Tag Archives: Stewardship

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

The Whole Duty of Man (Deuteronomy 8-10)

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 8-10

Remembering Israel is at the entrance to the Promised Land, and knowing he will not accompany them when they invade, one senses an urgency in Moses’ challenge to the people.

It was important for those who stood before Moses to remember how the LORD had sustained them as a nation. Remember His commandments and providential care. Remember He had preserved them, even down to their raiment and sandals (8:4). Remember, as a father chastens the son he loves, the LORD had chastened and tried them (8:5) that they might fear and revere Him as their God (8:6).

Knowing the land was all the Lord promised (8:7-9); Moses warned that some would forget the LORD and boast in their hearts, “My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth” (8:14-17).

Is that not like you and me? When we are in trouble, facing trials and have needs, we earnestly call out to the LORD. However, when we have no needs and there is no crisis, we are tempted to be proud and self-sufficient.

Moses reminded the people the land the LORD promised to give them was occupied by nations “greater and mightier” (9:1-2) than Israel.  The LORD promised to give Israel victory, not because they were more righteous or powerful than their enemies, but because the LORD was with them (9:3-5).

Moses reviewed several historical examples of how difficult and proud the people had been during their forty-year journey in the wilderness. He rehearsed how their wickedness had provoked him to wrath and he had cast the LORD’s Commandments to the ground (9:17). When the LORD threatened to destroy the nation in his wrath, Moses had interceded and God answered His prayer and spared the nation (9:7-29).

Deuteronomy 10 continues Moses’ account of the LORD’S mercy and Him renewing His covenant and inscribing His Commandments on stone a second time (10:1-5). Moses challenged the people to obey the LORD with five imperatives:

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 – “And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fearthe LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, 13  To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?”

Who is the God of Israel (10:14-22)?

He is the Creator (10:14).  He is “God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible [i.e. to be feared]”.  He is Just (10:15-18).

The LORD could have chosen any nation; however, He chose Abraham and his lineage.  He chose Israel, not because they were greater (for the LORD “regardeth not persons”), but in an act of grace He chose to “love them” (10:15, 17).

What was Israel’s duty in light of God’s grace and love? (10:20)

Solomon summed up a believer’s duty in this:

Ecclesiastes 12:13 – “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Charge to Joshua and a Challenge to Israel (Deuteronomy 3-4)

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 3-4

Moses rehearsed with Israel the LORD’S faithfulness in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 2-3:17).  He reminded Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh (the tribes that had chosen the land on the east side of the Jordan) of their covenant with the nation to go to war with their brethren (3:18-20).

Yearning for the LORD to grant him a reprieve, Moses prayed he might be permitted an opportunity to enter the Promised Land (3:23-25). The LORD, however, denied Moses his request and commanded him to “speak no more” of it (3:26).  True to God’s nature, in an act of grace Moses was promised an opportunity to see the land (3:27).  Sin had cut short Moses’ leadership and the consequences were a lesson for all Israel to heed (4:21-22).

Joshua, Moses’ successor, must now take up his mantle and lead Israel into the Promised Land. As a final act of leadership before he is taken, the LORD commanded Moses to “charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see” (3:28).

Accepting the LORD’s prohibition on entering the Promised Land, Moses challenged the people to hear and obey the statutes and judgments of the LORD (4:1).  Unlike any other nation, Israel was chosen by the LORD and were custodians of His Laws and Commandments (4:2-20).

All that the LORD had promised, He wished to fulfill; however, the covenant He had established was conditioned on the nation’s heeding and keeping the vows they had made.

Lest the people be disheartened, Moses acknowledged he would not accompany them into their inheritance for, “I must die in this land, I must not go over Jordan” (4:21-22).

Who is Israel’s God? 

He is a “consuming fire, even a jealous God” (4:24). He is merciful, longsuffering, and forgiving (4:29-31). He is man’s Creator and the God of heaven (4:32).  He is God alone, and “there is none else beside Him” (4:35).  He is Sovereign of heaven and earth (4:39). He is just and ready to pour out His blessings on those who obey His law and commandments (4:40).

Moses was aware his days on the earth were ending and he would soon perish. Choosing not to wallow in self-pity, he challenged and encouraged the people to remember the LORD’s providences and claim His promises.

Words and example matter, and some of the most powerful words you will ever speak are parting words.

May your words be Truth and seasoned with grace.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Coronavirus of Ecumenical Compromise: Are You Infected?

Proverbs 22:28“Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.”

Twentieth century philosopher George Santayana observed, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  I fear that truth has befallen many churches, Bible colleges, and institutions in recent years.

Beloved leader and mentor of BJU “Preacher Boys”

I am old enough to remember the reminisces and exhortations of Dr. Gilbert Stenholm, Dr. Richard Rupp, and Dr. Bob Jones Jr.  Those men and many others of their generation (Drs. Bob Jones Sr., Monroe Parker, Wayne Van Gelderen, Sr., Ed Nelson…) had fought ecumenical battles against progressives of their day and warned Bob Jones University “Preacher Boys Classes” in the 1970’s that the day would come when faithful Bible-believing pastors of my generation would have to take our stand.

I have never forgotten the passion of those men when they warned us that a failure to identify men who denied the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith and separate from those who fellowshipped with them would inevitably prove disastrous to our ministries (Romans 16:17).

In those days an oft-cited example of the tragedy of compromise was Evangelist Dr. Billy Graham who practiced, if not spearheaded, evangelical pragmatism by openly embracing various stripes of “Christianity,” including Roman Catholicism and Russian Orthodoxy. Graham’s compromises and the effects of pursuing a lifetime of theological inclusivism were undeniable when he stated in an interview with his friend Robert Schuller,

“I think that everybody that loves or knows Christ, whether they are conscious of it or not, they are members of the body of Christ … [God] is calling people out of the world for his name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they have been called by God. They may not know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something they do not have, and they turn to the only light they have, and I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in heaven.” (Cited in Iain MurrayEvangelicalism Divided (2000), pp. 73–74)

A half-century has passed since those men waged war for the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.  Although in the latter years of their ministries when I sat under them, their passion had not abated. They were determined to pass on to the next generation not only a knowledge of the past, but a warning against compromise and cooperation with evangelicals.

I graduated Bob Jones University knowing collaboration with those who reject the fundamentals of the Christian faith or trifle with the doctrine of sanctification and personal holiness would eventually introduce a cancer that would destroy ministries, churches, Bible colleges, and mission boards.

Sadly, I have lived to witness the failures of venerable Bible-preaching churches, closures of Bible colleges, and compromises of Christian institutions led by men either ignorant of the lessons of the past or dismissive of the spiritual heritage of the fundamental institutions.

The result of leadership that either lacks spiritual discernment or is contemptuous of the past is the same: those fundamental Bible institutions either close their doors or become a shadow of what they were in their golden years.

Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., Evangelist and founder of Bob Jones University.

Whether in word or practice, when spiritual leaders compromise, distance themselves from, or deny the spiritual legacy of the institutions they lead, they inevitably forget God’s providences past, and, in the words of Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.,

“Sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

* The majority of readers who follow “Heart of A Shepherd” do so for the daily devotionals. It is my joy to have hundreds across the globe who are part of my faith journey. In addition to devotionals, I periodically post articles that I pray will move my peers “on the frontlines” of fundamental Bible ministries to sincerely evaluate their course and convictions. Today’s article is such an appeal.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Gender Roles and Spiritual Synergy (Numbers 35-36)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 35-36

Twelve tribes have been assigned their portion in the Promised Land (34:16-29); however, the priestly tribe of Levi was not assigned an inheritance in the land.  Instead, forty-eight cities in the midst of the lands apportioned to the other tribes were allotted to the Levites (35:1-5).

Of the forty-eight cities assigned, six were to serve as cities of refuge to which a man accused of slaying another might flee to seek justice (35:6-34).

The Book of Numbers ends on an interesting note as a concern arises regarding the matter of inheritance when a man would die and have no son to be his heir.

Though often maligned by secularists and assailed by militant women, the Scriptures prove in Numbers 36 the LORD’s sensitivity to justice and fairness in a family, and in this instance, two unmarried daughters whose father had no son to be his heir (36:1-4).

There was concern what would become of tribal lands when a man had no son. It was argued the lands assigned to a tribe would be lost should a man’s daughters marry outside their tribal bloodlines. The dilemma was solved by requiring daughters who were heirs to marry within the tribe of their father (36:5-9), thereby keeping the land within the tribe.

Numbers 36 concludes with the “daughters of Zelophehad” being assured of their inheritance in the land and their submitting to the LORD’s will that they marry men within their tribal bloodline, securing the inheritance for future generations of their tribe (36:10-13). The context of the matter of a man’s heirs and the rights of his daughters began in Numbers 27 and concludes in Numbers 36

The decision that a daughter had a right of inheritance in the absence of a son was a radical one for ancient times since women were viewed as less than men in matters of culture and inheritance.

As late as the 20th and early 21st century, the majority of women lived in oppressive conditions in the world; however, such was not to be the case among God’s people.

Lesson – The church and believers must recognize that, though gender roles differ, there is to be a spiritual synergy between male and female, husband and wife.

When a man accepts that woman was created, not as his servant, but as his helpmeet (suitable helper), and companion (Genesis 2:18; Ephesians 5:25) and the woman recognizes her role is fulfilled in following her husband’s lead (Genesis 3:16; Ephesians 5:23-24), there is harmony, respect, and peace in the home and the church (Ephesians 5:31-33).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith