Category Archives: Anger

The Key to Overcoming Trials and Troubles (James 4; James 5)

Scripture reading – James 4; James 5

Continuing our study of trials, troubles, and temptations, we consider today’s Scripture reading, James 4 and 5. This devotional is taken from James 4.

James 4 opens with a provoking question: “From whence [where] come wars [battles; conflicts] and fightings[disputes; quarrels] among you?” (4:1) Sadly, that question was not addressed to the unsaved, but to those who professed to be believers and were members of the church. Twenty-one centuries later, churches find themselves asking the same question, as some are embroiled in conflicts and disagreements.

Why do conflicts arise in a body of believers, when they are commanded to love one another? (4:2-3)

We noticed in James 3, how the tongue is a primary candidate for inciting trouble in friendships, marriages, families, and churches (3:2a, 6, 8). An unbridled, undisciplined tongue will exasperate, infuriate, and bring envy and strife. Unfortunately, the “tongue” is no longer confined to whispers and gossip. The 21st century has given the tongue new means of expressing itself, sowing discord, and provoking conflict through texting, emails, blogs, and social media posts (4:1).

It comes as no surprise that the “wars and fightings” of the 21st century have their origin in the same source as the 1st century. James writes, “Come they [“wars and fightings”] not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (4:1b) The author cited unfulfilled, selfish desires as a root of frustration. James wrote, “2Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain… ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (4:2-3).

Why are so many church members frustrated and unhappy? (4:4-6)

Although the culture of the 1st century was very different from our day with its technology, conveniences, and amusements; nevertheless, the issue was the same: spiritual infidelity (adultery) and worldliness, which produces unhappiness (4:4-6). James warned, embrace the world and its sinful lusts (1 John 2:15-17), and you will find yourself “the enemy of God” (4:4). Walk humbly, and the Lord promises grace, but be forewarned: He “resisteth the proud” (4:6; Proverbs 3:34; 1 Peter 5:5).

Ten Commands to Overcome Temptation (4:7-10)

James presented us with the problem (man’s sinful pride), but he did not leave us hopeless. Understanding trials and temptations are ever present, James stated ten commands that encourage a righteous response to trials and troubles (James 4:7-10).

1) “Submit…to God, by accepting His sovereign authority in your life (4:7a).
2) “Resist the devil” by opposing him, “and he will flee” (4:7b).
3) Maintain an intimate fellowship with the LORD: “draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you” (4:8a).
4) “Cleanse your hands,” submitting to His conviction (4:8b).
5) Have spiritual integrity, “and purify your heart,” knowing a “double minded” man is unacceptable to God (4:8c).
6) “Be afflicted” and broken over your sin (4:9a).
7) “Mourn,” expressing a genuine sorrow for sin (4:9b).
8) “Weep” tears, and express outward sorrow (4:9c).
9) Set aside silliness, and “let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness” (4:9c).
10) “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (4:10).

Closing thoughts (4:11-17)

Believer, you are not exempt or insulated from trials; however, you have something the world does not—the Lord. He longs for you to submit to His will, obey His Word, and cling to Him. Remember, unhappiness and conflicts arise when we become proud and self-sufficient (4:11-12). Remember: Your life is “even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (4:14). Be wise, acknowledge the sovereignty of God, and say, “If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” (4:15).

Proverbs 3:55Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; And lean not unto thine own understanding.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Tongue and Its Nature (James 3)

Scripture reading – James 3

Our study of the Epistle of James continues with chapter 3, and the focus is three major themes of the book: Trials, Temptations, and the Tongue. Wonderfully practical and convicting, the overriding subject is the tongue and the trouble it is for all mankind.

A Warning to Teachers (3:1)

James 3 opens with a warning to all who aspire to be teachers: “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (3:1). The word “master” is in essence the teacher (an experienced professor may be called a “master teacher”). James included himself in the admonition, saying, we [teachers]shall receive the greater condemnation” (3:1b). Because the tongue is the tool of all who teach, James warned: We will face God’s greater judgment.

The Tongue: Its Characteristics and Dangers (3:2-12)

The author identified man’s tongue as an instrument for both good and evil. The tongue has the power to bless or curse, to affirm or offend, and to cause some to err. In fact, the tongue is so powerful and influential, only a “perfect man” (one mature and spiritually disciplined) has the power to restrain and bridle his tongue (3:2).

Though small, the tongue boasts much and has power and influence. Consider two analogies James drew upon to illustrate the influence of the tongue. The first compares the tongue to a small bit in the mouth of a horse. Small in size, the horse’s bit has the power to harness the strength and direct the will of the horse to submit to the authority of its rider (3:3). The same is true of the rudder of a ship (3:4). Though a small mechanism in proportion to the ship, the rudder can guide a massive vessel through “fierce winds” and troubled seas.

The application: What the bit is in the horse’s mouth, and the rudder is to a ship, so is the tongue to mankind. Though small, the tongue can boast, and destroy lives, marriages, families, and institutions (3:5). “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity [evil]: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth [inflames] the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell” (3:6). Like a spark can turn into a raging forest fire, so the tongue unchecked can destroy everyone and everything.

The tongue of man is also restless, and untamed (3:7-8). Men have been able to capture and tame different “beasts…birds…serpents, and of things in the sea,” but man has never been able to tame his tongue (3:7-8a). Why? For the tongue is by nature, “an unruly evil” and full of venomous poison (3:8b). Treacherous and hypocritical by nature, men pretend to bless God, and curse men; yet, man is made in the likeness and “after the similitude of God” (3:9b). James then declared, “My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (3:10).

Three Things that Cannot Be (3:10-12)

To illustrate the intolerable nature of a tongue that pretends to worship God, and curse men, James proved his point with three things that are unnatural. The first, it is unnatural for a water fountain to spew both sweet and bitter water. It is impossible for a fig tree to bear olives, or a vine to bear figs (3:12a). Finally, it is impossible for a fountain to “produce salt water and fresh” (3:12b).

A Contrast Between Earthly and Heavenly Wisdom (3:13-16)

This passage began with an admonition to teachers (3:1), and I suppose the “wise man” in the passage is the teacher. Consider then, teachers with heavenly wisdom will epitomize three qualities: Their conversation [not just their words, but their ways] should uphold the highest, moral good, and their works should reflect meekness, and wisdom (3:13b).

Worldly wisdom is the antithesis of heavenly wisdom—it is neither good, nor wise. The wisdom of the world spues bitterness, and envy (3:14a). The wisdom of man is selfish, ambitious, proud, and deceitful (3:14b). Such wisdom is born in the bowels of the hearts of evil men, and is worldly and demonic. The Spirit of God does not abide envy and strife (3:15). Warning: Reject implementing the Word of God and confusion and evil will prevail (3:16).

Closing thoughts (3:17-18) – True wisdom has it source in God, and its character reflects His nature. True wisdom is morally pure, peaceable (pursues peace with others), gentle (kind, patient), reasonable (“easy to be intreated”), merciful (compassionate, caring), bears “good fruits” (caring, loving actions), is impartial and just(“without partiality”), and honest and sincere (“without hypocrisy)” (3:17).

What is the effect of godly wisdom? Righteousness [obeying God’s law and commandments] that results in peace with God and others (3:18).

Are you wise or foolish? Which wisdom is characteristic of your heart and life?

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Fury and Death of Herod, Enemy of God (Acts 12; Acts 13)

Scripture reading – Acts 12; Acts 13

Acts 12 begins with the phrase, “about that time,” and gives us cause to consider “the time” that was the setting for today’s devotional. Putting our Scripture reading in its historical context, it was “the time” that followed Peter learning the Gospel was to be preached to all men, Jew and Gentile (Acts 10:1-48). Peter had given a defense of his doctrine before the believers of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 11:1-18), and they “glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (11:18).

The church in Jerusalem commissioned and “sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch” (11:22). The work was so great that Barnabas determined to travel to Tarsus, and invite Saul to minister with him in Antioch (11:25-26). It was also at the time when a believer named Agabus prophesied the world would experience a “great dearth” (a time of famine, 11:28). Exercising love and compassion for their brethren in Jerusalem, the believers in Antioch “determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea,” and “every man [gave] according to his ability” (11:29). Barnabas and Saul were sent with an offering for believers in Jerusalem (11:30).

Acts 12

Perhaps for political reasons, and to distract the people from the famine, king Herod (the grandson of Herod the Great), began a systematic pattern of persecuting the church. The king “killed James the brother of John with the sword” (making him the first of the apostles to be martyred, 12:2). When he realized his actions “pleased the Jews” (12:3), he determined “to take Peter” and would have put him to death had God not intervened (12:3-4).

With Peter in prison, the believers of the church began to pray “without ceasing” (12:5). While they prayed, “Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison” (12:6). What faith, and confidence Peter had in God’s care and providences. Then, God miraculously intervened, and sent an angel who struck Peter in his side to awaken him, and commanded him, “Arise up quickly” (12:7). So deep was his sleep, the angel instructed him to put on his shoes and his garments. Even then, Peter believed it wasn’t so, and he was having a vision (12:8-9).

Peter was delivered from the prison by the angel, and then made his way through the streets to where believers were gathered to pray at the home of Mary, whose son was named “John, whose surname was Mark” (12:12). (This is the same John Mark who would be the author of the Gospel of Mark).

Arriving at the house, Peter knocked and a young lady named Rhoda, answered the door (12:13). Hearing and recognizing his voice, Rhoda was so excited she neglected opening the door for Peter to enter the house (12:14). She told the believers Peter was outside the gate, but they accused her of being “mad” (literally out of her head or mind, 12:14). Some suggested she had seen Peter’s angel, though Peter continued to knock (12:16).

Finally opening the door, the believers rejoiced to find Peter standing before them! (12:16) He quieted their enthusiasm, and explained how he had been delivered from the prison (12:17). He then instructed them to send a message to “James, and to the brethren” (this is probably James, the half-brother of Jesus, and the son of Joseph and Mary, 12:17b). By this time, James appears to be the leader of the believers in the church in Jerusalem. Wisely, Peter departed from Jerusalem, “and went into another place” (12:17c).

Herod’s Fury and Death (12:18-23)

When it was day, the soldiers and keepers of the prison discovered Peter was missing (12:18). Those who slept in his cell, and those who stood guard at the door of the prison, had no explanation for Peter’s absence (12:19). Herod then ordered the execution of those men who failed to keep Peter prisoner (12:19).

The king then departed for Caesarea (a city on the Mediterranean Sea), and remained there (12:19b). Proud of his position and power, the king set a day of pageantry for himself, and “arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them” (12:21). The people flattered the foolish king, “saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man” (12:22). Herod accepted their blasphemy, and even as they praised him, an “angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost” (12:23). Imagine the horror of seeing the king struck down, and worms consuming him till he was dead! (12:23).

Closing thoughts (12:24-25) – While the persecution of believers increased, so did the reach of the “Word of God,” which increased more and more (12:24). Acts 12 concluded with Barnabas and Saul departing Jerusalem and returning to Antioch, and this time in the company of “John, whose surname was Mark” (12:12, 25).

Though today’s Scripture reading continues with Acts 13, and the historical record of the beginning of modern missions, I must leave that study for another time.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Bitterness: A Cancer that Destroys Everything (Mark 11)

Scripture reading – Mark 11

We are reminded the Gospel of Mark is one of the three Synoptic Gospels (the others being the Gospels of Matthew and Luke), and today’s Scripture reading is a parallel to our study of Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-16). His entrance into the city set in motion the final days that concluded with His appointment with the Cross.

Having already considered His grand coronation as the King of Israel, I forego another detailed study of Jesus’ approach to the city, and the great crowd that greeted Him. Remember though, He was greeted as “He that cometh in the name of the Lord: 10Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest” (11:9-10). Yet, in a few days many of those same voices would scorn Jesus as He hung dying on the Cross.

Mark 11 also recorded the miracle when Christ cursed the fig tree that bore nothing but leaves, and it withered and died (11:12-14; Matthew 21:18-22). Both Mark and Matthew noted Jesus driving the money-changers out of the Temple.

Faith and Forgiveness (11:22-26)

Two topics, “Faith” and “Forgiveness,” are the subject of Mark 11:22-26, and the LORD’s instructions for both are beautiful in their simplicity and convicting in their application (11:22-26). Christ’s challenge on faith and prayer was followed by the admonishment: “if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (11:25-26).

One of the most besetting sins in the 21st century church is an unwillingness to deal with offenses in a biblical manner, motivated by love for God and love for others. Many allow bitterness to fester in their souls, and like cancer in the body, it sometimes spreads until “many be defiled” spiritually, and infected emotionally and physically (Hebrews 12:15).

Closing thoughtsIf you harbor an unforgiving spirit, be sure it will not only rob you of joy, but also hinder your prayers.

Have you been infected by an angry, unforgiving, bitter spirit? Are you are harboring bitterness toward parents for what you perceive as slights during your youth?  Perhaps you are a parent, and find yourself struggling with bitterness because a child has disgraced you and the family by foolish, sinful actions.  Has your marriage become embittered, because of harsh words and broken vows?

Believers are commanded to be “kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).  When you grasp the magnitude of the sins God has forgiven you, you will find no justification for an unwillingness to forgive others!

Warning: An unwillingness to forgive is indicative of a soul that has never entered into God’s forgiveness (Matthew 18:23-35).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Parable of the Laborers and a Gracious Master (Matthew 20)

Scripture reading – Matthew 20

The story of the farmer who hired day laborers to work in his vineyard is among my favorite of the parables (20:1-16).  Jesus told the parable as He was making His final journey from Galilee to Jerusalem.  (19:1; 20:17).

Background of Matthew 20

The LORD, had traveled south along the eastern shore of the Jordan River, and encountered a man that Luke identified as a “rich young ruler” (Luke 18:18). Identified as a “ruler,” he was likely an influential leader in his local synagogue. The young ruler came and asked Jesus, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” (19:16)

He boasted he had kept all the Commandments, but supposed there was a “good thing” he might do to have eternal life (19:20). Then, Jesus asked the man to give up the thing he loved most, his possessions: “Sell that thou hast, and give to the poor…and come follow me” (19:21). Matthew observed, “when the young man heard [i.e. and understood] that saying, he went away sorrowful [grieving; sad]: for he had great possessions [estate; property]” (19:22).

As the rich man turned and walked away, Jesus declared to His disciples, “a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven” (19:23).   Peter, often the spokesman for the disciples, inquired of Jesus, “Behold we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?” (19:27)

The Twelve had left everything and endured three years of sacrifice to follow Jesus.  They had forfeited their homes, families, and friends.  They had endured hardships and suffered mocking, scorn, and persecution.  All this left Peter wondering, “LORD we have been with you from the beginning, what is our reward?”  That question was the backdrop for the Parable of the Laborers (20:1-16) that serves as an illustration of God’s grace and justice.

The Parable of the Laborers (20:1-16)

The owner of a vineyard realized his harvest was greater than his family and servants could harvest in a timely manner.  In the parable (20:1-16), the farmer went into the village on five occasions, in the same day, to hire men to work in his vineyard.  The first workers were hired at the 6:00am shift (20:1-2) and agreed to work in the vineyard for a “penny a day” (actually one “denarii”, the daily salary of a Roman soldier and a large sum for a day laborer).  Four additional hires would follow that day: 9:00am, 12 Noon, 3:00pm and the final hire at 5:00pm. All were hired without a stated salary, but with the promise the owner of the vineyard would give them “whatsoever is right” (20:4, 7).

With 6:00pm marking the end of the workday, the owner directed his foreman to pay the laborers beginning with those who were hired at 5:00pm, meaning the last hour (20:8).  To their amazement, the ones who worked only one hour were paid the same wage (a penny or denarii) as those who labored all day beginning at the 6:00am hour.

Demonstrating the jealousy and covetousness that abides in the heart of sinful man, those men who negotiated a penny wage at 6:00am “supposed that they should have received more” (20:10).  Envious and resentful, the workers began murmuring and complaining against the owner of the vineyard, and accused him of being unjust. They protested they should have received more (20:11-12).

A Lesson in Grace and Salvation (20:13-16)

The owner (a picture of Christ) of the vineyard rebuked those who labored all day (a picture of the Twelve), and reminded them they had negotiated and agreed to what they were paid (20:13-14). Furthermore, it was the owner’s business, and not the workers, to choose the wage other laborers were paid (20:15).

Closing thoughts – Whether a sinner comes to Christ as a child or, like the penitent thief on the cross in his last hour, every believer is assured of heaven and eternal life (20:16). Why? Because every sinner is saved by a gift of God’s grace, and none can earn or merit salvation and forgiveness of sin. Whether you have known and served the LORD since childhood, or you came to trust Christ as Savior in the latter years of life, all mankind are saved on the same basis: God’s mercy and saving Grace (His favor that no works can merit).

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Titus 3:5Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;”

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“The Fearless, Fearful and Foolish” (Matthew 14)

Scripture reading – Matthew 14

Note – This is the second of two devotionals for today.

History gives abundant testimony of the tension, conflict, and hostility the world holds toward God, His Word, and His people. In today’s Scripture reading (Matthew 14), the animosity of human authority toward God and His prophet takes center stage.

The ministry of John the Baptist had been powerful, and the prophet had not minced words when confronting the sins of his day. Not even the most prominent politician in Israel had been spared the prophet’s condemnation (Matthew 14:4).

Herod Antipas, the son of King Herod the Great, was “the tetrarch” of Galilee (a tetrarch being a ruler of one-fourth of a Roman province, Matthew 14:1). Herod had divorced his wife and married Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife (Matthew 14:3-4; Mark 6:17). Their incestuous marriage was not only an affront to God (Leviticus 18:16), but to the Jewish people.

John the Baptist persistently condemned such wickedness in Israel, and said to Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have her” (Matthew 14:4). Herod became so exasperated with John’s rebukes he had the prophet bound and imprisoned (14:3). He wished to put the prophet to death, yet, Herod “feared the multitude, because they counted him [John] as a prophet” (14:5). Herodias, on the other hand, had no political qualms and “would have killed him; but she could not” (Mark 6:19), “for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy” (Mark 6:20).

A great banquet was held for Herod’s birthday, and the daughter of Herodias was part of the entertainment. After being instructed by her mother to dance before Herod and his guests, she was asked what she would like for a reward (Matthew 14:6-7). Following her mother’s directions, the daughter of Herodias, demanded, “Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger” (Matthew 14:8). Herod, too proud to confess his error, complied to the daughter’s wicked request, and “sent, and beheaded John in the prison” (Matthew 14:10).

When news of Christ’s ministry and His miracles reached the ears of the king (Mark 6:14), Herod thought “that John the Baptist was risen from the dead” (Mark 6:14). Herod said, “It is John [the Baptist], whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead (Mark 6:14–16). Rather than confess his sin, Herod wrestled with guilt, and fear (Proverbs 29:25). He had silenced John’s tongue, but he could not quiet his own guilty conscience. Later, when Jesus was arrested, Herod would have one meeting with Jesus (Luke 23:6-11); however, Jesus “answered him nothing” (Luke 23:9). Though uncaring and brutish, the blood of John the Baptist lay solely upon Herod’s hands– a decision for which he would ultimately answer to God.

Closing thoughts – Take a spiritual lesson from Herod: There are many who seek solace in the diagnosis of a psychologist or psychiatrist, and salve their conscience with prescription drugs or other vices. Nevertheless, if the root problem is sin, there is only one answer: “Submit [subdue; yield] …to God. Resist the [temptations] devil”…acknowledge your sins, and let the tears of mourning pave the way to God’s forgiveness and joy (James 4:7-10).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

They Would Have Destroyed Him (Matthew 12)

Scripture reading – Matthew 12

Today’s Scripture reading is Matthew 12, and is filled with exciting events from the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. While I exhort you to read Matthew 12 in its entirety, I limit my devotional commentary to Matthew 12:1-21.

Matthew 12

At this time, Jesus’ public ministry was in its infancy, nevertheless, His enemies feared and plotted against Him. The common Jews followed the LORD throughout His journeys, for they recognized He fulfilled the signs foretold by the prophet Isaiah, who wrote: “The eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6Then shall the lame man leap as an hart [deer], And the tongue of the dumb sing” (Isaiah 35:5-6).

In spite of the miracles, the religious leaders of Israel [priests, Pharisees, and Sadducees], viewed Jesus as a threat to their position and influence among the people. The Pharisees were Christ’s principal adversaries, and they plotted to discredit and destroy Him. It was their antagonism and hatred for the LORD that was the catalyst of the confrontation we find in Matthew 12.

The Sabbath Day

The fourth commandment of the Law is, “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8), and the interpretation and observance of that commandment would be a point of conflict with the LORD throughout His earthly ministry. Some of the Jews had been riled when they learned Jesus healed the man at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath (John 5:5-9). Indeed, it was from that day they determined to “persecute [Him], and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day” (John 5:16).

The observance of the Sabbath was again an issue the Pharisees raised against Jesus in Matthew 12, when they came and accused Him and His disciples of breaking the Law of the Sabbath according to their interpretation (12:1-2).

Enroute to the synagogue on the Sabbath, Jesus and His disciples were hungry, and as they passed through a farmer’s field, they “began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat” (12:1). The Pharisees, ever looking for an occasion to accuse the LORD of wrong doing, seized upon the opportunity to accuse Him and the disciples of breaking the Sabbath Day commandment based on their oral tradition (12:2).

Rather than bow to his critics, Jesus reminded His critics, the issue was not the fourth commandment, but their rigid interpretation of the Sabbath Day commandment.  Jesus contended the fourth commandment did not prohibit a man from satisfying his physical hunger on the Sabbath, and gave two examples: David had taken bread from the Temple and ate that which was dedicated to God (12:3-4), and the priests ministered on sabbath days as their service to the LORD, (12:5-6; Numbers 28:9-10; Leviticus 24:8-9). Jesus then stated His authority, and declared, Himself “greater than the Temple…For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” (12:6-8).

Departing from the Pharisees, Jesus entered the synagogue, and encountered a man whose hand was paralyzed (12:9-10). Rather than show compassion for the man, the Pharisees demanded of Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? That they might accuse him” (12:10b).

Jesus answered their question with a question, and cited a common practice in that rural setting: “What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?” (12:11) Jesus rightly questioned, would they not save a sheep that had fallen into a pit on the sabbath? Is a man not better than a sheep? (12:11-12) Jesus declared, “it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days” (12:12b). He then spoke to the man with the withered hand, “Stretch forth thine hand,” and his hand was healed completely (12:13).

On that Sabbath day, Jesus declared He was “LORD even of the Sabbath” (12:8), and defended His authority to heal the man with the paralyzed hand (12:13). How did His enemies respond to His doctrine? “The Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him” (Matthew 12:14; Mark 3:5-6; Luke 6:11). Oh, the hypocrisy!

 Closing thoughts – On one hand the Pharisees demanded their interpretation of the Sabbath Law should usurp the will of God. In the other, they plotted to destroy Jesus and kill Him (a clear violation of the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13).

How did Jesus respond to the wicked, malicious intent of His enemies? He “withdrew himself” from them, and yet, “great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all” (12:15). I find the decision to withdraw oneself to be a difficult one, especially when an enemy is unrelenting in his plot to “destroy” you. Certainly, the manner of Christ is one we should emulate – after all, the Spirit of God is gentle, not brazen.

Romans 12:18–19 – “18If it be possible [knowing it is not always possible], as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath [God’s anger]: for it is written, Vengeance is mine (Deuteronomy 32:35); I will repay, saith the Lord.”

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Plots of the Wicked Pave the Way to Their Demise (Esther 7; Esther 8)

Scripture reading – Esther 7; Esther 8

We continue our study in the Book of Esther, and find Haman, the adversary of the Jews, riding an emotional roller coaster.  His wicked schemes have periled not only the Jews (Esther 3), but unknowingly the queen herself (Esther 4). Learning the fate of her people and Mordecai whom she loved as a father (4:7-8), Queen Esther set her heart to seek the king’s favor for her people, and risked her life with the resolve, “if I perish, I perish” (4:16).

King Ahasuerus received his queen, and questioned her saying, “What wilt thou, queen Esther? and what is thy request? it shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom” (5:3). Revealing she was more than a woman of grace and beauty, Esther demonstrated intelligence and discretion by not declaring her purpose. Instead, she requested the liberty of inviting the king and Haman to a banquet she had “prepared for him” (5:4). Haman, as foolish as he was proud, did not recognize the trap being set for him (5:5).

Esther deferred to reveal her ultimate petition to the king, but instead requested a second banquet for the king and Haman (5:6-8). Departing the meal, Haman came upon Mordecai who refused to bow and acknowledge the wicked man (5:9-10). Returning home, Haman boasted in the wealth and honors bestowed on him; however, he was consumed by Mordecai’s unwillingness to honor him (5:11-13). Following the counsel of his wife and friends, Haman commanded the construction of a 75-foot-tall gallows, and declared he would “speak…unto the king that Mordecai may be hanged thereon” (5:14).

In a twist of irony, rather than a hanging, Haman found himself giving honor to Mordecai, leading him on horseback through the streets of Shushan, announcing to all the king had taken delight in Mordecai (6:1-11). Humiliated, Haman returned home, and told his wife and friends his sorry state of affairs. Yet, his story was interrupted as the king’s servants “hasted to bring Haman unto the banquet that Esther had prepared” (6:14).

Esther 7 – The Tragedy of Folly

One can only wonder what thoughts raced through Haman’s heart as he began that day honoring Mordecai before the people of the capital city. No doubt, he had better expectations upon sitting down for a second banquet with the king and his queen (7:1).

King Ahasuerus had not forgotten Esther’s promise to reveal her request, and once again asked, “What is thy petition, queen Esther? and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? and it shall be performed, even to the half of the kingdom” (7:2).

Esther’s Request (7:3-5)

Esther commenced her request with a plea for mercy and grace, saying, “If I have found favour in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request” (7:3). She then declared the thing that troubled her soul, saying, “For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue, although the enemy could not countervail the king’s damage” (7:4).

Taken aback by Esther’s declaration (for she had never revealed she was of Jewish lineage), the king asked, “Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so?” (7:5).

Haman Exposed (7:6-10)

Then Esther spared no words as she boldly declared how Haman, the king’s own right hand, was her adversary, and the enemy of her people (7:6). The queen’s words left Haman aghast, for he realized his self-promoting plots, and evil schemes had become his undoing (7:6b).

Angered by Esther’s accusation, the king rose abruptly from the banquet and “went into the palace garden” (7:7). Haman, desperate to save himself, “stood up to make request for his life to Esther the queen; for he saw that there was evil determined against him by the king” (7:7). When the king returned from the palace gardens, he found “Haman was fallen upon the bed whereon Esther was” (7:8a). Poor, wicked Haman could neither do or say anything to save himself.

We find there were many against Haman, for even the king’s servants were ready to see that wicked usurper suffer for his misdeeds. “Harbonah, one of the chamberlains, said before the king, Behold also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai, who had spoken good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman. Then the king said, Hang him thereon” (7:9). “So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the king’s wrath pacified” (7:10).

Closing thoughts – The sovereignty of God in the affairs of men is the great lesson we take from our study. Haman’s scheme to annihilate the Jews was not only thwarted, but he fell victim to the gallows he had constructed on which to hang Mordecai (7:7-10). Haman was like many self-promoters who plot, plan and scheme their way to the pinnacle of power, only to find they have laid the path of their own ruin and demise.

Principle – Wise men comprehend how none are beyond the reach of God’s sovereign purpose and will. For “the king’s heart is in the hand [power; rule; authority; under dominion] of the LORD, as the rivers [streams] of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will [pleasure; desire; favor]” (Proverbs 21:1).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“If I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4; Esther 5)

Scripture reading – Esther 4; Esther 5

We continue our chronological study of the Bible with today’s Scriptures reading. Esther 4 and 5. Our prior study pitted a wicked usurper named Haman, an Amalekite living in Persia (3:1), against Mordecai (a godly, influential man of Jewish descent, 2:5-6). Providentially, it was this same Mordecai whom God chose to adopt, raise, and prepare Esther to be queen of Persia (2:7-11).

Haman, a proud and vengeful man, was promoted by king Ahasuerus to serve second to him over Persia (3:1). Though the king decreed for all his servants to bow and reverence Haman, Mordecai, a man of spiritual integrity, “bowed not, nor did [Haman] reverence” (3:2).

Haman was enraged, and not only despised Mordecai, he determined to kill all the Jews (3:6). Courting the favor of the king that might seek to avenge the slight he suffered, Haman convinced Ahasuerus the Jews were a danger to his kingdom (3:8). Lacking discernment, the king sealed an edict penned by Haman, setting the day for the annihilation of the Jews, and the plundering of their possessions. Copies of the king’s death decree were taken by couriers, and apart from divine intervention, all Jews would be killed (3:13-15).

Esther 4

Mordecai’s Grief (4:1-3)

Receiving news of the king’s decree, Mordecai despaired, realizing his refusal to bow to Haman was the catalyst for the evil that was sworn against his people. Overcome with sorrow too great to be concealed, Mordecai rent his clothes, put on rough sackcloth, and heaped ashes on his head (4:1b). He cried and wailed in the king’s gate (4:2), for he understood all was lost without God’s intervention. News of Mordecai’s public display of grief spread until “there was great morning among the Jews” (4:3).

Esther’s Distress (4:4-14)

Queen Esther, sheltered in the safety of the royal palace, learned of Mordecai’s distress and sent him new clothes which he refused (4:4).  When she sought to know the cause of the great mourning among the Jews, she was sent a copy of the king’s edict (4:5-8), and a challenge from Mordecai: She must “go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him, and to make request before him for her people” (4:8).

Mordecai’s challenge to Esther was a crisis of faith, for to enter the king’s court uninvited, would be at the risk of one’s life (4:11). Mordecai warned Esther, her throne would not spare her life when her Jewish ancestry was divulged (4:12-14).  Giving testimony to divine providence, Mordecai appealed to Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews…who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:13-14)

Esther’s Courageous Decision (4:15-17)

Heeding Mordecai’s counsel, Esther requested, “fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day” (4:15-16a). Notice also the profound influence Esther’s testimony was in the palace, for her own attendants (“maidens”) would also fast and pray, as she set her heart to risk her life by going to the king. With the words, “if I perish, I perish” (4:16b), Esther prepared her heart to face the king and her fate.

Esther 5 – A Courageous Queen

Esther’s Daring, and the King’s Devotion (5:1-8)

Risking her life, for not even the queen was allowed to enter the king’s court without his invitation, Esther came before the king (5:1). Seeing his queen, Ahasuerus greeted her and invited her to approach his throne (5:2a). In the providence of the LORD, the king extended his sceptre to Esther and offered to grant her whatsoever she desired (5:1-3).

As wise as she was beautiful, Esther set in motion her plan to save her people. She requested the king would summon Haman for a private dinner with she and the king (5:4-8). Haman gleefully accepted the invitation for a private dinner with the king and queen (5:5, 9). Esther, knowing the trap for Haman was not yet ready, delayed her petition to the king, and requested a second dinner with the two men (5:6-8).

Haman, A Proud Fool (5:9-14)

Blinded by pride, Haman left the dinner “with a glad heart,” until he came to the king’s gate and Mordecai refused to stand up or greet him (5:9).

Returning home, Haman boasted to his wife and friends how he had been honored (5:10-12), and dined with the king and queen (5:12). Still, it was Mordecai’s refusal to acknowledge or revere him that burned in his soul (5:13). Rather than caution him, his wife and friends encouraged Haman to construct a great gallows (one that would stand 75 feet tall), upon which Mordecai might be hanged (5:14).

Closing thoughts: God might have chosen any means to save His people: however, Mordecai believed the LORD chose Esther “for such a time” (4:14). Confident in God’s sovereignty, he believed the LORD would providentially save His people, but it would require Esther to trust the LORD and risk all.

Closing challengeGod blesses and promotes us that we might serve Him. Mordecai warned Esther, should she fail to serve the LORD, He would turn to another and she and her household would be destroyed (4:14).

Luke 12:48 – “…For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

When Godly Men Confront Evil Opportunists (Esther 3)

Scripture reading – Esther 3

Our first devotional from the Book of Esther introduced four key characters: Ahasuerus, king of Persia (also known as Xerxes in the Scriptures and history). He reigned over Persia 21 years (486 to 465 BC). Vashti, queen of Persia, whom the king banished from his kingdom when she refused to be paraded in front of men at a drunken feast (Esther 1). Hadassah [Hebrew for “myrtle or fragrance”], whose Persian name was Esther [meaning “star” in Persian]. Her father and mother died in her youth, and she was adopted by her elder cousin Mordecai, a powerful, influential citizen of Shushan (Esther 2:5-6).

Ahasuerus sought for a queen, and gathered the most desirable maidens of his realm (Esther 2), among them Esther. Wisely heeding Mordecai’s counsel, she did not disclose to the king or his servants that she was of Jewish descent. Blessed by the LORD with beauty and favor, Esther was chosen by the king and became queen of Persia (2:20).

Esther 3

Notice Esther 3 begins with the phrase, “After these things” (3:1), and gives us pause to consider what “things” preceded Esther 3. The closing verses of Esther 2 recorded a plot to assassinate the king (2:21a). Having learned of the plot to kill the king, Mordecai informed Esther, who then, went to the king (2:22). An inquisition was made into the matter, and the two conspirators were hanged (2:23).

So, it was “after these things,” that the king promoted “Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him” (3:1). The cause for Haman’s promotion was not given, however, we learn he was an Amalekite by birth, and of royal lineage (“Agagite” was the title of Amalekite kings, Numbers 24:7).

Consumed by public adoration, Haman proved to be a political opportunist who would stop at nothing to advance his political interests. Second only to the king, Ahasuerus commanded all the people of his realm to bow and reverence Haman (3:2). One man, however, would not violate his integrity and refused to bow to Haman: “Mordecai bowed not, nor did him [Haman] reverence” (3:2).

Confrontation: A Wicked Opportunist vs. A Man of Integrity (3:3-6)

All men, but Mordecai paid homage to Haman, and he became infuriated for the slight he suffered (3:2). The king’s servants took notice of Mordecai’s unbowed posture, and demanded, “Why transgressest thou the king’s commandment?” (3:3). Mordecai’s refusal to bow to Haman continued until he was provoked to tell the king’s servants “he was a Jew” (3:4).

Haman was outraged by the slight, and plotted against Mordecai and “all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai” (3:5-6). For one year, Haman and others confederated with him, plotted a time most advantageous to urge the king to purge Persia of Mordecai and his people (3:7). Casting “pur” (lots), Haman believed fate would guide him to the day he could approach Ahasuerus and seek revenge. Twelve months later, “Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king’s laws: therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer [permit; allow] them” (3:8).

Haman did not reveal his vendetta against Mordecai, but portrayed his cause was that of the king’s (3:8). Offering silver to enrich the royal treasuries (3:9), Haman petitioned the king should grant him authority to destroy all the Jews (Esther 3:9). Foolishly, the king heeded Haman’s counsel, and sealed the fate of the Jews with an irrevocable decree (3:10-12).

Closing thoughts (3:13-15) – Provoked by one man’s desire for revenge, all Persians were encouraged “to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day” (3:13). Would Persia turn upon one people of its diverse population? Tragically, the answer was yes, for the people of Persia were enticed to enrich themselves at the sacrifice of the Jews, “and take the spoil of them for a prey” (3:13). While news of the murderous decree spread throughout Persia’s 127 provinces, “the king and Haman sat down to drink” (3:14). Haman did not know his hatred of Mordecai, and his plot to eradicate the Jews would threaten the queen of Persia, and become his own undoing.

As we shall see, Mordecai’s spiritual integrity would provoke a national crisis, and reveal God’s providence in the lives of His people (4:1-3).

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.