Keys to Success

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 75-77

Our scripture reading today is three psalms, Psalms 75, 76 and 77 all ascribed to Asaph as the author (as are Psalms 73-83), a priest and musician in the court of king David (1 Chronicles 6:39; 15:19; 16:7).  Psalm 75 will be my focus for today’s devotional commentary.

Although we know the author was Asaph, we are not told the occasion that inspired the writing of this psalm of praise.  Given the content of the psalm, it is my speculation it was written following a battle or time of conflict.

We take several spiritual lessons away from Psalm 75.  The first, God is the object of our praise and thanksgiving (75:1). The second, God promises He is a righteous judge (75:2).

The third lesson, when you find yourself living in uncertain, shaky times, rest assure God is not alarmed and will “bear up the pillars” (i.e. the supports) of the earth beneath you (75:3).

We find a warning to boastful fools tempted to “blow their own horn” (75:4b-5a) and to sing their own praises in Psalm 75:4-7.   Such fools are proud, celebrating and promoting themselves, their interests and agenda apart from God’s blessings.  The LORD warns, don’t play the fool and stiffen your neck against the LORD (75:5)

Psalms 75:6 stresses a spiritual principle God’s people, especially their leaders, should heed: “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.”

Men crave promotion and positions of authority where they are lauded with praise; however, a wise man remembers whatever promotion might come his way is an act of God’s grace.

After all, “God is the judge [governor; the final dispenser of justice]: He putteth down [humbles; abases; humiliates] one, and setteth up [exalts; raises up] another” (Psalms 75:7).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

An unabridged devotional commentary on 1 Kings 19-22 for Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 1 Kings 19-22

We conclude our reading of 1 Kings, reminding you that Elijah has, in the power of the LORD, withstood the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18).  Jezebel, the wicked wife of Ahab, learns Elijah had slain the prophets of Baal and sends a messenger to threaten the prophet with the same end (19:2).  Learning of the threat against his life, Elijah fled into the wilderness for fear Jezebel would make good on her threat (19:3).

Remembering this great prophet was but a man, we suspect he was physically exhausted and emotionally spent from the spiritual contest with the prophets of Baal.  In spite of his great victory, Jezebel’s threat against his life caused Elijah to despair (19:4).  In a moment of irony, the prophet fled to save his life, but also “requested for himself that he might die” (19:4)!

Rather than rebuke His prophet, the LORD sent an angel to minister to Elijah while he slept (19:5-8).  When Elijah awoke, he found food to eat and water to drink. Awaken a second time, Elijah was instructed to eat and drink and prepare for a long journey of 40 days (19:8).

Arriving in Mt. Horeb and dwelling in a cave, the LORD came to Elijah and asked, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” (19:9).  Elijah complained to the LORD that of all the prophets, he alone was alive and all Israel had forsaken the LORD (19:10).  The LORD came to Elijah a second time and asked, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” (19:13).  The LORD encouraged Elijah there were “seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him” (19:18).

Elijah departed Mt. Horeb as the LORD had commanded him, but along the way the LORD gave him Elisha, a man who would be an encouragement to the old prophet and ultimately his successor (19:19-21).

1 Kings 21 records a story familiar to all Bible students.  King Ahab coveted the vineyard of a man named Naboth; however, Naboth refused to sell his vineyard to the king (21:1-4).  Jezebel, learning of what she perceived to be Naboth’s slight against her husband the king, determined to take the vineyard and had two witnesses bring false accusations against Naboth declaring he had blasphemed God and punishing him by stoning (21:5-13).  Hearing Naboth was dead, Jezebel encouraged Ahab to rise and take possession of his vineyard (21:14-15). Ahab took possession of Naboth’s vineyard (21:16).

The LORD commanded Elijah to go and confront Ahab and prophesy the king would die in the place the “dogs licked the blood of Naboth” (21:19).  Knowing the calling of a prophet is to faithfully and fearlessly proclaim the Word of the LORD, it comes as no surprise that Ahab and Jezebel looked upon Elijah as their adversary.  Ahab said Elijah was “he that troubleth Israel” in 1 Kings 18:17.  Evidencing the regressive nature of sinners who reject God’s Word, Ahab greets Elijah saying, “Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?” (21:20).

Rather than retreat, the old prophet faithfully delivered the message of the LORD, declaring the king’s death, the end of his lineage as king, and prophesying the ignoble end of his wife, “The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel” (21:21-23).  Hearing the prophesy of his death, Ahab responded in an act of repentance and humility, tearing his robes and fasting (20:27).  Although his repentance was short-lived, God spared Ahab for a season and Elijah prophesied his son would suffer die in his stead (20:28-29; 2 Kings 9:14-37).

We conclude our study of 1 Kings with Jehoshaphat, the godly king of Judah allying himself with king Ahab against the king of Syria.   This final chapter records Ahab’s death on the battlefield against the king of Syria and the fulfillment of Elijah’s prophesy that the dogs would lick his blood as they had Naboth’s (22:37-40).   However, rather than focus on Ahab’s death, I draw your attention to the confrontation between Ahab and a prophet identified as “Micaiah the son of Imlah” (22:8).

Evidencing the nature of a godly king, Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, desired the LORD’s direction before going to battle (22:5).   Ahab complied with Jehoshaphat’s request and gathered nearly four hundred prophets who falsely prophesied the LORD would give Israel and Judah victory on the battlefield over the king of Syria (22:6).   In spite of the prophesies of nearly four hundred men, godly Jehoshaphat was not satisfied and enquired if there was not another prophet in Israel (22:7).

Now there was one prophet in Israel who had not received the invitation to prophesy before the kings, “Micaiah the son of Imlah” (22:8).   Ahab explained Micaiah had not been invited to prophesy saying, “I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil” (22:8).

King Ahab complied with Jehoshaphat’s request and Micaiah was summoned to stand before the kings and prophesy (22:9-10).  Sitting in the “gate of Samaria”, the most public venue in the capital, Ahab’s prophets, led by one named Zedekiah, agreed in their prophesy that the LORD would give Israel and Judah victory over Syria (22:10b-12).  The servant Ahab sent to invite Micaiah to prophesy warned him the other prophets were of “one mouth: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good” (22:13).

In a moment of irony, Micaiah prophesied exactly what Ahab wanted to hear (22:15); however, the king rebuked him and demanded, “How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the LORD?” (22:16).

Micaiah answered, prophesying Ahab would die and Israel would be “scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd” (22:17).  Acknowledging his own self-fulfilling sentiment, Ahab said to the king of Judah, “Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil?” (22:18).

Micaiah completed his task as God’s prophet, boldly confronting Zedekiah and the four hundred men who prophesied lies with him (22:19-23), declaring the true prophet would be revealed by whose prophesy came to pass (22:24-25).  As prophesied, Ahab died in battle and the people were scattered (22:36-40)

I close today’s devotional commentary noting Ahab’s disdain and reluctance to invite Micaiah to prophesy, because “I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil” (22:8), has become, in my opinion, the malady of Bible fundamental churches, schools, and institutional boards.

Is that not the nature of sinners?  Pulpits of what were once thriving Bible fundamental churches are being filled with preachers dedicated to soft-pedaling God’s Word, appeasing the masses and giving them what they want to hear.  Pulpit committees, deacon boards, and boards of Christian schools and institutions are dedicated to insuring the voices heard in boardrooms and pulpits are those that will “prophesy good” while they dismiss and silence pastors, administrators, and faculty who are willing to give a clarion call concerning the way of sin and compromise.  Like Micaiah, because their voices are not in harmony with the sentiment of the majority, they are undesirable and unwelcome.

While Jehoshaphat desired to hear a true word of prophecy; Ahab was committed to the prophets that would tell him what he wanted to hear and he and all Israel suffered failure.

The same is no less true of our churches, schools and institutions.  Dismiss the warning of faithful men and you do so to your own demise.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Dismiss the warning of faithful men and you do so to your own demise.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 1 Kings 19-22

I am posting two versions of today’s devotional commentary from 1 Kings 19-22.  This blog post is an abbreviated version of a longer one that will soon follow.

We conclude our study of 1 Kings with Jehoshaphat, the godly king of Judah allying himself with king Ahab against the king of Syria.  This final chapter records Ahab’s death on the battlefield against the king of Syria and the fulfillment of Elijah’s prophesy that the dogs would lick his blood as they had Naboth’s (22:37-40).  However, rather than focus on Ahab’s death, I draw your attention to the confrontation between Ahab and a prophet identified as “Micaiah the son of Imlah” (22:8).

Evidencing the nature of a godly king, Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, desired the LORD’s direction before going to battle (22:5).  Ahab complied with Jehoshaphat’s request and gathered nearly four hundred prophets who falsely prophesied the LORD would give Israel and Judah victory on the battlefield over the king of Syria (22:6).  In spite of the prophesies of nearly four hundred men, godly Jehoshaphat was not satisfied and enquired if there was not another prophet in Israel (22:7).

Now there was one prophet in Israel who had not received the invitation to prophesy before the kings, “Micaiah the son of Imlah” (22:8).  Ahab explained Micaiah had not been invited to prophesy saying, I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil” (22:8).

King Ahab complied with Jehoshaphat’s request and Micaiah was summoned to stand before the kings and prophesy (22:9-10).  Sitting in the “gate of Samaria”, the most public venue in the capital, Ahab’s prophets, led by one named Zedekiah, agreed in their prophesy that the LORD would give Israel and Judah victory over Syria (22:10b-12).  The servant Ahab sent to invite Micaiah to prophesy warned him the other prophets were of “one mouth: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good” (22:13).

In a moment of irony, Micaiah prophesied exactly what Ahab wanted to hear (22:15); however, the king rebuked him and demanded, “How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the LORD?” (22:16).

Micaiah answered, prophesying Ahab would die and Israel would be “scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd” (22:17).  Acknowledging his own self-fulfilling sentiment, Ahab said to the king of Judah, “Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil?” (22:18).

Micaiah completed his task as God’s prophet, boldly confronting Zedekiah and the four hundred men who prophesied lies with him (22:19-23), declaring the true prophet would be revealed by whose prophesy came to pass (22:24-25).  As prophesied, Ahab died in battle and the people were scattered (22:36-40)

I close today’s devotional commentary noting Ahab’s disdain and reluctance to invite Micaiah to prophesy, because “I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil” (22:8), has become, in my opinion, the malady of Bible fundamental churches, schools, and institutional boards.

Is that not the nature of sinners?  Pulpits of what were once thriving Bible fundamental churches are being filled with preachers dedicated to soft-pedaling God’s Word, appeasing the masses and giving them what they want to hear.  Pulpit committees, deacon boards, and boards of Christian schools and institutions are dedicated to insuring the voices heard in boardrooms and pulpits are those that will “prophesy good” while they dismiss and silence pastors, administrators, and faculty who are willing to give a clarion call concerning the way of sin and compromise.  Like Micaiah, because their voices are not in harmony with the sentiment of the majority, they are undesirable and unwelcome.

While Jehoshaphat desired to hear a true word of prophecy; Ahab was committed to the prophets that would tell him what he wanted to hear and he and all Israel suffered failure.

The same is no less true of our churches, schools and institutions.  Dismiss the warning of faithful men and you do so to your own demise.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The Holy Calling of the Pastor\Shepherd

Monday, June 26, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 7-9

Today’s scripture reading begins with “the law of the trespass offering” in Leviticus 7, while Leviticus 8-9 commences with the consecration of Aaron (the brother of Moses) and his sons to the Levitical priesthood (Moses and Aaron were both of the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe).

Leviticus 7 introduces us to the “trespass offering”, a sacrifice identified with an individual’s sin. In his Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) on the Pentateuch, pastor and author Warren Wiersbe writes concerning the “trespass offering” in Leviticus 7,

“The sin [burnt] offering and the guilt (or trespass) offering were very much alike and were even governed by the same law (7:1-10). Generally speaking, the guilt offering was for individual sins that affected people and property and for which restitution could be made, while the sin [burnt] offering focused on some violation of the law that was done without deliberate intent. The trespass offering emphasized the damage done to others by the offender, while the sin offering emphasized the offender’s guilt before God. The priest would examine the offender and determine which sacrifice was needed.”

The “peace offering”, an offering for the purpose of acknowledging God’s grace and giving thanks to Him is described in Leviticus 7:11-21.  The sacrifice of oxen or cattle was accompanied by offerings of “unleavened cakes…unleavened wafers…and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fired” (Leviticus 7:12). The portions of the “peace offering” not consumed by the fire were given to the priests for their consumption.

The “fat of the beast” and “blood” portions of the offerings were not to be eaten (Leviticus 7:22-27).  The specific portions of the “fat of the beast” that were forbidden is described in Leviticus 3:3-4, 9.  Concerning the “blood” of the sacrifices, blood was not to be consumed because it was the means and object of atonement (Leviticus 17:11).  The penalty for consuming the “fat of the beast” or the “blood” was to “be cut off from his people” (7:25, 27).  To “be “cut off” might extend so far as capital punishment (as for Sabbath breakers (Exodus 31:12-14; Numbers 15:32-36) or put out of the camp until the sinner had followed cleansing rituals and was restored to their family (Leviticus 15).

Leviticus 8 establishes the Levitical priesthood by publicly ordaining and consecrating Aaron and his sons to serve as priests before the LORD on behalf of the nation (8:1-5).  The LORD describes each step of the ordination, beginning with a ceremonial washing of Aaron and his sons with water (8:6).

Aaron was the high priest and is distinguished by his clothes (8:7), a breastplate (8:8) upon which was mounted twelve precious stones and referred to as “the breastplate of judgment” (Exodus 28:30).  “Urim and the Thummim” (8:8) are believed to be some form of dice that were cast by the priests in matters of judgment, trusting the LORD to determine the outcome.

As a word of caution for some tempted to adopt some manner of the same in making judgments, either tossing dice or “putting out a fleece” (Judges 6:36-40), God has given us a superior means of determining His will and making good judgments…His Word!

Although serving before the LORD as priests on behalf of the nation, the ministries of the priests began with a “the bullock for the sin offering” upon which Aaron and his sons laid their hands identifying the bullocks death as the offering for their sins (8:14-17).  A ram was then brought as a “burnt offering” and its blood applied to Aaron and his sons “upon the tip of their right ear, and upon the thumbs of their right hands, and upon the great toes of their right feet” (8:23-24).

Seven days Aaron and his sons were to remain at the tabernacle and Moses continued to offer sacrifices as they consecrated themselves to the LORD as priests (8:31-36).  On the eighth day Aaron and his sons were to begin ministering before the LORD and offering sacrifices on behalf of the nation (Leviticus 9:1-24).

Displaying His glory and accepting the sacrifices in the sight of all the people, “there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces” (9:24).

I close today’s devotional commentary, reminded of the great responsibility borne by those who minister for the LORD before God’s people.  While the offering of sacrifices is no longer necessary because Jesus Christ, by His death on the cross, once and for all ended the need of sacrifices and became our priest making intercession for us before the throne of God (Hebrews 7:25-28); nevertheless, God has called and ordained men who are set apart for the purpose of shepherding His church.

Writing to believers in Ephesus, Paul reminded the church of the office and duties of the pastor.

 Ephesians 4:11-12 – “11 And He [the LORD] gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12  For the perfecting [lit. to refit; make whole; equipping] of the saints, for the work [occupation; labor] of the ministry, for the edifying [building up] of the body of Christ” .

The work of the pastor as a shepherd of the church is described in 1 Peter 5:2-4.

1 Peter 5:2-4 – Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3  Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4  And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

Such is the great calling of the pastor…teacher, shepherd and spiritual leader in word and example.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Devotional Reading for Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Philippians 1-2

Because I am in the midst of preparing my heart and mind for Hillsdale’s 6:00 pm service, I invite you to read today’s scripture reading in the absence of my commentary.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor, Hillsdale Baptist Church

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Devotional Reading for Saturday, June 24, 2017

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Luke 13-14

Good morning!   I hope to post a devotional commentary over some portion of today’s scripture reading (Luke 13-14) before the day has past; however, of necessity my first priority is my preparation for preaching in Hillsdale’s Sunday morning (10:30 am) and Sunday evening (6:00 pm ) services.

In the absence of my commentary, I trust you will take time to read God’s Word and pray.  As a personal prayer request, pray for me (and your pastor if you are a member of another church), your church family, and God’s anointing power on those who will minister in your church services this Sunday.  The erosion of family units and good churches is frightening and disheartening.   If your pastor is faithful to proclaim God’s Word unashamedly and without apology, you are blessed!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor, Hillsdale Baptist Church

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Pay Day, Someday”

Friday, June 23, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezekiel 7-12

Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry, while a captive in Babylon (Ezekiel 1:3), continues in chapter 7 when the LORD commands the young prophet to declare to Israel, “An end, the end is come” (7:2, 5).   The sins of the people exhausted God’s patience and the judgment of the nation was sure (7:3-4, 7-13).  The nation had rejected the LORD, ignored the warnings of His prophets and the siege of Jerusalem was soon at hand (7:10-21).  (Remember, Ezekiel is prophesying from Babylon while Jeremiah is prophesying in Jerusalem in the years leading up to the final destruction of that city).

The LORD instructed Ezekiel to “make a chain” (7:23), a symbol of the captivity that would remove them from the land as exiles in Babylon for 70 years.  Less someone accuse Him of injustice, the LORD declared, “I will do unto them after their way, and according to their deserts will I judge them; and they shall know that I am the LORD” (7:27).

Ezekiel 8 offers insight into how far the people had departed from worshipping the LORD and refusing to obey His Law and Commandments.  The Temple of the LORD was defiled with idols (8:1-18) and even the elders of the people, those entrusted with teaching the Law and exercising righteous judgment had committed idolatry in secret places.

God’s judgment of the rebellious people begins in Ezekiel 9 when the LORD calls six men (most likely angels carrying out God’s judgment) and commands them to go throughout the city.  Another man, portrayed as a scribe, was to place a mark on the foreheads of those who “sigh and that cry for all the abominations” being committed in the midst of God’s people (9:1-4).   While the wicked were slain (9:5-6a), those who grieved over the sins of the people and received the mark on their foreheads were spared (9:6b).  Perhaps to encourage His servant, the LORD reveals His heavenly glory in Ezekiel 10.

Ezekiel 11 records God’s warning of judgment against the leaders of the city, “five and twenty men; among whom I saw Jaazaniah the son of Azur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, princes of the people” (11:1).  The LORD informed Ezekiel, “these are the men that devise mischief, and give wicked counsel in this city” (11:2).  The leaders were guilty of dismissing the prophecies of God’s judgment and encouraging the people to “build houses” (11:3) when they should have been repenting of their sins and turning to the LORD.

God commanded Ezekiel, “prophesy against them, prophesy, O son of man” (11:4).  Empowered and emboldened by the “Spirit of the LORD” (11:5), Ezekiel courageously proclaimed God’s judgment (11:6-12) and one leader named Pelatiah suddenly fell dead (11:13).  The LORD comforted Ezekiel promising, although many would die in the destruction of Jerusalem and many others would be taken captive to Babylon, a remnant would one day be restored to the land (11:14-21).

Our scripture reading closes with Ezekiel 12 and a remarkable symbolic act portraying the destruction, desolation and captivity that was at hand.  The LORD instructed Ezekiel to, for all to see, pack and remove his “stuff” (12:3).  Removing his personal belongings, he was to dig a hole in the wall leaving the people wondering why he was doing so (12:4-8).  When the people asked, Ezekiel was to tell them it was a sign of what would happen to “the prince in Jerusalem, and all the house of Israel that are among them” (12:9-10). Although prophesying from Babylon, Ezekiel revealed to the people what the king and those taken captive from Jerusalem would suffer (12:11-16).

Dismissing the LORD’s patience and longsuffering, some in Israel scorned the prophecies of God’s judgment saying, “the days are prolonged, and every vision faileth” (12:22).  God commanded Ezekiel to warn the people they would soon see the fulfillment of the LORD’s prophecies against the nation (12:23-24).  Six years later, Babylon’s army overran the walls of Jerusalem, taking the people captive, and fulfilling every word of Ezekiel’s prophecies.

A quote of the late Dr. Robert G. Lee (1886-1974) is appropriate as I close today’s devotional commentary: “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, Sin will keep you longer than you want to stay, Sin will cost you more than you want to pay.”

My friend, I fear 21st century Christians and churches are guilty of dismissing the consequences of sin and, in the words of Dr. Robert G. Lee, the promise there is a Pay Day Someday.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith