Category Archives: Creation

“Peace In The Midst of the Storm” (Mark 4)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 37-38, Psalm 32, and Mark 4. Our devotional is from Mark 4.

Jesus had taught parables throughout the day with crowds so large He was forced to launch out from the lakeshore where he sat in a boat while He taught.  Exhausted from teaching, Jesus asked His disciples to cross the lake to the other shore, and lying down in the boat He slept.

The Sea of Galilee (14 miles long and 7 miles wide) is notorious for violent storms.  Its surface 700 feet below sea level, the Sea of Galilee has a sub-tropical climate that is warm and pleasant year-round (much like our own Tampa Bay).  Surrounded by the Galilean mountains and the Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee is part of the Jordan rift.  Cold winds from snow-covered mountain peaks to the north often push down through the hillsides that act as a funnel sending cold air colliding with the warm sub-tropical air of the Sea of Galilee causing sudden, violent storms.

We read of this occasion in the Gospel of Matthew: “there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but He was asleep” (Matthew 8:24).

At least four of the disciples were fisherman; however, even those veteran sailors were unable to salvage the desperate situation in which they found themselves.   With cold winds whipping at the sailors and waves crashing into the ship, the exhausted disciples finally cried out, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38).

Friend, like the stormy sea in today’s Bible reading, trials will arise in your life and put your faith and trust in God’s will to the test. 

Before the disciples launched their ship out into the sea, Jesus knew an approaching storm would soon test their faith and whether or not they would put their trust in Him.  By the way, notice Jesus did not lead them where He was not going and when the storm came He was with them!

A second observation: The disciples’ response to the storm revealed they did not know fully Who Jesus was!  After Jesus commanded the wind and the waves to cease, we read: “they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (Mark 4:41).

The storm was an opportunity for the disciples to see Jesus as more than a mere mortal.  Struck with fear, awe, and respect they ask, “What manner of man is this?”

Someone reading today’s devotion is in the midst of a storm of personal trials.  Fear of the future has laid hold on your spirit and loneliness oppresses your soul.  Take heart; the LORD is with you in the midst of the storm of uncertainty… “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39).

Psalm 89:8-9– “8O Lord God of hosts….9Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them.”

Take a few minutes and listen to a wonderful song titled, What Manner of This?, written and performed by my evangelist friend Ben Everson.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Our God is Creator and Sovereign of the Nations (Exodus 9-10)

Today’s Bible reading is Exodus 9-10, Psalm 22, and Matthew 22. Our devotional is from Exodus 9-10.

We continue our study of Exodus and Moses’ petition that Pharaoh set God’s people free to go into the wilderness and offer sacrifices to the LORD (Exodus 9:1).  Having suffered four plagues (Exodus 7:19-8:24), Pharaoh continues to harden his heart.

The fifth plague fell on the livestock of Egypt (Exodus 9:3); however, as a testimony of God’s sovereignty and love for Israel, none of Israel’s livestock perished (9:4-7).  Yet, Pharaoh continued to harden his heart against the LORD.

The sixth plague was the misery and suffering that comes with boils and blisters and fell upon man and beast in Egypt (9:8-11).  Once again, Pharaoh did not repent and  “the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh” (9:12).

The seventh plague brought hail raining down and destroying the crops in the fields of Egypt (9:13-35).  Some of Pharaoh’s servants believed Moses’ warnings and sheltered their servants and livestock in houses (9:20).  When Pharaoh saw the plague of hail had ceased, “he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart” as he had in the past (9:34-35).

Egypt suffered enough loss at the end of the seventh plague that hunger and famine became the lot of the people.  Nevertheless, Pharaoh refused to repent of his sin and the LORD commanded Moses, “Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants” (10:1). [On a personal note: don’t underestimate the influence of a nation’s leaders on its citizens; as Pharaoh’s hardened his heart, the same was true of the people].

The eight plague to come upon Egypt was locusts and they devoured what was left of the nation’s crops (10:3-20).   Darkness was the ninth plague (10:21-29).  While Israel enjoyed the comfort of light in their dwellings, a darkness oppressed the Egyptians that was heavy and frightening.  Still, Pharaoh refused to allow Israel to go.

Why did the LORD not simply deliver Israel from bondage by the force of His will and power?

Exodus 10:2 – “And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the LORD.”

The LORD wanted Israel to know and remember through successive generations all He had done in Egypt.  His dealings with Pharaoh and the Egyptians was to serve as a lasting testimony of the LORD’s person, His power, and His presence among His chosen people.

Though a nation of slaves, Israel’s God was the Creator and Sovereign of nature and He would bring the greatest ruler and most powerful nation in the world to her knees.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

What is in Your Heart? (Genesis 7-8)

It is not too late to take up the challenge of reading through the Bible in a year.  You can download the Bible Reading Plan at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org. Today’s assignment is Genesis 7-8, Psalm 4, and Matthew 4.

The historical narrative of the universal flood begins in Genesis 6 where we read, “5the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…7And the LORD said, I will destroy man…” (Genesis 6:5, 7).

Out of all the earth, one man “found grace [divine favor] in the eyes of the LORD”(Genesis 6:8).  “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).

The last four words of verse 9 answers the question, “Why did God spare Noah and his family?”  He was a man of faith “and walked with God”.  While wickedness and rebellion were universal, Noah believed God, called upon Him, and walked with Him.

A testimony of Noah’s faith and God’s grace is he and his family were saved from the greatest cataclysmic event to ever come upon the earth.  It rained 40 days and 40 nights (7:12,17) and when the rains stopped the waters covered the earth another 150 days.

The story of God’s universal judgment is interrupted with a phrase that is a joy to read; “God remembered Noah…”(Genesis 8:1).  Altogether, Noah and his family remained in the Ark 370 days until the waters receded (Genesis 8:14-16).  When God commanded him to leave the Ark, Noah’s first act as spiritual leader of his household was to build an altar and offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God (Genesis 8:20-21a).  The LORD accepted Noah’s sacrifice, promising He would never again destroy the earth.

We read an ominous statement regarding the heart of man after the flood;  “the imagination [thinking; inner thoughts] of man’s heart [mind; understanding; center of his thinking] is evil [sinful; wicked; ] from his youth”(Genesis 8:21b).

The pre-flood world had been laid waste and the face of the earth scarred as a lasting reminder of God’s wrath [example – the Grand Canyon]; however, one thing had not changed…the heart of man.

God’s observation before the flood was, “every imagination of the thoughts of his [man’s] heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).  The same malady was true of the heart of man after the flood (Genesis 8:21b).

Sadly, that reality will be too soon apparent in Genesis 9.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Why Should You Trust the LORD?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 146-148

Our scripture reading today consist of three psalms, Psalms 146, 147 and 148.   I will limit my devotional commentary to Psalm 146.  The author of Psalm 146 is not known; however, his purpose in writing the psalm is obvious….it is a song of praise to the LORD.  The psalmist employs numerous names for God meant to describe His nature, personality, and character.

You will notice in the verses my amplification of the text in brackets.  Understanding a word in the Hebrew scriptures can be translated into English with more than one word, it is my desire to give you a broader understanding and insight into this beautiful psalm of praise for your own worship and edification.

Psalm 146:1-2 – 1  Praise [Hallelujah; Glory; Boast; Celebrate] ye the LORD [Yahweh; the sacred name of the LORD]. Praise the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God], O my soul.
2  While I live [have life] will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises [sing psalms] unto my God [Elohim; mighty God] while I have any being.

The psalmist begins Psalm 146 directing his praise and worship to the only One worthy of praise…the LORD (146:1-2).

Psalm 146:3-43  Put not your trust [confidence] in princes, nor in the son [children] of man, in whom there is no help [salvation; deliverance].
4  His breath [man’s breath] goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day [time] his thoughts perish.

The psalmist exhorts and admonishes the people to not put their trust or confidence in man (146:3-4).  Whether a prince among men or a mere mortal man…all men live under the sentence of death (Romans 6:23); their breath disappears as a vapor, their bodies return to dust and their plans and designs perish with them.

Such is the spiritual lesson the rich man encountered in Luke 12.  Experiencing an overflow of the fruits of his labor at the time of harvest, the rich man determined to tear down his barns and hoard God’s blessings (Luke 12:17-18).   God judged the man a fool (Luke 12:19-20).  His affections were on earthly riches and he died a spiritual pauper… “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God” (Luke 12:21).

While the rich man’s affections for earthly treasure perish with him, the psalmist describes the man who looks to the LORD as “Happy” (146:5) .

Psalm 146:55  Happy [Blessed; prosperous] is he that hath the God [Almighty God] of Jacob for his help [aid], whose hope [expectation] is in the LORD his God:

Why trust the LORD (146:6-9)?  The psalmist suggests four qualities that lead us to trust the LORD.

1) The LORD is Creator of heaven, earth, the sea and “all that therein is”. (146:6a)

Psalm 146:6 6  Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth [preserves; guards] truth for ever [i.e. God is forever faithful; trustworthy]:

 2) The LORD is faithful and true. (146:6b)

Psalm 146:7-9 7  Which executeth [lit. to make or prepare] judgment [justice] for the oppressed: which giveth food [bread and meat] to the hungry. The LORD looseth [sets at liberty] the prisoners: 8  The LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth [lifts up; comforts] them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous [just]:
9  The LORD preserveth [keeps watch; regards; saves] the strangers [sojourners]; he relieveth [bear witness; admonish; protects] the fatherless and widow: but the way [journey; path] of the wicked [ungodly; guilty] he turneth upside down [subverts; thwarts;overthrows].

3) The LORD is just and compassionate. (146:7-9)

Psalm 146:10 10  The LORD shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the LORD.

4) The LORD is King Eternal, the God of Zion of whose kingdom there is no end (146:10).

How foolish to trust man or place our confidence in earthly possessions!  The LORD is eternal, just, compassionate, faithful, true and our Creator!  Why trust any other?

Let all who know the LORD trust and praise Him!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD is Sovereign of Wind and Water

September 6, 2017

Scripture Reading – Psalms 105-107

We have three psalms before us for our scripture reading, Psalm 105, Psalm 106 and Psalm 107.

Psalm 105 is a psalm of praise and thanksgiving and rehearses the LORD’s providential care of Israel, His chosen people.  The contextual timeline of the psalm begins with Abraham, runs through Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian slavery and the nation’s wanderings in the wilderness for 40 years.

Psalm 105 is a testimony of God’s care of Israel in the wilderness by a cloud to cover their journey in the day and a fire to light their way at night (105:39).   When they were hungry the LORD gave them quail for meat and manna for bread.  When they were thirsty, water gushed out of the rock (105:40-42).   When the people murmured and tempted Him, the LORD was longsuffering and remembered His covenant promise to Abraham and brought his seed into the land He had promised where they might serve Him and “observe His statutes, and keep His laws” (105:45).

Like Psalm 105, Psalm 106 is a song of praise and thanksgiving to the LORD (106:1).  Psalm 106 reflects on God’s loving care and provision for Israel in spite of the unfaithfulness of the people.  The psalm becomes a penitential psalm (a psalm of confession and repentance) when the psalmist recalls the sins of his forefathers and identifies with them his own bent to sin (106:6).   The bulk of the psalm remembers the LORD’s providential care of Israel in the wilderness and His patience with His people in spite of their sin and rebellion (106:7-48).

Hebrew scribes divide the Book of Psalms into five books: Book 1 consists of Psalms 1-41; Book 2 consists of Psalms 42-72; Book 3 consists of Psalms 73-89; Book 4 consists of Psalms 90-106; and the fifth book is Psalms 107-150.  Psalm 107 is the first psalm in the fifth and last Book of the Psalms.

Psalm 107 begins with a call to give thanks to the LORD for redeeming Israel out of Babylon (107:2-7).   The psalmist remembers how the LORD preserved His people in exile and restored them to the land He had promised Abraham would be his inheritance.  The psalmist writes:

Psalm 107:8-9 – “Oh that men would praise [give thanks] the LORD for His goodness [grace; mercy; loving-kindness], and for His wonderful works to the children of men! 9  For He satisfieth [fills] the longing [seeking; hungry] soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness [good and pleasant things].”

Why should Israel praise the LORD and give thanks?

Because the LORD is good, merciful and a God of grace! 

When His people turned from Him, the LORD humbled them in prison and when they cried out He heard their cry and delivered them (107:10-16).  When they sinned and became sick, He healed them (107:17-22).   When rocked with trouble and turmoil, like seamen at sea caught in the fury of a storm who call out to the LORD, Israel called upon the LORD and He heard their cry and quieted their troubles (107:23-32).

Psalm 107:33-43 is especially pertinent for the United States after witnessing the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey ravaging the coast of Texas and the worrisome approach of Hurricane Irma for Florida.

Remembering God is Sovereign of nature, the psalmist reminds us the LORD, “turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground; 34 A fruitful land into barrenness…35 the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings” (107:33-35).

Friend, God is just, and He blesses the land for the sake of the righteous and brings judgment upon the land because the wicked dwell therein (107:36-41).

Wise are they who understand the way of the LORD and walk in His commandments for “they shall understand [regard; be instructed in] the lovingkindness [mercy; goodness; grace] of the LORD” (107:43).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Don’t Worry; God is in Control!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 93-95

Our scripture reading today is three psalms, Psalm 93, Psalm 94 and Psalm 95.  For the sake of brevity, my devotional commentary will focus on Psalm 93.

Scholars believe Psalm 93 was written after the Babylonian captivity when the Jews returned from exile during the reign of Cyrus of Persia.  In a matter of 70 years, Israel had witnessed the implosion of Babylon, arguably the first great world empire.  Nebuchadnezzar had conquered the known world in his day and among the many nations led away to serve him was Israel.  Unlike other ancient nations that resettled and assimilated by the Chaldeans, the Jewish people maintained their identity as a chosen people, distinguished by God’s Law.

Israel’s return to their land and the rebuilding of the Temple and city of Jerusalem gave cause for the author of Psalm 93 to state three truths regarding God and His immutable character.  For the sake of this study, I will post my amplification of the text in a cursive font.

The first principle is, God is Sovereign and His Rule is Forever (93:1-2).

Psalm 93:1-2 – The LORD [Jehovah; the Eternal, Self-Existent God] reigneth [He reigns as King], he is clothed [wrapped in a robe] with majesty [lofty; exalted]; the LORD is clothed [wrapped in a robe] with strength [power; might], wherewith he hath girded [compass or encircled; clothed] himself: the world also is stablished [anchored; immovable; firm], that it cannot be moved [slip; waver; fall; brought down]. 2  Thy throne [place of authority] is established [anchored; immovable; firm] of old [from the beginning; since time began]: thou art from everlasting [eternal; forever; perpetual; always].

A study of world history yields the reality even the greatest nations rise and fall.  With the passing of time, every nation that has ever taken its place on the world stage inevitably evidences corruption and the decay of character and morality.  Such is not the case with the LORD whose sovereignty over His creation is majestic, unwavering and everlasting.  Nations rise and nations fall. Kings rule and presidents preside, but the reign of the LORD is everlasting.

The second principle is, God is Greater than My Circumstances (93:3-4).

Psalm 93:3-4 – The floods [rivers; streams] have lifted up [taken away; carried away], O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice [noise; sound; thunder]; the floods lift up their waves [i.e. pounding, crashing waves].
4  The LORD on high [above; i.e. sits in the highest place] is mightier [glorious; majestic] than the noise [sound; thunder] of many [great; much] waters, yea, than the mighty [glorious; majestic] waves [breaking, pounding waves] of the sea.

As I write this devotional some very dear friends and members of Hillsdale come to mind who are facing trials and troubles that might easily overwhelm them if it were not for the promise we find in verses 4: “The LORD on high is mightier” (93:4).

Mighty, destructive floodwaters are the picture the psalmist draws upon to describe circumstances that are powerful, sweeping and devastating (93:3).  Whether in person or on news broadcasts, we have witnessed the devastating power of floodwaters sweeping away everything in their path…homes, possessions, even lives are lost to the power of surging waters.

With that picture in mind, the psalmist writes, “The LORD on high is mightier” (93:4).   He is mightier than the thundering waters of a waterfall or the pounding waves of the sea.  He is mightier than the circumstances that seem ready to overwhelm you.  He is mightier than the sorrows and disappointments that have brought you low.

We have seen the LORD is Sovereign (93:1-2) and mightier than our circumstances (93:3-4), bringing us to our third principle found in Psalm 93: God is Faithful – His Word, Testimonies and Promises are Sure (93:5).

Psalm 93:5 – Thy testimonies [witness] are very sure [established; firm; faithful; enduring]: holiness [sacredness; hallownes] becometh [pleasant; befits] thine house [temple; household; residence], O LORD, for ever [continually].

God’s Word and promises never fail.  Israel’s return to their land as a nation fulfilled God’s promise He would not forget or forsake His people.  Surely there were times in Babylon when all seemed lost; the temple destroyed, the walls and city of Jerusalem had become nothing more than a pile of debris and the people removed from their land.  However, not a promise of the LORD had failed and the Jews were restored to their land.

Friend, take heart, God is Sovereign, greater and mightier than your circumstances, faithful to His promises, and His residence is holy forever!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Take Time to Pray

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 63-65

David’s flight from his enemies into the wilderness is the setting of Psalm 63 and Psalm 64.  David sought refuge in the wilderness during two times of trouble.  The first when he fled from king Saul who out of envy and fear sought to kill him (1 Samuel 23:14-15; 24:1).  The second flight into the wilderness was when David fled Jerusalem as his son Absalom led a rebellion against him (2 Samuel 15:23).

Rather than discouragement, we find David turning his heart to the LORD and worshipping his God in the wilderness.  Far from the Tabernacle and the Ark, and without the company of a priest, David cried out to the LORD, “O God, thou art my God” (63:1).  David’s prayer, yearning and worship of the LORD gives believers a pattern we should all follow when calling upon Him (63:1-4).  Psalm 63 concludes with David expressing confidence the LORD heard his plea, would answer his prayer and deliver him from his enemies (63:5-11).

David most likely wrote Psalm 64 when he was seeking safety and refuge from his enemies (64:1-6).  After rehearsing all the evil the enemies intended for him, David’s thoughts turned to God and trusting Him to give him victory over those who sought his harm (64:7-10).

David praises the LORD in Psalm 65, expressing his gratitude for God hearing his prayers, forgiving his sins, and blessing him (65:1-4).  Reflecting on God’s Sovereignty over His creation (65:5-8), David praised the LORD for providing rain and running streams, quenching the thirst of creation and providing for the needs of all creatures (65:9-13).

There was a time American families followed a tradition of not only sharing family mealtimes, but also began every meal with “Grace”.  I have not heard that expression in years, but I remember my parents and grandparents asking, “Who would like to say grace?” or “Who would like to say the blessing?”  Both expressions of prayer acknowledged the LORD as our Provider and the source of all blessings.

The closing verses of Psalm 65 were just that, David’s acknowledgement of God’s grace and blessings.  Might I encourage you to do the same?

Take a moment before your meals, bow your head, say “Grace” and thank God for His blessings.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith