Category Archives: Children

“Daniel: A Model of Godly Character, Integrity and Courage” (Daniel 1-3)

Scripture reading – Daniel 1-3

The Book of Daniel is a prophetic panorama of human history, beginning with the days of Nebuchadnezzar and ancient Babylon and encompassing a prophetic vision of world empires that would follow…Medo-Persians, Greece and Rome.  Daniel’s writing includes prophecies that are for the 21st century reader a footnote in history past and a foretelling of future events that conclude with the Second Coming of Christ. Today’s devotional commentary will be taken from Daniel 1.

Daniel 1

Daniel 1 opens with a straightforward, historical account and one we are familiar with from our earlier study of 2 Kings 24:12-16. The children of Judah are in Babylonian bondage, and the beloved city of Jerusalem, and the Temple will soon be laid waste (2 Kings 25).  The prophet Jeremiah warned Judah’s kings if the people did not repent of their sin and turn to the LORD, His wrath would rise “against His people, till there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:16).   Jeremiah prophesied the captivity in Babylon would last 70 years (Jeremiah 25:12) and when those years were “accomplished at Babylon [God] will visit you… causing you to return to this place [the promise land]” (Jeremiah 29:10).

Daniel was probably no more than 13-14 years old when he was taken from his home and transported to Babylon with its strange language and idolatrous culture. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, instituted a plan and chose the best and brightest of Israel’s impressionable youth that they might serve him in the administration of his empire (Daniel 1:8).  Daniel was numbered among those youth who were without blemish, handsome, discerning, cunning, and “understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans” (1:4).

Daniel soon proved he was not only a gifted young man, but also a child of faith. Three other youth of Judah shared Daniel’s passion for the LORD: “Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 7  Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego” (1:6-7). Leading by example and conviction, we read,

Daniel 1:8 – “But Daniel purposed [pledged; determined; made a decree] in his heart that he would not defile [pollute; soil; stain] himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine [lit. intoxicating wine] which he drank: therefore he requested [desired; sought; enquired] of the prince [captain; governor] of the eunuchs [most likely a castrated servant] that he might not defile [pollute; soil; stain] himself.”

Daniel purposed: He pledged his heart, and resolved in his character, “he would not defile himself” (Daniel 1:8).

What courage!  What conviction!  What passion!  God was at work and He blessed Daniel and providentially “brought [him] into favour [mercy; kindness; grace] and tender love [to have compassion; pity; i.e. brotherly love] with the prince[chief] of the eunuchs [who were the servants of the king] (1:9).

Faithful to their convictions and respectful of their authorities, God blessed the faith of Daniel and his three companions, and when they were proved (i.e. tested and examined), they appeared healthier than those “children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat” (1:15).

We will see in our study, that the testing of Daniel’s faith in his youth prepared his heart for the opportunities, challenges, and trials he would face in his service to the kings of both Babylon and Persia (1:21).

I close inviting you to consider four qualities that defined Daniel’s submissive and sensitive heart to authority: He was subordinate in his spirit (1:12); he was sincere in his appeal (1:12); he was Scriptural in his purpose (1:12-13); and he was sensitive in his request (1:13-14).

We would do well to weigh our spirit, manner, and relationship with the authorities in our lives, using Daniel as perfect example of a young man of faith and convictions.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Individual Responsibility: A Parable of “Sour Grapes” (Ezekiel 18-20)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 18-20

Today’s Scripture reading is a lengthy one, consisting of 95 verses, housed in three chapters (Ezekiel 18-20). I will limit the focus of this devotional commentary to Ezekiel 18.

Ezekiel 18 – Who Are You Going to Blame?

There was no dispute over Israel and Judah’s provocation of God’s justice and the judgment of His people. The people had broken their covenant with God, disobeyed His Law and Commandments, and provoked the LORD to wrath. The LORD commanded Ezekiel to go to the people and confront their insinuation that the troubles that had befallen them were an injustice to them for the sins of their forefathers (18:1-2a).

There was a parable in Babylon among the people of the captivity that said, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?”  (18:2). In other words, the younger generation was blaming their fore-fathers for the troubles and miseries they were suffering. The implication was that God was not just, and was punishing children for the sins of their parents.

Sadly, that same spirit is pervading our own society. Blame shifting has become epidemic in our culture. The evils committed 150 years ago by the forefathers of this generation has fostered a spirit of entitlement that some suggest excuses wrath, violence, bitterness, rioting, and even murder.

Ezekiel 18 addresses the matter of individual responsibility and personal accountability to God.

God commanded Ezekiel to declare the universality of man’s wickedness and the inevitable consequences of sin: “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (18:4).

Though all have sinned, nevertheless, the LORD is just and His judgments are right and true. God promised to bless the man that chooses righteousness and obeys His statues and judgments (18:5-9).  However, every son and every generation will bear God’s judgment for its sins, and God will not hold a father accountable for the sins of his son (18:10-13).

Should a son see his father sin, but the son chooses the way of righteousness, he will not bear his father’s guilt (18:14-17), but the father will be punished for his own sins (18:18-20).

 So, who are you going to blame for your troubles and sorrows?

There is no denying a family suffers for the choices of its members; however, we each bear the burden of choosing how to respond to the troubles and sorrows that arise in our lives.

God is just and “the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son” (18:20). The LORD is merciful and compassionate (18:21). He is ready to forgive our sins when we repent and has promised, our sins “shall not be mentioned” or remembered against us (18:22).

Let’s stop wallowing in the mire of self-pity, blaming others for our sinful choices and the consequences that befall us!  God is just and He judges every man and woman “according to his ways” (18:30a). If we repent of our sins and turn from our sinful ways, the LORD promises, sin “shall not be your ruin” (18:30b)!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Three Good Things, and Why You Should Embrace Them (Lamentations 3-5)

Scripture reading – Lamentations 3-5

Jeremiah’s lamentations take on a very personal tone in Lamentations 3, the longest chapter in this small prophetic book. While today’s Scripture reading is Laminations 3-5, today’s devotional commentary will be limited to chapter 3.

Lamentations 3

Jeremiah has lived to see all that he prophesied against Judah come to pass. Left behind with the poorest people after Babylon conquered and destroyed Jerusalem, the prophet gazes out upon a scene of devastation. The Temple has been destroyed, the palaces and homes of the city laid waste, and the walls of Jerusalem have fallen.

Lamentations 3:1-21 is a testimony of the prophet’s afflictions.

Alienated from God, the heavy burden of discipline upon him, Jeremiah felt as though the LORD had turned against him (3:2-5). He prayed in his distress, but felt as though God did not hear his prayers (3:6-8). In his sorrows, the prophet felt trapped, abandoned, wounded in heart (3:9-13). Mocked by his own people (3:14) and nearly overcome with feelings of helplessness (3:15-18), Jeremiah was despairing of life (3:19) until he turned his focus from his circumstances to the LORD (3:20-21).

Lamentations 3:21-66 – Hope of Salvation in the Midst of Afflictions

In the midst of his sorrows, Jeremiah expressed his faith in words that are the inspiration of the hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Jeremiah writes:

Lamentations 3:22-23It is of the LORD’S [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] mercies [loving-kindness; grace]that we are not consumed, because His compassions [mercies; tender love] fail not [never ends or ceases].
23  They are [mercy and tender compassions] new every morning: great [sufficient; plenty] is thy faithfulness[steadfastness].”

Jeremiah continues, “The LORD is good [Lit. – pleasant; pleasing; best; joyful] unto them that wait [tarry; patiently wait; hope] for Him [the LORD], to the soul that seeketh [follows; searches; asks] Him” (3:25).

It comes as no surprise that the “LORD is good;” however, notice there is a twofold condition for experiencing the goodness of God.

1) First, we must learn to “wait [hope] for Him” (3:25a).

It is easy to counsel others to be patient and wait on the LORD; however, to practice the same is an exercise of faith, hope and trust.

Are you willing to wait on the LORD when you have been hurt?  To wait when you are ill?  Do you wait on the LORD when you have been mistreated or misunderstood?  Are you willing to wait on the LORD when a loved one makes choices that grieve your heart?  “Patience is a virtue,” is an old English adage and from my vantage point is in short supply. Jeremiah’s counsel in the midst of deep distress is “wait” and hope in the LORD (Psalm 27:14; 37:14; Proverbs 20:22).

2) Second, we must truly “seek Him” (3:25b).

What does it mean to seek the LORD? Be diligent to search Him out by reading, inquiring, and meditating in His Word. To seek the LORD one must obey His Law and Commandments, and follow His will (3:40; Jeremiah 29:13)

I close inviting you to consider the things that are said to be “good[pleasant; beautiful; right; pleasing] in Lamentations 3:26-27.

Lamentations 3:26 – “It is good that a man should both hope [expectant waiting] and quietly wait [wait and keep silent] for the salvation [help; deliverance] of the LORD.”

It is good for a believer to “hope” (3:26a). This “hope” is more than an emotional or mental aspiration; it is the practice of a disciplined heart and soul.  It is hope that awaits with anticipation God’s answer to prayer. It is hope that springs from faith that is predicated on the knowledge that God hears and answers prayer. We hope in the LORD because He is faithful to His Word and promises.

It is also good to “quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD” (3:26b).  Wait without complaining. Wait in silence. Wait for the LORD to answer prayer and move in His timing.  (I fear the pews of churches are filled with many who are neither patient or quiet!)

Thirdly, it is good when a son bears the yoke and burden of manhood (3:27). 

Lamentations 3:27 – “It is good for a man [lit. a man child; son] that he bear the yoke [disciplines; burdens] in his youth.”

In the midst of his own afflictions, Jeremiah acknowledged that it is a good thing when young men bear the yoke of manhood with its challenges, trials, and disappointments.

Many parents coddle their youth and insulate them from a harsh reality: Life can be difficult, even harsh, but a satisfying, rewarding life requires discipline and endurance. 

Lesson – Parents rob children of a “good” thing when they fail to make them bear the burdens, blessings, and consequences of their choices.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Power of Prayer and the Faith of One Poor Widow (1 Kings 17-19)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 17-19

Today’s Scripture reading is both lengthy and rich in detail. I dare not attempt to write a thorough devotional commentary that covers 1 Kings 17, 18, and 19; however, I encourage you to read those chapters for the context of future devotions. I will limit my commentary to 1 Kings 17 and with the prospect of returning to 1 Kings 18-19 in the future.

In his speech titled Man in the Arena, President Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States described a man of rare courage, as one who “strives valiantly…who spends himself in a worthy cause…and who at the worse, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Such a man was Elijah!

1 Kings 17 – The Prophet Elijah, Man of Prayer

Absent of any fanfare, we are suddenly introduced to one of the great prophets of the Old Testament, “Elijah the Tishbite” (17:1). Remembering the sins and wickedness of Israel’s King Ahab, and his Queen Jezebel as our backdrop, we find one man in all Israel who confronted Ahab and warned him that his sins had provoked the wrath of God. As a result, Israel would be punished with drought as God withheld rain from the land (17:1; Deuteronomy 11:16-17; 28:23-24).

James 5:17-18 reminds us that the drought Israel experienced was a testimony of the power of one man’s prayer, Elijah (i.e. Elias).

James 5:17-18 – “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. 18  And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”

While Israel suffered drought and a scarcity of food, God directed Elijah to retreat to a brook named Cherith where He promised to provide him water and ravens would bring him food to eat in the morning and evening (17:2-7).

When the brook dried up, the LORD commanded Elijah to go to Zarephath, a Phoenician city, located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. There the prophet would find a widow, a woman of faith, whom the LORD would use to provide him food and water throughout the balance of the drought in Israel (17:8-16).

Elijah found the poor widow suffering the dearth of the drought and his request for water and food was first rejected on rational grounds, for she had no cake and only enough food and oil for one last meal (17:12).

The prophet answered the widow’s despair, promising if she would believe the word of the LORD and obey, saying, “The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth” (17:14). God did indeed respond to the widow’s faith and the barrel of flour and the cruse of oil were miraculously replenished every meal (17:15-16).

Later tragedy struck the widow’s household when her son died (17:17). Fearing her son’s death was God’s judgment for sin, she pled with Elijah, “What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son” (17:18).

Elijah, taking up the son’s dead body, went to the loft of the house where he prayed to the LORD, “O LORD my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?” (17:20).

Three times Elijah stretched his body over the lifeless body of the boy and pleading, “O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child’s soul come into him again” (17:21). God answered Elijah’s prayer and “the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived” (17:22).

I close today’s devotional commentary inviting you to notice the testimony of the widow’s faith: “Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth” (17:24).

In verse 18 the widow recognized Elijah was a “man of God.” In verse 24 she confessed the prophet was not only a “man of God,” but that “the word of the LORD” was in his mouth.

To state the fact of the widow’s faith in another way: She not only heard the TRUTH, she believed the words of the prophet was the very Word of God.

Such was then, and is today the way of true salvation, for “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The Hand that Rocks the Cradle” (Proverbs 30-31)

Scripture Reading – Proverbs 30-31

Though not by design, it so happens that today’s Scripture reading falls on Father’s Day! I encourage you to read and savor these final two chapters of Proverbs as we continue our goal of chronologically reading through the Word of God this year. My focus for today’s devotional commentary is limited to Proverbs 31:1-2.

The “virtuous woman” is the subject of Proverbs 31, perhaps the most beloved of the chapters in Proverbs because it addresses the most central figure in life apart from our Creator—one’s mother. Like chapter 30, the authorship of Proverbs 31 has been debated down through the centuries; however, I feel there is much about this chapter that commends itself to having been authored by King Solomon.

Proverbs 31:1 – “The words [discourse; law] of king Lemuel, the prophecy [burden; tribute] that his mother taught him [instructed; discipline; chasten].”

There is no record of a king named Lemuel in ancient Israel or Judah and many scholars believe Lemuel might have been a nickname Bathsheba gave to her son Solomon. Having lost her firstborn son in infancy, the one conceived in an act of adultery with David, one can understand why Bathsheba would dedicate Solomon to God and, in her heart, name him Lemuel (The literal meaning of Lemuel is “unto God” –lit. dedicated to God). For the sake of our devotional studies in Proverbs, I propose we view this chapter as Solomon’s memorial to his mother.

Verse 2 of Proverbs 31 records the Queen mother’s appeal to her son in a three-fold question:

Proverbs 31:2 – “What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows [dedication to God; binding covenant between mother and God]?”

Allow me to probe the meaning of the three questions proposed by the king’s mother.

1) “What my son?” (31:2a) – i.e. – What more can I say to you my son and king?

2) “What, the son of my womb?” (31:2a) – She reminds the king that she knew him in her womb; before he drew his first breath. She gave him life and loves him as no one else could love him.

3) “What, the son of my vows?” (31:2a) – Like Hannah dedicated her son Samuel (1 Samuel 1:11), Bathsheba had dedicated her son while he was in her womb. She remembers the first stirring of life and how she had prayed for him. She had dedicated her son to serve the Lord!

We are not told what moved Bathsheba to make an impassioned plea to her son. Perhaps her motherly instincts sensed the moral dangers Solomon would face. She knew all too well the temptations that beset a man of power, possessions, and popularity. The plea of the Queen mother resonated in her son’s heart and he memorialized her virtuous qualities as an example for all women.

Someone has said: “The greatest moral power in the world is that exercised by a mother over her child.”

John Quincy Adams, the 6th president of the United States said concerning his mother, “All that I am, or ever have been, in this world, I owe, under God, to my mother.”

It is my prayer that the king’s praise of his mother will move husbands, sons and daughters to encourage wives and mothers with words of affirmation and move mothers to aspire to the qualities of a virtuous woman.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Living Life in A Rearview Mirror (Ecclesiastes 7-12)

Scripture Reading – Ecclesiastes 7-12

Today’s Scripture reading covers the latter half of the book of Ecclesiastes; however, my devotional commentary will focus on the closing chapters, Ecclesiastes 11-12.

While the book of Proverbs chronicles Solomon’s wise instructions for a son that would one day be king, the book of Ecclesiastes reflects the pondering of that same man facing the inevitable close of his earthly life–the frailty of old age and death.

Solomon’s reflections on his earthly sojourn began with the observation, “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). He concludes with the same, “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 12:8).

Empty, vain, unsatisfactory, meaningless, hopeless, and worthless… What a tragic commentary on life from a man born into privilege, power, and wealth!  What might we learn from such a man?  What words of wisdom can we glean from one deemed so wise, with so much to say?

For the sake of brevity, I invite you to consider three exhortations from King Solomon: Rejoice (11:9-10); Remember (12:1); and Revere (12:13-14).

Rejoice in your youth, but know God will be your Judge (11:9-10).

 Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 – Rejoice [Be Glad; Joyful], O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. 10  Therefore remove [depart] sorrow [anger; wrath] from thy heart, and put away [do away; remove] evil [sin; wickedness] from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.

Remember your Creator while you are young (12:1).

Ecclesiastes 12:1 – Remember now [Think of; have respect of] thy Creator in the days [years] of thy youth, while the evil days [adversity; troubles; distresses] come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure [delight; desire] in them;

Revere God, Keep His Commandments and Be Ready for His Judgment (12:13-14).

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 – Let us hear [Listen; obey; publish] the conclusion [end] of the whole matter [account; speaking]Fear [Revere] God, and keep [observe] His commandments [Laws; Precepts]: for this is the whole duty [purpose] of man.
14  For God shall bring every work [act; deed] into judgment, with every secret thing [hidden; concealed], whether it be good [right], or whether it be evil [sin; wickedness].

Vanity of vanities; what a tragic summary of a man’s life if his life is empty and meaningless!

To his credit, Solomon was not silent regarding the sorrows and joys of this life. He warned and exhorted the generations that would follow… Rejoice in your youth…Remember your Creator and His Commandments…and Revere the LORD knowing He will “bring every work into judgment” (12:14).

A closing exhortation to youthful readers: Adopt spiritual principles that will guide you to paths of righteousness, and avoid the ways of the foolish who squander their lives in sinful dissipations that leave them with sorrows and regrets.

Enjoy your youth, but remember your Creator for “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

What would you do today, if you knew there was no tomorrow? (Proverbs 27-29)

Scripture Reading – Proverbs 27-29

Our Scripture reading continues in Proverbs, chapters 27, 28, and 29. For the sake of brevity, I will limit today’s devotional commentary to Proverbs 27:1-3.

Proverbs 27:1 – “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” [note – Luke 12:19, 20James 4:13]

What would you do today, if you knew there was no tomorrow?  What would change in your priorities?  Who would you call or visit to express a word of gratitude or affection?  Who would you seek out to make right a wrong?  Who would you forgive, putting off bitterness and embrace in love?

Procrastination is a terrible malady of man!  Too many of us go through life putting off to tomorrow what should and could have been done today!  I believe that is the point of Proverbs 27:1. Do not defer, put off, or procrastinate to tomorrow the good that you might do today.

Lost sinners procrastinate confessing their sin and trusting Jesus Christ as Savior (Hebrews 4:7Acts 24:252 Corinthians 6:2).  Believers put off confessing their sin, serving others, singing praises, teaching, and witnessing to lost loved ones, only to be filled with remorse when they realize there will be no tomorrow.

Challenge: Make a list of things you hope to accomplish today, or one day, and set dates and goals for accomplishing them before you face no tomorrows. Turn off the television, stop surfing the internet, disengage from social media, and redeem today as though it were your last—it may be!

James 4:14, 17 – “14  Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away…17  Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

Proverbs 27:2 – There are few things as repulsive as one who glories in boasting their own achievements.

Proverbs 27:2 – “Let another man praise [boast; celebrate; sing your praises] thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips [speech].”

The Book of Proverbs is a king’s instructions to his son who would one day be king. Fearing that his son’s heart might be lifted up with pride, Solomon urged him to be a young man whose demeanor was one of humility.

Having been born into a household of wealth and privilege, one might imagine the temptation for a young prince to be carried away by the grandeur of the palace, with servants ever ready to do his bidding.  Solomon taught his son that it is uncomely for a man to praise himself [or as some say, “to beat his own drum”].

Few things are as repulsive as a man or woman who crow about their own achievements.  Unfortunately, it is the nature of men to “proclaim every one his own goodness” (Proverbs 20:6). Such a man has forgotten the raw clay out of which he was taken. Though praise and accolades are rewarding, they ring hollow when expressed by one’s own lips.

Why is a braggadocio, self-asserting spirit so repugnant to God? 

Because it is the spirit of pride and not the Spirit of God.

Think about it: How much of your conversations with others is focused on yourself?  Are you given to bragging and boasting?  Look at your social media page to find the answer.

Proverbs 27:3 – A fool’s wrath is a great burden to all.

Proverbs 27:3 – “A stone [building stone] is heavy, and the sand weighty [burden]; but a fool’s [silly, immoral] wrath [anger; indignation] is heavier [more grievous] than them both [a fools wrath takes a physical and emotional toll heavier than building stones and sand].”

What was Solomon thinking when he observed that the wrath of a fool is heavier than both a heavy stone and weighty sand?

Having undertaken the construction of the Temple and his palace, Solomon knew well the physical weight of sand and stone. The king was familiar with the design and use of heavy stones that were required for constructing an enduring place of worship for Israel.

The heavy stones mentioned in Proverbs 27:3 are most likely the great building blocks used in constructing the Temple and other public buildings.  Estimates are that some of the stones weighed from a few tons to as much as 160 tons.  Sand, like building blocks, is also heavy in volume and a great burden to move.

The fool is the subject of Proverbs 27:3. He is not intellectually deficient. This fool is one that is spiritually defiant, morally corrupt, and a hater of wisdom and instruction.  He opposes God (Psalm 14:153:1), hates spiritual truth (Proverbs 1:22), and is a grief and heaviness to his father and mother (Proverbs 10:117:25).

Solomon observes that the wrath of a fool takes a physical toll and is heavier than building stones and sand.  How so?

While stones and sand are physically heavy and difficult to move, the weight of a fool’s wrath is both a physical burden and an emotional weight to his family, friends and acquaintances.

Without question, the wrath of a fool takes a physical toll on all who associate with him. Many are the parents who go to early graves with heavy hearts, emotionally overwhelmed and physically devastated by the distress of a fool’s wrath.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“There Are Some Things Money Can’t Buy, for They Are More Precious Than Gold” (Proverbs 19-21)

Scripture Reading – Proverbs 19-21

Today’s Scripture reading challenges me with an impossible task: How to choose one or two proverbs when the chapters assigned are too rich to mine in a year, let alone, in one daily devotional! Today’s commentary will focus on Proverbs 19:3-4 and I pray its application will be a blessing.

Proverbs 19:3-4 offers us insight into the heart and mind a foolish person. Solomon observes two characteristics of a fool [one who is silly and whose path is folly].

Proverbs 19:3 “The foolishness [silliness; folly] of man perverteth [distorts; overthrow] his way [journey]: and his heart [mind; thoughts; seat of his feelings] fretteth [rage; be troubled] against the LORD.”

The fool has a distorted view of life. His heart, thoughts and emotions rage against the LORD [Jehovah—Eternal God; Self-existent God]. He is double minded (James 1:84:8), denying His Creator in his heart and thoughts (Psalm 14:1), while blaming God and others for his woes.

A second parable offers a lesson in friendship—contrasting the rich and the poor.

Proverbs 19:4  “Wealth [riches; possessions] maketh [adds to; increases] many friends [companions]; but the poor [needy; helpless] is separated [scattered; dispersed] from his neighbour [companion; friend].”

“Wealth maketh many friends” and Solomon warns his son that riches and possessions are like magnets. Though wealth buys friends, they often prove to be temperamental, shallow friends. Friends whose aspirations are self-centered and motivated by what they hope to gain.

Poverty is not inviting and economic failure often breeds loneliness. While fair weather “friends” flatter the rich, the poor find themselves the bane of society and “separated from [their] neighbor.” The poor often find they are lonely and rejected by their friends and family.

The parable of the Prodigal son comes to mind when I ponder Proverbs 19:3-4.

The Prodigal was a proud, disobedient, rebellious son (Luke 15:11-32). Setting his heart on the world and its lascivious ways, he despised his father, demanded his inheritance and left home (Luke 15:12-13).

For a season he was the life of the party until he had wasted all his father had given him (Luke 15:13b-14). With no money, friends or hope—the prodigal found himself impoverished and estranged from his father and God (Luke 15:14-16).

Financially destitute and spiritually broken, a longing arose within the heart of the prodigal to return to his father’s house (Luke 15:15-19). Drawing near to home, the prodigal greeted his father with a confession of sin and unworthiness, but his father greeted him with grace, love, and forgiveness (Luke 15:20-24).

Lesson – There are some things money cannot buy, for they are too precious to affix a price.

Money cannot buy GRACE, for it is a gift that is GIVEN. Money cannot buy LOVE, for biblical love calls for an act of self-sacrifice. Money cannot buy FORGIVENESS, for it is imparted as an act of freewill.

If your life is graced by a friend whose love is enduring, matchless and true, you are blessed! For believers, such a friend is Jesus Christ whose love for sinners held Him to the cross as He died for the sins of the world.

Bad News: The gift of forgiveness and salvation exceeds more than all the world can afford.

Good News: Salvation is freely given to any who call upon the LORD to be saved.

Romans 5:8-9 – “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”

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.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Biblical Perspective on Class Envy and Friendships (Proverbs 13-15)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 13-15

Our study of King Solomon and the wisdom he expressed in his proverbs continues with today’s Scripture reading, Proverbs 13-15. Our devotional commentary will consider two proverbs from Proverbs 13 that are taken from my devotions posted at www.HeartofAShepherd.com. As a reminder, brackets are used by this author to amplify meanings and definitions.

 “A Biblical Perspective on the Cause of Class Envy” (Proverbs 13:4)

Proverbs 13:4  “The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.”

Honest hard labor has fallen out of favor in our nation.  Rather than encouraging employees to give employers an equal measure of labor for wages paid, politicians and socialists provoke class envy asserting the “working class” is oppressed. Proverbs 13:4 reminds us that nothing has changed about the heart of an indolent man when it comes to fruit for his labor. His lot is to always be in want.

Proverbs 13:4 – “The soul [mind; heart; appetite] of the sluggard desireth [craves], and hath nothing [lazy, foolish men are never satisfied]: but the soul [mind; heart; appetite] of the diligent [one who acts decisively] shall be made fat [be satisfied].”

Notice the sluggard (lazy) desires and craves what others afford only through labor.  He wants the same things, but he is too indolent to work and save to satisfy his passions. He “hath nothing” and becomes a burden to his family and society.

The contrast to the sluggard is the diligent man.  The diligent man is by definition, decisive and quick to act.  He is industrious, using his time, talents and resources wisely. While the sluggard is left wanting, the hardworking are made fat, satisfied and content with the fruits of their labor.

If your parents imparted to you the discipline of hard work in your youth—thank them!  They have given you a gift that has shaped your life and character in a way you will only appreciate when you are older.

“A Friend’s Character Will Either be a Blessing or a Curse” (Proverbs 13:20)

The theme of Proverbs 13:20 is Influence [the sway or effect one has on another]. Notice the truth Solomon imparts regarding the influence of friendships:

Proverbs 13:20 – “He that walketh with [befriends; is a companion of] wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”

Every good parent will be concerned and vigilant about the friends and influences in their son or daughter’s life. Why? The power and responsibility to influence others is a fact we all share!  People influence us Verbally by what they say or communicate [examples–letters, emails, social media].  In addition, a friend’s Actions and Attitudes have an influence on us.

Too few parents are willing to accept the responsibility of examining honestly their child’s friendships and understanding that friends have a powerful influence on a child’s character and ultimate destiny.

Solomon’s proverb is direct: A wise man will seek the company of likeminded men–those who evidence wisdom and discernment; however, a “companion of fools shall be destroyed” [the picture drawn by the word “companion” is of cattle that graze together. Ever notice how a herd of cattle grazing in a large pasture stand together, often feeding in the same direction?].

The apostle Paul warned believers in Corinth: “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners (1 Corinthians 15:33).

The word “communications” can also be translated “companions”; the word “manners” can be translated “morals”. Literally, don’t be misled: wicked, sinful friends will defile one’s moral judgment [i.e. spiritual discernment; the ability to discern right and wrong].

Lesson – The character of one’s friendships is a mirror of one’s own character. 

Friendships have the power to edify or destroy. If you run with fools, you are a fool! If you choose the company of those who have godly wisdom and discernment, they will influence you to be the same.

Reflect on the people who bear influence upon your life, thoughts and values. Are your friends spiritually minded men and women? Is their influence edifying? Do your friends strengthen you spiritually?  Are you under sound Biblical exposition and influenced by godly relationships?

Psalms 1:1 – “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”

Copyright – Travis D. Smith

A Disastrous Parenting Philosophy: “Do as I Say, Not as I Do!” (Proverbs 10-12)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 10-12

I trust you are continuing in the discipline of reading the Scriptures assigned for each day. For context, our chronological reading of the Scriptures finds us in the midst of the reign of King Solomon, the son and successor of David.

The wealth of subjects and spiritual instructions found Proverbs 10-12 is far greater than this author can address in a brief devotional commentary. For a greater exposition, I invite you to visit my devotional commentaries in Proverbs at www.HeartofAShepherd.com. (I hope to one day make these available in an electronic book format).

Today’s devotional commentary is limited to one proverb, Proverbs 10:1.

In his youth, Solomon professed his love for the Lord and a passion for obeying God’s Law. In his latter years, the king permitted himself a liberty that would become a spiritual cancer for him, his family and Israel. We read, Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places (1 Kings 3:3).  

Solomon became what James identifies as a “double minded man” (James 1:8); he lacked spiritual integrity with God and before his people. Did God in His mercy and grace bless Solomon?  Absolutely; however, he proved to be the kind of father who challenges his son to, “Do as I say, not as I do!”  Solomon’s lack of integrity followed him and his sons to their graves.

Let’s focus briefly on the opening proverb of chapter 10.

Proverbs 10:1 – “…A wise son maketh a glad father [a father loves to brag]: but a foolish son is the heaviness [grief] of his mother.”

Solomon stated what every parent knows…a son or daughter who evidences godly wisdom and exercises good judgment fills the heart of a parent with joy.  By contrast, a foolish son [unteachable, disobedient, silly and immature] is a great sorrow to his mother and father.

The father of a foolish son might appear stoic, silent, and at a loss to console a mother whose heart grieves day and night for the wayward son of her womb.  Her distress rushes over her like the waves of the ocean and she cannot be comforted apart from resting in the Lord, and like the father of a prodigal, never giving up hope (Luke 15:11-24).

Solomon challenged his son in a later proverb, “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set” (Proverbs 22:28).  In ancient times, a man would use stones as physical landmarks to mark the corners of his property. Thieves could rob a man of his land by moving the “landmarks”, the stones that marked the boundaries of his inheritance.

The ancient landmarks Solomon referred to in Proverbs 22:28 were not physical, but spiritual: Spiritual laws, Commandments, vows and convictions. Solomon urged his son to be wise and honor the spiritual boundaries he had been taught in his youth.

How many parents have idly watched a double minded son or daughter chart a spiritual course that inevitably became their heartache?  How many foolish sons and daughters have ignored, uprooted and disavowed the spiritual landmarks, the boundaries and convictions that served their fathers and mothers well?

Parents long to see their children choose righteous spiritual paths; however, they must not only teach, but also model their faith and convictions. Adult children might disavow the spiritual landmarks established by their parents; however, they do so at their own peril and eventual sorrow.

Ephesians 6:1-3  “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2 Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)  3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith