Category Archives: Death

The Trouble with Settling for Second Best (Genesis 19-21)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 19-21

Genesis 19 opens with two angels arriving at the gates of the city of Sodom.  Appearing in the physical form of men, the angels entered Sodom and were greeted by Lot whom they found sitting “in the gate” (the place where city leaders transacted business and made judgments in disputes).  Realizing the men were not citizens of Sodom, Lot urged them to find refuge for the night in his home (19:2-3).

As the darkness of night settled on the city, the wickedness and depravity of Sodom emerged when the Sodomites (i.e. homosexuals) of the city encircled Lot’s home demanding he turn his visitors out into the street to be sexually assaulted (19:4-6).  Describing their lusts as wicked (19:7), Lot pled with the men of Sodom, offering to sacrifice his own daughters to their lusts (19:8-9) to protect his guests.

Striking the wicked men of Sodom with blindness, the angels saved Lot  from their violent attack (19:10-11). Displaying God’s grace, the angels urged Lot to flee the city with his family, warning him the LORD would destroy the city for its wickedness (19:12-13).  Sadly, Lot’s married sons and daughters refused his plea to flee the city (19:14).  Warned to not look back, only Lot, his wife, and two daughters fled the city (19:15-23).  Adding to his sorrow, Lot’s wife looked back and “became a pillar of salt” as God rained fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah (19:24-29).

One would hope Lot’s drifting from the LORD would end with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; however, he became drunk with wine and his daughters committed incest with him (19:30-36).  The eldest daughter conceiving a son she named Moab, the father of the Moabites (19:37).  The youngest daughter conceiving a son she named Ammon, the father of the Ammonites.  Both nations, the Moabites and Ammonites, would become a curse and perpetual trouble for the nation of Israel.

With the ash and salt from God’s judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah settling on the land, Abraham makes a fateful decision to journey from the land God had promised and traveled south to Gerar and the land ruled by the heathen king Abimelech (20:1-2).

Although ninety years old, Sarah is described as a beautiful, desirable woman and Abraham foolishly demanded she again conceal her identity and say she was his sister (20:2).  Once again putting at risk God’s covenant promise that Sarah would bear him a son, the LORD intervened and warned Abimelech in a dream (20:3) that should he would be a dead man should he violate Sarah (20:3-8).  Rising early, Abimelech confronted Abraham and sent him and his household out of his kingdom (20:9-13).

Continuing our study of the life of Abraham, we come to the conception and birth of Isaac, the long-awaited son fulfilling God’s covenant promise, “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee” (Genesis 12:2).  Abraham had received and believed God’s promise of a son when he was seventy-five years old (Genesis 12:4); however, 25 years passed before he saw that promise fulfilled (21:5).

Hagar, the Egyptian mother of Ishmael, greeted the celebration of Isaac’s birth with jealousy and animosity, knowing her son would not be Abraham’s heir (21:9).  In spite of her having initiated the faithless act of Abraham having a son with her handmaid, Sarah demanded that Hagar and her son be dismissed from their home (21:10).

We have seen in our study of the life of Abraham how he often allowed circumstances and doubt to shadow his confidence in God’s promises. In spite of his faithlessness, God renewed his promise that Sarah would bear him a son in her old age, she being 90 and he nearly 100 years old (17:15-19).

Understanding the weight of his transgressions was also borne by his family, Abraham was comforted by God’s promise to bless Ishmael (21:12-13) though he and his mother must be driven from his home (21:14-21).

A tragic reminder as I close today’s devotion is God’s promise that the effects of a father’s sins will fall “upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate” Him (Exodus 20:5).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Closing Thoughts on Life’s Trials, Fair-weather Friends, and the LORD’s Unfailing Grace (Job 40-42)

Daily reading assignment: Job 40-42

The LORD continues His interrogation of Job in chapter 40; however, he is now given an opportunity to respond  (40:3-5).  The first words from Job’s lips confessed his unworthiness (“Behold I am vile” – 40:4).  Humbled and at a loss for words, he is silent (40:4-5).

The LORD responds to Job, speaking to the man from the midst of the storm, Job is asked why he questioned His dealings as anything less than just (40:6-8). To summarize the LORD’s questions to Job in a modern context, “Who do you think you are to question me?” (40:9-14).

The beast described as the “behemoth” (40:15) is highly debated among scholars. Given the early writing of the book of Job, it is possible a dinosaur is described. Others suggest the behemoth was a hippopotamus, elephant or perhaps a water buffalo.

The LORD continues to question Job in chapter 41 and invites him to consider the “leviathan” (Job 41:1).  The identity of this great creature is also uncertain; however, some suggest it to be a giant saltwater crocodile.  Perhaps a giant creature of the sea that is extinct, but whose remains are identified today as those of a dinosaur.

Either way, the analogy is meant to draw Job to conclude that man is foolish to question his Creator when he pales in size and strength to the majestic beasts of His creation (41:1-9). The Lord challenged Job, if man cannot tame a “leviathan,” he has no right to question God (41:10-34).

Having heard the LORD’s revelations of Himself and pondered the evidences of His power and might as sovereign of creation, Job confessed, I abhor [despise] myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).

Accepting Job’s humble confession and repentance, the LORD turned the focus of His wrath upon Job’s “friends” (42:7-9) and commands “Eliphaz the Temanite” (perhaps the elder of the friends) to go to Job with sacrifices, humble themselves, and ask the very man they had condemned to pray for them (42:8-9).  [An additional observation: It is interesting that Elihu, the youngest “friend” of Job’s friends, is not named among those who went to Job in humility.  Elihu had been the most vociferous of Job’s judges; however, he fails to be named among those who sought to be restored to his fellowship].

Evidencing the grace and humility of a sincere repentant man of God, Job “prayed for his “friends” and God blessed him with “twice as much as he had before” (42:10).

Consider with me a few closing thoughts on “Fair-Weather Friends”:

Job 42:11 Then[i.e. the trials now passed and God having prospered Job “twice as much”] came there unto him 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], and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned [i.e. showed sympathy] him, and comforted [pitied] him over all the evil [troubles] that the LORD had brought [i.e. allowed to enter] upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold.”

Where were these “brethren” and “sisters” when Job lost everything?  Where were Job’s acquaintances when he lost his sons and daughters, servants, home, physical health and possessions?  Why appear now to show sympathy and comfort?  Why wait to bring Job “a piece of money” and gold earrings after the LORD has begun to pour out his blessings on him and he has need of nothing?

I close our study of Job’s life rejoicing in how the LORD blessed him and he lived another “one hundred and forty years.” Job lived to witness the birth of “his sons, and his sons’ sons, even four generations” and“died, being old and full [satisfied] of days” (Job 42:10, 16-17).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Remember the Good Old Days? – part 1 (Job 29-31)

Today’s devotional reading assignment is Job 29-31.

Do you remember the “Good Old Days”?   You know, the days when you were young, strong, carefree, deluded and naïve?  Remember what life was like before you learned how much life could hurt?

In today’s scripture reading (Job 29-31), Job continues his defense against his “friends” insinuations that his sorrows and losses are indicative of unconfessed sins. Job began his defense in chapter 27 and continues his sad monologue through chapters 29, 30 and 31. (Note – I will address the length of today’s Bible reading assignment in two devotional thoughts).

Preacher and author Warren Wiersbe writes of Job’s defense:

He “climaxed his speech with sixteen ‘if I have…’ statements and put himself under oath, challenging God either to condemn him or vindicate him. It was as though Job were saying, “We’ve talked long enough! I really don’t care what you three men think, because God is my Judge; and I rest my case with Him. Now, let Him settle the matter one way or another, once and for all.”  [The Bible Exposition Commentary – Wisdom and Poetry].

Like many who grow frail in age or because of trials, Job began to reflect on “the good old days”.  He recalled the blessings and joys he had taken for granted before trials and troubles robbed him of his family, possessions and health. He remembered his youth and how God had favored him (29:2-4a).   He considered the fellowship he had with God and the joy his children brought to his life (29:4b-5).

He looked back on the standing he once had in life; how young men retired from his presence, old men stood to honor him (29:5-8), and nobles weighed his counsel with gravity (29:9-11, 20-25).  He cherished the opportunities he had to bless those less fortunate (29:12-16).

Job 30 marks a decided turn from cherished reflections of his past to the horrid reality of his present circumstances.  Though his character had remained unaltered, he had lost everything that once defined his outward man.   Job confronted the choice we might all face… live in the past and entertain bitterness or honestly and humbly assess his present condition.

Job’s life had become the fodder of fools. He encountered derision from men who once honored him (30:1-15).  He had been charitable to many, but now faced his own poverty (30:16-25).  In need of pity and compassion (30:26-31), sorrows threatened to drowned Job’s soul in tears (30:27-29). He was well-nigh hopeless.

Hopelessness is an intolerable place; for when hope is lost, all seems lost.

Paul challenged believers in Rome, be “fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope” (Romans 12:11-12a).  To believers in Corinth, Paul wrote, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20  But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept”  (1 Corinthians 15:19-20).

Believer, never lose hope!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

At the End of Your Rope? Tie a Knot and Trust God! (Job 17-20)

Daily reading assignment: Job 17-20

As a reminder to the readers of http://www.HeartofaShepherd.com; the daily devotionals posted on this site are written by Pastor Travis D. Smith and follow a chronological plan for reading through the Bible in one year. Chronological Bible Reading PlanSometimes the reading assignments can become heavy and repetitive…as with our study of the Book of Job. I encourage you to be patient and persevere in this discipline knowing every word in the original transcripts were God-breathed… “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21).

We continue our study of the Book of Job with the man responding to his friends’ suggestions that he has suffered sorrow and loss because of some sin he has yet to face and confess.  In chapter 16, Job began to reprove his accusers and plea for mercy and compassion.  We will notice in chapter 17 that his focus turns from his accusers to God.

Believing he could not continue to bear the sorrows and losses he has suffered, Job felt the end of his own life was at hand (Job 17:1); the betrayal of friends (17:5) and the stress of loss and disappointments had all but consumed him (17:7).

The young, strong, and untried are often self-deceived by a certain invincibility.  In contrast, the old, weak and feeble wrestle with the peril of self-absorption, anxiety and despondency.  Wrestling with the latter, Job cried to the LORD, Mine eye also is dim [dark; weak; faint] by reason of sorrow [grief; anger], and all my members [strength] are as a shadow [deep darkness; i.e. shadow of death] (Job 17:7).

Nowhere is there a hint that Job was considering suicide; however, he was so overwhelmed with sorrows it seemed death might bring a welcome relief (Job 17:11).  After hearing Job’s pitiful plea for mercy, one would think a friend would have compassion and encourage him; however, that was not the case.  The whole of Job 18 records Bildad’s words of reproof, insisting Job’s troubles are evidence of God’s judgment on the man’s wickedness.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” 

Do you remember that foolish childhood retort to the taunts of a bully?  Alas, sticks and stones leave scars that will heal and bones that will mend; however, the cutting words of a friend pierce the heart with sorrows that follow some to their graves.

The cruel judgments and piercing accusations of Job’s friends have left him wounded and despairing of life (19:1-4).  While he is a victim of unfounded criticisms and unmerciful condemnations; Job has nevertheless fallen victim to an ill-advised practice of some who have been wounded…keeping tally of the wrong’s others have inflicted on him.

Job rightfully asks, How long will ye vex my soul, and break me in pieces with words?” (Job 19:2); however, his observation, “These ten times have ye reproached me” (Job 19:3) suggests his focus was on his accusers and not the LORD.

Job 19:5-20 paints a pitiful portrait of Job wallowing in the mire of his sorrows and deprivations.   He is trapped with no means of escape (19:6).  Encircled by “friends” who judge and condemn him; Job cries for help (19:8-20), but finds no justice (19:7).

Loneliness and hopelessness have become Job’s companions (19:13-19). Disappointments and despair have overwhelmed him. 

Herein we see a danger…the temptation to nurse our wounds, lament our losses, and retreat into our misery.  It is here we take a page from Job’s life and listen as his heart and thoughts turn to the LORD:

For I know [with certainty and confidence] that my Redeemer [i.e. Kinsman Redeemer; Avenger] liveth, and that he shall stand [abide; endure] at the latter day upon the earth” (Job 19:25).

In the midst of sorrows, Job’s thoughts turn to the LORD and his hope is renewed.  He expresses confidence his “Redeemer” will deliver his soul from trouble in the same way a “kinsman redeemer” would purchase a loved one out of a debtor’s sentence.

In his distress, Job is forced to answer the judgments of “friends” who, like Zophar’s statements in Job 20, imply his sorrows and losses must be attributable to some wickedness he has not confessed to God (Job 20:4-29).

Some reading today’s devotional might be struggling with anxiety, fear and loss.  While your trials might pale in comparison to Job’s, nevertheless, your pain, sorrow, and disappointments are real.  You might fear one more disappointment…one more crisis…one more trial…one more attack on your character…and you will be broken.

Might I suggest that broken…broken in will and broken in spirit may be where God wants you! Broken; at the “end of your rope,” but wholly dependent on Him.

The prophet Isaiah exhorted God’s people: “Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength” (Isaiah 26:4).

Struggling with fear and anxiety?  I encourage you to confess, give them to the Lord, and trust Him!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Clock is Running Down…Are You Ready? (Job 14-16)

Daily reading assignment: Job 14-16

Reflecting on the temporal nature of this earthly life, Job declared man’s life is “of few days, and full of trouble” (14:1). Like the bloom of a flower that is soon cut down, the bloom and strength of one’s youth fades and we are no more (14:2).  Job reminds us that God has numbered the days, months, and years of man (Job 14:5)!   

No wonder anxiety and depression are epidemic today!

While our world is dominated by amusements (things that divert our thoughts), reminders life is temporal abound.  The sound of a siren racing to an accident; the presence of a roadside cross memorializing the site where a loved one perished; a procession of mourners behind a hearse…all remind us our days are numbered (Psalm 90:12and our lives are like a vapor (James 4:14).  

Job pondered that a tree that is cut down will often spring forth into life and new growth (14:7-9). What about man?  Is there life for man beyond the grave (14:10-12)?   

While we have the privilege of the written words of God’s revelation, death and the resurrection were mysteries to Job. In spite of his limited knowledge, he believed God was merciful and gracious and would remember him in death (14:14-15).

Although they purported to comfort him, Job’s friends have served as his prosecutors, judges, and jury…condemning the man though he was already stricken by his losses and wretchedness.  One of Job’s three “friends”, Eliphaz the Temanite, once again takes up his dispute with Job accusing him of pride (Job 15:5-6), hypocrisy (15:34-35) and warning him all he had suffered was a consequence of sin (15:17-35).  

Job’s response to Eliphaz is recorded in three pleas in chapters 16-17. 

The first plea is for mercy. Rather than comfort him; Job’s friends were unsympathetic to his plight and their words only added to his misery (16:1-14).  Reproving them, he postulated if they had suffered the sorrows and losses that had befallen him their words would be tempered with sympathy  and understanding (16:4-5).  

An old adage asserts, “Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes.”  

It is tempting to be an insensitive, callous critic when we have not borne the pain, sorrow and disappointments of another. For example, I have known some who supposed themselves parenting experts and in their rush to judgment failed to moderate their criticisms; that is…until they grappled with their own teenagers. 

It is easy to dole out self-righteous opinions until we suffer pains and disappointments. Christ taught in His Sermon on the Mount:  “Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:1-2).  

The knowledge we will face the judgment of a just God should incite caution when we are tempted to judge others.  How much better to heed Paul’s exhortation: Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 16  Be of the same mind one toward another…” (Romans 12:15-16a).   

In the words of Job, “my witness [recorded testimony] is in heaven, and my record [Advocate; i.e. Jesus Christ] is on high” (Job 16:19b1 John 2:1-2).

Copyright 2020 by Travis D. Smith

Ever Wonder Why God Allows His People to Suffer? (Job 10-13)

Daily reading assignment: Job 10-13

In Job 10 we find Job attempting to make sense out of all he has suffered.  While he declares his confidence that God is just; he is nevertheless left wondering why calamity has come upon him.

Some reading this devotional can identify with Job’s sorrows.  You find yourself wrestling with some of the same questions, trying to make sense out of the trials that have befallen you. While you are confident God is sovereign and good, you wonder, “Why [God] ‘contendest [strive] with me?’” (10:2).

Job wondered, why are destroying me? “Wherefore then hast thou brought me forth out of the womb?” (10:18).  In essence, “Why was I born?”

Had Job known all he was suffering was in response to Satan assailing his character, he might not have agonized so; however, that was not for Job to know.  God had purposed for him to pass through fiery trials to the end he would one day say, “But He [God] knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

With friends like these, who needs enemies? (Job 11)

Having heard the judgment and condemnation of two “friends”, Eliphaz and Bildad, Job finds himself suffering the observations and criticisms of yet another, the Naamathite named Zophar (11:1).

Rather than pity and compassion, Zophar “goes for the kill” with cutting words, accusing poor Job of being a mocker and scoffer (11:3).  Filled with pride, Zophar indicted Job suggesting he was spiritually shallow, ignorant of God (11:5-12), and too stubborn to repent (11:13-20).

Job’s response to his accusers, specifically Zophar’s judgments, is recorded in chapters 12-14.

Job 12:2 seems to imply that Job’s friends were older than he and therefore presumed themselves to be wiser by the course of years.  Job, however, reminded his friends that the source of wisdom is God (12:12-13), not man. In other words, youth does not have the market on foolishness.  Indeed, one might just as easily be an old fool as a young fool.

While not knowing why so much suffering had befallen him, Job nevertheless declared the sovereignty of God over nature and man (12:14-25).

Job’s defense continues in chapter 13 as he asserts his innocence and reproves his “friends” for their hypocrisy (13:1-12).  Job rebukes them for daring to speak for God apart from His revelations (13:7-11).

His sons and daughters are dead; his home, servants, possessions, and flocks lost; his body is afflicted with sores; his wife taunts him to “curse God”, and his “friends” condemn him…yet, Job declares an amazing statement of faith:

“Though He [the LORD] slay me [kill; put to death], yet will I trust [hope; wait] in Him” (13:15).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Riches to Rags…The Life of Job (Job 1-5)

Daily reading assignment: Job 1-5

The Book of Job is believed to be the oldest book in the Bible.  It is the ancient story of a man of God that was wealthy beyond our imagination.  A father of seven sons and three daughters whose possessions are tallied as 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 oxen, 500 donkeys, and a large household of servants (Job 1:3).

It is not Job’s wealth, but his godly character and walk with God that is the central focus of today’s devotional reading.  We read of Job that he was “perfect [blameless; a man of integrity] and upright [righteous; pleasing to God], and one that feared [revered] God, and eschewed evil [refused sin and wickedness] (Job 1:1, 8).

Although a godly man, it appears the same was not true of Job’s adult sons and daughters who are portrayed enjoying feasts, eating and drinking (Job 1:4).  Fearing his children had sinned, Job “offered burnt offerings” reasoning, “It may be that my sons have sinned” (Job 1:5).

Job 1:6 begins the narrative of a heavenly drama between Satan [the fallen angel Lucifer] and the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent God] that was witnessed by the angels of heaven [i.e. sons of God].

Job is the subject of the LORD’s discourse with Satan whom He sets forth as an example of godliness and virtue among the men of the earth (1:8).  Satan, the adversary of God and His people, questioned Job’s spiritual character asking, “Doth Job fear God for nought [lit. for nothing; without cause] ?  (1:9).

Satan proceeded to assail Job’s virtues and religious piety, suggesting the man only worshipped God because he was blessed with great wealth and possessions (1:10).  Satan asserted, take away his possessions, wealth and health and Job will curse God (1:11; 2:4-6).

Knowing the heart of His servant, the LORD permitted a series of trials and troubles to fall upon Job that ultimately took from him his children (1:18-21), possessions (1:13-17), and his health (2:7).  Remarkably, we read of the man, “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (1:22).  When his wife turned against him (having likewise lost everything), we read of Job, “…In all this did not Job sin with his lips” (2:10).

Chapter 2 concludes with the arrival of “three friends” who, upon seeing Job, did not recognize the man due to the physical toll of his sufferings and sorrows (2:12a).  Stunned by the losses their friend had suffered, the men wept and then sat in silence commiserating with Job’s sorrows (2:11-13).

The silence is broken when Job begins to express the sentiment it would have been better had he never been born (Job 3:2-12).  Lamenting his misery (3:20-23), Job questioned why God gives “light” (i.e. life) to a soul that longs to be free from sorrows (Job 3:20-23).

Any who have suffered sorrows and disappointments can relate to the despondency that took hold on Job’s soul.  Such thoughts of death are not unique to young or old, rich or poor, famous or infamous. Pain, sorrows, sufferings, and disappointments can drive a soul to entertain dark and ominous thoughts.

“Eliphaz the Temanite” (4:1), one of Job’s friends, questioned if Job would accept his counsel (Job 4:2-6).  Rather than comfort, Eliphaz proposed a question that haunts any given the privilege of ministering to others:

Will you accept spiritual counsel in a time of sorrow and loss or falter in the throes of self-pity?  (4:5-6)

Continuing his argument in Job 5, Eliphaz suggested Job’s losses must be the result of some wickedness he has concealed (the word “foolish” in this chapter is indicative of wickedness). While his reason reflects some truth, Eliphaz’s argument that Job’s losses were God’s judgment was presumptuous.

Spiritual Truth: The wicked do suffer loss as a result of God’s punitive judgment; however, He also chastens the righteous with the love of a Father (Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:6; Revelation 3:19).  God allows His children to suffer, not because of sin, but as a means of deepening a believer’s walk of grace and dependence on the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:32; Jeremiah 29:11; Matthew 5:11).

You and I cannot understand all that is in the mind of God; however, we must accept He is Sovereign.  Sickness and sorrows are temporal; however, the way of the LORD is perfect (Psalm 18:30).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith