Category Archives: Daily Devotionals

A Nagging Wife, a Hen-pecked Husband, and the Birth of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Genesis 16)

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Today’s Bible reading brings us to a crisis of faith and a spiritual crossroads in Abram’s (Abraham) life (Genesis 16). Sadly, this passage reveals evidence of how one man’s failure to trust God carried consequences that shadow our world today, 4,000 years after Abram’s sojourn.

Years passed, and Abram’s longing for a son was unmet (Genesis 12:2-3). So he complained to the LORD, “I go childless…to me thou hast given no seed” (15:2-3). God responded to Abram’s complaint and graciously assured him that the offspring of his lineage would one day be in number as the stars of heaven (15:5).

Genesis 16 – “Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children.” (16:1)

Childlessness in Abram and Sarai’s culture was a matter of shame and considered a judgment of God. Children were essential to a family, and their presence in the home was viewed as a testament to God’s love and blessing. If a wife were childless and unable to bear a son, it was the practice in ancient cultures for her to present her maid to bear children to her husband.

Yet, despite God’s promises and assurances, a crisis of faith took hold of Abram’s heart, as his wife Sarai murmured, “Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai” (16:2).

Abram was eighty-six years old (16:16), and Sarai seventy-six, when his faith waned under the pressure of her grumbling (the word “voice” indicates a loud, thundering sound, like the bleating of a flock of sheep, 16:2). Sarai was barren and despondent; contrary to God’s will, she pressed Abram to abandon his faith in God’s promise. Instead, she sought to fulfill God’s promise through the methods of the culture and have a son by proxy through Hagar, her Egyptian maid (16:3).

Foolishly, Abram yielded to Sarai’s plea and went in unto her servant. When Hagar conceived (16:4), instead of the expected joy for which she yearned, both women were at odds with the other provoking jealousy and a perpetual division in the household (16:4). Eventually, Sarai’s unhappy spirit affected every part of her life, until finally she “said unto Abram, My wrong [sin] be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised [cursed; contemptible] in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee” (16:5).

Sarai’s reasoning reflected an easy escape from taking responsibility for her faithless cultural judgment: she blamed her husband, who was ultimately accountable for family decisions. Sarai even determined that God would see things her way because Abram had taken them to Egypt in the first place. Lacking faith in God’s covenant promise, Abram and Sarai sinned. They failed to trust God, defiled the sanctity of their marriage, and entangled Hagar in an intimate area of their relationship, resulting in a dilemma they could never reverse (16:5).

Refusing to accept any further blame, Abram sought to remove himself from the trouble altogether and allowed Sarai to mistreat Hagar (16:6b). Seeking to escape Sarai’s harshness, Hagar fled south into the desert (16:6b), and stopped at “Shur,” a region on the border of northeastern Egypt (16:7). There, we read, “the angel of the LORD found [Hagar]” and said to her, “Return to thy mistress, and submit [humble; be the lesser] thyself under her hands” (16:9), and “I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered [counted] for multitude [abundance; i.e., too great to be counted]” (16:10).

“And the angel of the LORD said [commanded] unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael [lit, God will hear]; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction” (16:10-11). (Note, Genesis 16:7 is the first mention of the “angel of the LORD” in Scripture, and I believe it was a theophany, a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ.)

Ishmael was the forefather of the Ishmaelites and a branch of today’s Arabic people. His ancestors have been nomads of the desert for four millennia.

Closing thoughts – The nature and character of Ishmael and his progeny were described as “a wild man [lit. “wild donkey”]; his hand [power; strength] will be against every man [i.e., a man of hostility], and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren” (16:12).

In that statement, we find the nature and cause of today’s conflict in the Middle East. The Jews and those identifying Abraham and Ishmael as their forefathers are perpetual enemies.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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God Keeps His Promises (Genesis 14-15)

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Scripture reading – Genesis 14-15

Genesis 13 – Review

Lot, the nephew of Abram (Abraham), was separated from his uncle, having chosen the “plain of Jordan” (13:10). Soon after we read, he “dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom” (13:12). Giving us a tragic indication of the direction Lot would lead his family, we read, “the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly” (13:13).

Like many fathers and mothers of the 21st century, Lot put wealth and personal gain before his spiritual walk with the LORD and led his family down a path of sorrow and loss.

Genesis 14 presents a brief history of the nations and people who inhabited the land of Israel in ancient times.

Here we have the age-old drama of war and politics as nine kings were named, and each ruled a walled “city-state” with its own governance (14:1-3). The lesser kings were in servitude to the stronger, and paid tribute for twelve years; however, “in the thirteenth year they rebelled” (14:4). To put down the rebellion, a coalition of kings led by Chedorlaomer king of Elam, invaded and defeated the lesser city-states. Numbered among the defeated city-states was the city of Sodom and its inhabitants (14:8-11).

Lot, no longer content to pitch “his tent toward Sodom” (13:12b), had moved his family into that wicked city and lived there. When Sodom was conquered, the victors took Lot, his family, and goods as spoils of war (14:10-12). When Abram learned of Lot’s capture, and what had befallen him, he gathered 318 armed men from his household to rescue his nephew. He pursued and defeated the kings who conquered Sodom and took Lot captive (14:13-16).

Returning victorious, Abram was greeted by a king identified as “Melchizedek king of Salem” [“Salem” was the ancient name of Jerusalem] (14:18). Described as “the priest of the most high God” (14:18), Melchizedek pronounced a benediction upon Abram who in turn blessed him with a tithe (14:19-20), a tenth of the spoils that had been taken in battle.

The king of Sodom acknowledged Abram as the victor and proposed he should retain all the goods he retrieved in battle (14:21), except for the citizens of his city. Abram, however, refused the spoils of Sodom, less that wicked king should one day boast he had enriched Abraham (14:22-24).

Genesis 15 – God’s Covenant Promises Renewed

Now, God came to Abram in a vision and revealed He was his “Shield” (his protector), and “exceeding great reward” (15:1). Abram, however, protested he had no son, and therefore no heir (15:2-4). Once again, the LORD assured Abram he would have a son born to him and his wife Sarai (15:2-4), and his lineage would be as great in number as the stars in the heavens (15:5). Of Abram’s faith we read, “he believed the LORD; and He [the LORD] counted it to him [Abram] for righteousness” (15:6; Romans 3:25; 5:18).

In the closing verses of Genesis 15, God prophetically revealed to Abram that his heirs would one day be “strangers” (aliens, foreigners) in another country (15:13). However, the LORD assured Abram his seed would return to the land with great possessions (15:14). Centuries later, that prophecy would be fulfilled when the Twelve Tribes of Israel departed Egypt after 400 years of servitude (Exodus 12-14).

Genesis 15 concluded with the LORD rehearsing His covenant promise to give Abram’s heirs the land, and Him identifying the exact boundaries of the land (15:18-21).

Closing thoughts: God assured Abram he had no cause to fear, for He was his “Shield,” his protector and defender (15:1). Therefore, Abram was not only the object of God’s promises, but he had the assurance the Almighty was with him! My friend, God keeps His promises!

A Bonus Study: The “First Mention” Principle

As you know, Genesis is a book of “Firsts,” and serious Bible students follow the “First Mention Principle” when interpreting and understanding the Scriptures. In essence, the “first mention” of any word or topic in the Bible is key to understanding that word or subject throughout the Word of God.

There are several “firsts” found in today’s study. For instance, we find the first mention of war (14:2), and the first mention of “the word of the LORD” (15:1). We find the LORD is first described as a Shield (protector), and Rewarder (15:1) for His people.  Also, Faith is first defined when we read Abram “believed in the LORD” (15:6a). Justification is indicated, as the LORD counted it [Abram’s faith] to him for righteousness (also the first mention of righteousness in the Bible, 15:6).

As we will see throughout our two-year chronological study of the Bible, the great doctrines first mentioned in today’s devotion will occur throughout the Scriptures and are rooted in our Scripture reading.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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God is Faithful, and His Promises Are Sure (Genesis 12-13)

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Scripture reading – Genesis 12-13

After a lengthy study of the life and afflictions of Job, our chronological reading of the Scriptures returns to the Book of Genesis, chapters 12-13. Remember, Genesis 11 concluded with a focus on the lineage of Shem, and the bloodline through whom Abram (i.e. Abraham) was born (11:26). Abram is not only a central figure in the Scriptures, but he is also one of the pivotal men in human history. Three of the world’s great religions, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, consider Abram to be a foundational character in their faith.

Genesis 12 – God’s Covenant with Abram and His Lineage

The LORD came to Abram in Genesis 12 and commanded him to separate from his country, his kindred (relatives), and the influence of his extended family (12:1).  God promised Abram, if he obeyed, He would establish a covenant with him consisting of seven promises (12:2-3).  Although he was elderly (75 years old, 12:4) and childless, God promised to bless Abram with a son, make him great, his name famous, and through his lineage “all families of the earth [would] be blessed” (a promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ, 12:3).

Abram believed and obeyed God, and traveled from Haran to Canaan, the land he was promised as his inheritance (12:5-6). Characteristic of his enduring faith, when the LORD appeared to Abram in Canaan and rehearsed His covenant promises, Abram “builded an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him” (12:7). Then, Abram continued his sojourn in Canaan, and arrived at Bethel, where he once again “builded an altar unto the LORD” and worshipped Him (12:8).

A Crisis of Faith (Genesis 12:10-20)

Abram’s resolve to obey the LORD was soon tested when “there was a famine in the land” (12:10). Unfortunately, he abandoned his trust in God to provide and keep His promises, and left Canaan. Abram then journeyed to Egypt, putting all of God’s covenant promises in jeopardy, including the promise to give him and his wife Sarai a son in their old age (12:10-13).

We read that Sarai was a beautiful woman, and Abram feared she would be taken from him, and he be put to death. Rather than trust the LORD, he requested Sarai would tell others she was his sister and not his wife (12:11-13). When her beauty came to Pharaoh’s attention (12:14), he took her into his harem to become one of his wives (12:15) and thereby risked God’s promise that she would bear a son and heir to Abram.

Despite Abram’s faithlessness, God intervened and spared Sarai, and sent a plague of judgment on Pharaoh’s household. In doing so, God revealed Abram’s deception to the king of Egypt, (12:17-19). Providentially, Pharaoh had not harmed Sarai, and sent her, Abram, and their household out of Egypt (12:20).

Genesis 13 – “A Lot to Remember”

Abram and Lot were exceedingly wealthy.

With their families and servants of their households, the entourage that accompanied Abram and Lot most likely consisted of hundreds of men, women, and children. (For example, when Lot’s family and possessions were taken in Genesis 14:14, Abram took 318 armed men from his household to pursue and rescue Lot’s family. If we assume those men had wives and children, the members of Abram’s household alone would have numbered more than a thousand souls.)

With that number, it was a major undertaking when Abram and Lot moved their flocks and herds to new pastures. Indeed, the caravan formed by their households would have stretched far into the distance. When they encamped, hundreds of tents would have dotted the valley and hillsides near where Abram and Lot pitched their tents.

Two Very Different Views of Life (13:8-18)

Abram desired to avoid further conflict between himself and Lot and suggested they separate from one another, and divide their households. Evidencing humility, the elderly Abram graciously offered his nephew the first choice of the land (13:8-9).

Lot evidenced his covetous spirit, and failed to defer to his uncle. He contemplated the land before him, and then chose the best of the land for himself (13:10). His decision would prove a fateful one, for it included the cities in the plain, and among them the wicked city of Sodom (13:10-13). After Lot departed, God again renewed His covenant promises with Abram (13:14-18).

Closing thoughts – As we close, I invite you to consider some critical distinctions between Abram and Lot.For instance, Abram’s love for the LORD was incompatible with Lot’s love for the world. Another difference was Abram’s affections were eternal, and God-centered, while Lot’s affections were earthly and self-centered. Unlike his uncle, there is no mention in the Scriptures of Lot building altars for worship, or offering sacrifices to the LORD.

Tragically, as we shall see in future devotions, Lot will continue to move closer to Sodom [a symbol of the world, and a city indicative of gross wickedness in the Scriptures], and further away from Abram and the LORD.

Take a moment and consider two personal questions: Which way is your life moving? Are you moving toward the LORD, or closer to the world?

1 John 2:15–1715 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

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THE END: “Job Died Old, and Full of Days” (Job 42)

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Scripture reading – Job 42

Job had remained silent since he confessed, “I am vile” (40:4). Being reminded of the majesty of God, he “answered the Lord, and said, 2I know that thou canst do every thing, And that no thought can be withholden from thee” (42:1-2). He had complained, but now he resigned himself to God’s sovereignty. He acknowledged he had spoken in ignorance (42:3), and accepted the LORD was not obligated to answer his questions.

In a wonderful expression of humility, Job confessed, 5I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: But now mine eye seeth thee(42:5). Though dreadful to have experienced the afflictions, the trials, troubles, and sorrows moved Job from a theoretical knowledge of God (“hearing of the ear”), to a personal and practical familiarity (“now mine eye seeth thee”) of his God and Creator. Job confessed, 6Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes (42:6).

God Rewards Faithfulness (Job 42:7-10)

Having accepted Job’s penitence, the LORD turned His focus to his foolish “friends” (42:7-9). “Eliphaz the Temanite” had been the first to challenge Job, and “the Lord said to [him], My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath” (42:7).

Then, God commanded Eliphaz and his peers saying, “take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering” (42:8a). The man whom they scorned, now served God as their priest, and the LORD assured Job’s friends, “My servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job” (42:8).

What an astonishing turn of events! Job had been the object of his friends’ scorn and judgments. Their unkindness, and false arguments had so provoked the LORD, He commanded them to humble themselves, and appeal to Job to intercede for them.

Evidencing the grace of a humble, godly man, Job “prayed for his friends,” and the LORD rewarded him with “twice as much as he had before” (42:10). 

Closing Thoughts (42:11-17) – We have studied 42 chapters in the life of Job. With the exception of his wife (who suggested he curse God and die), and four “friends” who proposed to be counselors but became critics, Job’s acquaintances have been strangely absent. With the hard times past, and Job enjoying God’s blessings and financial prosperity, we read:

Then came there unto him [Job] all his brethren [kindred], and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance [i.e. friends and neighbors] before [before Job’s trials]” (42:11). I ask, where were those “brethren” and “sisters” when he lost everything?  Where were his acquaintances when he suffered the loss of his sons and daughters, servants, home, possessions, and health?  Why did they wait until Job had been vindicated to empathize with him? Why bring Job “a piece of money” and gold earrings, when he had need of nothing? (42:12-15)

As we conclude our study of the life of Job, we can learn many lessons from this man who lived centuries before us. Though he had suffered much, God prospered Job, and he “died, being old and full [satisfied] of days” (Job 42:10, 17). When he humbled himself before God, he was restored to His favor, and died very old, and content with his life (42:17).

Is that not what we all want? To not only live a long life, but be content, and satisfied when we draw our last breath!

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

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What is Man? (Job 40; Job 41)

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Scripture reading – Job 40-41

A note from the shepherd: Today’s devotional is the second to the last in our study of the Book of Job. I congratulate you for completing a difficult journey. Indeed, one of the great disciplines of a chronological reading schedule is it disciplines us to consider subjects that are not appealing. Certainly, a study of troubles, trials, sickness, sorrows, and death is unattractive, but necessary. I trust a study of Job’s life has challenged each of us to accept life in this sin-cursed world will be characterized by times of sorrow, as well as fleeting times of joy.

Job 40

Today’s Scripture reading (Job 40-41) is a continuance of the Lord’s discourse with Job. Perhaps God’s question to Job is one He has brought to you and me.  Ultimately, it is the question of authority. The Lord asked Job: Shall he that contendeth [strives with] with the Almighty [Shaddai] instruct him? He that reproveth God, let him answer it (40:2).

Frightened by the reality of God’s majesty, power, and sovereignty, Job saw himself for what he was as a man, and replied: Behold, I am vile [cursed]; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth [have nothing to say]. 5  Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further” (Job 40:4-5).

Humbled by the presence of God, Job yielded to the LORD. He no longer attempted to justify himself, and had nothing more to say.

Then, the LORD questioned, “8Wilt thou also disannul [dispute] my judgment? Wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be [i.e., appear to be] righteous?” (40:8) Will you dare to question the ways of the LORD (40:6-14)? Will you challenge My majesty? (40:10)

To demonstrate His power, and sovereignty over nature, God proved His dominion over creation with two great beasts that roamed the earth in Job’s day: The behemoth (40:15-24), and the leviathan (41:1-34).

The Behemoth, and God’s Sovereignty Over Nature (Job 40:15-24)

The identity of the “behemoth” (40:15) is uncertain; however, the prevailing opinion among scholars is he was either a hippopotamus, elephant, or water buffalo. I am, however, of the opinion the behemoth may be an extinct beast. Perhaps a great dinosaur that roamed the earth following the flood.

Physical characteristics of the behemoth (40:15-24)

The behemoth was a vegetarian, for we read, “he eateth grass as an ox” (40:15b). He was a powerful beast, with great “strength…in his loins [hips, and] …his belly” (40:16). The movement of his tail, described “like a cedar” (40:17a), was like the movement and swaying of a cedar tree.

The description of the behemoth continued in Job 40:18-24. His bones were like brass and iron (40:18). He had a voracious appetite for mountain pastures (40:20), and when he quenched his thirst it was as though he “drinketh up a river” (40:23). The behemoth was described as “the chief [greatest] of the ways [works; creatures] of God,” and yet the Creator had power over him and could “make his sword to approach unto him” (40:19).

Before we consider the question, “What did all this mean to Job, and why should it matter to us?”, let us ponder another great beast…the Leviathan.

Job 41 – The Leviathan, and God’s Sovereignty Over Nature

The LORD invited Job to consider a second great beast, the “leviathan” (41:1). Once again, the identity of this great beast is uncertain; however, scholars suggest it might have been a giant saltwater crocodile, one that is probably extinct today. Whatever its identity, the analogy between the “behemoth” (Job 40) and leviathan was meant to draw Job to conclude he was foolish to question his Creator. After all, man paled in size and strength to the majestic leviathan God created (41:1-9).

Job was asked to ponder if a man could tame a leviathan? Of course, the implication was absolutely not; therefore, what right did Job have to question or stand before God (41:10-33).  We read how the leviathan “beholdeth all high things [for no man is his master]: He is a king over all the children of pride [and retreats from none](41:34).

Closing thoughts – Having considered the beauty and majesty of God’s creation, and the great creatures over whom He reigns supreme, we must ask, “What is man?” 

Job 7:17What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?”

Job 15:14What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?”

Psalm 8:4 – “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?”

Psalm 144:3 – “LORD, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him!”

Hebrews 2:6aWhat is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?”

Man is an eternal soul, and was created in the likeness and image of God (Genesis 1:27; 2:7, 18-20). Because of sin, we are physically feeble, sinners by nature (Romans 3:10, 23), and bearing the weight and curse of sin (Romans 6:23). Yet, in spite of our sins and failures, God loved us and demonstrated His love “in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

God is our Creator. He is majestic in His glory, and sovereign of His creation. The LORD is omnipotent, holy, just, and forgiving. Yet, He is willing to save all who come to Him by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), and accept His offer of salvation through Jesus Christ (John 3:16; 1 John 5:13).

Hebrews 2:9 – “9But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

Is He your Savior? If so, have you given Him authority over your life?

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

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Dare You Question God? (Job 38; Job 39)

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Scripture reading – Job 38; Job 39

Elihu, the fourth, youngest, and last of Job’s friends to contend with him, urged him to consider God’s majesty as Creator. He proclaimed the nature and sovereignty of the LORD was revealed in thunderstorms (Job 37:1-5), snow and ice (37:6-10), and the winds, clouds, and rain (37:11-18). He challenged Job, “Stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God” (37:14), and disputed his audacity to question God’s providence in his life (37:15-22). Having waxed eloquent in his comments concerning the sovereignty and nature of God as Creator, Elihu fell silent.

Job 38

When Elihu finished speaking, the LORD suddenly appeared, and His voice was heard “out of the whirlwind [great storm]” (38:1). He questioned Job, saying, Who is this that darkeneth [obscures] counsel by words without knowledge [discernment]? (38:2) In other words, “Job, dare you question my providences in your life? Stand up, speak up, and justify your right to question Me! (38:3)

A Divine Inquisition: Job Had No Grounds to Contend with God (Job 38:4-41)

Notice a series of questions fills the balance of Job 38. As you will see, the implication was that Job had no right to question or argue with God. The LORD  proposed questions meant to convince Job he was ignorant of God’s ways, and therefore had no right to query Him.

Then, the LORD asked Job, where were you when I created the earth? “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (38:4-5). Do you know upon what the “foundations” of the earth are set? (38:6) Where were you when I set the boundaries of the sea? (38:8-11) Where were you when I created light, and divided the day and the night? (38:12)

Indeed, Job knew nothing of the depths, or the darkness of the sea (38:16). He did not know from where light originated, nor how far it had traveled (38:19-21). He could not explain the origin of snow or hail (38:22-23). He did not understand the currents of the wind (Job 38:24), or the clouds that carry water according to their courses (Job 38:25).

Because the Book of Job is believed to be the oldest book of the Scriptures, we should be amazed at the knowledge and insights recorded in this chapter regarding the stars and constellations. Four constellations of stars are mentioned (38:31-32), and Job was asked: “Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? Canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?” In effect, Job, can you command the course of the stars? (38:33) Can you command the rain to fall (38:34), or control the lightnings? (38:35) Job, can you feed the lions, or provide food for the ravens? (38:36-41).

Of course, all the questions put to Job were intended to give him a proper perspective of God as Creator, and himself.

Job 39 – Mortal Man Cannot Understand the Course of Nature or the Providences of God Apart from His Revelation.

The LORD began a series of questions to Job in chapter 39, as He paralleled proposals concerning His sovereign care of the animals of His creation.

Goats and Deer (39:1-4)

The LORD first probed an area unknown to Job, inquiring, “Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth [give birth]? Or canst thou mark when the hinds [deer] do calve [give birth]?” (39:1) The implication was, though Job was ignorant of those matters, God knows the exact moment wild goats give birth, and deer go into labor (39:1). He knows when the months of their gestation are fulfilled (39:2), and when their offspring are old enough to “go forth, and return not” unto their parents (39:4).

Donkeys and Unicorns (39:5-12)

The LORD asked Job, “Who hath sent out the wild ass [donkey] free? Or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass?” (39:5) Imagine this: God takes care of wild donkeys, providing them a home in the wilderness, and pasture in the mountains (39:6-8).

Job was then asked regarding the unicorn (39:9-12). Down through the centuries, there has been much debate on the identity of the unicorn. While I can assure you it was not the mythical creature of man’s imagination, it was nevertheless a beast known to men of Job’s day. Rather than a one-horned beast, there are scholars who identify the unicorn as a two-horned animal, perhaps a wild ox or an antelope. Some suggest the unicorn was a rhinoceros, others the one-horned oryx. Regardless, they were wild beasts, that could not be tamed, nor serve as domesticated beasts of burden.

Peacocks and Ostrich (39:13-17)

The LORD then questioned Job, had he given the peacock or ostrich beautiful feathers (39:13). The description of the ostrich was notable, for that bird was accurately described as ignorant, and one that buries her eggs in the earth (39:14). The ostrich is said to bury her eggs, only to forget where she buried them. Thus, she “forgetteth that the foot may crush them, or that the wild beast may break them” (39:15). Then, God declared He “deprived her [the ostrich] of wisdom, neither hath He imparted to her understanding” (39:17).

Horse, Hawk, and Eagle (39:19-30)

The horse, known for its beauty and courage, was proposed to Job, and the LORD asked, “19Hast thou given the horse strength? Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?” (39:19-25) Concluding His line of questioning, the Lord offered an additional request for Job to consider, asking, “Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom, And stretch her wings toward the south? 27Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, And make her nest on high?” (39:26-27)  No doubt, Job had to stop and consider the vast diversity between himself (man) and his Creator (God).

Closing thoughts – What was the summation and purpose of the LORD interrogating Job?

Among many answers that could be given, one was the LORD wanted to demonstrate that man has no right to complain when he feels he has been treated unfairly, or strive against God. The LORD is God, and is sovereign of not only His creation, but He is man’s absolute authority. Therefore, man has no right to question the ways of God, for His ways are past finding out.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

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Dear followers of Heart of A Shepherd,
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The God of the Scriptures is Just, Merciful, Gracious, and Good (Job 35; Job 36)

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Scripture reading – Job 35; Job 36

Elihu, the fourth and youngest of Job’s friends, began lecturing him in chapter 32, and his denunciation continued to chapter 37. Our devotional continues with today’s Scripture reading, Job 35 and 36.

Job 35 – Elihu’s charged Job with three libelous accusations.

The first, that Job misrepresented spiritual piety as unprofitable (35:1-8). In fact, Elihu suggested he had implied his “righteousness [was] more than God’s” (35:2). Of course, Job had not expressed such an outrageous claim. Elihu’s judgment was flawed, for he supposed Job’s statement of innocence was a declaration of sinlessness (35:3-8).

A second inflammatory, judgmental statement was Elihu’s suggestion Job was motivated to pray, not out of a desire to draw nigh to God, but because he sought relief from his sorrows and afflictions (35:9-13).

Now, Job had complained he did not understand the cause of his plight, and had confessed he despaired of ever again enjoying God’s favor (35:14). Elihu, however, condemned Job, saying he was guilty of opening “his mouth in vain…[and multiplying his] words without knowledge” (35:15-16). Stated simply, in Elihu’s opinion, Job said a lot, but failed to humble himself before God.

Job 36 – Elihu’s Proposal to “Speak on God’s Behalf”

Continuing to evidence youthful zeal without wisdom, Elihu proposed to “speak on God’s behalf” (36:2), and impart uncommon “knowledge” (36:3). He confessed God “is perfect in knowledge,” and promised his words would be true (36:4a). He assured his small audience, he would say only what the LORD would have him speak (36:4b).

Elihu then returned to a rationale that was espoused by Job’s friends. He declared God was just, and always rewards men according to their works (36:5-15). He testified, “God is mighty… in strength and wisdom” (36:5), and declared He “preserveth [prolongs] not the life of the wicked: But giveth right [justice] to the poor” (36:6). In that statement, Elihu failed to make allowance for God’s grace and mercies.

He did not acknowledge the LORD is “longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). In fact, the LORD not only prolongs the life of the wicked, He graciously provides them opportunity to repent of their sins. (Another misrepresentation of Elihu was a suggestion the poor always receive the justice they are due in this earthly life (Job 36:6b).

Elihu proposed “hypocrites in heart heap up wrath…They die in their youth” (36:13-14a). In a perfect, sinless world, less God’s grace, that statement would stand as just, for there are many instances when wicked men die young. Nevertheless, it is also true the LORD is patient, and His grace is freely-offered to the worst of sinners.

Elihu also suggested Job’s sorrows had come upon him owing to his pride. He implored Job to humble himself and repent, assuring God would give him a “table…full of fatness [rich foods]” (36:16). Should Job refuse to repent, Elihu warned, the “judgment of the wicked” had befallen him (36:17), and no amount of riches would deliver him (36:18-19).

Job 36 concluded with Elihu attempting to inspire Job to concede the sovereignty and omnipotence of God (36:22-33); and that the LORD is supreme, and “exalteth” (sets up) whom He pleases (36:22a). He is omniscient, and no man can teach Him (36:22b). He is perfect, and none dare accuse Him of “iniquity” or wrong doing (36:23b). Then, Elihu invited Job to consider the greatness of the LORD displayed in creation (36:24-25; Psalm 19:1).

Closing thoughts – God is eternal, and “the number of His years [cannot] be searched out” (36:26b). His power and wisdom sustain His creation, and He even determines where the clouds drop their moisture (36:27-28). The clouds that a canopy, and shelter man from the sun (36:29-30), bring judgment on the earth in the flood, and bear life-giving water which “giveth meat [food] in abundance” (36:31). Contrary to Elihu’s assertions, God is not only just, He is gracious, merciful, and kind, for He “sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).

In light of Elihu’s youthful, hypocritical zeal, I close with a quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, the 26thpresident of the United States:

“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care!”

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

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Elihu: An Exhibition in Youthful Zeal (Job 32)

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Scripture reading – Job 32

Job 31 recorded Job’s final reply to the allegation that his troubles were those prescribed to wicked men. When Job finished his retort, his friends were silent, and “ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes” (32:1). In chapter 32, we learned there was a younger man who had listened to the dispute between Job and his friends.

“Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram” (32:2b), had deferred to his elders. Finally, the silence of Job’s “friends” stirred him to no longer hold his tongue. Exhibiting the zeal of youth, he confessed he was stirred to indignation, not only by Job, whom he observed, “justified himself rather than God” (32:2c), but “also against his three friends…because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job” (32:3).

Seeing the conversation between Job and his friends ended with no resolution, Elihu determined he would no longer be silent (32:4-8). He observed a profound and enduring truth: “Great men are not always wise: Neither do the aged understand judgment” (32:9). Then, he demanded his elders would listen and weigh his opinion in the matter of Job and his afflictions (32:10).

Elihu’s words were lofty, but his spirit was negative (32:12). Though young, he boasted he had discernment in the matter of Job’s afflictions that was not yet expressed (32:14-17). Elihu spoke allegorically in terms every man would understand. His enthusiasm, coupled with likening his spirit to a new wine skin that was ready to burst (32:18-19), resulted in boasting when he proclaimed, “For I am full of matter [words], The spirit within me constraineth [compels] me. 19Behold, my belly is as wine which hath no vent; It is ready to burst like new bottles” (Job 32:18–19).

Unable to contain himself any longer, Elihu asserted: “20I will speak, that I may be refreshed [relieved]: I will open my lips and answer. 21Let me not, I pray you, accept [favor] any man’s person, Neither let me give flattering titles unto man. 22For I know not to give flattering titles [puff up others]; In so doing my maker [Creator] would soon take me away [seize by force]” (Job 32:20–22).

Though the youngest of the men, Elihu’s youthful zeal demanded a hearing. Although young, he was wise in much he observed. He then began a monologue of judgment and condemnation that would last for six of the remaining chapters in the Book of Job. Yet, as we will see, when the LORD addressed the contention between Job and his “friends,” He will disregard everything Elihu said.

Closing thoughts – Elihu’s assessment was correct when he said, old age is not indicative of spiritual maturity, wisdom, or understanding. However, let us also observe how religious zeal, without godly wisdom and understanding is injurious. I close with Solomon’s challenge that all believers would be wise to heed:

Proverbs 4:77Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: And with all thy getting get understanding.”

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

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Singing the Desert Blues (Job 30-31)

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Scripture reading – Job 30-31

Our previous devotional found Job recalling the way life used to be (Job 29). He had enjoyed the blessings of God’s favor, as well as the esteem from family, friends, and fellow citizens. In former years, young men shied from his company, while elders stood in his presence (29:8). His counsel was valued (29:7-17), and he supposed he might forever be the benefactor of God’s grace (29:18-23). Of course, those were the “good old days,” before Job experienced catastrophic losses and afflictions.

Job 30

Disdained by Lesser Men (30:1-14)

Job’s circumstances were now changed, and instead of esteem, he was mocked by lesser men (30:1-14). They were young men, whose fathers he would not have entrusted with the care of sheep dogs. Those men openly disdained Job (30:1). They were slothful, and Job loathed them (30:2-4). They were “children of fools” (30:8), who sang ballads deriding his afflictions (30:9). They spat in his face (30:10), and Job’s sorrows (30:11) served as a “righteous reason” for them to treat him spitefully (30:12-13).

Wrecked by Physical Disease (30:16-18)

Grief took hold of Job (30:16), as the toll and pain of his afflictions pierced him to the bone (30:17a). His muscles ached (“my sinews take no rest”) beneath his skin, while open oozing sores exposed the extent of the infection above. Job felt as though his flesh had been exchanged – that he had swapped healthy flesh for loathsome (30:17b-18). He was well-nigh hopeless, and felt God opposed him. When he prayed, it seemed God refused to hear his cry for pity and compassion (30:19-20). He had come to a place he accused the LORD of cruelty (30:21), and felt abandoned (30:22-24).

Job complained, for the compassion he formerly extended to others was forgotten, and it seemed his good deeds were rewarded with evil (30:25-26). He moaned and groaned (30:27-30), and in the words of the late preacher J. Vernon McGee, sang “The Desert Blues” (30:31).

Job 31 – Job’s Finale and Defense

Job 31 recorded the conclusion of Job’s deposition of his righteousness, and his assertion of innocence. I invite you to consider eleven virtues stated by Job in his defense.

Personal chastity is the first virtue. Declaring he was not guilty of lusts, Job stated, “I made a covenant [vow; agreement] with mine eyes; Why then should I think [i.e., lust after] upon a maid?” (31:1)

The second virtue suggested was an assertion of innocence. Though his “friends” accused him of lies and deceit, Job demanded he be “weighed in an even balance.” He believed God would find him a man of integrity (31:5-6).

Job’s commitment to purity and uprightness was his third virtue. He declared his hands were clean of wrongdoing. In fact, he suggested, should a stain be found on his life and character, he would relinquish the fruits of his labor (31:7-8).

Marital fidelity was the fourth virtue claimed by Job. He professed he was innocent of adultery (31:9-12).

A fifth virtue was a claim to have been a faithful master, and a kind employer. Believing all men are created in the image and likeness of God, Job believed he was no better than his servants. He understood God was Creator of both the servant and his master (31:13-15).

Sixthly, Job declared he had been charitable to the poor, widows, and fatherless (31:16-20). His friends accused him of being an oppressor and abuser of the less fortunate. Job, however, wished his arm would fall from his body, had he taken advantage of the less fortunate (31:21-22).

Closing thoughts (31:23-40) – In quick order, consider five remaining virtues claimed by Job as evidence of his righteous character. While he lived in the midst of an idolatrous people, Job declared he was innocent of idolatry, for his faith and trust were in God alone (31:23-28).

He had been kind to his enemies, and never took satisfaction in their misfortunes (31:29-30). He was a man given to hospitality, and known for generosity to strangers (31:31-32). Unlike Adam, the first man who sinned and sought to hide his transgressions from God (31:33), Job declared he was innocent of hypocrisy, hiding no secret sins (31:33-37). Finally, Job stated he was honest in business (31:38-40). He had not leased another man’s field, and failed to pay him what was owed when harvest time came.

Job’s longest speech concluded (Job 31:40) with him being like most men: He boasted his virtues, but was blinded by pride, and unable or unwilling to see his flaws.

* Note – Our next devotion (Job 32) will introduce Elihu, a fourth “friend” of Job’s. His youthful zeal will heap upon Job sorrow upon sorrows.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization.

Mailing Address:
Heart of A Shepherd Inc
7853 Gunn Hwy
#131
Tampa, FL 33626-1611

You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.