A Cry for Forgiveness and Help (Psalms 129-130)

Scripture reading Psalms 129-130

We continue our study of the psalms titled, “A Song of Degrees.” For today’s Scripture reading (Psalm 129-130), I have made an effort to amplify some words to strengthen the reader’s understanding of the psalms. [Bracketed words in italics are those of this author.]

Psalm 129 – Israel’s Reflections on Her Persecutions and Her Prayer for Justice

As with an earlier Psalm, I believe the song leader introduced the theme of Psalm 129 in the first verse, and the congregation echoed the words of the song leader in the second verse, adding the triumphant phrase, “Yet they [Israel’s enemies] have not prevailed [have power; overcome] against me” (129:2).

Psalm 129:1–3 – 1Many a time have they afflicted [treated harshly or with hostility] me from my youth, May Israel now say: 2Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: Yet they have not prevailed [have power; overcome]against me. 3The plowers [i.e., engravers; to inscribe] plowed upon my back: They made long their furrows. [may refer to beatings with a whip; harsh criticisms or accusations]

I believe verse 3 refers to the afflictions the people had suffered as a nation. The whips of the enemies had left scars, furrows, upon their backs. Yet, God in His mercy had delivered Israel, and “cut asunder the cords [ropes; bindings] of the wicked” (129:4).

The wicked had prospered for a season, but the psalmist prayed:

Psalm 129:5–6 – 5Let them all [the enemies of the LORD and His people] be confounded [put to shame] and turned back that hate Zion [the mount upon which the Temple was built]. 6Let them be as the grass upon the housetops [the Middle East had flat roofs], Which withereth [dries up in the heat of the sun] afore it groweth up [removed; i.e. taken up]:

Psalm 129:7–8 – 7Wherewith the mower [gatherer] filleth [to be full or filled] not his hand; Nor he that bindeth sheaves his bosom [garment; possibly the picture of carrying grain in the folds of one’s robe]. 8Neither do they which go by say, The blessing [wishing or pronouncing a blessing] of the Lord be upon you: We bless [praise] you in the name of the Lord.

Too often I fear, believers encourage sinners in their sin (2 John 1:11), and bid them words of comfort and blessing, rather than pray they will come to repent (129:7-8).

Psalm 130 – A Cry for Forgiveness, Hope, and Redemption

The words of a penitent sinner are found in the opening verses of Psalm 130. In his guilt and despair, the man had confessed his sin, and pled for the LORD to show him mercy (130:1-2).

Psalm 130:1–2 – 1Out of the depths [deep place] have I cried [cried out; shouted] unto thee, O Lord. 2Lord, hear [listen; give heed] my voice: Let thine ears be attentive [listen; pay attention to] to the voice of my supplications [plea for mercy].

Understanding all are sinners, the psalmist reasoned, 3If thou, Lord, shouldest mark [keep watch; guard; preserve] iniquities [sin; guilt], O Lord, who shall stand? [stand before the LORD]” (130:3).

Confident in the LORD’S mercy, and forgiveness (130:4), he waited on the LORD, and His redemption (130:4-8).

Psalm 130:4–8 – 4But there is forgiveness [pardon] with thee, That thou mayest be feared. [fear; be afraid of God]  5I wait for [hope for] the Lord, my soul doth wait [hope for], And in his word do I hope. [have cause for hope] 6My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch [keeps watch; guard] for the morning [the morning light]: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. 7Let Israel hope [have cause to hope] in the Lord: For with the Lord there is mercy [mercy; kindness; goodness], And with him [the LORD] is plenteous [much] redemption. [paying of an amount or price] 8And he [the LORD] shall redeem [buy out; liberate; pay] Israel [the Twelve tribes from the sons of Jacob] from all his iniquities. [sins; guilt]

Why should a sinner hope in the LORD? Because the LORD is merciful, and compassionate, and has promised to redeem all who come to Him.

1 John 1:99If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 4:1010Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation [atonement] for our sins.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Home Sweet Home: A Family Portrait (Psalms 128)

Scripture reading Psalms 128

Psalm 128 continues our study of the Psalms titled, “A Song of Degrees” (Psalms 120-134), and is a song of rejoicing for the LORD’S blessings.  The central focus of the psalm is the promise of the LORD’S blessings on the household of the man who fears the LORD, and walks in His ways.

Notice the promise of happiness found in the first two verses of Psalm 128.

Psalm 128:1–21Blessed [Happy] is every one that feareth [reveres; worships] the Lord; That walketh in his ways. 2For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: Happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well [pleasant] with thee.

Is there anyone who does not desire, and long for happiness? Some look for affirmation as a way to happiness, but trophies, medals, and applause never gratify. Some climb the ladder to success, pursue wealth and acquire possessions, but find happiness just isn’t there. Sadly, the happiness the world promises is temporal, and never satisfies!

To whom does the psalmist promise happiness? To those who fear the LORD, and walk in His ways (obeying His Laws, and Commandments). Such a man will be happy and satisfied, and has the promise he will enjoy the fruit of his labor. (128:2). The man who loves and serves the Lord is physically blessed through his seed.  His wife is compared to a fruitful vine, and in Scripture vines symbolize a life-giving force.

The psalm continues with how the blessing was given: “The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion [the mountain upon which the Temple was built]: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life” (Psalm 128:5).The Temple was a majestic symbol of God himself.  It represented life, and Israel’s prosperity.

We have observed two family portraits in our study of Psalm 128. The first was of a man and his wife who, under the shadow of her husband’s love and piety (128:1-3a), was like “a fruitful vine,” and a source of joy to her husband. The second portrait was of the couple’s children, sitting around the table. The children had not grown up to become wild weeds, but were like olive plants; trained and cultivated. They were growing up to be a blessing (128:3).

The third family portrait was one of contentment (128:5-6), and the concluding verses of Psalm 128 served as a benediction.

The man that had feared the LORD (128:1) was now old, and stooped in age. His body was weak, but his spirit was strong as he aspired to see God’s blessings on his nation (128:5). Because the LORD is the rewarder of them who love and fear Him, the old man was promised, “6  Yea, thou shalt see [look; discern] thy children’s children[grandchildren], and peace [Shalom; prosperity] upon Israel” (128:6).

Closing thoughts: There are some reading this devotional who long for their family to be a picture of happiness and joy. You long for the LORD to pour out His blessings on your marriage, and to see your “children’s children” living in a nation that enjoys “Shalom,” the peace and prosperity of the LORD (128:6).

Those are admirable desires; however, they are promised only to them who fear the LORD, and walk in His ways (128:1).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD: My Deliverer and Protector (Psalms 124-125)

Scripture reading – Psalm 124; Psalm125

Our study of the Psalms continues with two psalms titled, “A Song of Degrees.” While Psalm 124 bears the name of David as its the author, the author of Psalm 125 is unknown. Both of the psalms are among those believed to have been sung by the priests as they ascended the steps in the Temple.

Psalms 124 – “A Song of Degrees of David.”

I suggest two major themes for Psalm 124. The first, the dangers from which the LORD had saved David and his men.

The phrase, 1If it had not been the Lord who was on our side” is repeated in Psalm 124:1, and again in Psalm 124:2. I believe it is possible a song leader could have sung the first verse, ending the verse with, “Now may Israel say” (124:1). The congregation might have echoed the phrase, 1If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,” and added, “When men rose up against us” (124:2).

If the LORD had not been on the side of David and his men, the enemy (perhaps King Saul) would have “swallowed us [David, and his men] up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us” (123:3). If the LORD had not been on their side, he and his men would have been overwhelmed by their enemy, and swept away in Saul’s wrath like a violent stream sweeps away its victims (124:4-5).

Deliverance is the second theme of Psalm 124.  Like a prey delivered from the teeth of lion (124:6), and a bird set free from a trapper’s snare (124:7), when David called on the name of the LORD, his deliverer was the Creator of heaven and earth (124:8).

Psalms 125

The reference to Mount Zion (125:1) seems to confirm Psalm 125 was a psalm sung by pilgrims ascending the road to Jerusalem and the Temple. Consider the following as an outline for Psalm 125. I suggest you consider four major ideas for the psalm.

The Proclamation – “1They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever. 2As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, So the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.” (125:1-2)

We live in world where it seems the wicked often have the advantage. Psalm 125, however, exhorts believers to “trust in the LORD,” for He is like Mount Zion: Unmovable, immutable, unwavering, and He “is round about his people” forever (125:1-2).

The Promise – “3For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; Lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity.” (125:3)

The wicked threaten, and even smite the saints of God with their rod (i.e., club). Nevertheless, the LORD restrains the wicked, and the rod will not “rest [stay] upon the lot [person] of the righteous” (125:3).

The Prayer4Do good, O Lord, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts.” (125:4)

The LORD is loving, and compassionate, and we can be certain He will bless those who please Him with good.

The Pledge – “5As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, The Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity: But peace shall be upon Israel.” (125:5)

The LORD is Just, and those who take the crooked path, will be led along with the “workers of iniquity” and shall perish (125:5). But Israel [the true Israel, those who are the people of God] will enjoy peace (Galatians 6:16; John 14:27).

Closing thoughts: The mountains of Zion afforded Jerusalem a natural, fortified place, secure from her enemies.  Sitting upon the Mount Zion, Jerusalem was an impressive site from a distance and the deep ravines that cut through the mount were formidable.

In the same way Jerusalem enjoyed safety and security on Mount Zion, His people are encouraged to “trust in the LORD,” for He encircles them like the “mountains are round about Jerusalem” (125:1).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Critics Got You Down? Hope in the LORD! (Psalm 123)

Scripture reading – Psalm 123

Our Scripture reading is Psalm 123, and it is in the midst of the psalms that are titled, “A Song of Degrees” (Psalm 120-134). The author of Psalm 123 is not identified, and it would be mere speculation on my part to identify its author by name.

As stated in prior devotions, the psalms identified as “Song of Degrees,” are thought to have been those sung by pilgrims in their ascent to Jerusalem. There is also a great probability the “Song of Degrees” were sung by the priests and Levites as they ascended the steps to the Temple.

I suggest you consider three themes for Psalm 123.

The Focus of the Psalmist: The God of Heaven (123:1)

The psalmist writes, 1Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens” (123:1). I believe it is instinctive for man to look to the heavens, and the breadth and wonders of the sun, moon, stars, and galaxies, and ponder the Creator of it all. The author of Psalm 97 writes: “6The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory” (97:6). The LORD “dwellest in the heavens,” for He is Sovereign, and sits upon His throne. The prophet Isaiah was given a vision of God upon His throne, and he wrote, “I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple…[and the seraphims] cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: The whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:1-3).

The Heart of the Psalmist: He looked to the LORD for His Will (123:2)

I invite you to consider four “looks” in verse 2. The first, a look of deference: Rather than the pride of his enemies, the psalmist looked to the LORD as “servants look unto the hand of their masters” (123:2a); a look of humility and servitude. Notice also a look of dependence: for the psalmist describes himself as looking to the hand of the LORD to meet his needs, “servants look unto the hand of their masters, And as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress” (123:2b). A third look I notice is the look for direction: This is a longing, expectant, look that “[waits] upon the Lord” (123:2c). There is finally, a look of determination: To wait upon the LORD “until that he have mercy upon us” (123:2d).

The Hope of the Psalmist: A Cry for Mercy (123:3-4)

The psalmist’s cry to the LORD appears to be one of desperation. He cried, “3Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us:” (123:3a). He had been the object of contempt, scorn, and mocking (123:3b). He longed for God to fill him with his loving mercies, and grace. Who were those who had treated him with scorn? Who had heaped upon him such sorrows?

The psalmist identified them as “those that are at ease…the proud” (123:4). His harsh critics were “at ease,” complacent, lazy, and proud.

Closing thoughts: I have learned that my harshest critics are seldom those who are laboring for the LORD, and serving His people. No, the critics arise from those whom the psalmist describes as “at ease…[and] proud” (123:4).

Let us take a spiritual lesson from the psalmist. He had suffered abuse, and lesser men might have quit; however, he determined to set his focus on his Creator (123:1), turn his heart to the LORD, and cry out for mercy (123:3-4).

Hope in the LORD!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Psalms of Rejoicing and Praise (Psalms 18; 121)

Scripture reading – Psalms 18; 121

The death of King Saul and his sons concluded a tragic time in Israel’s history (1 Samuel 31). The king’s death, however, marked the ascension of David, the man whom the LORD had chosen to be king, for he was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).

With today’s Scripture reading (Psalm 18 and Psalm 121), our study introduces us to the Psalms David penned during his reign as king of Israel. To understand the psalms, you must consider them in their historical context, and cultural setting. They were written by the king in a time that was pastoral and agricultural, and far removed from our fast-paced 21st century world. Beautiful and poetic, the psalms reflect the heart of a man who loved the LORD, and cherished His Word, Law, and Commandments. The spiritual breadth of the psalms makes it impossible for me to write an exhaustive exposition of the chapters we will study; however, I pray my meditations and thoughts will enrich your study. [For the sake of brevity, I will limit my focus to only a few verses. The phrases in brackets are the amplification of this author.]

Psalm 18 – A Hymn of Rejoicing

The title of Psalm 18 indicates it was a hymn of rejoicing, penned by David on the occasion when the LORD delivered him from Saul, and his enemies. After expressing his deep, and fervent love for the LORD (18:1), David painted a verbal portrait of the LORD using eight descriptive metaphors.

Psalm 18:2 – The LORD is my rock [stronghold; cliff], and my fortress [castle; fort], and my deliverer [Savior; Rescuer]; my God [Almighty God], my strength [rock; mountain], in whom I will trust [confide; have hope; seek refuge]; my buckler [small shield], and the horn [strength] of my salvation [liberty; deliverance; prosperity], and my high tower [defense; refuge].

Rock” and “Fortress” describe the LORD’S loving protection of His people.  David had often sought refuge among the rocks and clefts of the wilderness, and they serve as a reminder that God wants His people to flee to Him in our hour of trouble and need. The LORD is also our “Deliverer” and mighty “God,” and can save us from our enemies by the power of His might.  The LORD is “my Strength,” and He never changes.

David employed three metaphors for the LORD that are suggestive of a battlefield:  The LORD is “my Buckler,” a small shield employed when an enemy presses hard upon us. The LORD is “the Horn of my Salvation,” for He alone has the power to save us. The LORD is, “my High Tower,” a refuge to Whom believers may flee for safety.

Psalm 18:3 – I will call [call to; cry unto] upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised [boast; glory; sing praise]: so shall I be saved [delivered; preserved] from mine enemies [foe; adversary].

There were times when David’s courage waned, and his fears well-nigh overwhelmed him, but the LORD delivered him. Indeed, the LORD alone is worthy to be praised!

Psalm 18:30 – “As for God [“El;” Almighty God], his way is perfect: the word [commandment] of the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent God] is tried [refined; purged by fire; tested]: he is a buckler [small shield] to all those that trust in him [flee to Him for protection; confide; make their refuge].”

It is easy to say, “God’s way is perfect,” when we are free from trials and troubles; however, will we trust God’s way is perfect when our days are shadowed by trials. When we feel the intense heat of trials, and our motives are tried like silver smelting in the fire, will we resolve to trust the LORD? When an enemy maligns us, and friends betray us, will we turn to God’s promises for hope?  Will we trust Him to be our “buckler” (a small shield for hand-to-hand combat), when an enemy means us harm?

David’s hope was revived, His strength renewed, when he reflected on the character of the LORD (18:31), and confessed, “His way is perfect” (18:30), for He is “my rock…[and] the God of my salvation” (18:46).

Psalm 121 – A Pilgrim’s Psalm

Psalm 121 is titled, “A Song of Degrees,” and it is believed it was one of the songs sung by saints of God during their annual pilgrimages.

I suggest four major themes from Psalm 121: The Pledge of the psalmist to seek the LORD (121:1); his Promise to trust Him (121:2); his confidence the LORD was His Protector (121:3-7); and that He was a Perpetual Shepherd and would “preserve [his] going out and [his] coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore” (121:8a).

Believer, there is no place beyond the LORD’S watch. He keeps us when we are young and strong, and when we grow old and frail. He is with us in sickness and in health! He is with us in our down sittings and our uprisings.

If you are a child of God, you are secure in the LORD, and can be assured, Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6a).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Sin Will Rob You of Everything You Hold Dear (1 Samuel 31)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 31

1 Samuel 31 brings us to the inevitable, inglorious end of king Saul.  The battle went against Israel, and Saul received word that his sons were slain (31:1-2).  Having suffered a mortal wound from an arrow, the king commanded his armorbearer to slay him, but he refused. Knowing he would soon fall into the hands of his enemy, Saul took his own life, and fell upon his sword (31:3-4). When the men of Israel learned their king, and his sons, had been slain, they not only fled the battle, but also abandoned their homes and cities (31:7).

As has oft been observed, “to the victor goes the spoils,” the day after the battle, the Philistines returned to the battlefield and looted the dead (30:8). In the midst of the carnage, they found the bodies of Saul, and his three sons (30:8). Demeaning Israel and her slain king, they cut off the king’s head, and stripped his armor, and displayed it as a trophy, putting it “in the house of Ashtaroth [believed to be the temple to the goddess Venus]” (31:9-10). To further humiliate Israel, they took the bodies of the king, and his sons, and fastened them “to the wall of Bethshan” (31:10, 12).

When the men of Jabesh-Gilead learned of the desecration, and the display of the bodies of the king and his sons, they “went all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there. 13And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days” (31:12-13).

Why did Saul and his sons suffer such a disastrous, ignoble end?

1 Chronicles 10:13-14 answers the question, where we read: “So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it; 14 And enquired not [no desire to repent] of the LORD: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.” Sin and rebellion cost Saul everything…his army (31:1), his sons (31:2), his life (31:3-4) and his honor (31:9-10).

Sin is hard, cruel and merciless. Sin will destroy your marriage, strip you of your crowning achievements and leave you despairing of life.  Sin will rob you of everything you hold dear. If you are in the midst of sin, it is not too late to turn to the LORD who is “full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (Psalm 86:15).

2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Victory is the LORD’S (1 Samuel 30)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 30

David and his men lived at Ziklag for sixteen months, and prospered in the midst of the Philistines (27:8-11). Tragedy, however, struck while the men were deployed to the battlefront with king Achish and the Philistines. Knowing the Philistines had removed to wage war with Israel, the Amalekites determined to use their absence as an opportunity to attack Ziklag, no doubt to exact revenge for David’s raids upon their cities (27:8-9). With the men away, the Amalekites encountered no opposition, and took away the women, sons and daughters, and burned the city (30:1-2).

David’s men departed the battlefront, and arrived at Ziklag on the third day (30:1), and found the city destroyed, and their wives and children missing (30:3). Distraught, and overcome with grief, David and his men wept until there were no more tears (30:4), yet grief quickly turned to bitterness. As mankind is so prone to do, the men, without delay, set upon whom to blame, and “David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him” (30:6a).

In his distress, “David encouraged himself in the Lord his God,” and commanded Abiathar the priest, to bring the ephod of the high priest, and “David inquired at the Lord…[and the LORD] answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all” (30:8). David obeyed without hesitation, and with six hundred men followed after the Amalekites (30:9). Two hundred of the six hundred men, had become faint and were left behind, while David continued his pursuit of their families (30:9-10).

They came upon an Egyptian slave whose master had abandoned him without food or water (30:11-15). Reviving him with food and water, the Egyptian agreed to lead David and his men to the Amalekite’s camp, with a promise his life would be spared (30:15). Finding the Amalekites celebrating the spoils they had taken from Ziklag, David and his men attacked them “from the twilight [darkness] even unto the evening [setting sun] of the next day: and there escaped not a man of them, save four hundred young men, which rode upon camels, and fled” (30:17).

It was a glorious victory, and all that had been taken was recovered, including David’s two wives (30:5, 18). David took the spoils of the Amalekites for himself, and sent some of the spoils as presents to the elders of Judah (30:26-31).

There were some wicked men among David’s four hundred, described as “men of Belial,” who begrudged returning the possessions of the two hundred men who had stayed behind (30:9, 22). David quickly intervened, and reminded those complainers that it was not they, but the LORD who had given them the victory, preserved them, and saved their wives and children (30:23).

David’s decision became a law for Israel thereafter, being reminded the battle, and the victory is the LORD’S. (30:24-25)

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Divine Providence: The Steps of a Good Man are Ordered By the LORD (1 Samuel 29)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 29

Today’s Scripture reading sets the stage not only for the death of Saul, Israel’s first king, but also for that of his son Jonathan (28:19).

We find the armies of the Philistines gathered against Israel, and Saul and his army pitched across the way “by a fountain which [was] in Jezreel” (29:1). David found himself in a conflicting place, for he had been chosen by Achish, the king of the Philistines, to be that king’s bodyguard (28:2).

As the Philistine soldiers mobilized, and began their passage to the battlefront, providentially, David and his men were placed in the rereward with Achish, and were spared from warring against their countrymen (29:2).

Though King Achish entrusted his life to David, the Philistine generals were far less trusting, and protested the thought of going to war against Israel with David and his men in their midst (29:3-4). Arguably, more astute than the king, the Philistines reminded Achish how David had served as Israel’s champion, and had led men of Israel to slay “ten thousands” (29:5).

Achish reluctantly consented to the demands of his generals, and with affirming words, commanded David and his men to remove themselves from the battlefield (29:6-7). Though David offered a weak protest to the king’s command (29:8-10), in the providence of God, the next morning he and his men returned “into the land of the Philistines” (29:11). As the Philistines prepared to wage war against Israel, the LORD wonderfully spared David from lifting his sword against the LORD‘S chosen people.

Psalm 37:23–2423The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: And he delighteth in his way. 24Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: For the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Dead Man Walking; God’s Man Rejoicing (Psalm 63, 1 Samuel 28)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 28; Psalm 63

1 Samuel 28 – Dead Man Walking

One might feel a certain empathy for King Saul in the latter years of his reign and life. The king was old, the strength and vitality of his youth faded, and his spirit consumed by bitterness. In contrast, David had been a faithful servant to the king, but Saul’s jealousy had made his friend his enemy. Indeed, the champion of Israel, appeared to be in league with Achish, the Philistine king (28:1-2).

Saul was alone. He had disobeyed God’s command, and the LORD had withdrawn his Spirit from the king (16:14-15). With the prophet Samuel dead (28:3), and the Philistine army gathered against Israel (28:4), Samuel trembled at the sight of “the host of the Philistines” (28:5).

Paralyzed by a spirit of foreboding (28:5-6), and desperate for a word of reassurance, the king disguised himself, violated the Law (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:31), and turned to a witch who consulted with spirits (28:7;Leviticus 20:27). Assuring the witch, she would not be punished, Saul demanded she call the prophet Samuel from the dead (28:11).

The LORD permitted Samuel to appear, and his appearance frightened the witch, who realized the man before her was Saul (28:12). With the king’s assurance that she would come to no harm, the woman revealed she had seen a man, “an old man…covered with a mantle” (28:14). Saul realized the apparition was that of Samuel, and the king “stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself” (28:14).

Samuel demanded, “Why hast thou disquieted me [awaken from rest or sleep], to bring me up [from Sheol, the place of the dead]?” (28:15). Trembling with fear, Saul declared how the Philistines had gathered against Israel, and God’s Spirit had departed from him (28:15). He confessed he had no prophet to answer him, and no man to interpret dreams (28:15).

Samuel then reminded Saul he was suffering the consequences of his disobedience (1 Samuel 15:23; 28:18). Not only had God’s Spirit departed from Saul, but the LORD had become his enemy (28:16). The LORD had “rent the kingdom out of [Saul’s] hand, and given it to [his] neighbour, even to David” (28:17).

Revealing the imminent deaths of Saul and his sons, and the defeat Israel would suffer the next day on the battlefield (28:19), Saul fell to the ground, “and there was no strength in him” (28:20). Overcome with emotion, and weak from fasting, the witch took pity on Saul and urged him to eat (28:22-24). When their supper was ended, Saul and his men “rose up, and went away that night” (28:25).

Closing thoughts: Rather than humble himself, and repent, Saul departed with his heart hardened, knowing he would not live to see another night. Because of his sin and disobedience, the king and his sons would die the next day, and his throne would be given to David.

He was a “dead man walking.”

Psalm 63

The title of Psalm 63 gives us the background for the song, for it was “when [David] was in the wilderness of Judah.” You will notice phrases and verses throughout the psalm that are beautiful and expressive.

In light of Saul’s despair in 1 Samuel 28, Psalm 63 affords us an encouraging contrast.  While Saul longed for a word from the LORD, but found his sins had made the LORD his enemy; David’s heart rejoiced in his God, and he confessed:

Psalm 63:11O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: My soul thirsteth for thee, My flesh longeth for thee In a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;

Surely, only a man who loved the LORD could find such joy, comfort, and cause for rejoicing in Him.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

When Life is Not Fair (Psalm 35, 54)

Scripture reading – Psalm 35, 54

Today’s Scripture reading continues David’s plea for the LORD to save him from the plots, and traps his enemies had set for him. The title of Psalm 35 is simply, “A Psalm of David.”

Psalm 35

When David penned Psalm 35 is not known; however, his plea for the LORD to render him justice, and save him from his enemies is a familiar theme. Pursued by an army vastly larger than his troop of six hundred men, David found himself in a desperate place. Three times he maintained his innocence with the phrase, “without cause,”and reminded the LORD the injustices he had suffered.

David wrote, “7For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit, which without cause they have digged for my soul” (35:7). David beseeched the LORD, “19Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me: Neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause” (35:19).

Friend, it is one thing to face trouble, and suffer for one’s wrongdoing; however, it is quite another when we have done no wrong, and someone desires to destroy us. Unfortunately, you will learn there are times when those whom you trust and love as friends, are often the ones who will betray you.

David asserted, “12They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling [sorrow] of my soul” (35:12). David had wallowed briefly in a “pity pit” when he reflected on the injustices he had suffered (35:13-16). He remembered mourning for his enemy when he was sick, and how he had fasted and prayed for him (35:13). He had sorrowed for the man who had become his enemy, in the way one would love and mourn for a mother (35:14). Yet, his enemy had rewarded him evil for good (35:12), and rejoiced in his sorrows. He had gathered others against him as a pack of wild animals would hunt, and ravage their prey (35:15-16).

How do you respond to injustices?

It is tempting to wallow in self-pity, and allow anger and bitterness to take hold of your soul. David wrestled with the injustices; however, he turned his focus to the LORD, and called on Him to save him (35:1-3, 17-28). He realized there was nothing he could do to appease his enemies, for they had no desire for peace (35:20).

David had searched his heart for wrongdoing, and then he turned to the LORD knowing He is a faithful, and true Judge, and said, “24Judge me, O Lord my God, according to thy righteousness; and let them not rejoice over me” (35:24).

Trusting the LORD would hear and answer his prayer, David remembered there were some who had not betrayed him. Looking beyond his sorrows, he looked forward to the day he would be delivered from his enemy, and his friends would “shout for joy, and be glad” (35:27). He was not yet free from his troubles, but he promised the LORD he would boldly speak of His righteousness, and “praise [Him] all the day long” (35:28).

Psalm 54

The title of Psalm 54 states not only the recipient, “the chief musician,” but also the stringed instrument, “Neginoth,” that was to accompany the psalm. Psalm 54 was a reflection on the sorrow and disappointment David suffered when the Ziphites, men of the tribe of Judah, betrayed him to Saul, and said to the king, “Doth not David hide himself with us?” (1 Samuel 26)

Psalm 54 is a fitting conclusion to today’s devotional, for it closes with David declaring, 4Behold [Look, and see], God is mine helper7For he hath delivered me out of all trouble: And mine eye hath seen his desire upon mine enemies” (54:4, 7).

If you are in the throes of a conflict with someone who has no desire for peace, turn to the LORD. Yes, life is not fair, but you can be assured that God is just. Don’t fall into a “pity trap,” and despair. Call on the LORD, for He is waiting to help, and He is always good, and just.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith