Category Archives: Children

Human Life is Sacred: Thou Shalt Not Kill! (Job 10)

Scripture reading – Job 10; (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17)

Note from the Author: This is a bonus devotional from today’s Scripture reading, Job 9-10. My earlier writing focused entirely on Job 9; however, I feel the central theme of Job 10 is too important for us not to take a moment to consider the sanctity (sacredness) of human life (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17).

Job 10:1-6 – Job’s Petition

Job’s reply to Bildad continued in Job 10, and he confessed to God what many have felt when besieged with trials and beset by troubles: “My soul is weary of my life” (10:1a).

Job’s statement was not a threat of suicide, but an honest, transparent complaint that the sorrows and losses he had experienced had taken their toll on him physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Distressed in his soul, Job prayed, “Do not condemn me,” do not abandon me; show me why you have allowed such hardship and difficulties to fall upon me (10:2). Notice that Job’s appeal to His Creator was deeply personal, and he identified himself to the LORD as “the work of thine hands” (10:3b). He was not under any delusion that he merited God’s favor. In fact, the opposite was true. He acknowledged his “iniquity” and “sin” (10:6); however, he protested, “7Thou knowest that I am not wicked; And there is none that can deliver out of thine hand” (10:7).

Job 10:7-17 – Job’s Appeal to His Creator

The sanctity of human life is the central truth we find in these verses (10:7-17). Here is an inspiring passage that leaves no doubt that human life is consecrated from the moment of conception, and that God is intimately interested in each of us. From the unborn, to the very ancient among us, every human life is sacred, and conceived in the heart of God.

Notice Job’s description of God’s personal affection, and His attentiveness to everything about us:

Job 10:8–98Thine hands have made [shaped; formed] me and fashioned [created] me Together round about; yet thou dost destroy me. 9Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made [fashioned] me as the clay [an allusion to God creating Adam, Genesis 1:27; 2:7]; And wilt thou bring me into dust again? [implying death and decay]

God is not only the giver, and preserver of life; He is the gatekeeper for every trial and blessing that graces our lives.

Job 10:1212Thou hast granted [make; wrought; create] me life and favour [grace; loving-kindness], And thy visitation [lit. oversight] hath preserved [keep watch over] my spirit. 13And these things hast thou hid [treasured] in thine heart: I know that this is with thee.

David penned similar truths regarding the sacredness of human life, and acknowledged God as His Creator in Psalm 139:13-16.

Psalm 139:13–1613 For thou hast possessed [get; acquire] my reins [lit. kidneys; figuratively the mind; feelings]: thou hast covered [protect; defend] me in my mother’s womb [belly; bosom; body].
14 “I will praise [give thanks; confess] thee; for I am fearfully [amazingly; stand in awe or reverence] andwonderfully made [distinguish; uniquely; set apart]: marvellous [wonderful; distinguish; extraordinary; surpassing] are thy works [labor; i.e. needlework; deed]; and that my soul [life; person; being] knoweth [perceives; observes] right well [exceedingly; greatly].
15 My substance [bones and being] was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought [woven as a tapestry] in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Thine eyes did see [perceive; look; behold] my substance [might; body; frame; bones], yet being unperfect[embryo; unformed mass]; and in thy book [letter; scroll] all my members were written [described; lit. – all the days of my life were ordained], which in continuance [day; time; continually] were fashioned [formed, as a potter; to mold], when as yet there was none [i.e. not the first] of them [before one day of my life was past].”

God is your Creator, and He knows you personally, and intimately. He has followed your life from the moment you were conceived, and has kept you by His sovereign, providential care. In fact, He loves you so much that He has extended His grace to you, offering salvation and forgiveness of sin through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Will you accept Him as your Savior?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Just When You Think Things Could Not Get Worse! (Job 1-2)

Scripture reading – Job 1-2

Introduction to The Book of Job

Our chronological study of The Book of Genesis is interrupted by a diversion to The Book of Job.

The Book of Job is commonly accepted among scholars as the oldest book of the Bible. Genesis 1-5 gave us a perspective on Creation and the fall of man, and Genesis 6-11 carried the historical narrative from the worldwide flood, to God calling out Abraham. The man named Job is believed to have been a contemporary of Abraham. There are several details that lead us to accept that conclusion, particularly the names of ancient cities whose names were derived from men who were contemporaries of Abraham.

Job 1:1-5 – Job, the Man

The Book of Job introduces us to the man whose name it bears, giving us no background of the man, or how he came to be so incredibly wealthy.

Job 1:1 – “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.”

The exact location of the “land of Uz” is one of speculation; however, because there are cities mentioned in the book that are located in the land of Edom, we might place Uz in that geographical area (southeast Israel, on the border of Jordan to the east and Egypt to the south).

It is not Job’s birthplace, but his character that identifies him as an important figure in the Bible. He was what God would have every man to be: “Perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil” (1:1). He was perfect, meaning blameless, guiltless, a man of integrity. He was an upright man, righteous, and honest before God and man. He was a God-fearing man; a man who revered his Creator, and eschewed, or shunned evil (1:1).

Job was blessed with a large family, “seven sons and three daughters” (1:2), and great wealth (1:3). His children were adults with their own households (1:4), and having shared in their father’s wealth, they were enjoying the bounty of their own riches and observing a week of feast days with their siblings, perhaps as a celebration of the harvest.

When the feast days were finished, Job, acting as the spiritual priest of his family, summoned his children to offer sacrifices to God, reasoning, “It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually” (1:5). Notice that last phrase: “Thus did Job continually.” Worship and sacrifices were a constant pattern in Job’s life, and one he did not take lightly as the spiritual head of his family.

Job 1:6-12 – A Heavenly Council

Job 1:6 carries us into the midst of a heavenly council where “the sons of God” (whom I believe are angels), are standing before God’s throne, and in their midst was Satan, the serpent, the wicked one, the adversary of God and man (1:6). The LORD inquired of Satan, “Whence comest thou?”, and he answered saying, “From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it” (1:7b).

God turned the focus of the heavenly council to a man in whom He found great joy, and asked Satan, “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” (1:8).

Evidencing his adversarial heart, Satan questioned God, and implicated Job asking, “Doth Job fear God for nought? 10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. 11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face” (1:9-11).

Job 1:12-19 – From Riches to Rags

Accepting Satan’s challenge, the LORD gave him liberty to accost Job in a series of devastating trials, but limiting the devil’s power and commanding him, “Behold, all that he [Job] hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand” (1:12a). Departing from the presence of God, Satan went out and initiated a series of disastrous events that destroyed all Job’s earthly possessions (1:13-17), ultimately taking from him that which was dearest, his sons and daughters (1:18-19).

Now, Satan had slandered Job, supposing he was only faithful to God because he had been abundantly blessed and protected by Him (1:9-11). How did Job respond to his losses? Did he curse God as Satan alleged, he would? (1:11)

Rather than reprove his Creator, Job responded with humility, and acknowledged God’s sovereignty over His creation. He worshipped the LORD, and prayed, “Yahweh gives, and Yahweh takes away; blessed be the name of Yahweh” (1:21b). Contrary to Satan’s accusation, Job “sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (1:22).

Job 2 – Job: His Body Afflicted, His Friends’ Inquisition

A thorough study of Job 2 will have to wait for another time, and another year; however, Job 2 records a second heavenly council (2:1-3), and introduces a trial that will afflict Job’s body and rob him of his health (2:4-7). You will meet Job’s wife who questions why he maintains his integrity in the midst of sorrows (2:9-10), and meet Job’s “three friends” who will assert his losses are a punishment for unconfessed sin (2:11-13).

A Closing Thought: Satan is a real person, and an adversary of believers; however, God limits his power and influence. When trials come, and they will, trust God knowing He is intensely interested in your soul and well-being.

Romans 8:2828 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Sin is Like A Slithering Snake (Genesis 4)

Scripture reading – Genesis 4

Adam’s sin, and his fall from God’s favor, had immediate consequences on himself, his wife, and the world God had created.

Satan was cursed and his fate sealed with the revelation that he would be at enmity (an enemy) with “the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it [the seed of the woman, fulfilled in Jesus Christ] shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel [fulfilled in Christ’s crucifixion]” (Genesis 3:14-15).

The sanctity of marriage and the home were affected, as the woman’s role would become one of pain in childbirth, and a desire to please her husband, who would “rule” (headship or authority) over her (3:16).

Adam, as the federal head of humanity, and the caretaker of God’s creation, learned that the curse of his sin not only affected the human race, but infected all creation: “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (3:17b-19).

While the consequences of sin were grave and irreparable in Adam’s hands, there was hope in the revelation of God’s mercy and grace: 21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (3:21).

Rather than risk man eating of the fruit of “the tree of life” (2:9; 3:22) and living forever in his fallen state, Adam and Eve were shamefully, but mercifully driven from the Garden. God placed at its east entrance “Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (3:24).

In Genesis 4 we learn that Eve had borne Adam two sons, Cain, the elder (4:1), and his younger brother Abel (4:2).  

The curse of sin was soon manifest in the home. Cain and Abel brought sacrifices to the LORD, as they had seen demonstrated and taught by Adam (4:3-4). God accepted Abel’s offering that consisted of “the firstlings [firstborn]of his flock and of the fat thereof” (4:4); however, he rejected Cain’s offering of “the fruit of the ground” (4:5), for it fell short of the standard of a blood sacrifice that God had demonstrated when He covered man’s nakedness with the skins of animals (3:21).

Abel’s offering followed God’s pattern, and was a humble acknowledgement of his sinfulness and need for God’s grace and forgiveness (Hebrews 11:4; Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22). Cain’s sacrifice, the fruits and vegetables of the ground, was an offering of the fruit of his labor, but insufficient to represent the blood offering which was symbolic for covering sin. Sin offerings could only be accepted from one who came with humility and a heart of repentance (4:3,5).

Rather than accept the LORD’s rejection with self-abasement, Cain became angry, and with his face betraying his wayward heart, “his countenance fell” (4:5b)! God mercifully confronted Cain, and reasoned with him, “Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? (4:6). Cain, stubborn and proud, refused God’s invitation to “Do Right” (i.e. “doest well” – 4:7a), and failed to heed the admonition, “if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him” (4:7b).

Notice the swift degradation of sin as the first son, in a sudden act of jealousy, murdered his brother (4:8-9).

Luke 11:50-51 identifies Abel as a prophet, implying that he had reasoned with his brother to obey God (4:8a). Tragically, the degressive nature of sin in Cain’s heart moved from pride and jealousy, to defiance and hatred, and “Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him” (4:8b). He hated Abel, “because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:12).

Summary thoughts: God had warned Cain, “sin lieth at the door” (4:7).

That is the nature of sin. Sin stalks mankind just as a wild animal stalks its prey. Knowing the blood of Abel had stained the soil of the earth, God mercifully confronted Cain, and five times reminded him that Abel was his brother (4:9-10); yet, each time, Cain hardened his heart and became more defiant. Depressed with his guilt, and overwhelmed with its consequences (4:13), he exaggerated his suffering (4:14).

Consider three spiritual principles from today’s devotional.

The first, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). Cain had a choice; heed God’s invitation to “doest well,” or face the consequence of sin lying at the door (4:7). Cain rebelled, and murdered his brother.

A second principle is summed up in this: “His [a sinners] own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, And he shall be holden [entrapped] with the cords of his sins” (Proverbs 5:22). Like a snake silently slithering, then apprehending its prey, constricts the life of its victim. Patterns of sin, if unbroken, will bind the soul until there is no hope.

The third principle is, the greater sin’s guilt, the greater the sinner’s depression. When a man despises correction, and refuses to repent and confess his sin, his sin invariably leads him to deeper, more dominating sins (4:13-14).

An invitation: There is hope for deliverance from sin’s constraining grip and guilt…Repentance!

The prodigal son, came to the end of himself, confessed his sin, humbled himself, and found forgiveness (Luke 15:17-19). That same path of restoration and happiness is open to all.

1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The End of the Commandment is Love (1 Timothy 1-6)

Scripture reading – 1 Timothy 1-6

Of all Paul’s epistles, his letter to 1 Timothy is my favorite.

When I was a young man, and aspiring to ministry, 1 Timothy was instructive in the manner of man God calls to serve as the pastor\shepherd of His people. As I began in those early years, I found Paul’s counsel to Timothy invaluable as I consciously framed each phase of my ministry philosophy after Paul’s example from youth pastor to senior pastor. Now that I am an elder pastor, I reflect on Paul’s manner and rapport with Timothy, and desire the same with those who serve with me.

We first met Timothy when he was a young believer, and privileged to be a part of Paul’s missions’ team. He was, according to Acts 16:1, “the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek.” The implication was that Timothy’s home was a spiritually divided home; his father was apparently a Gentile unbeliever, but his mother was a woman of Jewish heritage and a follower of Christ.

In spite of the divisive nature of his family, his mother and grandmother were godly women of faith and had a profound influence on Timothy. Paul wrote, “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned [sincere] faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also” (2 Timothy 1:5). Timothy’s passion for spiritual truth was inflamed from his early childhood. In his last epistle to Timothy, Paul reminded him of his spiritual privilege and godly heritage, writing, “And that from a child [very young child] thou hast known [growing knowledge of] the holy scriptures [instructed in the Old Testament Scriptures], which are able to make thee wise [understanding] unto salvation through faith [assurance; belief] which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

While Paul mentored many, his relationship with Timothy was that of a spiritual father. His affection as Timothy’s spiritual mentor is evidenced throughout the letter in both affirmations and admonitions (1 Timothy 1:2, 18; 4:6-16; 6:11-13, 20-21). Timothy became a devoted companion on Paul’s missionary journeys (Acts 16:3), a co-worker in the churches, and finally the pastor of the church in Ephesus (1:3a).

Paul commissioned Timothy, and charged him to continue ministering in Ephesus after his departure by ship for Macedonia (1:3a). He was mindful of the need to encourage Timothy to be bold in his ministry (1:3b), and give no tolerance to false teachers and their heresies (1:4).

Time and space do not allow me to continue an exposition of this wonderful book, but I will take liberty to close with Paul’s charge and instruction to Timothy found in 1 Timothy 1:5.

1 Timothy 1:5 – “Now the end of the commandment [charge; mandate] is charity [“agape”; self-sacrificing love]out of a pure [unsoiled; free of sin] heart, and of a good [clear; morally honorable] conscience, and of faith unfeigned [sincere faith; without hypocrisy].”

Paul’s challenge to Timothy should be the aspiration of every believer. To have and to cultivate a loving heart, unspoiled by envy and strife; a moral conscience that is good, and honorable before God; and faith that is sincere, without hypocrisy.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Childlike Humility: The Character of Saving Grace (Matthew 18)

Scripture reading – Matthew 18

Matthew 18 suggests four major themes: 1) The Spiritual Character of the Citizens of Heaven (18:1-4); 2) God’s Love and Care for His Children (18:5-14); 3) Steps to Resolving Conflicts and Offenses (18:15-20); 4) A Lesson in Forgiveness (18:21-35). Today’s devotional commentary will be limited to the first theme:

The Spiritual Character of Heavenly Citizenship (Matthew 18:1-4)

The opening phrase of Matthew 18, “At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus” (18:1a), demands that we put the passage in context. Peter, James, and John had witnessed a display of Jesus’ heavenly glory on the Mount of Transfiguration, but He had commanded them to tell no man; a vision they would keep to themselves until Christ was resurrected from the dead.

Descending from the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus had found His disciples the target of scoffing because they had failed to cast an evil spirit out of a father’s son. Jesus then taught His followers a lesson in prayer and dependence on God’s power, saying: “This kind [kind of faith] can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

Matthew 18 marks a dramatic shift in Christ’s ministry, from one to the multitudes, to a ministry focused primarily on His Twelve Disciples (Mark 9:30).

As they passed through Galilee in their journey to Capernaum on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus foretold His betrayal, death, and resurrection (Matthew 17:22-23).  Matthew would later write, “They were exceeding sorry” (17:23b). Mark wrote, “They [the disciples] understood not… and were afraid to ask Him” (Mark 9:32). Luke wrote in his Gospel, “they feared to ask him of that saying” (Luke 9:45).

Why were the disciples blind to what Jesus taught concerning His death, burial and resurrection? Why did they fear to ask Him?

Three possible explanations come to mind: The first, it served God’s purpose for the disciples to hear, but not understand until after Jesus was resurrected from the dead (Luke 9:45). A second, they might have feared to ask for explanation after Peter was rebuked by Jesus for opposing His prophesy of His suffering death, and resurrection (Mark 8:32-33; 9:32). Another explanation, and one I suggest is the malady of many believers; the disciples were blinded by selfish ambitions.

During their journey to Capernaum, the disciples entered into a dispute among themselves (Mark 9:33-37; note also Matthew 20:20-21; Luke 22:24). Though knowing the hearts and thoughts of His disciples (Luke 9:47a), Jesus asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?” (Mark 9:33) Mark would later reveal that the disciples “had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest” (Mark 9:34). That dispute brings us to Matthew 18:1 when the disciples came “unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

The disciples had expected Jesus would establish an earthly kingdom. Dismissing the prophecies of the Messiah’s suffering and death (Isaiah 53), they anticipated He would establish the Messianic kingdom prophesied by the prophets. Thus, the disciples debated among themselves, “Who is the greatest?” (18:1)

Seeming to ignore their question, Jesus called a “little child unto Him, and set him in the midst” (18:2) and began to teach His followers a spiritual lesson:

 A young child is a portrait of greatness, cloaked in humility (18:2).

The disciples were common men, and for the most part, fishermen. They were fickle-hearted, short-sighted, and self-centered. Though common, ordinary men, they nevertheless shared aspirations of fame, success, and power. Knowing the pride that resided in their hearts, Jesus set a child in their midst and said, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (18:3).

What spiritual truth should the disciples have taken from this object lesson?

Humility will define the character of all who are citizens of the “kingdom of heaven” (18:3). In other words, childlike humility is the sign of saving grace (18:4).

What was it about the small child that served Christ as a portrait of humility? I suggest four traits of humility found in the boy’s example. The first, he came to Jesus when He called (18:2a). Secondly, he yielded to Jesus’ will and embrace (Mark 9:36). The third, he stayed in the place where Christ called him (Luke 9:47). Finally, he served as nothing more than Christ’s example of humility (Matthew 18:3-4; Mark 9:37; Luke 9:48).

The character of the children of God, who are citizens of heaven is this:

Matthew 18:3–43And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted [repent; turn from sin to Christ], and become as little children [submissive, trusting, yielded to the will of God], ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4Whosoever therefore shall humble [lowly submission] himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Finally, Christ’s defined greatness and success, not by how many serve a man, but how many a man serves: “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mark 9:35b)

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“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