Tag Archives: Stewardship

Pray for Laborers! (Luke 10)

Scripture reading – Luke 10

The Gospel of Luke, chapter 10, is one of the most instructive and moving of the twenty-four chapters we find in Luke’s gospel.

We find a model for the Great Commission (Luke 10:1-20), and an answer to life’s most important question: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (10:25-29). Jesus taught a moving parable that is universally recognized as, “The Good Samaritan,” an illustration of mercy and loving compassion for others (10:30-37). Finally, there is a warning to those tempted to be busy and distracted with much that is good, and like Martha, miss the most important thing, our daily time with the LORD in His Word (10:38-42).

Luke 10 begins with Jesus appointing “seventy” (i.e. seventy disciples), and sending them out “two and two…into every city and place, whither he himself would come” (10:1).

The number of disciples sent out, being seventy, no doubt surprises some believers. There were many who followed Jesus, besides the Twelve He had called to be His disciples. I invite you to consider the verses that precede the commissioning of the seventy (Luke 9:57-62), and be reminded that not all who followed Jesus were sincere believers. For instance, there was a man who volunteered to follow Jesus (Luke 9:57), but when Jesus reminded him the life of a disciple was one of self-denial and sacrifice, he turned back (9:58). Jesus commanded another man, “Follow me” (9:59), but he would not until his father had died and he could claim his inheritance (9:60). There was a third man who came to Jesus and said, “Lord, I will follow thee” (9:61), but his affection for home was greater than his love and devotion to Jesus (9:62).

Having chosen seventy disciples out of the great multitude that followed Him, Jesus instructed them to go before Him, two by two, into every city and village where He would soon come and minister (10:1). Jesus then challenged the seventy with the spiritual need of those among whom they would labor (10:2).

Luke 10:2 2Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.

The seventy were challenged with the image of the opportunity (“The harvest [of needy souls] truly is great” – 10:2a), the magnitude of the need (“but the labourers [preachers and teachers of the Gospel] are few” – 10:2b), and the challenge to do something every believer is compelled to do: “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (10:2c).

Jesus knew that He was within months of the Cross, and there was an urgency for the Gospel to be taken far and wide throughout the villages and cities of Israel (Matthew 9:37-38). Though the opportunity to reach lost souls was stunning, the reality was that so few would be willing to take the Gospel to them. John wrote in His Gospel:

John 4:35 – “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields [of lost souls]; for they are white already to harvest.”

What can a believer do in the face of so great a need of lost souls?Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (10:2c).

Pray for laborers. Pray for men and women who will dedicate their lives to serve the LORD, and take the Gospel: Jesus Christ crucified for our sins, buried, and raised from the dead.

Pray with urgency, knowing “the harvest truly is great” (10:2a). Pray with fervency, for “the laborers are few”(10:2b). Pray perpetually, until the LORD answers your prayer and sends forth laborers (preachers, teachers, and missionaries) who will faithfully sow the seed of the Gospel.

As you pray, ponder the question: Are you willing to go?

Matthew 28:19–2019Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God Uses Simple Things (Matthew 15; Mark 7)

Scripture reading – Matthew 15; Mark 7

We noted in an earlier devotional the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-43; John 6:1-14); and we find a similar miracle in today’s Scripture reading that is known as the Feeding of the Four Thousandor The Miracle of the Seven Loaves and Fish (Matthew 15:29-39; Mark 8:1-21).

The setting was a hillside that overlooked the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 15:29), at a place Mark identifies as Decapolis (Mark 8:31). Whereas the feeding of the 5,000 had taken place in Galilee at Bethsaida (Luke 9:10) and was attended by Jewish people; Decapolis would have had a population that was predominately Gentile. In other words, the feeding of the 4,000 not only put the faith of the disciples to the test, but also challenged their prejudices towards Gentiles.

Now, the fame of Jesus had reached Decapolis and there “great multitudes” came seeking Jesus, and bringing their loved ones who were “lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others” (Matthew 15:30, 38). Believing Jesus could, and would heal their family and friends, the people “cast them at Jesus’ feet; and he healed them, “31Insomuch that the multitude wondered [marveled], when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel” (15:31).

After ministering, and healing the sick and afflicted for three days, Jesus was sensitive that the people had “nothing to eat” (15:32). It was at the close of the third day when Jesus declared to His disciples, “I have compassion on the multitude…I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way” (15:32).

When Jesus fed the five thousand, He had questioned Philip how they might feed so many. On this occasion, the disciples questioned Jesus, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?” (15:33)

The disciples, perhaps expecting Jesus would perform a miracle, stated the obvious: They lacked the means to feed the people. The disciples knew it was not a question of whether or not Jesus could perform a miracle. The question was, “Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness?” (15:33)

Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes” (15:34).

Taking the resources, the disciples had available, Jesus “commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. 36And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude” (15:35-36). There was not only enough to feed the multitude, there were leftovers that “left seven baskets full” (15:37; Mark 8:8).

There are several lessons we might take from this event.

The first: The challenge to look past our prejudices, and see the need of lost souls around us. When Jesus fed the 5,000, the disciples were among their own people, the Jews of Galilee. In Decapolis, however, the population was mostly Gentile, and a people the Jews would have disdained. Nevertheless, the people were hurting and hungry and Jesus had compassion on them (15:32).

A second lesson: God uses for His work and ministry, the resources we have at hand, no matter how little or humble.

The question for the disciples was not, “What would Jesus do to feed so many?” The question was, Would the disciples give what they had to the LORD, so that He might minister to others through them and their offering?”

I fear many believers go through life without ever grasping that simple truth:

Your ministry is dependent, not on your ability, but on your availability.     

1 Corinthians 1:26-27, 29 – “26 For ye see your calling [invitation to accept the benefits of salvation], brethren, how that not many wise men [wise in the estimation of man] after the flesh [nature of man], not many mighty [powerful; strong], not many noble [noble birth; high in rank; i.e. king, price or ruler], are called: 27  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound [make ashamed; dishonor; confuse] the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things [feeble; impotent] of the world to confound the things which are mighty… 29  That no flesh [no mortal man] should glory [boast; rejoice] in His presence [the Presence of God].”

Will you dedicate to the LORD all that you are and have, whether little or much?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Cost of Being a Disciple (Matthew 8; Mark 2)

Scripture reading – Matthew 8; Mark 2

We pick up our reading in the Gospel of Matthew with Jesus having completed His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  From now to His death on the cross, a throng of people will follow Jesus as He preaches and performs miracles throughout Galilee, Samaria, and Judea.

Matthew 8 – Three healing miracles are recorded in Matthew 8 that attest to Jesus’ divine power and authority over nature. 

The first miracle was the healing of a leper (8:2-4) who came to Jesus expressing his faith saying, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean” (8:2).  Down through history, leprosy has been a dreaded skin disease, one that eventually eats away at the flesh and appendages. Leprosy was an incurable disease and a leper’s life was that of an outcast. Alienated from his family and society, the leper was a miserable, hopeless soul (Isaiah 1:5-6). The leperous man, coming with faith and seeking compassion, was immediately cleansed and made whole (8:3).

The second miracle was the healing of a Roman centurion’s slave (8:5-13).  A centurion was the commander of one hundred soldiers, and he was no doubt living in Capernaum as a peacekeeper of Rome. Unlike a typical, battle-hardened Roman soldier, the Centurion had become sympathetic to, if not a proselyte of, Judaism.   The Jews said of him, “he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue” (Luke 7:5); thus endearing himself to the Jews of Capernaum.

While the Centurion’s position and good works were commendable, they were not the essential qualities we find concerning his character in this passage. Notice the Centurion was a man of humility. In spite of his position, he came to Jesus confessing, “I am not worthy” (8:8-9).  Humility is rare in the world, especially among the rich and powerful; however, knowing his servant was dying, the Centurion humbled himself and came to Jesus.

Consider also the evidence of the Centurion’s faith that was demonstrated in his request: “Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed” (8:8). His was a remarkable faith that Jesus commended as superior to the faith He had found among His own people (8:10b). Predicting the Gospel would be received by many Gentiles, Jesus foretold the Centurion was one of many who would become citizens of heaven (“many shall come from the east and west” – 8:11), while many Jews (“children of the kingdom”) would reject Jesus and be sentenced to “outer darkness: [where] there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (8:12).  Confirming his faith in Jesus, the Centurion’s servant was healed (8:13).

I close with what I will describe as a First Claim Principle (8:19-22).

Two men came to Jesus and proposed to become His disciples.  One man turned back when he was told a disciple must be willing to sacrifice earthly possessions and comforts (8:19-20).  A second man came, desiring to be numbered among Jesus’ disciples, he proposed to wait for his father to die before following Jesus.

First Claim Principle: No man can be a disciple, a true follower of Christ, unless he is willing to sacrifice his personal ambitions and plans to follow Him (8:18-22). 

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“He Knew What Was in Man” (John 2-4)

Scripture Reading – John 2-4

Our chronological reading of the Scriptures continues today with the Gospel of John 2-4. The focus of today’s devotional commentary is John 2.

John 2

Our Scripture reading begins with a statement that connects us with recent events in the previous chapter: “And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there” (John 2:1).

Jesus had arrived in Cana of Galilee and joined His mother Mary. Together they attended a wedding celebration (2:1), one to which Jesus and His disciples were invited (2:2). The wedding feast was the setting for Jesus’ first public miracle when He turned water into wine (2:1-11), and in doing so “manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him” (2:11). With this first miracle, the faith of the disciples grew from Philip’s confession that Jesus was “the son of Joseph” (1:45), to them seeing His miracle and believing He was the Messiah (2:11).

Jesus had then gone up to Jerusalem to observe the Passover, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread that followed (2:13-23). As He entered the Temple, He was appalled at the sight of the corruption He found there. The Temple had become a house of commercialism and exploitation (2:14) of those who came there to worship.

With righteous indignation, Jesus took in hand a “scourge of small cords” (2:15a), and drove them all out of the Temple, the sheep and oxen, and over turned the tables of the money changers (2:15b). The commotion was so great, that Temple officials demanded, “What sign [i.e. sign of authority] shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?” (2:18) In other words, what right do you have to take upon yourself the purging of this Temple.

The LORD answered with a sign, but not one that would be recognized until His death, burial, and resurrection: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (2:19). The Jews were incredulous by the absurdity of one who could raise up the Temple in three days, citing the fact the edifice where they worshipped had taken forty-six years to build (2:20).

Interjecting His own explanation, the apostle John confessed that neither He nor the disciples realized Jesus was speaking of His own bodily resurrection, “the Temple of His body” (2:21-22).

Jesus began to perform miracles in Jerusalem and there were “many who believed in His name when they saw the miracles which He did” (2:23). Jesus, however, “did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, 25And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man” (2:24-25). You see, there were many who believed Jesus, for they had observed His miracles; however, Jesus knew their hearts, and He did not believe in them (2:24-25).

God knows your heart better than you know yourself!

The prophet Jeremiah declared, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The LORD declared to Jeremiah, “I the LORD search the heart, try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10).

The LORD admonished His prophet Samuel, “for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

What is in your heart?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Living a Purposeful Life (Ecclesiastes 1-6)

Scripture Reading – Ecclesiastes 1-6

Today’s Scripture reading is long, but meaningful to all who seek to understand the many troubled individuals we pass in our daily lives. I encourage you to read and contemplate the sorrow of an empty soul that only God’s grace and mercy can fill. The devotional commentary will focus entirely on Ecclesiastes 1-2.

Ecclesiastes chronicles the ponderings of elderly King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, apart from Christ. The king’s subject is the challenges and difficulties of this earthly life, and its vanity (emptiness).  Solomon writes,

Ecclesiastes 1:2-3 – “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.  What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?”

Ecclesiastes, penned in the latter years of Solomon’s life, brings to us a shocking contrast to the bits of wisdom the king penned in the middle years of life, when he was presiding over Israel in that nation’s golden years. His youth far spent, and the frailty of old age his daily haunt, we notice that Solomon’s outlook has become sad and dismal.

Solomon questions, what is a man’s life apart from God?  To what ends should a man live?  What profit, what gain, what value is there for a man who spends his life in labor?

One generation dies and another takes its place (1:4); the sun rises and the sun sets (1:5); the wind blows and the waters run (1:6-7), and in Solomon’s observation, a man’s heart is never satisfied (1:8).

Ecclesiastes 1:8 – “All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.”

What a sad commentary on the life of a king whom God promised to give unimaginable wealth and incomprehensible wisdom (1 Kings 3:7-14)!  His youth spent, Solomon had turned his heart from God, and now near the end of his life, sums up his search for fulfillment saying, “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (1:14).

What happened to this man who had everything, but whose life became empty?  We find the answer to that question in 1 Kings 11:4.

1 Kings 11:3-4 – “And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. 4 For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.”

From a horizontal, human perspective, Solomon’s life and passions showed the heart of one who had turned from God! No wonder Solomon writes, “Vanity, all is vanity,” thirty-four times in Ecclesiastes.

When he was young, the king loved the LORD and chose wisdom over wealth and worldly pleasures (1 Kings 3:9).  God had honored his desire and imparted to Solomon not only wisdom, but also riches and power. Tragically, in his old age, he had turned from the LORD and His Law and Commandments.

Ecclesiastes is the philosophical discourse of an old man out of fellowship with God. What a tragic conclusion for a man whose youth was a testimony of God’s blessings!

Ecclesiastes 2:11 – “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.”

I believe it is author and preacher Chuck Swindoll who tells the story of a deeply disturbed individual who went to a psychiatrist seeking help with his anxieties.  Every morning the man awoke melancholy and, in the evening, went to bed deeply depressed.  Desperate and unable to find relief, he decided to seek the counsel of a medical doctor.

The psychiatrist, after listening to the man share his thoughts, fears and anxieties, finally leaned towards his patient and said, “I understand an Italian clown has come to our local theatre and the crowds are [rolling] in the aisles in laughter… Why don’t you go see the clown and laugh your troubles away?”

With a sad, forlorn expression, the patient muttered, “Doctor, I am that clown.”

Friend, a life lived apart from God and in contradiction to His Law will never be satisfying!  No pleasures can mask the sadness, nor riches satisfy the void of a sinner’s heart apart from the LORD.  Solomon writes,

Ecclesiastes. 2:26 – “For God giveth to a man that is good in His sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner He giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that He may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Levites: The Ministers and Musicians of the LORD (1 Chronicles 6)

Daily reading assignment – 1 Chronicles 6

1 Chronicles 6 – The Priestly Tribe of Levi and Their Cities

Our chronological reading of the Scriptures brings us today to 1 Chronicles 6.  A reminder: the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles is largely dedicated to the genealogical record of the sons of Jacob (i.e. Israel) and the Twelve Tribes of their lineage.

1 Chronicles 6 gives us the lineage of the priestly tribe of Levi that included Aaron, Moses, and Miriam (6:1-53).  The cities assigned to the Levites in the midst of the tribal lands belonging to the Twelve Tribes are also noted (6:54-81).

The Levite family of Aaron (and his sons) who would serve as high priest is listed (1 Chronicles 6:1-15).

To Levi, the third-born son of Jacob, were born three sons: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari (6:1). Of Kohath, the second-born son of Levi, are named three in his lineage: Aaron, Moses, and Miriam(6:3a). Aaron, of course, is the bloodline for all legitimate heirs to serve the LORD and Israel as high priest.

Aaron was father of four sons: Nadab and Abihu were slain when they offered “strange fire” before the LORD (Leviticus 10:1). Aaron had two other sons, Eleazar and Ithamar (6:3). When Aaron died, his eldest son Eleazar was chosen to become high priest, and the high-priestly line passed through his lineage (6:4-15; Exodus 6:25; Judges 20:28).

A Record of Names and Cities Registered to the Levites (1 Chronicles 6:16-81)

Unlike the other tribes that were assigned their inheritance of land in Canaan with detailed boundaries, the tribe of Levi’s inheritance was not land but their privilege of serving the LORD and the nation as His priests.  Every tribe was to allot cities to the tribe of Levi for the Levites to live in the midst of the nation.

Some might be interested in the genealogies of three Levite musicians: Heman (6:33), Asaph (6:39), the author of Psalm 50, 73-83), and Ethan (6:42-44). They and their sons were ministering in the Tabernacle during David’s era and in the Temple during Solomon’s reign.

1 Chronicles 6:31-3231 And these are they whom David set over the service of song in the house of the LORD, after that the ark had rest. 32  And they ministered before the dwelling place of the tabernacle of the congregation with singing, until Solomon had built the house of the LORD in Jerusalem: and then they waited on their office according to their order.”

I invite you to notice that dedicated musicians and choirs were an important part of worship from the time of the Tabernacle and through the Temple-age.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Ever Feel Like Complaining, “Life’s Not Fair”? (Psalms 73, 77-78)

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 73, 77-78

Today’s Scripture reading consists of three chapters in the Book of Psalms, however, our devotional commentary will focus on only Psalm 73.

Psalm 73 – “A Psalm of Asaph”

Asaph was a priest and musician in King David’s court (1 Chronicles 6:39; 15:19; 16:7) and the author of Psalm 50 and Psalms 73-83. Psalm 73 is a psalm of praise to the LORD and a testimony of Asaph’s journey of faith. Asaph opens the psalm with an affirmation of God’s goodness asserting:

Psalm 73:1 – “Truly [i.e. Only; Certainly] God is good [lit. only good] to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.”

Unlike sinful men of whom it is said, “there is none that doeth good” (Psalm 14:1; Romans 3:12), God is wholly, absolutely good, and there is no evil or sin present in Him.  The first verse of Asaph’s song declares an immutable truth: God is only good to Israel and to all who are of “a clean heart” (meaning pure, innocent and sincere heart).

Psalm 73:2 commences a series of candid observations and humble confessions on Asaph’s part. Describing his spiritual struggles, Asaph confessed he was on the brink of backsliding (73:2) when he observed how the wicked seem to prosper in their sin (73:3). While the righteous struggled, it seemed to Asaph that the wicked were not “plagued (troubled) like other men” (73:5).

In spite of God’s promises and goodness (73:1), Asaph wondered how the wicked could oppress others, speak against heaven, and “increase in riches” (73:8-12). In other words, while Asaph’s heart told him to “trust the LORD,” his feelings cried, “It’s not fair!” Asaph appeared to be on the crisp of quitting when he decried, “the ungodly…prosper…[and] I have cleansed my heart in vain” (73:12-13).

Have you ever felt life is not fair? Ever wish you could quit?  If not yet, you will certainly wrestle with that temptation one day.  Unfortunately, there are many who have done that very thing. They quit and walked away from marriage, family, friends, church, and ministry. For a season they may appear relieved and happy, until the ripple effect of their decision invariably catches up with them and their loved ones.

Asaph, wrestling with his conflicting thoughts and emotions, appeared ready to turn from the LORD, until he weighed the consequences of his decision and the offense it might be to the next generation (73:15-16). The pain and sorrow his abandonment would inflict on others motivated Asap to go to and enter the “the sanctuary of God” (at this time, the tabernacle).

It was in the LORD’s presence that his perspective on the wicked and their end changed (73:17-20). Asaph confessed, “my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins (i.e. pierced within his soul)” (73:21).

With his heart renewed and his eyes fixed on eternity, Asaph remembered the prosperity of the wicked was temporal (73:27). With his faith in the LORD restored and his desire to serve Him renewed (73:28), Asaph concluded his song with what should be the aspiration of every believer:

 

Psalm 73:28 – “But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the LORD GOD that I may declare all thy works.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Daily reading assignment: Joshua 19-21

Joshua 19 – A selfless, godly leader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joshua 21 – Cities Assigned to the Tribe of Levi

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a great and faithful God we serve!

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

Copyright 2020– Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture Reading – Joshua 16-18

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

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

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

Joshua 17

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

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

Joshua 18

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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