Warning: The Lord Alone is Worthy of Your Trust!

Wednesday, May 23, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Psalms 60-62

Our scripture reading today is three brief psalms by David, each one inspired by events in the life of the king and focused on the faithfulness and character of God.

The superscription of Psalm 60 indicates it was written at a time the Edomites invaded southern Israel.  David deployed a portion of his army under his trusted general Joab who thwarted the invasion and defeated Edom (1 Chronicles 18:1-13).  Although the king had not yet received word from the battlefront, David wrote Psalm 60 expressing confidence that the LORD would give His people the victory (60:11-12).

The setting for Psalm 61 is uncertain; however, the prayer of the king is indicative of a time he faced danger and called out to the LORD to come to his aid.  In the midst of his cry for help, David reflected on the goodness and faithfulness of the LORD in times past (61:3-4) as his assurance God hears and answers prayer (61:5-6).

The historical context of Psalm 62 is unknown; however, David’s focus upon the character of the LORD is certain.  Consider David’s numerous reflections on the LORD.

The first reflection, God is our Salvation, Strength (i.e. Rock) and Refuge (62:1-2, 6-7). The second reflection, our HOPE is in God, therefore we wait upon Him (62:5) and we shall not be moved or shaken (62:6b).

Notice in verse 9 how David’s view of men and circumstances changed after he meditated on the character of the LORD and reflected on His faithfulness.

Psalm 62:9 – Surely men of low degree are vanity [empty; i.e. are nothing more than hot air], and men of high degree are a lie [deceitful; deceptive]: to be laid in the balance [scales; i.e. to be weighed by God], they are altogether lighter than vanity [empty; i.e. are nothing more than hot air].

David reminds us “the best of men are men at the best” (Charles Spurgeon)!  Some men are born of privilege while others are men of humblest means; however, in God’s eternal scales they are nothing but men apart from Him (62:9).  Pity the fool whose confidence is in man!

Some men trust in riches; however, David warns God’s people to not be as the wicked who covet wealth and, putting their confidence in possessions, oppress the innocent and spoil the weak (62:10).

Psalm 62 closes with an exhortation for GOd’s people to place their trust and confidence in the LORD Who is just and “renderest [rewards; pays] to every man according to his work [deeds; labor; actions]” (Psalm 62:11-12).

Friend, I can attest from experience that few men are worthy of your confidence and trust!  Most men and women have their agendas and invariably seek their own advantage.  Few are those who seek the LORD!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Who is the LORD?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Daily reading assignment: 2 Samuel 20-24

Absalom is dead!  The rebellious son of David who led an uprising against his father and openly mocked the king in the sight of the people by going into his father’s harem, killed by Joab contrary to the king’s wishes (2 Samuel 18).  Rather than rejoicing in his army’s victory over his adversaries, David mourned the death of his son Absalom giving cause for Joab to rebuke David (2 Samuel 19:1-6).

The tribe of Judah readily embraced David’s return to the throne in Jerusalem; however, in spite of the victory over Absalom and his forces, all was not well in Israel and a wicked man named Sheba, a son of the tribe of Benjamin, opposed David (2 Samuel 20:1-4).

Israel, consisting of the northern ten tribes, had always entertained certain displeasure in having a king of Judah reign over them, and because Saul, Israel’s first king was a Benjaminite, there was an animosity that tribe held toward David.  When Sheba rose up against David, there were thousands willing to oppose the king (20:4-13).  David’s men swiftly put down the rebellion and the conflict ended with Sheba being beheaded (20:22).

Suffering three years of famine, the LORD revealed to David there would not be a healing of the land until he righted a wrong committed by his predecessor, king Saul against the Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21:1-14).  David set right the wrong against the Gibeonites when he captured seven men of Saul’s lineage and hanged them.

A beautiful psalm of David’s is recorded in 2 Samuel 22 and answers the title I gave today’s devotional commentary, “Who is the LORD?”

2 Samuel 22 is a psalm of rejoicing and thanksgiving.  Consider briefly some of the golden nuggets of truth found in this chapter regarding the LORD and, for the sake of our study; I invite you to join me and use personal pronouns to apply the attributes of the LORD to your life.

The LORD Who is Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existing God is my place of safety for He is my Rock, Fortress, and Deliverer (22:2).  The LORD is my Refuge, my Rock, Shield, Salvation, and my Savior in times of trouble (22:3).

The LORD is the object of my praise (22:4) and when enemies assail me, He is my Defender (22:5).  When I call upon the LORD in my distress He hears my cry and is my Deliverer (22:6-20).

The LORD is also my Rewarder; He rewards those who follow after righteousness and keep His laws (22:21-25).

The LORD is Just and rewards His people according to their ways and works (22:26-28).

Looking back on the years he was an exile in the wilderness, David remembered the LORD’s presence and faithfulness (22:29-43).  In the midst of hardships, David found the LORD was his Light in the midst of darkness (22:29) and his Strength when he faced adversaries (22:30-35).

Not knowing what this day might hold for you, or me I close today’s devotion inviting you to consider David’s assertions regarding the character of our LORD (2 Samuel 22:31-33).

2 Samuel 22:31-33 – “As for God, his way [path] is perfect [upright; complete]; the word [commandment] of the LORD is tried [pure; refined]: he is a buckler [shield] to all them that trust [confide; seek refuge] in him.
32  For who is God, save the LORD? and who is a rock, save our God?
33  God is my strength [fortress; rock] and power: and he maketh my way perfect [upright; complete].”

Friend, face today’s challenges confident the LORD rewards faithfulness and He is your strength and guide!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Casual ‘Come as You Are’ and the God They Serve”

CasualTuesday, May 22, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Exodus 25-28

  • My apology for reposting this devotional commentary; however, I posted it premature a week ago and Exodus 25-28 is the scheduled scripture reading for today. Have a blessed day!

Having given the people His Law and Commandments, the LORD instructs Moses to collect the materials necessary to construct the instruments used in worship and sacrifices including gold, silver, bronze, and cloth for priestly robes, spices and oils.

In his Bible Exposition Commentary on the Pentateuch known as the “Be Series”, Warren Wiersbe makes the following observations.

“Several different kinds of materials were needed: precious metals (gold, silver), bronze, fabrics (yarn, fine linen, and goat’s hair), wood, skins, olive oil, spices, and precious stones. It’s been estimated that a ton of gold was used in the tabernacle as well as over three tons of silver. Where did all this wealth come from? For one thing, the Jews had “spoiled” the Egyptians before leaving the land (12:35-36), and no doubt there were also spoils from the victory over Amalek (17:8-16). God saw to it that they had everything they needed to build the tabernacle just as He had designed it.”   [Warren Wiersbe; The Bible Exposition Commentary – Pentateuch]

Exodus 25:1-7 list the materials Moses was to collect from the people for constructing the Tabernacle, its contents, and instruments used in worship and offering sacrifices. The importance of the Tabernacle was that it served as the outward visible symbol of God’s presence in the midst of Israel (Exodus 25:8).

The “Ark” served as the central place of worship within the Tabernacle and Exodus 25:10 records its precise dimensions. The “Ark” is designated with various names in the scriptures, among them The Ark of the Covenant, The Ark of the LORD, The Ark of God, and The Ark of the Testimony.

Exodus 25:10-22 describes the construction of the Ark and its appearance.  It was overlaid with pure gold and rings and “staves” or rods (25:12-15) employed to transport the Ark and upon its lid, described as the Mercy Seat, were two cherubims facing one another and the space between them representative of the throne of God (25:17-22).

In addition to a table and implements of gold used in the Tabernacle (25:23-30), a golden lampstand with seven lamps was made (25:31-40).

There were ten curtains employed within the Tabernacle (Exodus 26:1-6) and eleven curtains of goats hair (26:7-14) used as an exterior covering over the boards used in the construction of the Tabernacle (26:15-30).

Exodus 26:31 describes a beautiful veil that served as a means of dividing the interior of the Tabernacle, the innermost area behind the veil serving as the place where the Ark of the Covenant would be placed and described as “the holy place and the most holy” (26:33). The veil represented the separation between man and the Mercy Seat that symbolized the presence of the LORD (26:34).

Exodus 27 describes and gives the dimensions for the Altar of Burnt Offerings (27:1-8) and the outer court of the Tabernacle and its vessels (27:9-19). Pure olive oil was to burn in the lamp giving light in the Tabernacle “from evening to morning” (27:20-21).

Aaron, the brother of Moses, and his sons were sanctified and set apart to serve as priests (28:1).  Priestly garments worn by those ministering before the LORD are described (28:2-43).  Great attention was given to the robes of the priesthood and there was meaning and purpose in every detail from the breastplate over his heart that represented God’s judgment (28:15-30) to the bells about his robe whose sound gave witness to the movement of the priest within the Tabernacle and his acceptance in the LORD’s presence (28:31-26).  I will continue my study of the priesthood and the sanctification of the priests in our next study of Exodus (Exodus 29).

I close with an observation of a sad irony I see in the casual nature of pastors and preachers in today’s church.  While pastors most assuredly do not serve as priests for the New Testament Church, we do bear in our demeanor and appearance a reflection of the God we worship and His person.  Surely the LORD is no less holy today than He was in Israel’s day!  “Dressing down” has become the style of those who occupy the pulpit and its influence is not only reflected in the pew, but in the whole atmosphere of worship.

Friend, if your idea of acceptable dress and demeanor for worship is shorts, sandals and a t-shirt, I am left wondering what became of the God who demanded beautiful robes, holiness and sanctification of His priests!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Show Me the Money!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Daily reading assignment: 2 Corinthians 9-10

The city of Corinth was the most important city of ancient Greece.  In the apostle Paul’s day it served as the capital city of the Roman province of Achaia.  Located on a major East to West trade route, Corinth was the 4th largest city of the Roman Empire. However, like most major cities, Corinth was known for its wealth and licentious lifestyle.

Paul established the church in Corinth on his second missionary journey and his first letter to the church was both pointed and direct.  The apostle rebuked a whole litany of shameful sins present in the church: Immorality; Covetousness; Idolatry; Drunkenness; Slander (1 Corinthians 5); Christians suing Christians in secular courts (1 Corinthians 6); and the sacrilegious treatment of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11) were among the sins the church had tolerated in its midst.  Paul concluded his first letter to the Corinthian believers, exhorting them to take up an offering to minister to the needs of the suffering saints in Judaea.

In contrast to his first letter, the Book of 2 Corinthians is a letter of affirmation and exhortation to Christians in Corinth.  The Corinthian believers heeded Paul’s admonishment concerning sin in the church and dealt with sinners in the midst.  In addition to his affirmation, Paul exhorted the believers in Corinth to fulfill their promise to send a sacrificial offering to the suffering saints in Judea.

Paul used the churches of Macedonia [Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea] as a model to motivate the Corinthians to fulfill their obligation to send a generous offering.  Unlike the wealthier people of Corinth, the believers of Macedonia, had given out of their poverty (2 Cor. 8:2), giving generously beyond their ability (2 Cor. 8:3)

Sparingly” and “bountifully” are two adverbs Paul used to define attitudes towards giving.  Paul writes, “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6).

A believer who gives “sparingly” is stingy, miserly and tight-fisted.  Paul warns, sow sparingly and you will reap sparingly!  Be a miser when you give, don’t be surprised you reap the same when you are in need.  In contrast, give “bountifully” knowing generous givers are recipients of generous blessings!

The analogy Paul draws in 2 Corinthians 9:6 is from Solomon’s pictures of two farmers, one who scatters seed and another who hoards seed (Proverbs 11:24-26).

Proverbs 11:24-26 – “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth [God rewards generosity]; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty [covetousnessness leads to poverty]. 
25 The liberal soul [gives, bestows blessings] shall be made fat [satisfied]: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself [Gal. 6:7 – You reap what you sow].26 He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it.”

I close with three spiritual truths on giving:

1) God rewards generosity (Proverbs 11:24).

2) Covetousness leads to poverty (Proverbs 11:24).

3) A man reaps what he sows (Galatians 6:7; Prov. 11:25-26): A generous soul will be content (Proverbs 11:25), but a hoarder is despised (Proverbs 11:26.

I do not know about you, but sign me up for giving and its promised rewards!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Whose Son Is He?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Luke 1-2

Note from the author: Today’s Bible reading, Luke 1-2, is one with which my readers are most familiar and so sweeping I will limit this devotional commentary to an introduction of the Gospel of Luke and a brief oversight of the miraculous events contained in these chapters that set the stage for our readings in the weeks ahead.

Evidencing the style of a scholar and the burden of a historian who comprehends his responsibility to declare clearly and accurately historical facts on the person, life and times of the LORD Jesus Christ, the physician named Luke took stylus in hand and began writing this Gospel that bears his name.

The intended recipient of the Gospel was a man identified as Theophilus, meaning “friend or lover of God” whom Luke describes as “excellent” or noble in character (Luke 1:1-4).  This Theophilus is also the recipient of Luke’s historical account of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:1).

True to the nature of a scholar, Luke states in the opening verses his credentials and authority for those things he records in this gospel:  Indisputable facts (“those things which are most surely believed”, 1:1) and eyewitness accounts received from those that were with the LORD “from the beginning” and were “ministers of the word” (1:2).

A recipient of eyewitness accounts, Luke states his reason and purpose for writing:  “That thou mightest know [understand fully; perceive] the certainty [i.e. and be secure] of those things [account], wherein thou hast been instructed [indoctrinate; taught]” (Luke 1:4).

The following is a brief summary of the balance of chapters 1-2.

Luke 1:5-25, 57-80 is the record and events surrounding the conception, birth and mission of John the Baptist, the long-awaited forerunner of the Messiah whom the prophet Isaiah described as the voice crying in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” (Isaiah 40:3).

The angel Gabriel announced to the virgin Mary the miraculous conception of Jesus in Luke 1:26-38 and followed by the reunion of two cousins, Mary the mother of Jesus with her elder cousin Elisabeth the mother of John the Baptist (Luke 1:39-56).

With the precise detailed wording of a historian, Luke sets forth not only the historical facts of the birth of Jesus Christ, but also the undeniable evidences of divine providence fulfilling the prophecies of Old Testament prophets.

1) The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-7):  Joseph and Mary were citizens of Nazareth; however, God used the census and tax decree of Augustus Caesar to fulfill the prophecy that the virgin born Messiah, a son of David’s lineage, would be born in Bethlehem (Genesis 49:10; 2 Samuel 7:1-17; Isaiah 7:14; Micah 5:2).

2) The affirmation of Simeon and Anna in the Temple who stated Jesus was the Christ child, the “salvation…[for] all people; 32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32).    Simeon prophesied the suffering and sorrow Mary would experience standing by the cross declaring, “a sword shall pierce through thy own soul” (2:34-35).

Luke does not record Joseph and Mary’s flight to Egypt to save Mary’s son from king Herod’s decree to kill all the children born in Bethlehem “from two years old and under” (Matthew 2:13-19).  Luke 2:40-52 records the author’s brief account of Christ’s childhood and ends with the observation: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

Oh that the same would be said of each of us!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Reality check: Prayer is Not Enough; God Requires Obedience!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Jeremiah 37-41

The prophetic ministry of Jeremiah has taken him from the grandstand of the king’s palace to the stocks of a prison cell; however, the devotion of God’s prophet to the LORD and his message of God’s impending judgment on Judah has been consistent.   Zedekiah, the last king of Judah before the Chaldeans defeated the nation and took the people captive, failed to heed God’s Word (37:2); however, as the armies of the Chaldeans and the Egyptians clashed over the spoils of Judah, the king hypocritically called upon Jeremiah saying, “Pray now unto the LORD our God for us” (37:3).

Rather than prayer, the LORD directed Jeremiah to warn king Zedekiah that He had determined the destruction of Jerusalem and the Chaldeans would burn the city (37:6-10).   Rather than repent, the people took God’s prophet, beat him and cast him into prison (37:11-21).   The hearts of the people were so hardened against the LORD, they rose up and demanded Jeremiah be put to death (38:1-4).

For the prophet, things went from bad to worse when king Zedekiah heeded the demands of the leaders of Jerusalem and delivered Jeremiah into their hands who then took him from prison and left him to die in a dungeon described as a place where “there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire” (38:5-6).  Providentially, a man named Ebedmelech interceded for Jeremiah and petitioned the king for the old prophet’s release from the dungeon (38:7-13) and his removal to the palace prison where he remained until the Chaldeans conquered Jerusalem (38:14-28).

Jeremiah 39 records the siege of Jerusalem. Having failed to heed Jeremiah’s counsel to surrender the city to Nebuchadnezzar, king Zedekiah and his sons fled Jerusalem (39:1-5). Tragically, the sons of Zedekiah and all the nobles of Judah were slain before putting out the king’s eyes and leading he and the people to Babylon (39:6-10).  In an ironic, but also providential twist of fate, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon removed Jeremiah from prison and directed his servants to care for his needs and released the old prophet to go home (39:11-14; 40:1-6).

Friend, history is “His Story”; a testimony of the providential works of God Who is Creator, Sustainer, and Sovereign of all things.  He is El Shaddai, Almighty God and directs the evil purposes of wicked men to His ends for the good of His people and for His glory (Romans 8:28-29).  Whatever or whoever you may face today is not so big they are outside the sovereignty of El Shaddai!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

What is Man?

Monday, May 8, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Job 39-40

Following the foolish dialog of Elihu, the youngest of Job’s four “friends”, God began proposing to Job a series of questions in Job 38 regarding both Himself as Creator and the majesty of Creation.  God’s loving inquisition of Job inviting him to ponder all God has created and sustains continues in Job 39.

The LORD asks Job to consider the wonders of nature and how He, the Creator, has set in order the lives and life cycles of beasts and birds.  Six beasts, including the wild unicorn (not the mythical one-horned horse, but a one horned species of antelope) and birds are examples of God’s care and providential oversight of His creation (39:1-30).

The LORD continues His interrogation in chapter 40; however, Job is now given the opportunity to respond to God (40:3-5).   Having tarried in God’s presence, Job acknowledged His unworthiness (“Behold I am vile” – 40:4) and the LORD responded by asking why Job would question His dealings with him as anything less than just (40:6-14).

The beast described as the “behemoth” (40:15) is most likely the hippopotamus, elephant or perhaps a water buffalo.

I close by proposing the question, “What did all of this mean to Job and why should it matter to you?”

I suggest the answer be proposed in a question: “Having considered the beauty and majesty of God’s creation and the creatures He has made, what is man?

Job 7:17 17  What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?

Job 15:14 14  What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?

Psalm 8:4 4  What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

Psalm 144:3 3  LORD, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him!

Ecclesiastes 6:11 11  Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better?

Hebrews 2:6 6  But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith