Tag Archives: Stewardship

When Third Generation Leaders Lack Spiritual Fortitude (Judges 1-2)

Scripture reading: Judges 1-2

The Book of Judges begins with a revealing statement indicating a void in leadership left by Joshua’s death. We read, “1Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the Lord, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?” (Judges 1:1)

Though Israel possessed the land, they still faced the presence of enemies in their midst. The LORD answered Israel’s inquiry, not with the name of a man, but with that of a tribe: “2And the Lord said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his [the tribe of Judah’s] hand” (1:2).

In the absence of Joshua, the LORD chose Judah to be the first to wage battle in the post-Joshua era. Why Judah? Judah had the largest population of the twelve tribes, and was the most powerful among them. Judah, Jacob’s fourth born son, was blessed by Jacob (Genesis 49:8-12), and his lineage bored the noble character out of whom would emerge the line of kings, beginning with David, and concluding with the LORD Jesus Christ, the lion of Judah (Matthew 1:1-3).

Judah accepted the challenge, and invited the tribe of Simeon saying, “Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I likewise will go with thee into thy lot.” (1:3). The people of Simeon accepted Judah’s invitation, for their land was encircled by Judah’s territory (Joshua 19:1).

In the midst of victories, a repetition of failures emerges in Judges; failures that would haunt the people as a nation for generations to follow. Though Judah and Simeon fought against the Canaanites and the Perizzites, and God blessed them with victories over their enemies (Judges 1:2-20); regrettably, they fell short of the LORD’S will. The LORD had not failed Judah, but Judah had failed to trust the LORD, and they “could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron” (1:19).

A pattern of failing to obey the command of the LORD, and drive out Israel’s enemies continues throughout Judges 1. The tribe of Benjamin failed (1:21), and Manasseh failed (1:27-28). Ephraim did not “drive out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer” (1:29). Zebulun, failed to “drive out the inhabitants of Kitron” (1:30), and Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of cities in their land (1:32). Naphtali failed (1:33), and “the Amorites forced the children [tribe] of Dan into the mountain” (1:34).

Judges 2 – A Crisis in Third Generation Leadership

Judges 2 begins with an ominous declaration from “an angel of the LORD” (whom I believe to be a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ). Israel’s failure to drive the idol worshiping nations out of Canaan was a breach in their covenant with the LORD. He reminded them of His promise: “I will never break my covenant with you” (2:1). The people, however, had failed to drive the inhabitants out of the land, and destroy their altars (2:2).

God warned, “I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you” (2:3). When they heard what would befall them because of their sins, the people “sacrificed there unto the LORD” (2:5); however, the consequences of their sinful failures followed them.

Notice the narrative in Judges 2 turns briefly to a reflection on the death of Joshua (2:6-10), and his influence on his generation, and the one that followed. We read, “the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that he did for Israel” (2:7). When that generation passed from the scene, a third generation arose, and “did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim” (2:11). That generation “ forsook the Lord God of their fathers…and followed other gods…and provoked the Lord to anger. 13And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth” (2:12-13).

The LORD did not altogether forsake Israel, and He began raising up judges in Israel, to call the people to return to the LORD, His Law, and Commandments (2:16). He would bless the judge of His people, and deliver them “out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge” (2:18). Nevertheless, “when the judge was dead, [the people] returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers…[and] ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way” (2:19).

I close on a personal note: I have witnessed the failings of transitional leadership throughout my lifetime. A nation, organization, corporation, school, and a church are never more vulnerable than in a time of leadership change. Judges 2 proves the nation of Israel was no exception.

Why are third generation ministries so vulnerable? I believe the reason is summed up in an old adage: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Israel’s third generation in the land had not experienced the sacrifices, or the victories of the generations before them. They had grown comfortable, and familiar with the heathen in their midst. Invariably, their parent’s failure to drive the wicked out of the land proved to become a fatal attraction, and invited God’s judgment (2:20-23).

What about you? Have you become so familiar with sacred truths, and the blessings of the LORD, that you have become insensitive to the conviction of His Word?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Place to Call Home (Joshua 19)

Scripture reading – Joshua 19

The narrative concerning the division of the Promised Land continues in Joshua 19 with the final tribes receiving their territory by lot: Simeon (19:1-9), Zebulun (19:10-16), Issachar (19:17-23), Asher (19:24-31), Naphtali (19:32-39), and Dan (19:40-48).

While the names of the borders, and cities are too numerous to list, there are some details found in Joshua 19that I invite you to consider in your meditation. The first, unlike the other tribes, Simeon would not receive their own distinct territory, but would instead find its lands “within the inheritance of the children of Judah” (19:1b).

Why would Simeon not be blessed with their own territory?

The immediate explanation is “the part of the children of Judah was too much for them: therefore, the children of Simeon had their inheritance within the inheritance of them” (19:9). However, there was a prophetic significance to the assignment of Simeon’s land, within that of Judah, and it is found in Jacob’s dying words. On his death bed, Jacob remembered how Simeon, and Levi had sinned and brought shame upon Israel.

Do you remember how Simeon and Levi had avenged the honor of their sister Dinah, after she had been raped by Shechem, the son of Hamor, the Hivite (Genesis 34:1-2). When Jacob’s sons heard their sister had been violated (Genesis 34:5-7), they determined to deceive Shechem, his father, and their people into accepting circumcision under the guise of an accord between their families (Genesis 34:13-24).

On the third day of the circumcision, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, attacked, and slew Shechem, Hamor, and the men of the city (Genesis 34:25-30). Jacob rebuked Simeon and Levi, saying, “Ye have troubled me”(Genesis 34:30). Many years later, as Jacob was dying, he remembered the cruelty of Simeon and Levi (Genesis 49:5-6), and cursed them saying, “7Cursed be their [Simeon and Levi] anger, for it was fierce; And their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, And scatter them in Israel” (Genesis 49:7).

“Divide and scatter,” Jacob’s prophetic cursed was fulfilled, as the tribe of Levi, would not receive their inheritance in Canaan. Also, the tribe of Simeon, would be in the midst of Judah, without its own distinct territory.

Joshua 19 concludes with the LORD commanding Israel to give Joshua an inheritance (19:49).

Like the servant leader he was, Joshua had served the needs of all the others, insuring each tribe had their inheritance. Now, “according to the word of the Lord they gave [Joshua] the city which he asked, even Timnath-serah in mount Ephraim: and he built the city, and dwelt therein” (19:50).

Why did Joshua chose to build a city on mount Ephraim? He was a son of the tribe of Ephraim; however, I believe the principal reason was this: The Tabernacle was located at Shiloh, a city of Ephraim, and Joshua wanted to live out his days near the LORD’s sanctuary, a symbol of His presence in the midst of His people.

What about you? Is worshipping, and serving the LORD a priority for your life, and family? It was for Joshua!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Moral Dilemmas: Divorce, Debt, and Human Trafficking (Deuteronomy 24-25)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 24-25

Our Scripture reading continues with Moses setting forward various laws that would guide Israel in matters of marriage, family, societal civility, business, and government.

Principles Regarding Marriage and Divorce (24:1-5)

The matter of divorce is raised, and it is indicative of the heart of man. Moses allowed for divorce in this passage; however, I remind you that was never God’s plan, or will. What is the will of the LORD? The sum of God’s will for marriage is this: “A man…shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

The Pharisees questioned Christ saying, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife [divorce] for every cause?” (Matthew 19:3) The LORD answered, citing the “one flesh” principle. and added, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6).

Displeased with His answer, the Pharisees pressed Him, asking, “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?” (Matthew 19:7). The LORD answered the matter of divorce, and diagnosed the moral basis for Moses permitting divorce in Deuteronomy 24.

Matthew 19:8–98He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered [allowed] you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
9And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

A Moral Guideline for the Borrower and Lender (24:6)

The matter of taking the upper millstone is foreign to most, until you understand Moses was talking of the stones used to grind grain into flour. A lender was warned, he could not take the “upper millstone,” for by it a family was able to grind grain into flour, and then bake bread for the family.

A Solution to Human Trafficking (24:7)

One of the great abominations of the 21st century is human trafficking. Forcefully taking children, women, and men and subjecting them to the darkness of moral depravity is an appalling wickedness. In the words of the Scripture, anyone found who “maketh merchandise…or selleth him” shall be put to death (24:7). Were the judgment of the Scriptures practiced today, innocent victims of human trafficking would receive justice, and human traffickers would be dispatched to swift judgment: “Thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deuteronomy 19:21).

Charitable Obligations (24:10-22)

False teachers have led many to believe the laws of the Old Testament were lacking in grace, and boast that we live in an “Age of Grace.” Indeed, we do, but to characterize the Law and Commandments as “graceless,” is to suggest the LORD was the same.

Deuteronomy 24:10-22 give evidence that God was sensitive, and compassionate concerning the condition of the poor, the weak, the orphan, and the widow. For example, in ancient times the poor often had nothing more than the “clothes on their backs.” Robes were the attire, and men generally had an inner, and outer robe. The inner robe afforded modesty, the outer robe protection against the elements, and warmth in the night. Should a poor man borrow, it was his outer robe that might serve as the security or pledge of his debt (24:10-11). The lender was not to humiliate the borrower, and forcefully take the robe of a poor man while he was in his house (24:10-11), and in the evening the lender was to return the outer robe, that the man “may sleep in his own raiment, and bless thee” (24:13).

Admonitions Against Injustices (24:14-18)

Day laborers were to be paid their due at the end of the day (24:14). Everyone was to bear the consequences, and punishment for their sins. Therefore, a father was not to be punished for the sins of his children, nor were his children to be punished for the sins of their father (24:16).

Charity Was the Law (24:19-22)

There was no welfare system for the poor in ancient times, and they were a perpetual presence on the earth. Widows were forsaken by their children, orphans suffered neglect, and foreigners found themselves homeless. Moses reminded the people how Israel had suffered bondage in Egypt; therefore, they were to remember, and allow the poor to glean the leftovers from their fields, olive trees, and grapevines.

Time and space prevent a commentary on Deuteronomy 25; however, I suggest the following for an outline: I. Principles for Capital Punishment, and Civil Justice (25:1-4); II. Principles for Family Posterity (25:5-12); III. Principles Regarding Business and Commerce (25:13-16); IV. Principles Concerning the Offence of an Enemy (25:17-19).

I close, inviting you to ponder the Grace of God: Not only the grace we find expressed in Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, but also the grace of God we have seen throughout His laws, and commandments.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Obedience, Justice, and a Leader of God’s Choosing (Deuteronomy 16-17)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 16-17

With the urgency of a leader who knows his days are waning, Moses continued his challenge to Israel, preparing that nation to go forward without him. Because worship would be central to that nation’s heritage, it was essential for the people to have one place where they would offer sacrifices to the LORD. Unlike the heathen, whose towns and villages had their own deities, and places of worship, Israel’s worship was to be in the place where the LORD had chosen “to place His name in” – the Tabernacle (16:6).

“Three times in a year,” the men of Israel were required to “appear before the LORD” (16:16). The first was the “Feast of the Passover,” which occurred in the first month of the Hebrew calendar, “the month of Abib” (later identified as “Nisan” in the post-captivity era, and occurring during our months of March-April, 16:1). We have considered the Passover in the past, and are reminded this feast day was observed by the sacrifice of a lamb, and commemorating the LORD sparing the Hebrews because they had applied the blood of the lamb to their door posts in Egypt (Exodus 12:22). The Paschal Lamb was a pre-figure of Christ, the Lamb of God sacrificed for our sins (1 Corinthians 5:7). Leaven was to be purged from the households, and not eaten (16:3-4; in the entirety of God’s Word, both the Old Testament, and the New Testament, the nature of leaven is used as a type for sin 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; Galatians 5:9).

The “Feast of Weeks” (also identified as Pentecost), was observed for seven weeks after the Passover (16:9;Leviticus 23:10; Exodus 34:32; Acts 2:1). It marked the time of harvest, and giving the LORD the first-fruits (Exodus 23:16; Numbers 28:26). It was memorialized with freewill offerings.

The third feast to be observed was the “Feast of Tabernacles” (16:13-15; Numbers 29:12). Also described as the “Feast of Ingathering,” it was observed by dwelling in booths (temporary shelters), and marked the end of the harvest season (Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 23:42).

Deuteronomy 16 concludes with the focus on the matter of civil order and justice in Israel (16:18-22).

Knowing the tribes would be geographically distant from one another in the new land, it was important for there to be one system of law, and justice that would govern the people (16:18). Prejudice in matters of judgment was condemned, and the bribery of a judge was considered an act of wickedness (16:18-19).

Deuteronomy 17 – Justice, and the Character of a King

Reminding Israel that the LORD would refuse a blemished sacrifice (17:1), the subject of judgment, and justice continued in Deuteronomy 17:2-7. We have noted in earlier devotionals the requirement of two or more witnesses for crimes that necessitated capital punishment (17:4-6). Those who served as witnesses to a capital offense (for instance, idolatry, 17:3-4), were required to bear the gravity of the sentence of death, laying their hands upon one that was condemned (17:7).

In “matters of controversy” (17:8), where there was some uncertainty, judgments would be taken before the priests who would serve as judges (17:8-10). The Law of the LORD, not the law of a king, would serve as Israel’s authority (17:14).

What manner of man would the LORD have to rule Israel? (17:15-20)

Moses, knowing Israel would one day aspire to be like other nations, and have a king rule over them (17:14), established the manner of man whom God would choose (17:15-20). He was to be a man of God’s choosing, and a Hebrew (not a “stranger,” or non-Hebrew, 17:15). He was to be a man of humility, and not set his heart upon many horses, wives, or riches (17:16-17). He was to have a copy of the Law of the LORD, written by his own hand, and kept beside his throne. He was to study “to keep all the words” of the law and statutes (17:18-19).

The Law reminded the king that he was not above the law, nor was he above the people (lest “his heart be lifted up above his brethren,” 17:20). Consider how marvelous was this decree concerning the choosing of a king, and the character the LORD demanded of the man who would rule His people.

How far the nations of the world have strayed from choosing leaders who fear the LORD, and realize no man is above the law! Our 21st century world is following a path to judgment, and destruction. While 2 Chronicles 7:14was a conditional promise, made to Israel, it is my prayer for my country.

2 Chronicles 7:1414If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Law of the LORD is Gracious (Deuteronomy 15)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 15

In today’s world, some suggest the Laws of the Old Testament were cold, oppressive, and lacking in grace. They are wrong! In their historical context, and understanding their application, you will find the Law and Commandments of the LORD not only just, but fair and judicious. For example, consider the guidelines for the borrower and lender (15:1-11).

Debtors, Lenders, and the Sabbatical Year (15:1-6)

The Sabbath Year, occurred every seven years, and was the year the LORD commanded the land to rest. Fields were not worked, seeds were not planted, and any vegetation that volunteered and gave fruit, were committed to poor, and the grazing animals.

What about a man’s debt, in the seventh year when they were not permitted to plant seed, harvest crops, and use a surplus to pay one’s debt? Because there was no harvest in the seventh year, lenders were not to press the poor for payment. The lender, in the Sabbath Year, was to suspend payment of a debt for the year (a non-Hebrew was not released of his obligation to pay his debt in the seventh year, 15:3).

If Hebrew lenders would show grace to their debtors, God promised He would bless the nation (15:4), and Israel would become a lender, not a borrower to other nations (15:5-6).

Lending to the Poor (15:7-11)

The poor are ever among us (15:11), and the LORD required His people to be charitable to them, especially those who were “one of the brethren,” meaning a Hebrew (15:7). God’s people were commanded to open their hand, and their heart when they looked upon those who were poor and needy (15:7). The lender was not to be miserly in giving to those in need, and was to “lend him sufficient for his need” (15:8).

In the matter of lending in the proximity of the Sabbath Year, it was probable some lenders might refuse to lend to the poor, knowing the seventh year might suspend repayment of a debt (15:9). Such reasoning was a sin in the eyes of the LORD (15:9b), and lenders were exhorted to give, and trust “the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto” (15:10).

Slavery, and the Release of Slaves (15:12-18)

Slavery was a cultural reality in the ancient world, and poverty was often the catalyst for one to become a slave. A Hebrew man or woman, unable to pay their debts, would become slaves to the lender (15:12). Unlike the abuses afflicted by the heathen upon their slaves, the LORD provided that His people would not become perpetual slaves (15:12). A Hebrew might serve six years, but on the seventh year they were to be released of their debt, and “go free” (15:12b).

When a slave was set free, a master was to ensure the slave would not “go away empty” (15:13). It was required that a master honor the one being set free, giving to “him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him” (15:14).

Some masters were so kind, and gracious, that some slaves would elect to continue as a slave for life, and have a hole pierced through their ear, marking them as such (15:17).

Dedication and Consecration of the Firstborn (15:19-23)

Remembering the tenth plague in Egypt, and how the LORD had spared the firstborn of Israel where the blood had been applied to the doorposts; that deliverance was forever memorialized by dedicating the firstborn male in Israel to the LORD (Exodus 13:2, 15).

The firstborn of cattle, and sheep, were to be unblemished, and offered as a sacrificial meal (15:19-20). Firstborn oxen were not to be worked in the fields, nor were firstborn sheep to be sheared, for they were the LORD’S. Should the firstborn be blemished, it was not a worthy sacrifice, and would therefore be eaten like ordinary meat (15:21-23; 12:15).

I close inviting you to consider how the Law of the LORD was gracious, and it protected the poor from harsh lenders, slaves from cruel taskmasters, and extended seasons of hope, and relief to the people.

Remember, all offerings were a type of God’s final, and perfect offering for our sins. Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the firstborn of Mary, was the perfect, sinless, unblemished sacrificial Lamb of God (John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

God’s People are a Treasure (Deuteronomy 13-14)

Scripture reading – Deuteronomy 13-14

Deuteronomy 13 – The Intolerance, and Punishment of Idolatry

Deuteronomy 12 concluded with Moses cautioning the people, “32What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it” (12:32). That admonition brings to mind a similar warning to believers that is found in the closing words of the New Testament: “18For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life…” (Revelation 22:18–19). Today, believers tolerate all manner of versions, and perversions of the Scriptures; however, such was not to be the case for Israel, and should not be the case for us.

Concerning the laws of idolatry, if a man deemed himself a prophet, and even performed signs and wonders, he was to be rejected, if his prophecy departed from the revelations of the LORD (13:1-2). If he should say, “Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them” (13:2), he was to “be put to death” (13:4-5).

Not even the bonds of love, and familial ties were to obstruct the judgment of the LORD concerning the worship of idols (13:6-7). Should a loved one entice a man, and say, “Let us go and serve other gods” (13:6), that man was guilty of a capital offense, and his sin must not be concealed (13:7-8). Understanding the grievous sin of idolatry, and its judgment, the witness of the offense was to be the first to cast a stone (13:9). The congregation would then “stone him with stones, that he die” (13:10), and thereby sharing in his condemnation.

Should a city be turned to idolatry, the inhabitants of the city were to be killed, their flocks and herds destroyed, and the spoils of the city burned with fire (13:12-16). If all was destroyed, Moses promised the “Lord may turn from the fierceness of his anger, and shew thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee, and multiply thee, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers” (13:17).

Deuteronomy 14 – A Chosen People for the LORD

Moses begins Deuteronomy 14 with a wonderful declaration concerning Israel:

1Ye are the children of the Lord your God…an holy people [sanctified, set apart] unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people [His treasure] unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth” (14:1a, 2).

That affirmation is likened to two others we read in the New Testament concerning all believers. Paul penned concerning the saints: Christ “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people [His own possession], zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). Peter exhorted believers, “ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

What was the application of Israel’s unique relationship with the LORD?

“Ye shall not cut yourselves, not make any baldness between your eyes for the dead” (14:1b). You may be thinking, what a strange statement! Let me explain.

The heathen people were known to cut their flesh, and shave their heads as outward signs of mourning at funerals. Israel, however, was forbidden to do the same. The heathen mutilated their bodies as a sign of grief, but the people who were chosen by the God of heaven were not to mourn as those without hope! Paul exhorted believers concerning the same hope, writing to believers in Thessalonica: “13But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. (1 Thessalonians 4:13–14).

Clean and unclean meats is the subject of Deuteronomy 14:3-21, and one we have studied in depth in earlier devotionals (Leviticus 11). The differences between clean beasts, and unclean beasts (14:3-8), clean and unclean fish (14:9-10), clean and unclean birds (14:11-19), are all addressed once again. The people are also reminded that they are not to eat diseased animals (14:21a), nor cook or boil a “kid” (a baby goat), in its mother’s milk (such would be cruel to the sensitivity of nature, 14:21b).

The geographical locations of some tribes in Canaan would put them at great distances from the Tabernacle (14:22-24), and making it impossible to tithe of the first fruits of the harvest, and the first born (“firstlings of thy herds”). The matter was resolved, by permitting the people to “turn it [the tithe and the firstlings] into money.” Then taking the money, and going to the Tabernacle, a man could purchase whatever, he desired in the meat, meal, and wine as his tithe to the LORD (14:26). Though the distance would prevent the practice of tithing as it had been observed in the wilderness, the people were warned to honor the LORD with their tithe, and not forsake the Levite (14:27).

Every three years, one’s tithe would not be taken to the Tabernacle (14:28-29), but would instead be laid “up within thy gates” (14:28), and used in one’s town and village to feed the Levite, the alien, the orphan, and the widow (14:29). For their faithfulness with the tithes, the LORD promised to bless the labor of his people.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Women’s Rights, and the Changing of the Guard (Numbers 26-27)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 26-27

The gross adultery, and idolatry recorded in Numbers 25 had provoked God to send a plague in Israel that occasioned the deaths of twenty-four thousand people (25:9). With the plague past, the LORD commanded Moses to take a final census before crossing over the Jordan River, “from twenty years old and upward, throughout their fathers’ house, all that are able to go to war in Israel” (26:2).

Numbers 26 – The Final Census, Before the Promised Land

A census of the Twelve Tribes of Israel had first been taken in Numbers 1-4. A comparison of that census, with this later one reveals a slight decrease in the Twelve Tribes overall (the first totaling 603,500 men, and the second 601,730 men, who were twenty years or older). Some tribes had experienced a decline (Simeon declining from 59,300 men, to 22,200 men, twenty years and older). Other tribes had experienced a large growth in population (the men of the tribe of Manasseh had increased from 32,200, to 52,700 men, twenty years and older). The names and the numbering of the Twelve Tribes is recorded in Numbers 26:5-50.

The census was important, for it became the basis for assigning each tribe their own territory in the Promised Land (26:52-56). The Tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe chosen by the LORD to serve Him, did not receive an inheritance of land in Canaan (26:62).

Numbers 26 concludes with a sobering reminder of God’s judgment upon Israel (26:64). The prior generation of people who had come out of Egypt, but refused to trust the LORD and obey Him, had all perished in the wilderness, save two men: “65For the Lord had said of them, They shall surely die in the wilderness. And there was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun” (26:65).

Numbers 27 – Women’s Rights, and the Changing of the Guard

The Scriptures prove the LORD’s judgments are just in the matter of women’s rights. Numbers 27:1-11 is a wonderful case study regarding the rights of women, and reveals the inequitable laws women protest are not God’s way, but men’s! If men would follow the ethics of the Scriptures, they would realize the ways of the LORD are wise, benevolent, and compassionate.

Five daughters, of one man of the tribe of Manasseh, came to Moses, and Eleazar the high priest (27:1-2). Their father had died, with no son, and leaving no male heir. The daughters were permitted to plead their case regarding their late father’s right-of-inheritance in the Promised Land (27:1-4). According to the law, a man’s inheritance was to pass to his son; however, without a son, what was to become of a man’s possessions?

The daughters reasoned, “4Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son?” (27:4) Arguing they, and their father had been slighted, the women petitioned, “Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father” (27:4).

Rather than make a hasty, ill-advised decision, or trust men’s opinions, Moses withdrew, and “brought [the] cause [of the daughters] before the LORD” (27:5). The LORD, affirmed the sisters assertion (27:6), and answered Moses: “Thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter” (27:7). Ensuring a family’s possessions would remain within the tribe, should a man die and have neither a son or daughter, his inheritance would pass to his next of kin (27:9-11).

Numbers 27:12-23 – End of an Era

The LORD commanded Moses, “Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel. 13  And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered” (27:12-13).

Moses was reminded that he would not enter the Land of Promise (27:14; 20:7-13), and accepted the consequence of his sin with grace. Like a true shepherd leader, Moses requested the LORD “set a man over the congregation” (27:16). Moses desired to ensure his successor would be a man of God’s choosing, and a man with a shepherd’s heart (27:17).

God chose “Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit [of God]” (27:18).  Leaving no uncertainty that Joshua was God’s choice (27:18), the LORD directed Moses to confirm him before “all the congregation” (27:19-20). Moses obeyed the LORD, and took Joshua, and “laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the LORD commanded” (27:23).

A closing thought: Although he was one of the greatest men to ever live, Moses did inevitably go the way of all flesh, and was “gathered unto [his] people, as Aaron [his] brother was gathered” (27:13).  Miriam was dead; Aaron was dead; and because he had sinned before all the people, Moses would die, without crossing into the Promised Land (27:14).

The author of Hebrews writes, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). “So teach us to number our days, That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Count Your Days, and Your Blessings! (Psalm 90)

Count Your Days, and Your Blessings! (Psalm 90)

Scripture reading – Psalm 90

We depart from the Book of Numbers, to consider Psalm 90 for today’s Scripture reading. Psalm 90 is a prayer of intercession, and a song of praise that was authored by Moses, and is therefore the oldest of the Psalms. Certainly, it would have been one of the psalms heard in the Temple, and sung by the people when they assembled in the wilderness before the Tabernacle.

Scholars generally place Psalm 90 about the time Israel rebelled, and turned back from the Promised Land (Numbers 13-14). The context is most likely when the people began murmuring against the LORD, and He threatened to “smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them” (Numbers 14:11-12). Moses implored the LORD to spare the congregation (Numbers 14:13-19), and I believe Psalm 90 memorialized that occasion.

Psalm 90 – Great is the LORD!

The Lord had proven He was the refuge for Israel (90:1), the Creator (90:2a) who set the foundations of the mountains, and “formed the earth and the world” (90:2). He is the God of eternity (90:2b), and the absolute Sovereign of Creation (90:2). What is man? He is temporal, and dust (90:3).

When I was young, I could not fully grasp the meaning of Psalm 90:4. Moses wrote, “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night” (90:4). I have come to know all to well the fleeting of time, and life itself. A lifetime, or even a generation passes, and it seems “as a watch in the night” (90:4), and our lives are “soon cut off, and we fly away” (90:10).

Lest one be tempted to wallow in self-pity, and sorrow for the years that are past and cannot be reclaimed, Moses states a principle that should guide believers: So teach us to number our days [to make them count], that we may apply [give; attain] our hearts [understanding; i.e. thoughts] unto wisdom (90:12).

How different your life would be, if you knew the year, day, the hour, God has appointed for your death (Hebrews 9:27)! Many things that consume your thoughts, and your time would suddenly prove trivial. Moments to which you give little thought, and opportunities that seem routine, might suddenly be savored, if not treasured. Every day is a gift of God’s loving grace, and should be numbered and treasured.

Set aside pettiness, and be grateful for the day God has given you. Pray with Moses: “Let the beauty [grace, and favor] of the Lord our God be upon us: And establish thou [LORD] the work of our hands upon us; Yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” (90:17)

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Blessed is the Man that Trusteth in the Lord” (Numbers 13)

“Blessed is the Man that Trusteth in the Lord” (Numbers 13)

Scripture Reading – Numbers 13

Absolved of her sin, and cured of leprosy, Miriam, the sister of Moses, was reunited with the children of Israel. The nation continued its journey, and “pitched [their tents] in the wilderness of Paran” (12:16). The events recorded in today’s Scripture reading are among the most dynamic in Israel’s forty years of wanderings in the wilderness.

The LORD commanded Moses, “2Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel” (13:2a). Let us pause, and reflect on God’s directive to Moses, and those whom He would have spy out the land and its inhabitants. They were men (not women, children, or novices). They were men, chosen out of each tribe, “every one a ruler… [and] heads of the children of Israel” (13:2-3). They were respected leaders, and men of influence. The Scripture records the names of the men, and the tribes of origin from which they came (13:4-16).

Following the LORD’s commands, Moses gave the twelve men their marching orders: “Spy out the land of Canaansee the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many…[and] the land…whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strong holds” (13:17-19). Moses challenged the spies to come back, report on the land, and “be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the firstripe grapes” (13:20).

The spies departed, and were gone for forty days (13:25). When they returned, they brought with them “a branch with one cluster of grapes” that was so laden with fruit the men “bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs” (13:23).

Two reports were given, and the first confirmed the land was all that the LORD had promised Israel: “We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it” (13:27).

The second report, was an aspersion, a slander, a defaming of God’s promises, and stirred the hearts of the people with fear. The spies reported: “28Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there” (13:28).

Moses had challenged the men to “be ye of good courage,” but the sight of the enemy had dispelled their faith, and filled the void in their hearts with fear. Here is a great lesson:

Fear is not only a sign of weak faith, but it is also given to exaggeration. The fear of the spies eclipsed their faith!

Caleb, a leader of the tribe of Judah, spoke up, and “stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (13:30). In Numbers 14, Joshua added his own voice to Caleb’s challenge and urged the people, “8If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey” (14:8).

Ten of the spies sowed doubt among the people saying, “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we…we saw giants…and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (13:31-33).

Where Caleb and Joshua saw opportunity, the other ten spies saw insurmountable, frightening obstacles. What made the difference in their observations?

I suggest the difference was twofold: Focus and Faith. Caleb and Joshua did not focus on the size of the obstacles, but on the size [greatness, and faithfulness] of their God. Their faith was not in their abilities, but in the Person and promises of the LORD. Israel’s enemy was not giants, or the nations that were living in the land (13:28-29, 32-33).  Israel’s enemy was her lack of faith in God.

Are you facing giants?  Have you allowed fear and faithlessness to take hold of your heart and thoughts?

Believer, God has the solution to every problem you face, and the resources to help you achieve every goal in His will!

Jeremiah 17:7-8 – “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. [8] For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

You Think You Own It? Think Again! (Leviticus 25)

You Think You Own It? Think Again! (Leviticus 25)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 25

Leviticus 25 is the close of the Lord giving Moses His Law and Commandments on Mount Sinai (25:1). This chapter is a fascinating study in God requiring Israel to obey His Law, have faith in His promises, and His promise to bless His people, conditioned upon their obedience.

The Sabbath Year (25:1-7)

We have considered the commandment to keep the Sabbath in earlier devotionals (Exodus 20:8-10; Leviticus 23:3). The Sabbath of the LORD being a day of rest, and worship that would follow six days of labor. Leviticus 25 introduces the “Sabbath Year,” which was to be observed every seventh year (25:2-7).

The Sabbath Year was to be a year of rest, not only for the farmers, but also their lands. The people were instructed to labor in the fields six years, and on the seventh year they were not to sow seed, prune their vineyards, or harvest any fruits or vegetables that volunteered, and “groweth of its own accord” (25:3-7). The farmer was forbidden to harvest the fruit that volunteered the seventh year; however, the poor, servants, laborers, and strangers were allowed to harvest that which grew “of its own accord” (25:5).

The Jubilee Year (25:8-17) occurred on the Hebraic calendar every fifty years, and followed “seven sabbaths of years” or forty-nine years (25:8). It was to the people a year of “Jubilee” (25:8-13), a year of freedom, and an additional Sabbath. The effect was that the lands and vineyards remained idle for two years, the forty-ninth and fiftieth years (25:11).

The Year of Jubilee began on the Day of Atonement (25:9) and its beginning was marked by the sound of the trumpet. The Year of Jubilee signaled the redemption of a man’s debts, especially for those who may have owed monies for the sake of providing for their families. Every man’s possession was restored to his family in the Year of Jubilee (25:10).

To ensure justice was satisfied, and neither insurer or the debtor was “oppressed,” the value of a man’s land was determined by the balance of years before the next jubilee, when the lands would be returned to the debtor (25:13-16). To ensure justice and fairness in transactions, the LORD commanded, “17Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the Lord your God” (25:17).

The failure to sow seed on the Sabbath Year meant there would be no harvest at the end of the seventh year, and no harvest the eighth year until seed was planted, and there was fruit from their labor (25:18-22). The Jubilee Year, which followed a Sabbath Year, meant that Israelites would not plant or harvest crops the forty-ninth, and the fiftieth year.

What was the LORD’S answer for this dilemma? He promised the Sabbath Year, and the Jubilee Year would be abundantly blessed, if the people would “do [His] statutes, and keep [His] judgments…[they would] dwell in the land in safety. 19And the land [would] yield [its] fruit” and they would be filled, “and dwell therein in safety” (25:18-19).

Laws Concerning Real Estate (25:23-34)

Poverty or illness would sometimes force a family to sell their lands. God, however, made provision to recover the lands that were sold in three ways:

A brother or next of kin could buy back the land that had been sold (25:25). The original owner could redeem his land (25:26-27). The land would be restored to the original owner in the Year of Jubilee (25:28).

There was provision for selling a house, and stipulations if the house was located in a walled city, or in a village where the lands were also considered part of the house (25:29-31). The Levites, because they were the priestly tribe, had protections from the loss of lands, for their lands were not to be sold (25:32-35).

Laws Against Usury (25:35-38)

The poor were to be helped, and God prohibited charging them interest (some will argue high interest). God demanded that the poor be treated fairly. As He had extended grace to Israel, and delivered them out of slavery, the LORD commanded His people extend grace to one another.

Laws Concerning Servitude (25:39-55)

An Israelite might fall on hard times, and to pay his debt, become a bondslave (25:39). No Israelite, however, was to be left without hope. On the Year of Jubilee, all debtors, and Israelite slaves were set free (25:39-43). Strangers (non-Israelites); however, would not be released from their debts (25:44-46). Furthermore, an Israelite could be redeemed from slavery at any time (25:48-49). Once again, insuring justice and fairness, the “price of a [man’s] redemption was based upon the number of years to the Year of Jubilee (25:50-55).

The Sabbath and Jubilee years are foreign to our culture; however, there are principles found in Leviticus 25 that should not be ignored.

The Sabbath year was “a Sabbath unto the LORD” (25:2) and an acknowledgement that the LORD blesses and prospers His people. The Sabbath year served as an opportunity to reflect on the LORD’S goodness and provision for His people. We are reminded that we are sojourners in this world, and temporal owners of the things we possess. The LORD instructed His people, The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me” (25:23).

We are sojourners in the world, and the wise keep their affections focused on the eternal, and not the temporal.

Matthew 6:20-21  But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith