Category Archives: Creation

Woe to the Proud (Amos 6)

Scripture reading – Amos 6

Amos 6

Amos 6 continues the prophet’s declarations of woes against Israel, identified as Samaria, and Judah, identified as Zion (6:1). Both nations are characterized as being “at ease” (meaning carefree, overly-confident, careless); however, the focus of chapter 6 is primarily upon Israel (the northern ten tribes).

Amos’ Admonition to the Careless Leaders of Israel (6:2-6)

Three great heathen cities are identified in Amos 6:2, and held before Israel as examples of cities greater than Jerusalem and Samaria, that would succumb to a greater enemy (which history reveals as Assyria). Calneh was an ancient city identified as Nimrod, who also founded Babel (6:2a). Hamath was the capital city of Syria (6:2b), and Gath was one of the principal cities of the Philistines.

After identifying those great Gentile cities, for all would fall before the armies of the Assyrian empire, Amos challenged the careless leaders of Israel, “Be they better than these kingdoms? Or their border greater than your border?” (6:2). Amos questioned if the leaders of Israel and Judah were foolish enough to believe the same would not soon befall them (6:2). Though they had been warned, there were some who refused to believe and “put far away the evil day” until the “seat of violence” was at the gates of the city (6:3).

They were guilty of self-indulgence, and oppressed the poor of Israel, while the wealthy immersed themselves in extravagant luxury (6:4-6). They were lethargic, and gluttonous (6:4). They desired to be pleasured with music (6:5), were guilty of excessive drinking, and anointed themselves with expensive perfumes, yet, they gave no thought to the sorrows and sufferings of their countrymen (6:6).

The Judgment to Befall the Wealthy, Self-indulgent of Israel (6:7-11)

The ones who had oppressed the poor while pampering themselves in wealth and possessions were the first to be exiled and taken into captivity (6:7). God had sworn an oath of judgment against those who were filled with pride and presumption (6:8).

Amos painted a picture of destruction and devastation that would befall Israel, and the great majority of the people of Israel would perish (8:9). So many would die, the people would resort to cremation (usually reserved for criminals) to dispose the bodies of the dead (6:9-10). The destruction of houses described in Amos 6:11 is believed to have been caused by an earthquake.

Five Things That Should Not Be (6:12-13)

Amos wisely illustrated God’s wisdom by referencing nature as the teacher.  The first and second teaching points are easy to understand: Horses should not run on rocks (for they risk falling and either hurting themselves or their rider), and oxen should not plow over a rock strewn field (for there is little reward, 6:12b).

Amos continues to offer wisdom in terms that register deep with mankind. Polluting justice runs contrary to God’s divine order (6:12C), and is much like perverting the sweetness of righteousness with bitterness (6:12d). Finally, whether a nation or a man, it is foolish to boast of one’s strength, for boasting will inevitably come to nothing and prove you wrong (6:13).

Closing thoughts – For all the pride and boasting of Israel’s leaders, Amos delivered the inescapable fact of God’s judgment. All would be fulfilled as the LORD had promised and Amos had prophesied. Assyria would destroy the strongholds of Israel, and the proud and oppressed would be carried away into captivity (6:14).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

My God is My Shield, and Defender (Psalm 115; Psalm 116)

Scripture reading – Psalm 115; Psalm 116

Today’s Scripture reading consists of two psalms that are calls to worship. Leaving no doubt whom the God of Israel is, the psalmist invites people of faith to boast in Him as the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and the Sovereign of all!

Psalm 115

The psalmist began his psalm as a prayer, and appealed to God to defend His name and honor (115:1). The heathen had scorned the God of creation, and dared to mock Him, asking, “Where is now their God?” (115:2) Offended by the question, the psalmist answered, “Our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever he hath pleased” (115:3).

The focus of the author then turned to the congregation of Israel, and he reminded them that the idols of the heathen “are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands” (115:4). The wicked worships idols that “have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: 6They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: 7They have hands, but they handle not: Feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat” (115:5-7). Oh, the foolishness of men when they deny the God of creation! They worship gods fashioned like themselves: mute, blind, deaf, and dumb! (115:8).

Turning his thoughts to the LORD, the psalmist exhorted Israel to worship the LORD, reminding the people three times: The LORD “is their help [aid] and their shield [protector; i.e., a small shield used in close combat](115:9-11). What the LORD had been in the past (for He had “been mindful” of Israel), the people were promised He would be in the future: “He will bless them that fear [Him], both small and great” (115:13).

Psalm 115 concluded, reminding believers why the LORD should be worshipped and praised: He is Creator, and “made heaven and earth” (115:15). He is Sovereign, and “the heaven, even the heavens are the LORD’S” (115:16a). As Creator, He made man the keeper of the earth (115:16b; Genesis 1:26, 28-30; 2:15).

Understanding the dead cannot praise the LORD (115:17), the psalmists declared, “we will bless the Lord from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the Lord” (115:18).

Psalm 116

The author of Psalm 116 opened the psalm with a sincere testimony of his love for the LORD, writing, “I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications” (116:1).

The psalm did not identify the affliction that had brought “sorrows of death” (116:3) upon its author; however, he described his troubles as “the pains of hell” (116:3). In the midst of his sorrows, the psalmist turned to the LORD and prayed, “O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul” (116:4b). As he reflected upon God’s character, he prayed, “Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful6  The LORD preserveth the simple [innocent]: I was brought low, and he helped me… 8  For [the LORD] hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling” (116:4-8).

Reflecting on the faithfulness of the LORD, and knowing He hears and answers prayer, the psalmist affirmed his devotion to the LORD with a series of vows (116:9-19).

Psalm 116:9 – I will walk before [live; i.e., conscious awareness of the presence of] the LORD in the land of the living.

Psalm 116:13 – I will take the cup of salvation [possibly the Passover cup], and call upon the name of the LORD.

Psalm 116:14 – I will pay [complete; finish] my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people.

Psalm 116:17 – I will offer [make] to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving [praise], and will call [publicly] upon the name of the LORD.

Psalm 116:18-19 – I will pay [complete; finish] my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people, 19 In the courts of the LORD’S house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD.

Closing thoughts – Consider Psalm 116:15 – “Precious [honorable, and noble] in the sight [presence] of the LORD is the death [i.e., the day of death] of his saints [people of faith].”

The inevitability of death is the bane of humanity; however, from the LORD’s perspective, the death of His saints is precious, excellent and noble. All believers can say with conviction, “whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

God Broke the Mold When He Made You! (Psalm 139)

Scripture reading – Psalm 139

Psalm 139 is titled, “To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David,” and in my opinion, is one of the most profound of all the psalms. Some of the foundational doctrines of our faith are declared here, including the revelation that God is Omniscient (139:1-6), Omnipresent (139:7-12), and He is mankind’s Originator, meaning our Creator (139:13-16).

How important are those doctrines? They are essential, fundamental principles to the faith of all Bible believers. You see, what we believe concerning God’s attributes will dictate the answer to critical life questions: “Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? How should I live? Where am I going?” There is, within the heart of man, a longing for purpose, and a desire to find answers to those questions.

In the 19th century, Charles Darwin, a man who had rejected God as Creator, traveled the world seeking an alternative explanation for life, and the physical universe. The result was a book he titled, “Origin of Species” (1859), and a proposition that the world and life as we know it is the result of evolution. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, though rejected as impossible by many credible scientists, has continued to be taught as “science” in secular education institutions. Tragically, several generations of students have grown up under the influence of Darwinian evolution, and failed to grasp it is an unsubstantiated theory that demands blind faith. To date, not one proof of a species evolving to a different species has ever been discovered (nor ever will)!

What does the Bible reveal in this matter of God, and man?

God is Omniscient, and He knows all that is in the heart of man (139:1-6).

The LORD knows our fears, longings, thoughts, and desires (139:1a). There is nothing concealed from Him (139:2).  He knows our secrets, our ways, and every word we have ever uttered (139:2b-4).  He also savors the noble qualities of our life (139:5-6).

God is Omnipresent (139:7-12).  He abides in every part 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 into heaven [i.e., the sky above; the 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 He is omnipresent, we are never beyond the LORD’S protection, love, or mercies (139:9-10).  We can take flight, but we will never be beyond His grasp.

Psalm 139:9-10  – “If I take [depart; carried away on] 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 to be 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 our Originator… Creator, Designer, Engineer, and Architect (139:13-16).

Psalm 139:13-16 reinforces one of the great “Right-to-Life” principles against abortion in the Scriptures. When we accept that God is Creator (Genesis 1:27), and the Giver of life (Genesis 2:7), and man is created in His image (a spiritual, eternal being), we must believe human life is sacred. Abortion is, therefore, an unconscionable evil; a sin against God and humanity.

God has sovereignly determined our 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].

Every man, woman, boy, and girl is unique. You are one of a kind, and there is none other like you. Modern science has proven just how unique you are.  Did you know, your ears are geometrically unique to you, as is your body odor (secreting a combination of 44 compounds).  Your fingerprints, and fingernails are unique with loops and swirls that form patterns that are distinctive to you.  In fact, even the pores of your nose form a pattern like none other!

God has impressed on man’s soul a consciousness of his Creator’s hand and design. (139:14-15)

Psalm 139:14-15 – “I will praise [give thanks] thee; for I am fearfully [amazingly] 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].

Just think about it, from the moment your were conceived, your person and days were determined (139:16).

Psalm 139:16 – Thine eyes did see [perceive; look; behold] my substance [body; frame; bones], yet beingunperfect [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 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].”

Closing thoughts – You are God’s unique creation and He knows you.  He created you as a free will agent, and like Charles Darwin, you have the privilege and responsibility of your choices. Be forewarned: The ability to choose brings with it the consequences of that choice.

Remember: “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.” (Romans 1:20)

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Lesson in Biblical Anthropology (Psalm 40; Psalm 58)

Scripture reading – Psalm 40; Psalm 58

The titles of Psalm 40 and Psalm 58 identify David as the author. Psalm 40 is addressed, “To the Chief Musician, A Psalm of David.” While I cannot say with certainty the date or setting of the psalm, its subject matter parallels the circumstances the king was facing when Absalom led an insurrection against him. [On a personal note; because I am inclined to preach from Psalm 40 this Sunday, October 3, I have chosen Psalm 58 as the focus of this devotional.]

Psalm 58 is titled, “To the chief Musician, Altaschith [i.e. “do not destroy”], Michtam [poem] of David.” The setting of the psalm is uncertain, but David’s observations concerning the nature of the wicked fits well in the midst of the insurrection led by his son Absalom.

Psalm 58 – A a study in Anthropology and a challenge to the 21st century worldview of man.

Modern Anthropology is a study of man’s past, his behavior, biology, intellect, language, culture, and society (notice the study of man as a spiritual being is not a topic addressed by anthropologists). Though humanists deny the existence of a Creator, Biblical Anthropology observes man as a created, spiritual being (Genesis 1:27; 2:7, 21-24). While evolutionists propose unproven (and therefore, unscientific) theories to explain man’s origin and person, creationists accept the Genesis creation account by faith. I believe God created mankind in his likeness (Genesis 1:27), and men and women are eternal beings with soul and spirit (Genesis 2:7).

Two Opposing, Incompatible Worldviews

The world today is dominated by an atheistic, militant, evolutionary worldview, known as Humanism.  Humanists rule secular education, and they view humanity through a lens that not only rejects God as Creator, but discards the observable evidences of man’s spiritual depravity.

The humanists observe societal problems (crimes, violence, murder, rape, child abuse, human trafficking, et al), and explain them as environmental concerns; thus, man is a victim, not of his choices, but of his environment. The Word of God, by contrast, declares man’s problem is a spiritual one of the heart; and all are born sinful, morally depraved beings (Romans 3:10, 23).

Psalm 58 is a brief exposition of the character of sinful man. Penned 3,000 years ago, the psalm affords us an insight into the societal problems of our day, minus the political jargon that denies, and masks the wickedness of men. With that explanation as our background, allow me a brief exposition of Psalm 58.

The Failure of God’s People (58:1)

If the setting of Psalm 58 is the time of Absalom’s insurrection, then the two questions that introduce the psalm are springing from the heart of a father that is dismayed by what has befallen him, his household, and kingdom. The majority of Israel had followed Absalom’s rebellion, and David asked them: “Do ye indeed speak righteousness?” (58:1a) In other words, do you assume your cause is righteous, because you have a great following? Have you forgotten, you are but men yourselves? (58:1b)

The Character of the Wicked (58:2-5)

Man is sinful from conception, and wickedness is fixed in his heart. It is man’s nature to be violent (58:2). From the womb, man is turned aside from God, and is full of lies and deceit (58:3). His tongue is full of poison, like the bite of a viper, and cannot be restrained (58:4-5).

The Judgment of the Wicked (58:6-9)

David’s focus turns from the character of the wicked to God’s judgment, and their certain punishment. The king cried to the LORD to break the teeth of those who desired to devour, and destroy him (58:6). He prayed the strength of the wicked would melt away, like melting snow. When his enemy bends the bow to shoot, David prayed they would be cut in pieces (58:7). He cried to the LORD that his enemies would fade as the trail of a snail, and shrivel in the heat of the day. He longed that those who wished to destroy him would be as a stillborn babe, and their devices never see the day (58:8). Indeed, let the wicked be taken “away as with a whirlwind” (58:9).

The Rejoicing of the Righteous (58:10-11)

The psalm concluded with David anticipating the righteous rejoicing in God’s justice (58:10). Though the godly are not seeking vengeance, they are living in anticipation that the LORD rewards the righteous, and is a sovereign Judge.

Closing thoughts – While humanists, and the disingenuous claim the heart of man is good, God observes the heart of man is “evil continually” (Genesis 6:5) and “deviseth mischief continually” (Proverbs 6:14).

Let all who are redeemed be reminded, the wicked will not escape punishment and the righteous will be vindicated!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Saying Grace” – A Prayer of Thanksgiving (Psalm 65-66)

Scripture reading – Psalm 65; Psalm 66

Today’s Scripture reading consists of two psalms, Psalm 65 and Psalm 66. This devotional is focused on Psalm 65.

Psalm 65 – A Psalm of Thanksgiving

Psalm 65 is a beautiful psalm of praise and thanksgiving to the LORD. I am not sure why this particular psalm is titled “A Psalm and Song of David” (because all the psalms are songs of worship); however, the king of Israel was the author and it was dispatched to “the chief musician” of the tabernacle (for the Temple would not be built until the time of Solomon, the son of David). I suggest you consider Psalm 65 in three applications.

Praise is Due the LORD (65:1-4)

David’s introduction to the psalm acknowledged the LORD is worthy of praise. The vow is in reference to the covenant of promise God made to Israel. His people were to remember the stipulation of the covenant and perform them (65:1). David confessed the weight of sin upon man, and realized all flesh would one day come before God. Yet, David rejoiced in the LORD’S forgiveness, and deliverance (65:3). Such a man is blessed, for he can approach the presence of the LORD, dwell in the courts of His sanctuary, and experience His goodness and blessings (65:3b-4).

Those who worship God should remember the vows they have made to Him, and fulfill them The LORD not only hears the prayers of His people, He answers them (65:2)!

Praise the LORD for His Power (65:5-8)

Reflecting on God’s sovereignty (65:5-8), David praised Him not only for answering prayers, but for His salvation. The king observed that the presence of the LORD reaches “all the ends of the earth,” even to them who are “afar off upon the sea” (65:5). Psalm 65:6-8 reminds us of God’s power and sovereignty, for He is the Almighty One, the Sovereign of creation. He is the Creator, and fixed the mountains in their places (65:6), quiets the raging storms of the seas (65:7), and can silence the fury of the sea of humanity (65:7b).

David writes of men, “8They also that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid at thy tokens” (65:8a). What are the tokens of the LORD that cause the bravest of men to tremble? Think of the menacing power of a thunder storm with its blinding flashes of light, or the roar and tempest of a hurricane. Think also of the destructive path of a tornado, or perhaps the rumble and upheaval of an earthquake. All are tokens of the Creator.

Praise God for His Blessings (65:9-13)

Perhaps recalling his years as a shepherd, David remembered with welcome the relief of rains that produced much needed streams in that dry land.  As a shepherd he would have known firsthand how important water was to the earth. He acknowledged to God, “9Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: Thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water: Thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it. 10Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows thereof: Thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof” (65:9-10).

We should be thankful for the rains God sends our way, and the streams of water that quench the thirst of nature, and provide green pastures and grains so that all nature rejoices (65:9-13). I live in Florida and am surrounded by water. However, in centuries past when family farms were indispensable for the famer and his neighbors, rain was not an inconvenience, it was essential and celebrated. I fear we fail to pray, and thank the LORD for replenishing the earth with rain.

Closing thoughts“Who would like to say grace?” I have not heard that phrase in years, but I remember the old folks of my youth asking, “Who would like to say the blessing?”  To “Say Grace” or offer a “blessing,” was a prayer of thanksgiving for the bounty of God’s blessings, and in particular, the meal we were about to consume.

If “saying grace” is not a practice in your home, it should be. Every meal should begin with you bowing your head, and thanking God for His “GRACE.” When we pray at mealtimes, we acknowledge the LORD is the provider and source of all blessings.

Remember, the sun, wind, and rain all come from Him!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

 

The Majesty of God, the Eternal Judge (1 Chronicles 18; Psalm 50)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 18; Psalm 50

Today’s Scripture reading comprises Psalm 50, and 1 Chronicles 18. You should be familiar with the narrative of the latter, for it chronicles events we considered in a prior study of 2 Samuel 8. Psalm 50, therefore, is the focus of today’s devotional.

Psalm 50

The title of Psalm 50, “A Psalm of Asaph,” introduces a song writer who was a chief musician during the reign of David (1 Chronicles 6:39; 16:7). This is one of twelve psalms attributed to Asaph. The occasion for the writing of the psalm is not given; however, it rejoices in the LORD as a righteous judge (50:1-6), encourages the saints of God in their worship (50:7-15), and admonishes the wicked for their sin (50:16-21).

God, the Righteous Judge (50:1-6)

Knowing the names of God define His character, consider what we can learn of Him in the introductory verse: The mighty God [El Elohim – Mighty Ruler; Great God; Supreme], even the Lord [Yahweh; SELF-EXISTENT ONE], hath spoken, and called [summoned] the earth [all inhabitants] from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof” (50:1).

Psalm 50:2 declares the majesty of God: “2Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined;” while Psalm 50:3 announces He is coming: “3Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: A fire shall devour before him, And it shall be very tempestuous round about him.”

I believe it is the Second Coming of Christ that is described here, for the LORD is pictured as one coming in judgment [like a fire], and mankind is admonished to prepare for His judgment (50:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 10:27).  The saints of God will be gathered, and the judgment of God will be righteous (50:5-6).

God’s Message to the Saints of Israel (50:7-15)

I notice three major truths regarding the LORD summoning His people to come before Him. The first, He is God, and therefore He has the right to judge Israel (50:7). God is pictured as pondering His judgment of the people, and acknowledges they had brought before Him sacrifices and burnt offerings continually (50:8). Nevertheless, the people were reminded that in offering bullocks and goats to the LORD, they were giving only that which was His (50:9). All that has life, and breath is the LORD’S (50:10-11).

In a wonderful reminder of God’s Sovereignty as Creator and LORD, He challenged the people, “If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: For the world is mine, and the fulness thereof” (50:12).

Stop for a moment, and consider that last statement! There is nothing you and I can give the LORD, that is not already His, for all the world is His! We own nothing, but we are chosen to be stewards of possessions that are the LORD’S. Not only what we possess, but our very being is the LORD’S. In this, God has the right and authority to command us to “present [our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is [our] reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).

Lesson – How might we honor and glorify the LORD? By giving ourselves to Him out of a heart of gratitude, and present to Him all that is due (50:14). When we come to the LORD with a heart of gratitude, He promises: “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me” (50:15).

God’s Message to the Wicked (50:16-21)

The focus of Psalm 50 then turns from the saints, to God’s judgment of the wicked (50:16). Consider the hypocrisy of the wicked: Externally they acknowledge the statutes of the LORD (His Law and Commandments), and worship Him with sacrifices and offerings; however, God knows their hearts. He admonished the wicked, for they hated to be instructed in the way of righteousness, and had contempt for the Word of God (50:17). They violate His commandments, and fail to rebuke the thief (50:18a; Exodus 20:15). They observe the adulterer, but fail to condemn his adultery (50:18b; Exodus 20:14). The wicked lie and slander others (50:19-20; Exodus 20:16).

Notice in Psalm 50:21 how the threat of God’s judgment rose to a crescendo (50:21a), as He warned the wicked that they had abused His silence, His patience, and their day of judgment was coming (50:21b).

Conclusion: A Warning and a Promise (50:22-23)

The Warning: Fail to obey the LORD, and express gratitude of His blessings and longsuffering, and He will “tear you in pieces” and none can deliver you out of His fury (50:22).

The Promise: It is a heart of praise and thanksgiving that glorifies the LORD (50:23). When a sinner sincerely seeks the LORD, He promises to show him the way of “the salvation of God.” What is the way of salvation, and the forgiveness of sin?

Ephesians 2:8–108For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Primer in Congregational Worship (Psalm 33; Psalm 36)

Scripture reading – Psalm 33; Psalm 36

Worship in the 21st century Church is far from the reverential worship you would have known and experienced had you worshiped the LORD in the courtyard of the Tabernacle or at the Temple in Solomon’s day. Like all of the psalms, Psalm 33 has the LORD as its central focus, and its theme is a contemplation of God’s majesty as Creator, Almighty, Jehovah, Eternal God. * Today’s devotional will be taken from Psalm 33. As in earlier devotions, I have taken liberty to amplify word meanings in brackets.

A Study in Congregational Worship (33:1-5)

Psalm 33:1 – “Rejoice [sing; shout for joy] in the LORD, O ye righteous [just; lawful; innocent; blameless]: for praise is comely [beautiful; suitable; fitting] for the upright [righteous; right].

Psalm 33:1 emphasizes the DUTY of believers (the righteous and the upright) to worship the LORD. Old Testament saints understood to be righteous in the sight of the LORD, required obedience to His laws and commandments in both spirit and practice. The righteous have both cause and duty to “Rejoice in the LORD” and praise Him (33:1).

Psalm 33:2-3Praise [give thanks] the LORD with harp [lyre]: sing [sing praise] unto him with the psaltery [lute] and an instrument of ten strings [ten string instrument]3 Sing unto him a new song; play [make music]skillfully [well; good; pleasing; beautiful] with a loud noise [shout; i.e. like the sound of a trumpet].

The Father also desires His people to worship Him out of a heart of DEVOTION. With both instrument and voice, the righteous are able to express their love and devotion in congregational music and song (33:2). The psalmist called upon the congregation to sing a “new song” (33:3a), and “play skillfully with a loud noise” (33:3b).

While “a loud noise” might be an apt description of some 21st century “praise music,” it falls short of the message portrayed by the psalmist. As an explanation: Often overlooked in the phrase is the word “skillfully,” meaning beautiful and well-pleasing; and something that cannot be achieved apart from years of disciplined practice. The “loud noise” implies the sound of wind instruments, such as a trumpet.

DECLARATION is another word that describes congregational worship. Believers are to declare in their music and song the majesty of the LORD who is worthy of praise and worship (33:4-5).

Psalm 33:4-54 For the word [spoken word; discourse] of the LORD is right [righteous; just]; and all his works [acts; deeds] are done in truth [faith; faithfulness]. 5 He [the LORD] loveth righteousness [justice] and judgment [right]: the earth [land] is full [filled; overflow] of the goodness [mercy; kindness] of the LORD.

God’s glory is also revealed in His Word and works. His Word is right, and His works are honest and true (33:4). He is holy, just, loving, faithful and good (33:4-5), and if we look, we can see the LORD’S loving and faithful hand in the world around us, and hopefully reflected in us.

An Affirmation of the Character of the LORD (33:5-19)

Remembering Psalm 33 is a song, notice the focus of the verses is upon the divine character and attributes of the LORD (33:5-19). The LORD is righteous (33:5a), good (33:5b), omnipotent (33:6-9), omniscient (33:10), and His counsel (Word) is eternal and immutable (33:11).

The LORD is vigilant, and He “looketh from heaven; He beholdeth all the sons of men” (33:13). He knows what lies within the hearts of men, and “He fashioneth their hearts alike; He considereth all their works” (33:15). The LORD is sovereign over all nations (33:16-17), and He is the protector and provider for them who fear and revere Him (33:18-19).

Three Benefits That Come to Those Who Worship the LORD (33:20-22)

Psalm 33 concludes with a doxology, that boasts of the LORD’s care for His children, and the benefits that come to them when they worship the LORD. When worship, and song focuses on the character of the LORD, believers who worship Him in Truth acquire three virtues: They learn patience, for they “waiteth for the LORD” (33:20). Their faith is increased, for they “have trusted in His holy name” (33:21). Finally, because they know the LORD is merciful, they are never without hope, for they “hope in [the LORD]” (33:22).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Praise, Prayers, Promises, and Peace (Psalm 29)

Scripture reading – Psalm 29

What can you give someone who has everything?  What can you and I, mere mortals with failings and shortcomings, give to God Who is the Creator and Sovereign of the universe? *As in earlier devotions, I have taken liberty to amplify word meanings in brackets.

Give That Which God Requires (Psalm 29:1-2)

Psalm 29:1-2 1Give [bring; ascribe] unto the LORD [Jehovah; Self-Existent, Eternal God], O ye mighty [strong; mighty ones], give [bring; ascribe] unto the LORD glory [honor] and strength [acknowledge His power; might].
2Give [bring; ascribe] unto the LORD the glory [honor] due unto his name [character; reputation]; worship [bow; do reverence; prostrate] the LORD in the beauty [honor; glory; splendor] of holiness [hallowed; consecrated; sacredness].”

To “give” is to bring, ascribe, or assign to the LORD that which is rightfully due Him.  The “mighty,” perhaps the mightiest among mankind, or the angels of heaven (i.e., the sons of God, Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7), owe their being to the LORD. The angels, like man, were created to glorify and serve the LORD. God is due our praise!

Worship and adoration are “due unto His name,” for His names define His divine character and attributes (29:2).  When we worship the LORD, we acknowledge He is Creator, Jehovah, Eternal, and Self-Existent God.

The Power and Presence of the LORD in the Storm (29:3-9)

The presence and majesty of the LORD in His creation is explained in Psalm 29:3-9. Rather than a prolonged commentary, I will permit my word amplifications to reflect the beauty and the revelation of God in the midst of a powerful sweeping storm over the mountains of Canaan. Imagine the loudest, most powerful storm you have ever experienced, and how the thunder was loud enough it shook the house, and the lighting so bright it was blinding.

Psalm 29:3-9 – The voice [sound; noise; thunder] of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory [honor]thundereth [roars]: the LORD is upon many [great] waters.
4  The voice
[sound; noise; thunder] of the LORD is powerful [mighty; strength]; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty [glory; honor].
5  The voice
[sound; noise; thunder] of the LORD breaketh [destroys; crushes; abolishes] the cedars; yea, the LORD breaketh [destroy; crush; abolish] the cedars of Lebanon [known for their beauty and strength] .
6  He
[the LORD] maketh them also to skip like a calf [leap or frolic like a young calf]; Lebanon and Sirion [a mountain peak in Lebanon] like a young unicorn [perhaps a one-horned antelope].
7  The voice
[sound; noise; thunder] of the LORD divideth [cut in pieces; engraved] the flames of fire.
8  The voice
[sound; noise; thunder] of the LORD shaketh [be pained; tremble] the wilderness [desert place]; the LORD shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh [southern Palestine].
9  The voice
[sound; noise; thunder] of the LORD maketh the hinds [doe or female deer] to calve [give birth], and discovereth [make bare; uncover] the forests: and in his temple [palace; sanctuary] doth every one speak [command] of his glory [honor; great reputation].

The LORD is Sovereign of Creation (29:10-11)

Psalm 29:10-1110 The LORD sitteth [dwells; abides] upon the flood; yea, the LORD sitteth [dwells; abides]King for ever [everlasting].
11 The LORD will give
[grant; put; deliver] strength [power; might] unto his people [nation]; the LORD will bless his people with peace [shalom; health; prosperity].”

The psalm concludes with an assurance that when storms are raging, we can take comfort remembering the LORD is sovereign over Creation.  To Him, the floodwaters, though powerful and frightening, are His footstool, and He is the everlasting King (29:10). The LORD is the source of strength and peace for His people!

Closing thought – Storms come in various forms. Some are natural occurrences like the thunderstorm described in Psalm 29. Other storms are deeply personal and bring emotional upheavals, physical sufferings, and paralyzing fears. Those storms can come in waves, rushing in upon our lives and reminding us even the strongest are vulnerable. Yet, storms can also remind us to look to the God of heaven, for “the LORD sitteth King for ever…[and]will bless His people with peace” (29:11).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Sing Unto the LORD! (Psalm 89; Psalm 96)

Scripture reading – Psalm 89; Psalm 96

Music has always been a central part of worshipping the LORD.  Had you been privileged to visit the Temple, you would have heard singers and musicians leading the congregation of Israel in worship. Their lives were dedicated to singing, playing, and composing songs of praise. Reading the psalms, you come to realize the deep, personal relationship the writers had with their subject…the LORD! Psalm 89 and Psalm 96 call upon the congregation to sing, sing unto the LORD!

Psalm 89 – The Person and Attributes of God

Psalm 89 was composed by “Ethan the Ezrahite,” and some scholars suggest he was also known as Jeduthun, a musician of David’s era. We can be certain he was a Levite, and his composition would have been sung in worship in the Temple. Time and space do not permit a thorough study of Psalm 89; however, I invite you to consider a few of God’s attributes detailed in the psalm.

A Call to Worship the LORD (Psalm 89:1-4)

God is merciful and faithful (89:1-2), and His promises never fail (89:3).

Divine Attributes (Psalm 89:5-18)

God is incomparable (Psalm 89:6-8), and He is to be feared and revered (89:7). He is strong and faithful (89:8). He is the Sovereign in nature, and the seas obey His will (89:9; Matthew 8:24-27). He is Sovereign of the nations, and He rules the “sea” of nations (89:10).

God is the Creator, and the mountains rejoice at His name (89:11-12). He is just, merciful, and to be trusted (89:14). He is righteous (89:16), and our protector (89:18). The LORD is “the Holy One of Israel, [and He] is our King (89:18).

God is Faithful, and No Promise of His Ever Fails. (89:19-52)

The LORD keeps covenant with His people, and He never forgets His promises (89:19-25). He is “my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation” (89:26). He is merciful (89:28), and just; and those who break His Covenant will not go unpunished (89:26-32). He is holy, and cannot lie (89:35). He is a righteous Judge, and sin will not go unpunished (89:38-45). He is just, and in Him is life, purpose, mercy, and forgiveness (89:46-51). He is worthy of praise, for He is “LORD for evermore” – eternal, perpetual, everlasting God (89:52).

Psalms 96 – “O SING unto the LORD a New Song!”

Psalm 96 is an evangelistic psalm of praise, a universal invitation to “all the earth” to worship and sing praises unto the LORD (96:1). Three times the psalmist invites worshippers to sing:  “1O sing unto the Lord a new song: Sing unto the Lord, all the earth. 2Sing unto the Lord, bless his name; Shew forth his salvation from day to day” (96:1-2).

What was this “new song?”  (96:1-2)

I believe it was a song of salvation, a song of redemption; and an invitation to all who worship the LORD to “shew forth His salvation” (96:2). The psalmist invites God’s people to, “Declare His glory among the heathen [all non-Hebrew people]” (96:3).

Not only are we to “sing unto the LORD,” we are also exhorted to “Give unto the LORD” (96:7-8). The psalm opened with a trifecta invitation to “Sing,” and now there is a triplicate invitation to Give: Give unto the Lord, O ye kindreds of the people, Give unto the Lord glory and strength. 8Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: Bring an offering, and come into his courts” (96:7–8).

The evangelistic thrust of Psalm 96 continued with an invitation to “worship the LORD” (96:9). Sincere worship acknowledges the holiness of God, and those who worship Him, fear and revere Him (96:9). We who worship the LORD are to declare to “the heathen that the Lord reigneth…and He shall judge the people righteously” (96:10).

Psalm 96 concludes with a doxology, reminding us the sin Adam thrust upon the world, the curse of sin, and its effect upon nature has been “that the whole creation groaneth [sorrows] and travaileth [agonizes] in pain [i.e. pangs of death]” (Romans 8:22).

However, the psalmist foresaw a day when there would be rejoicing in nature: “the heavens…the earth…the sea…the field… [and] the trees of the wood [will] rejoice (96:11-12). What was the cause for rejoicing in nature? When the LORD comes to “judge the earth: He shall judge the world with righteousness, And the people with his truth” (96:13).

Are you ready for His coming?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Creator, and King of Glory, Is He Your Lord? (Psalm 24)

Scripture reading – Psalm 24

Psalm 24 was written by David. Consisting of only ten verses, it has inspired many great hymns and anthems. [The brackets within the verses contain amplifications by this author.]

God is the Sovereign of His Creation (24:1-2)

Stated emphatically, and with no ambiguity in the opening verses of Psalm 24, is the truth that God is Creator, possessor, sovereign, and sustainer of His creation.

Psalm 24:1-2 – “The earth is the LORD’S [Jehovah; Eternal God], and the fulness [all it contains] thereof; the world [inhabitants], and they that dwell [inhabit; abide] therein. 2  For he [the LORD] hath founded [laid the foundation] it upon the seas, and established [prepared; erected] it upon the floods [waters; streams].”

The LORD is Eternal God, and the Creator of all things, and “without Him was not anything, made that was made” (John 1:3). As Creator, He is owner of the earth’s resources, and all that inhabits it. He has set the boundaries of the sea and the dry land (24:2). He is the Sustainer. Because the LORD is Sovereign, David asked:

What Manner of Man Might Draw Nigh unto the God of Heaven? (24:3)

Psalm 24:3 – “Who shall ascend [come up; scale] into the hill [mountain] of the LORD? or who shall stand [arise; rise] in his holy [hallowed; sacred] place?”

Can anyone merit the favor of God, or be worthy to enter into His presence? Might a rich man earn good standing with God by donating to charity, and giving his riches to help the poor? Does fasting, praying, worshipping, or showing kindness to another give one entrance into the presence of the LORD?

David listed four characteristics of the man who may enter the presence of the LORD.  (24:4)

Psalm 24:4 – “He that hath clean [innocent; guiltless; blameless] hands, and a pure [clear; innocent] heart [mind]; who hath not lifted up [removed] his soul [life; person] unto vanity [lying; deceit], nor sworn [taken an oath] deceitfully [fraud; i.e. lacking integrity].”

A man must have “clean hands” to enter into the LORD’S presence (24:4a). How might a man acquire “clean hands,” before a holy God? A comparable question was asked and answered in Psalm 119:9, where we read: “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word.” 1 John 1:9reminds us the way to be cleansed is to “confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” For a man to have “clean hands,” he must heed God’s Word, and confess his sins.

No man enters into the LORD’S holy place unless he has a “pure heart(pure in heart, thoughts, and motives, 24:4b). The man who enters the “holy place” cannot be like the Pharisees, who thought by portraying outward piety, their prayers would be heard, and answered (Matthew 23:25-28). The LORD, knowing the hearts of men, condemned the Pharisees saying, “Ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:28).

The man who enters God’s presence must also guard his soul from the “vanity” of the world (24:4c). What is the “vanity” of the world? It is the pleasures, sins, and philosophy of the world that promises much, but never satisfies the heart. The rich man boasted to himself that bigger barns and more goods would satisfy his soul (Luke 12:16-18). Beguiled by riches, he had failed to plan for God’s judgment, and “God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12:20).

A man who enters the presence of the LORD must also have integrity, and he will not swear deceitfully (24:4d). The saints of God are honest and truthful. They are conscious of the Lord’s presence, and they will not cheat, lie, or swear falsely. They are not bound by a contract, but by a consciousness of God’s holiness.

David promised a twofold reward to them who seek the LORD. (24:5-6)

Psalm 24:5 – “He shall receive [accept] the blessing [prosperity] from the LORD, and righteousness [rightness; justice] from the God [i.e. Almighty God] of his salvation.”

When a man seeks the LORD with “clean hands,” a “pure heart,” guards his heart from vanity, and walks with integrity, he is promised “the blessing from the LORD” (24:5a), and declared righteous and just in His sight. David declared on behalf of all Israel, “This is the generation [age; people] of them that seek [follow; worship] him[the LORD], that seek [seek out; require; desire] thy face [the LORD’S countenance and face]  O Jacob [Tribes of Israel]. Selah [pause]” (24:6).

Hail to the King of Glory! (24:7-10)

The coming Messiah, the “King of glory,” is the subject of Psalm 24:7-10. Five times the LORD is identified as the “King of glory.” Who is this “King of glory?” He is the LORD, the “LORD of hosts” (24:8, 10).

In ancient times, the city gates were where private and governmental business was transacted.  The elders, and the king’s ambassadors, sat in judgment at the gates. Beginning with the elders, and chief leaders of the city, David commanded the people to hail the coming of the “King of glory” (24:7).

Psalm 24:7 – “Lift up [hold up] your heads, O ye gates [gates of the city of Jerusalem]; and be ye lift up [men who sat in the gates], ye everlasting [perpetual; ancient] doors; and the King of glory shall come in.”

Who was this “King of glory?” He was “the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal God] strong [mighty; powerful]and mighty [heroic; warrior], the LORD mighty in battle [war; combat; warfare]” (24:8). A thousand years after Psalm 24 was composed, Jerusalem celebrated Jesus’ entrance into the city, and identified Him as the “the Son of David,” and therefore heir to the throne. Within that same week, those same voices cried against Jesus, “Let Him be crucified” (Matthew 27:22-23; 1 Corinthians 2:8).

Closing thoughts – Perhaps that is the reason David announced, not once, but twice for the “gates” (24:7, 9) to lift up their heads and hail the coming of the “King of glory” (24:9-10). The world rejected Jesus when He came the first time; however, all nations will be forced to hail His Second Coming.

Psalm 24:9–109Lift up your heads, O ye gates; Even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; And the King of glory shall come in. 10Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.

Hail to the King, the LORD of heaven’s armies, for He is the King of glory!

Revelation 1:77Behold, he [Christ] cometh with [in the] clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him [on the Cross]: and all kindreds [people and nations] of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

Are you ready for His coming?

With the heart of a shepherd,

HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith