Scripture Readings for August 19 & 20, 2017

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Followers,

The scripture reading for those following our “Read-thru the Bible” plan is the following for this Saturday and Sunday, August 19-20:

Saturday, August 19 – John 5-6

Sunday, August 20 – 1 Timothy 4-6

I may post a devotional commentary later today; however, the predominance of my day is dedicated to study and preparation for preaching in Hillsdale’s 10:30 AM and 6:00 PM services this Sunday.

I trust you will continue to be faithful in God’s Word in the absence of my commentary.

Have a blessed day!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The Third World War

Friday, August 18, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Daniel 7-12

Reading through the Bible in one year is a wonderful challenge; however, I find myself doing little more than a “fly-over” when it comes to writing a devotional commentary on passages of scripture that captivate my heart and move my spirit. Having read the Book of Daniel scores of times over the years and preached a verse-by-verse study as recently as 2014, the prophetic scenes found herein continue to astound me as I reflect upon those things that have come to past and those which are yet before the world.  What a stunning testimony for the doctrine of the inspiration of scripture!

In our scripture reading today, Daniel 7-12, we are given a panorama of prophetic history beginning with the rule of “Belshazzar king of Babylon” (7:1) and continuing with the reign of “Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes” (9:1).   The longevity of Daniel’s service to the kings, from being taken captive as a teenager and continuing through the latter days of his life, is a testimony of Daniel‘s character, talents and integrity. While other rulers of the Chaldean kingdom were purged from office during transitions of kings and kingdoms, Daniel’s character earned him trust of numerous kings, both Chaldean and Persian.

Daniel 7-12 records a series of prophetic visions and reveals that Daniel had knowledge of the prophecies of Jeremiah.  Daniel writes, “I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem” (Daniel 9:2).

Bearing sorrow for the sufferings of Israel, Daniel identified himself with the sins of the nation and confessed, “We have sinned…we have done wickedly” (Daniel 9:5-15).  With a penitent heart, Daniel prayed, “O Lord…let Thine anger and Thy fury be turned away from Thy city Jerusalem…O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive” (9:16-19).  The LORD then sent His angel Gabriel to comfort and give the interpretation of Daniel’s vision, including the seventy weeks of desolation (9:20-27).

Daniel 10 marks another transition of leadership in Babylon with the rise of “Cyrus king of Persia” (10:1) under whom Daniel would serve.  Daniel’s prophetic visions continue as God sends “Michael, one of the chief princes” (10:13) to interpret the things God revealed to him in visions, including the fall of Persia to the “prince of Grecia” (10:20-21).

Darius the Mede was reigning over Babylon and the Persian Empire in Daniel 11 when the LORD revealed to Daniel the fall of Persia and the rise of a great king we recognize as Alexander the Great, king of Greece (11:2-3).   God revealed to Daniel the fourfold division of Greece following the reign of Alexander (11:3-4) and the international conflicts that would follow between nations with the collapse of Greece (11:5-20).

The balance of Daniel 11 is a panorama of prophetic scenes too numerous to study in this devotional commentary (Daniel 11:21-45) and take us from the offenses and desecrations committed by one we know historically to be Antiochus Epiphanes (11:25-35) to the rise of the Antichrist in the time of the Tribulation (Daniel 11:36-12:13) described as “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time” (12:1), “even to the time of the end” (12:4).

Permit me an opportunity to close this reading of Daniel’s prophecies with some personal observations.

The news of “wars and rumours of wars” (Matthew 24:6) is an inescapable, undeniable reality of our times.  Headline stories of newspapers, radio broadcasts and cable news scream WAR and I believe the stage is set for the rise of the Antichrist (Daniel 11:36-45; 12:1-4).

Impassioned by a religious fervor that identifies itself as ISLAM, the ancient enemies of Israel are threatening to spark the Third World War.  The volatile rise of Islam in the Middle East, the military aggression of North Korea, China and Russia coupled with the anemic response of politicians to anarchist activities within the United States is setting the stage for the 70th week of Daniel and the Tribulation Period.

Friend, we live in volatile times, but God is no less sovereign today than He was in Daniel’s tumultuous times.  Let us join Daniel and rest in God’s assurance in the closing verses of Daniel 12: “Blessed is he that waiteth,…” (Daniel 12:12a).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Cherish the Best Things”

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 17-18

Today’s scripture reading is Proverbs 17 and Proverbs 18.  The following devotional commentary, originally written January 17, 2014, is an exposition and application of the “Better…than” principle found in Proverbs 17:1.

Proverbs 17:1 – Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife.

Americans have become a money-hungry, pleasure-seeking, self-indulgent people.  I believe the entitlement attitude that divides our nation and is turning us into a socialist-welfare state has its roots in my generation—the baby-boomers.   Our Depression/World War II era parents and grandparents lived through two decades of sacrifice, hardship and war, and determined to give their children “everything they never had”.   That they did, but at the sacrifice of something more important…instilling character, discipline and an appreciation for hard work and sacrifice in their children.

The “baby-boomers” have perpetuated the aspiration of their parents and instilled in their children (Generations X, Y, and the Millenniums) a spirit of indolence, self-gratification and entitlement that has brought our society to the brink of economic collapse.   Our homes are bigger, our possessions are greater; we have more time for recreation and self-indulgence than any generation before us; however, unhappiness, disappointment and family conflict abounds.

Solomon taught his son a “Better…than” principle we would be wise to heed. The king illustrated in a brief proverb the hollowness of riches and possessions when a family is torn by strife:

Proverbs 17:1 – “Better is a dry morsel [parched piece of bread], and quietness [peace; security] therewith, than an house [family] full of sacrifices [feastings] with strife [quarrels; hostilities].”

Application: It is Better to be poor, enjoy a quiet, simple life nourished by nothing more than a piece of dry crusty bread, than dwell in a home of plenty that is filled with hostility.  That proverb echoes a similar sentiment found in Proverbs 15:17.

Proverbs 15:17 – “Better is a dinner of herbs [green leafy vegetables] where love is, than a stalled ox [fat and ready for slaughter] and hatred therewith.”

Putting that verse in a modern context: It is better to enjoy a plate of greens and vegetables at Cracker Barrel with those you love, than dine on Prime Rib at Ruth Chris Steak House with family and friends who are the source of strife in your life!

Friend, money and possessions might buy you temporal joy and satisfaction, but lasting peace and joy cannot be purchased at any price! Be content with the simple life; cherish family and friends who genuinely love you.   Life is too short to chase passions that leave you empty and frustrated.

1 Timothy 6:6-8 – “But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The Devolution of Church Music and Worship

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 96-98

The psalms in today’s scripture reading are beautiful in their message and majestic in their tone.  Psalm 96 and Psalm 98 begin with the exhortation of singing a “new song” to the LORD (96:1; 98:1) and conclude with the LORD coming to reign and “judge the earth” (96:13; 98:9).

What is this “new song”?  I believe the “new song” is the song of salvation, the song of redemption.  We read in Psalm 96:2 that the song to the LORD is to “shew forth His salvation”.   Psalm 98 states the same, “The LORD hath made known His salvation” (98:2); “all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God” (98:3).

Psalm 96 is an evangelistic psalm of praise not limited to Israel.  The psalmist writes, “Declare His glory among the heathen” (96:3); “O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the LORD glory and strength” (96:7); “fear before Him, all the earth. 10 Say among the heathen that the LORD reigneth” (6:9-10a); “let the earth be glad” (96:11); “He shall judge the world with righteousness” (96:13).

Psalm 97 continues the theme of the LORD’s Second Coming when He will reign and judge the earth in righteousness.

Psalm 98 returns to worshipping the LORD in music and song for His salvation and righteousness (98:2).

As is often my practice, I close today’s devotional commentary on a personal note (after all, these daily commentaries are my own meditations which I share with those who follow www.HeartofAShepherd.com).

The Book of Psalms is as its name implies, a compilation of songs of praise and worship employed in daily worship in the Temple.

Nothing took the primacy of reading and teaching God’s Word; however, the centrality of instrumental music and song is obvious throughout the Psalms and in other passages of scripture in the Bible.   Apart from the custody and stewardship of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the preaching and teaching of the scriptures, the churches influence on music and song is preeminent.   No other religion or institution has so profoundly inspired or left an indelible impression on the art of music.

Sadly, the music of the 21st century church has succumb to a secular culture’s demand for entertainment, betraying its purpose to lead the congregation of the saints in worshipping the LORD in music and song.  Every genre of 21st century “music”, regardless of how detestable, is employed in “worship” at the sacrifice of the highest ideals of musicianship and musical excellence.

As one who loves the LORD and loves music that moves the heart and soul, I mourn the devolution of worship and music in our churches.

Psalm 98:4-6 – Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.
5  Sing unto the LORD with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm.
6  With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

News Flash: Everyone who eats Ice Cream…Broccoli or Carrots… eventually Die!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 1 Chronicles 5-9

Our reading of the history of Israel and her people continues in 1 Chronicles 5-9.   As mentioned in the earlier devotional based on this historical book, 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 5 is the record of the lineage of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh that requested and eventually settled on the east side of the Jordan River (5:1-17).   Reuben was the firstborn son of Israel, whose name was Jacob at birth.   Although he was Jacob’s firstborn, Reuben sinned against his father by lying with Bilhah his father’s concubine (Genesis 35:22; 49:3-4) and the consequence of his sin was his inheritance passed to the sons of Joseph’s (1 Chronicles 5:1) and the privilege of his birthright as Jacob’s firstborn son to Judah (5:2).

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

1 Chronicles 7 documents the tribal lineages of Issachar (7:1-5), Benjamin (7:6-11), Naphtali (7:13), the half-tribe of Manasseh (7:14-19), Ephraim (7:20-23), and Asher (7:30-40).

The lineage of Benjamin, of who was born Saul, Israel’s first king (8:29-32), is recorded in 1 Chronicles 8.

1 Chronicles 9 concludes the genealogical record up to the return of the Jews from Babylonian captivity.   The tribal records were stored in the temple and returned to Judah after the captivity where they were maintained until the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  The genealogical records were lost in the destruction of the temple.

The genealogical record of the Levites and their occupation in the ministry of the temple is recorded in 1 Chronicles 9:2-34. 1 Chronicles 9 concludes with a record of the lineage of king Saul and his sons (9:35-44).

On a personal note, in recent years I have explored my family lineage and, with the aid of Ancestry.com and my own sleuthing through courthouse records and cemeteries, I have built my own ancestral tree.   My research has reinforced in my soul a universal truth we must inevitably face…death!  (As suggested in my title, everyone who eats Ice Cream…Broccoli or Carrots… eventually Dies!)

As it was with my ancestors of generations past, so it is for you and me… “thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17) for “it is appointed unto men once to die” (Hebrews 9:27).  Physical death is inevitable and spiritual death; eternal separation from God and Hell is the destiny of all sinners apart from a Savior who will take our place and bear the punishment we deserve for our sins (Isaiah 59:2).   Friend, God has provided us a substitute, a Savior-Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:8 – But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A personal testimony: God’s “grace is sufficient” and “His ways past finding out!”

Monday, August 14, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 1-4

Our “Read-Thru the Bible” plan brings us to the Book of Numbers this Monday, August 14, 2017.   Its author is Moses and the timeline for the book is the “first day of the second month, in the second year” following Israel’s exodus out of Egypt (Numbers 1:1).

I will take a few moments to review for those who are novices to a study of the Old Testament scriptures.  The twelve tribes of Israel are descendants of the twelve sons of the Old Testament patriarch Jacob, whose name God changed to Israel.   Jacob (Israel) was the son of Isaac, the grandson of Abraham of whom two races originate; the Israelites descended from Jacob and the Arabic people, descendants of Ishmael.   The Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:1-3) was given to Abraham when God called him to depart from ancient Ur (modern-day Iraq), leaving his country and kindred, and journeying to a land he was promised as an inheritance for his lineage.  God not only promised Abraham would be a father to a great people, but also “all families of the earth be blessed” through him (Genesis 12:3b).   It is the latter promise Jesus Christ fulfilled as our Savior.

Numbers traces the journey of the twelve tribes of Israel from Egypt, through the wilderness, to the threshold of Canaan, the land God promised Abraham and his heirs.  The Book of Numbers derives its name from the fact it is the record of three separate census counts of Israel during her sojourn in the wilderness.

The first census (Numbers 1:2-54) was of males, 20 years and older, who were able to go to war (Numbers 1:2-3).  Moses and Aaron were responsible for numbering the men identified by their tribe, father’s name and their own name.   Altogether there were thirteen tribes (Numbers 1:5-15) descended from the sons of Jacob (Israel), of which two tribes descended from Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh – Numbers 1:10); excluding the priestly tribe of Levi from the census count because of their dedication and service to the LORD (1:47-54).

The Levites were not numbered among the men of war because God had set them apart for Himself in lieu of the first-born from every tribe and family being set apart for the priesthood (Numbers 3:12-13).  Because worshipping and serving the LORD was central to Israel as a nation, the Levites were responsible for setting up the tabernacle and the vessels used for worship and offering sacrifices (Numbers 1:50; 3:8).  When the nation was on the move, the Levites were responsible for taking down the tabernacle (Numbers 1:51, 53).

The tabernacle, in the center of the encampment with the tribe of Levi encamped around it, represented God’s presence among His people,  (1:53).

Numbers 2 gives the organization of the encampment by tribe: Simeon (2:12-13), Gad (2:14-15), Ephraim (2:18-19), Manasseh (2:20-21), Judah (2:3-4), Issachar (2:5-6), Zebulun (2:7-8), Reuben (2:10-11) Benjamin (2:22-23), Dan (2:25-26), Asher (2:27-28), Naphtali (2:29-30), and Levi in the midst around the tabernacle (2:17, 33).

Numbers 3 gives the generations of Moses and Aaron who were of the priestly tribe Levi. The census of the Levites is recorded as well as their duties regarding the tabernacle and service to the LORD (3:1-51). Numbers 4 continues with a description of the ministry of the Levites, their age of service (“thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old” – 4:3) and responsibilities when breaking down the tabernacle for moving (4:4-15).

On a personal note, in the winter months of 2004, I had the privilege of preaching a series in the Book of Numbers on Wednesday nights while Hillsdale Baptist Church was in the midst of her own wilderness journey.  Having sold our church properties in early February 2003, Hillsdale relocated her worship services to a public high school auditorium while our new facility was under construction.  A building project scheduled for no more than nine months became a 2.5-year journey of trials with a dishonest contractor who hired sub-contractors like him.  I easily identify with Moses shepherding Israel through the wilderness.  In hindsight I understand our wilderness journey was not only God’s way of proving and purging, it was also His method of humbling and preparing our hearts to minister in our new community that would give us an outreach far greater than we had envisioned.

As a personal testimony, God’s “grace is sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12:9) and “His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33)

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Scripture Reading and an Invitation from Hillsdale

Greetings from Hillsdale Baptist Church in Tampa, FL!

I will not post a devotional commentary today so that my energies and focus can be on preparing for worship at Hillsdale.

Today’s scripture reading is 1 Timothy 1-3.

I am continuing my series on the Ten Commandments in Hillsdale’s 10:30 AM service, focusing on the Preface (Exodus 20:1-2) and the First and Second Commandments (Exodus 20:3-6).

I am also preaching in Hillsdale’s 6:00 PM service on “One Father, Two Mothers and Two Sons” as I continue my series, “Lessons on Faith from the Life of Abraham” (Genesis 21).

I encourage you, make your worship of the LORD with His church a priority this Sunday,

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith