the woman who slew Sisera, by driving a peg through his temples (5:24-27).

Faith was and still is the victory!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith