Category Archives: Children

Personal Reflections on This Christmas Day

December 25, 2017

Dear family, friends, and Heart of a Shepherd Readers,

Merry Christmas!  I plan to post today’s devotional commentary (Deuteronomy 32-34) later this morning; however, feeling somewhat nostalgic, I wish to post a personal note on this my 61st Christmas Day.  (This is a personal blog post, neither theological or ethereal, and I am not offended if you pass this by without reading).

The quiet of my home this Christmas morning invites reflections on Christmas’ past when this day brought joy as childhood dreams were fulfilled.  Oh, the joy of waking up early Christmas Day morning and finding under the tree gifts my parents had purchased, far exceeding anything they experienced in their childhoods.  I smile when I remember how politically incorrect gifts abounded…Cowboy cap guns, Daisy BB Guns, and my first 20-gauge shotgun.  My favorite gift of all…a 26-inch red bicycle with its own headlight!

God blessed my parents with health and longevity and I am able to express to them today my gratitude.  I appreciate their effort to fulfill childhood dreams when I know my frivolity came at personal sacrifice I could not have known nor did I appreciate at the time.  I love you mom and dad…and, in the words of the late actor Bob Hope, “thanks for the memories”.

Another reminiscence of childhood is my wonder how my maternal grandparents, Roland and Sadie Whitley, presented every grandson and granddaughter a special gift at Christmas (I believe the number was 17 grandchildren).  My grandfather was a hardworking, honest man who was a farmer by day and a factory worker at night.  My grandmother, taking my grandfather’s modest income, spent the year shopping in anticipation of her large family gathering in the living room, unwrapping gifts with childhood glee.  Memories indeed…

My love and gratitude to Sheilah, the beautiful wife of my youth (Proverbs 5:18), who worked within the humble salary of a youth pastor our first 18 years of marriage.  Somehow, you made Christmas a special time for our children, stretching dollars, but filling the space beneath the tree with a myriad of wrapped gifts and surprises (and no, we did not give the fat jolly man any credit for our sacrifice).

Finally, a word of gratitude to our parents, Ted and Fairis Smith and Archie and Sylvia Ipock.  Sheilah and I raised your grandchildren in Michigan and Florida, but we seldom failed to make the long trek home to the Carolinas for Christmas.  Thank you; thank you for sacrificial love, opening your homes to our family, and sacrificing to give our children coveted memories.  Thanks for sweet memories…

With the love of a son, husband, father, and grandfather,

Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Portrait of True Love

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Song of Solomon 3-4

Today’s scripture reading continues in the Song Solomon, chapters 3-4.  As a reminder of my approach and interpretation of this book, I have chosen to take a “Literal interpretation”, meaning I believe Solomon penned this romantic book as a king to a young woman who had become the object of his love. For the sake of brevity, my focus will be Song of Solomon 3.

We find the young bride-to-be dreaming and longing for her unknown suitor in the early verses of chapter 3 (remember, she had first met Solomon when he was alone in the countryside dressed as a common shepherd). Allow me to suggest the following outline.

I. The Dreams of Young Love (3:1-3).

Solomon’s fair young maiden dreams of her groom “upon her bed” (3:1) and, because time has passed, she fears she has been forgotten by him (3:1).  She dreams she went out to seek her suitor (3:2-3) and when she finds him, she brings him to her “mother’s house” (3:4). Her dream continues in verse 5 with my second observation:

II. The Patience of Young Love (3:5).

Rejoicing she has found her beloved she encourages young maidens (“ye daughters of Jerusalem”) to Be Patient in the matter of love and marriage… “stir not up, nor awake my love” (3:5b) and Wait “till he please” (3:5c).

We have seen the dreams of youth and the exhortation that true love is patient and waits.  Notice thirdly, the romantic beauty of the maiden’s wedding day.

III. The Joy and Happiness of Young Love (3:6-11).

Our young maiden has dreamed about her mysterious shepherd. He has courted her lovingly and patiently and she dreams of the day he will come with his wedding party to claim her as his bride, but not knowing the day or the time of his coming.

One day she lifts her eyes towards the horizon and sees a cloud of smoke, coming “out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke” (3:6a).  The air is laden with the fragrance of burning incense, “perfumed with myrrh and frankincense” (3:6b).

In the midst, she sees the royal litter, the “bed, which is Solomon’s” (3:7) borne by sixty “valiant men”, war heroes, men of renown in Israel escorting the king with swords upon their thighs (3:8).

Our young maiden realizes her suitor is not a shepherd, but the king of Israel who is coming for her as his bride (3:9)!  The moment is filled with pageantry; while the soldiers bear the bed meant for his bride, the king is in their midst carried by a chariot made of the finest “wood of Lebanon” (3:9).

As with a bride of our day who plans her wedding down to the minutest detail, even the limousine that will carry her away, our young bride observes the beauty of the bed (or chariot) that will convey her and the king to his palace.  The canopy over the bed supported by beams overlaid with silver (3:10), the canopy of gold, and its cushions of purple, all adorned for the king by “the daughters of Jerusalem” (3:10).

Our young bride, overwhelmed by the joy her groom is Solomon the king, urges her attendants, “ye daughters of Zion” (3:11a), to behold their king wearing the crown given to him by his mother (3:11b), perhaps specially adorned by her on her son’s wedding day.

What an incredible story of love and marriage!  Was this not, in days past, the dreams of innocent young girls?  Stories like Cinderella abound with a fairy-tale storyline of a peasant girl who falls in love with a young prince or king and whose courtship with a stranger is rewarded with her own crowning as princess and queen.

Sad to say, but our society has robbed little girls of their innocence and discretion; and parents have failed to instill in their sons the qualities of a genteel, caring spirit.

I am afraid Christian homes have followed the same; unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices to guard the purity of sons and daughters, our youth know little about young, innocent, pure love that is patient and waiting.

Too many weddings in our churches lack innocence and tenderness because brides and grooms have indulged in lusts at the sacrifice of true love.

God has given us not only a portrait of love (the sacrifice of His Son for our sins – John 3:16; Romans 5:8; Ephesians 5:25), but also the definition of love in action

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 – “4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5  Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7  Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8  Charity never faileth…”

Young person, true love is patient, kind, serving, self-sacrificing, pure, honest, long-suffering, hopeful, lasting, and perpetual…never ending…and never stops loving.

 Wait…wait…wait…and you will never be sorry when true love finds you!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Is Your Child a Pedigree or a Mutt?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Nehemiah 10-13

Our scripture reading in the book of Nehemiah comes to a close today focusing on chapters 10-13.

Nehemiah 10 gives us the names of eighty-four men, spiritual leaders, politicians, husbands and fathers, who made a solemn oath and put their names to a covenant they made with the LORD (10:1-29).  Having sealed their covenant with the LORD, they “separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God” (10:28).

Israel’s dedication to the LORD was absolute, affecting every area of their lives…their families (10:28-30), businesses (10:31; 13:15-21), and finances (13:32-39). 

Having built the Temple and completed the walls of the city, the next need was for some to commit themselves to rebuilding and repopulating the city of Jerusalem; after all, you cannot have a great city without a great population.  Jerusalem was a “holy city” (11:1), a city dedicated to the LORD and the citizens of that city were to live stricter lives than their fellow Jews who lived outside the city.  With much of the city still in ruins, Jerusalem was more a place of poverty than it was a place of privilege.

Three segments of Israel’s populace were required to repopulate the city:  1) The “rulers of the people” (11:1); 2) A tenth of Israel’s population that was drafted by casting lots (11:1); 3) And others who volunteered and “willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem” (11:2).

Nehemiah 11-12 presents us with a great list of men, some named and others known only by their deeds; men whose names Nehemiah inscribed in his book lest they be forgotten. Four hundred and sixty-eight described as “valiant men” (11:6).  Eight hundred and twenty-two men who ““…did the work of the house” of God using their talents and gifts for the LORD’s work (11:12).  There were men who “…had the oversight of the outward business of the house of God.” (11:16); some serving as counselors, teachers, and others the general ministries of the Temple. Others described simply as “porters” (11:19); describing the menial nature of their ministries as doorkeepers and janitors,  but all important and noted by the LORD!

Friend, don’t make light of the menial tasks some bear in their service for the LORD and His church.  “Valiant men” and “porters” had their role and ministry in the Temple and were necessary to fulfill God’s purpose that Jerusalem be restored to her glory as the “holy city” (11:1).

Nehemiah 12 gives a chronicle of priests and Levites (12:1-26) and the worship service when the walls of Jerusalem were dedicated (12:27-47).

Nehemiah 13 closes with a reminder the work of ministry and serving the LORD and His people is never finished.  Nehemiah’s task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem was complete; however, he had no time to glory in his success!  Evidencing the character of a great servant of the LORD, Nehemiah began another phase of ministry…addressing and confronting the spiritual compromise already taking hold in Israel.

Consider four spiritual leadership qualities found in Nehemiah’s character in Nehemiah 13. 

The first leadership quality is courage; Nehemiah was a courageous leader (13:4-9).   As governor of Israel, Nehemiah traveled to Babylon to report to the king of Persia the state of affairs in Jerusalem; however, when he returned he found an “evil” allowed by the high priest Eliashib.

Nehemiah 13:7 – And I came to Jerusalem, and understood of the evil that Eliashib did for Tobiah, in preparing him [Tobiah] a chamber in the courts of the house of God.

Imagine finding Tobiah, an Ammonite and enemy who had opposed Nehemiah rebuilding the wall (Nehemiah 2:10, 19; 4:3) living in the Temple!  Nehemiah did not wait for a committee to make a decision or seek a diplomatic solution…He courageously confronted Tobiah, throwing him and his possessions into the street (13:8), and ordered the Temple rooms cleansed (13:9).

A second leadership quality is discernment (13:10-14).  Nehemiah writes,

 Neh. 13:10 – And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field.

A good leader gets the facts and ask questions when he perceives a problem.  Nehemiah rebuked the leaders and the people (13:10-14) when he comprehended their failure to give tithes and offerings forced those employed in the Temple to labor in their fields to the neglect of their public ministries.

A third leadership quality is Nehemiah maintained spiritual priorities (13:15-22). Finding the Jews had secularized the Sabbath, treating it like any other day of the week (13:16), Nehemiah confronted the leaders and said, “What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day?”

Nehemiah did not trifle with the matter of sin. He labeled their actions an “evil thing”, a profaning and defilement of the Sabbath, the LORD’s Day.

Finally, Nehemiah was a man of conviction and boldly confronted compromise (13:23-28).  The compromise of God’s people was so grave they had allowed their sons and daughters to intermarry with the heathen in the land.  Nehemiah observed,

Nehemiah 13:24 – And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews’ [Hebrew] language, but according to the language of each people.

Some of the Jews lost their children to the ways of the heathen; speaking a mixed language of “Ashdod” (the Philistine language) and Hebrew, Jewish youth had assimilated not only the sinful ways and customs of the ungodly, they had also adopted their language.  Being the candid spiritual leader he was, Nehemiah took their sinful compromise as a personal affront to himself and to God.  Nehemiah writes,

Nehemiah 13:25 – And I contended [treat with contempt] with them, and cursed [reviled] them, and smote [physically struck] certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves.

I fear there are few Nehemiah’s in Bible fundamental churches, Christian schools and Bible colleges.  We are in short supply of courageous men who are discerning, focused on spiritual priorities at the expense of personal sacrifice, and conviction who refuse to compromise with the ungodly.  Pulpits that once thundered with sermons calling a generation of youth to personal holiness and sanctification, now whimper with a message of accommodation that sacrifices and minimizes personal spiritual disciplines.

Nehemiah contended with the people for allowing the ungodly to influence and marry their sons and daughters (Nehemiah 13:25).

I don’t mean to offend anyone, but after 38 years of ministry, it has been my observation dog breeders of champion pedigrees give more attention to the selection of the dam (i.e. female) and sire (i.e. male) for breeding their dogs than many Christian parents give to the character of friends who eventually date and marry their sons and daughters.

What a tragedy!  No wonder the divorce rate in the church is as high as the world!  Nehemiah challenged the people, “we would not give our daughters unto the people of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons” (Nehemiah 10:30).  The tragedy is, many families failed to heed Nehemiah’s admonition and lost their children (13:25).  I am afraid the same is true of our homes, churches, and schools.

2 Corinthians 6:14 – “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Living Life in A Rearview Mirror

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ecclesiastes 11-12

Our Scripture reading in the book of Ecclesiastes concludes today with chapters 11–12.   While the book of Proverbs chronicles Solomon’s sage instructions for a son that would one day be king, the book of Ecclesiastes reflects the pondering of that same man facing the inevitable conclusion of his earthly life — the frailty of old age and death.

Solomon’s reflections on life began with the observation, “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2) and 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 sad commentary on life from a man born into privilege, power, and unimaginable wealth!  What might we learn from such a man?  What words of wisdom can we glean from such a one?

Author Warren Wiersbe suggests “four pictures of life” and for “each picture a practical admonition” found in Ecclesiastes 11-12. (1)

  • Life is an ADVENTURE—live by faith (11:1-6)
  • Life is a GIFT—enjoy it (11:7-12:8)
  • Life is a SCHOOL—learn your lessons (12:9-12)
  • Life is a STEWARDSHIP—fear God (12:13-14)

For the sake of brevity in today’s devotional commentary, 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 thy 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 summation of a man’s life…empty and meaningless!  To his credit, Solomon was not silent regarding the sorrows he bore as a result of sinful choices.  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).

Many reading this devotional commentary remember the joys and carefree years of their youth with fondness and universally wish they had made better choices.  Let us not be silent and watch our children and grandchildren take paths that we, like Solomon, can testify, “all is vanity” apart from the LORD!

I close with an admonition to youthful readers:  If not guided by spiritual principles, youth squander their lives on sinful dissipations that inevitably leave them with sorrow laden souls and lives shadowed by regret.

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

(1) Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – Wisdom and Poetry.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

God Broke the Mold When He Made You!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 137-139

Our Scripture reading today consist of three individual psalms of worship, Psalms 137, 138, and 139.  Recent scripture readings in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah recorded historical events following Israel’s 70 years of captivity in Babylon.  Psalm 137, however; gives us a perspective on the sorrows the Jews bore upon their arrival in Babylon.

God raised up many prophets to warn Israel and Judah, should the people continue in their sins and rebellion against the Lord, He would deliver them to their enemies.  His people and their leaders: however, would not heed warnings of the Lord’s prophets and continued in their sins until all was lost.  Arriving in Babylon, God’s people were haunted by the memories of the Temple, the city and their homes destroyed by fire.  Humanly speaking, all was lost; and so we read,

Psalm 137:1 – “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.”

Psalm 138, the first of eight Psalms written by David and located in the closing chapters of this book (138-145), is a Psalm of praise and rejoicing.

Psalm 139, authored by David, is my primary focus for today’s devotional commentary titled, God Broke the Mold When He Made You!

 There was a man who lived in the 19th century whose delusions concerning God and creation has wrecked havoc in our world.  Charles Darwin traveled the world, denying the Creator, and in his book, Origin of the Species (1859), argued for the Theory of Evolution.  Although many of his suppositions have been proven impossible and rejected by credible scientists, the Theory of Evolution continues to be taught as the explanation for life and our physical universe in secular education institutions.

Make no mistake; what you believe concerning God as Creator dictates the answer to critical questions we all face: “Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? How should I live? Where am I going?”

David declares God is Omniscient (Psalm 139:1-6), Omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-12), and mankind’s Originator [lit. Creator\Architect\Designer] (Psalm 139:13-16)

God is Omniscient and knows all that is in your heart (Psalm 139:1-6).  He knows your fears, longings,  thoughts, and desires (139:1a); there is nothing concealed from him.  He knows all about you (139:2).  He knows everything you think in secret and everything you say in public (139:2b).  He savors the noble and excellent qualities of your life (139:3-6).

God is Omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-12).  He abides in every part and place of his creation and there is not a place where God is not present (139:7-8).

Psalm 139:7-8 – “Whither shall I go [walk; come; ] from thy spirit [God’s Spirit]? or whither shall I flee [i.e. be put to flight] from thy presence [face; countenance]? 8  If I ascend up [go up] into heaven [i.e. Heavens..the sky above; stars and planets], thou art there: if I make my bed in hell [Sheol; grave; pit; place of the souls of the dead], behold, thou art there.”

Because the LORD is omnipresent, we are never beyond His protection, love, or compassion (139:9-10).  You can take flight, but you are never beyond His grasp or reach.

Psalm 139:9-10  – “If I take [depart; carried away] the wings of the morning [dawn; first beams of morning light], and dwell [abide; remain; inhabit] in the uttermost parts [end; last] of the sea; 10  Even there [flight as fast as light or the depths of the sea] shall thy hand [power] lead [guide; bring] me, and thy right hand [i.e. considered the stronger side] shall hold [take hold; possess; handle; grasp] me.”

When the darkest hour of life is upon you, the light of the Lord is with you (139:11-12).

Psalm 139:11-12 – “If I say [speak], Surely the darkness [i.e. misery] shall cover [bruise; break; overwhelm] me; even the night shall be light [day; light] about me. 12  Yea, the darkness [i.e. misery] hideth [obscures] not from thee; but the night shineth [shines; enlightens; gives light]  as the day: the darkness [i.e. misery] and the light [luminous light] are both alike to thee.”

God is not only Omniscient and Omnipresent; He is also your Originatoryour Creator, Designer and Architect (Psalm 139:13-16).  Herein is the greatest argument against abortion:  Knowing God is Creator and human life sacred, abortion is an unconscionable evil.

My friend, you are special, unique; one of a kind; there is none other like you. Modern science has proven just how unique you are.  Your ears are geometrically unique as is your body odor (secreting a combination of 44 compounds).  Your fingerprints and fingernails are unique with loops and swirls forming patterns unique to you.  Even the pores of your nose form a pattern like none other.

We have one thing in common: We are eternal souls uniquely designed and created by God (139:13-16)!  God has Sovereignly determined your uniqueness. (139:13)

Psalm 139:13  For thou hast possessed [get; acquire] my reins [lit. kidneys; figuratively the mind; soul, seat of my desire and affections]: thou hast covered [knit; weave] me in my mother’s womb [belly; bosom; body].

God has impressed on man’s soul a consciousness of his Creator’s hand and design. (139:14)

Psalm 139:14-15 – “I will praise [give thanks; confess God in public] thee; for I am fearfully [amazingly; stand in awe or reverence] and wonderfully made [distinguish; uniquely; set apart]: marvellous [wonderful; extraordinary; surpassing] are thy works [labor; i.e. needlework; deeds]; and that my soul [life; person; being] knoweth [perceives; observes] right well [exceedingly; greatly]. 15  My substance [strength; physical frame; bones and being] was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret [mother’s womb], and curiously wrought [woven as a tapestry] in the lowest parts of the earth [out of human sight].

From the moment of your conception, your person and days were determined (139:16).

Psalm 139:16Thine eyes did see [perceive; look; behold] my substance [body; frame; bones], yet being unperfect [embryo; unformed mass in mother’s womb]; and in thy book [letter; scroll] all my members were written [described; lit. – all the days of my life are 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].”

You are God’s unique creation and He knows you like none other.  He created you as a free will agent. You are not a robot and every person has the privilege and responsibility of choice and bears the consequences of their choices.

Romans 1:20 – “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”

  • Note – Amplifications of Psalm 139 are by the author.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

 

The Biblical Foundation of America’s Laws and Precepts We Too Often Take for Granted

Monday, November 27, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 20-22

Moses’ final challenge to Israel before his departure continues in today’s scripture reading, Deuteronomy 20-22.  Israel is encamped at the threshold of the land God promised Abraham and his lineage; however, the land will not be theirs’ without going to war to secure and to enlarge it.

Deuteronomy 20 is a continuation of Moses’ instruction to Israel in times of war.  Moses challenged the people to be confident when facing superior enemies, not trusting in their own strength, but placing their confidence in the LORD (Deuteronomy 20:1-4).  The men were expected to take up arms and go to war for the nation; however, some in Israel were given exemptions from military duty lest they be a distraction and endanger others.  Among those given exemptions from war were men building a house, planting a vineyard, newly married, and the fainthearted who lacked courage (Deuteronomy 20:5-8).  While women, children, and livestock might be spared as spoils of war, Israel was to put to death every man of war (20:10-20).

Deuteronomy 21 sets forth various laws Israel was to follow and underlines the sanctity of human life (21:1-9), the just treatment of an alien woman taken as a wife (21:10-14), the birthright of a firstborn son (Deuteronomy 21:15-17), and the punishment of a rebellious son (21:18-21).

Being reminded an Israelite was commanded to love his neighbor, Deuteronomy 22 states the duty of a man regarding his neighbor’s welfare and possessions (22:1-4).  There was also to be a distinction of the sexes in their dress and fashion (22:5).

Remembering God is the Creator and life is sacred, rather than wanton callousness for animal life, Israelites were to value and preserve the life of even the smallest bird (22:6-7).

Because man is created in the image of God, precautions were to be taken to protect human life, including the building of battlements or low walls about the roof of one’s home (22:8) to prevent accidental falls, injury and death.

Finally, practical laws and guidelines are given regarding the sanctity and purity of marriage (22:13-30).  Unlike their heathen neighbors, Israelite women were given protections and the right of due process should their purity and testimony be called into question.  Deuteronomy 22 closes with a reminder that incest was an abomination to God and prohibited (22:10).

As a closing observation, you should recognize there are many life principles we follow as a nation and take for granted in society that originate with many of the laws stated in today’s Scripture reading: The sanctity of human life (21:1-9), the equitable treatment of women (21:10-14), caring for a neighbor’s welfare (22:1-4), and the sacredness of all life (22:6).

America has systematically rejected God and the authority of His Word over the course of the last 50 years and we have become a society whose laws are divorced from unalterable sacred principles, leaving us as a nation given to the whims of wicked men.

Isaiah 5:20-21 – “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! 21  Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Home Sweet Home: A Family Portrait

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 128-130

Today’s scripture reading consists of three brief songs of worship in the Book of Psalms, chapters 128, 129 and 130.  As noted in previous devotions, we are in the midst of a set of Psalms known as, “A Song of Degrees” (Psalms 120-134) and believed to have been psalms pilgrims sang as they approached Jerusalem and the Temple for feasts days celebrated by the Hebrews.  My focus for today’s commentary is Psalm 128.

Psalm 128 is a song of rejoicing in the LORD for His many blessings.  The central focus of the psalm is the LORD’S blessings on the household of the man who fears and walks in the ways of the LORD (128:1).

What does it mean to fear the LORD?

The fear of the LORD is not a fear that, like Adam, flees or cowers in God’s presence (Genesis 3:8-9).  It is a reverential fear; a fear that moves a man to conduct himself in a manner that is upright, honest and just.  Such a man is “blessed” (i.e. happy; joyful; satisfied) because he “walketh in His ways” (the ways of the LORD’S commandments).

Drawing upon a picture that is rural and agricultural (128:2-3); the man who fears the LORD is promised he will enjoy success in his labor, be happy in his pursuits, and fare well in life (128:2).

Wow; what a picture of a rewarding, satisfying life!  However, it gets even better!  It is one thing to be well-off, have money in savings and enjoy material success; however, it is quite another to have family in whom you take pleasure.

The world might say such a man lives a “charmed life”; however, nothing could be further from the truth!  He is not lucky; he is blessed because he fears the LORD and walks in His ways!

Unlike the wicked whose lives are cursed with the ways of sin that never satisfy, the life of a man who fears the LORD and walks in His ways is not choked with the weeds of ungodliness.  God blesses his labor (128:2) and his household enjoys the fruit of God’s blessings upon his life (128:3).

His wife is “a fruitful vine” and finds her strength in him and his children are “like olive plants”, a source of joy to his soul.  Leaving us no doubt the way of the LORD is blessed, the psalmist repeats his assertion, the man be blessed that feareth the LORD (128:4).

The closing verses of Psalm 128 serve as a benediction for those who fear the LORD and walk in His ways (128:5-6).

Psalm 128:5-6 – “The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. 6  Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel.”

We have seen the family portraits of three generations in this psalmThe first is a portrait of a young man and his wife who, under the shadow of her husband’s love and piety (128:1-3a), is like “a fruitful vine” …a source of joy and blessing to her household.

The second portrait is that of the man’s children who, sitting around his table, are trained and cultivated to grow up “like olive plants” and prosper (128:3).

The third portrait is one of contentment (128:5-6) and was taken in the latter years of the godly man’s life.  He is old, his back stooped in age; however, his heart aspires to see God bless his nation (128:5).  He rejoices in seeing his “children’s children”, and prays for peace (128:6).

Many reading this devotional aspire to the same.  We long for success and to be a blessing to our spouse and children.  We pray for God to pour out His blessings on our nation and, when we are old, to grant us the joy of seeing and loving our grandchildren.

My friend, those are admirable goals; however, they are the blessings of those who fear the LORD and walk in His ways.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith