Category Archives: Depression

The Power of Prayer and the Faith of One Poor Widow (1 Kings 17-19)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 17-19

Today’s Scripture reading is both lengthy and rich in detail. I dare not attempt to write a thorough devotional commentary that covers 1 Kings 17, 18, and 19; however, I encourage you to read those chapters for the context of future devotions. I will limit my commentary to 1 Kings 17 and with the prospect of returning to 1 Kings 18-19 in the future.

In his speech titled Man in the Arena, President Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States described a man of rare courage, as one who “strives valiantly…who spends himself in a worthy cause…and who at the worse, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Such a man was Elijah!

1 Kings 17 – The Prophet Elijah, Man of Prayer

Absent of any fanfare, we are suddenly introduced to one of the great prophets of the Old Testament, “Elijah the Tishbite” (17:1). Remembering the sins and wickedness of Israel’s King Ahab, and his Queen Jezebel as our backdrop, we find one man in all Israel who confronted Ahab and warned him that his sins had provoked the wrath of God. As a result, Israel would be punished with drought as God withheld rain from the land (17:1; Deuteronomy 11:16-17; 28:23-24).

James 5:17-18 reminds us that the drought Israel experienced was a testimony of the power of one man’s prayer, Elijah (i.e. Elias).

James 5:17-18 – “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. 18  And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”

While Israel suffered drought and a scarcity of food, God directed Elijah to retreat to a brook named Cherith where He promised to provide him water and ravens would bring him food to eat in the morning and evening (17:2-7).

When the brook dried up, the LORD commanded Elijah to go to Zarephath, a Phoenician city, located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. There the prophet would find a widow, a woman of faith, whom the LORD would use to provide him food and water throughout the balance of the drought in Israel (17:8-16).

Elijah found the poor widow suffering the dearth of the drought and his request for water and food was first rejected on rational grounds, for she had no cake and only enough food and oil for one last meal (17:12).

The prophet answered the widow’s despair, promising if she would believe the word of the LORD and obey, saying, “The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth” (17:14). God did indeed respond to the widow’s faith and the barrel of flour and the cruse of oil were miraculously replenished every meal (17:15-16).

Later tragedy struck the widow’s household when her son died (17:17). Fearing her son’s death was God’s judgment for sin, she pled with Elijah, “What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son” (17:18).

Elijah, taking up the son’s dead body, went to the loft of the house where he prayed to the LORD, “O LORD my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?” (17:20).

Three times Elijah stretched his body over the lifeless body of the boy and pleading, “O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child’s soul come into him again” (17:21). God answered Elijah’s prayer and “the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived” (17:22).

I close today’s devotional commentary inviting you to notice the testimony of the widow’s faith: “Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth” (17:24).

In verse 18 the widow recognized Elijah was a “man of God.” In verse 24 she confessed the prophet was not only a “man of God,” but that “the word of the LORD” was in his mouth.

To state the fact of the widow’s faith in another way: She not only heard the TRUTH, she believed the words of the prophet was the very Word of God.

Such was then, and is today the way of true salvation, for “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Living a Purposeful Life (Ecclesiastes 1-6)

Scripture Reading – Ecclesiastes 1-6

Today’s Scripture reading is long, but meaningful to all who seek to understand the many troubled individuals we pass in our daily lives. I encourage you to read and contemplate the sorrow of an empty soul that only God’s grace and mercy can fill. The devotional commentary will focus entirely on Ecclesiastes 1-2.

Ecclesiastes chronicles the ponderings of elderly King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, apart from Christ. The king’s subject is the challenges and difficulties of this earthly life, and its vanity (emptiness).  Solomon writes,

Ecclesiastes 1:2-3 – “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.  What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?”

Ecclesiastes, penned in the latter years of Solomon’s life, brings to us a shocking contrast to the bits of wisdom the king penned in the middle years of life, when he was presiding over Israel in that nation’s golden years. His youth far spent, and the frailty of old age his daily haunt, we notice that Solomon’s outlook has become sad and dismal.

Solomon questions, what is a man’s life apart from God?  To what ends should a man live?  What profit, what gain, what value is there for a man who spends his life in labor?

One generation dies and another takes its place (1:4); the sun rises and the sun sets (1:5); the wind blows and the waters run (1:6-7), and in Solomon’s observation, a man’s heart is never satisfied (1:8).

Ecclesiastes 1:8 – “All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.”

What a sad commentary on the life of a king whom God promised to give unimaginable wealth and incomprehensible wisdom (1 Kings 3:7-14)!  His youth spent, Solomon had turned his heart from God, and now near the end of his life, sums up his search for fulfillment saying, “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit” (1:14).

What happened to this man who had everything, but whose life became empty?  We find the answer to that question in 1 Kings 11:4.

1 Kings 11:3-4 – “And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. 4 For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.”

From a horizontal, human perspective, Solomon’s life and passions showed the heart of one who had turned from God! No wonder Solomon writes, “Vanity, all is vanity,” thirty-four times in Ecclesiastes.

When he was young, the king loved the LORD and chose wisdom over wealth and worldly pleasures (1 Kings 3:9).  God had honored his desire and imparted to Solomon not only wisdom, but also riches and power. Tragically, in his old age, he had turned from the LORD and His Law and Commandments.

Ecclesiastes is the philosophical discourse of an old man out of fellowship with God. What a tragic conclusion for a man whose youth was a testimony of God’s blessings!

Ecclesiastes 2:11 – “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.”

I believe it is author and preacher Chuck Swindoll who tells the story of a deeply disturbed individual who went to a psychiatrist seeking help with his anxieties.  Every morning the man awoke melancholy and, in the evening, went to bed deeply depressed.  Desperate and unable to find relief, he decided to seek the counsel of a medical doctor.

The psychiatrist, after listening to the man share his thoughts, fears and anxieties, finally leaned towards his patient and said, “I understand an Italian clown has come to our local theatre and the crowds are [rolling] in the aisles in laughter… Why don’t you go see the clown and laugh your troubles away?”

With a sad, forlorn expression, the patient muttered, “Doctor, I am that clown.”

Friend, a life lived apart from God and in contradiction to His Law will never be satisfying!  No pleasures can mask the sadness, nor riches satisfy the void of a sinner’s heart apart from the LORD.  Solomon writes,

Ecclesiastes. 2:26 – “For God giveth to a man that is good in His sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner He giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that He may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Cry of a Wounded Soul (Psalms 5, 38, 41-42)

Scripture Reading – Psalms 5, 38, 41-42

Our devotional commentary is taken from Psalm 41 where we find David at a low point in life, physically and emotionally. The theme of the psalm is, “God’s Care of the Poor” and scholars believe the king penned the song when he was ill or recovering from sickness.

Remembering the psalms were sung by priests and Levites during worship in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple, I invite you to notice four stanzas.

The first stanza is a Beatitude that opens with the word, “Blessed” (41:1-3).

Psalm 41:1-3 – “Blessed [Happy] is he that considereth [understands] the poor [weak; needy]: the LORDwill deliver [save] him in time of trouble [sin; wickedness; evil]2  The LORD will preserve [keep; guard] him, and keep him alive [sustain]; and he shall be blessed [prosperous] upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver [abandon] him unto the will  [desire] of his enemies [adversary; foe]3 The LORD will strengthen [support; uphold] him upon the bed [couch; canopy] of languishing [sorrow]: thou wilt make [turn; overthrow] all his bed in his sickness [disease; malady].”

Having shown compassion to the poor, David rehearsed the LORD’s promise to hear and heed the cries of His people in their hour of need (41:1). The king remembered God keeps watch over His people and delivers them out of trouble in His time (41:2). Betrayed by those he loved, David had tossed and turned upon his bed as sorrows and disappointments washed over his soul (41:3).

The second stanza is a penitent prayer of confession and a cry for God’s grace (41:4). He prayed,

Psalm 41:4 – “4  I said, LORD, be merciful [gracious; show favor] unto me: heal [cure; purify] my soul [life]; for I have sinned [committed sin; guilty] against thee.”

The king had spent sleepless nights praying and searching his heart. He confessed his sin and pleaded for God’s grace, forgiveness and restoration (41:4).

In the third stanza, David rehearsed the sorrows and betrayals he had suffered (41:5-9).

Psalm 41:5-6 – “Mine enemies speak [charge] evil [sin; wickedness] of me, When shall he die [be slain], and his name [fame; honor] perish [destroyed]6  And if he [enemy; adversary] come to see [look; behold] me, he speaketh [declare] vanity [deceit; lies]: his heart gathereth [collect; heap; take up] iniquity [sin; wickedness] to itself; when he goeth [go forth] abroad [in the streets], he telleth [speak; say; talk] it.”

All who serve the LORD and walk with integrity will inevitably face such pain (41:5-7). Distressed by the sorrow of rejection and the bitter anguish of betrayal, David continued:

Psalm 41:7-8 – “7 All that hate me whisper [mumble] together [i.e. in chorus] against me: against me do they devise [imagine; fabricate] my hurt. 8  An evil [wicked] disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth [lays down] he shall rise up no more.”

What dismay, knowing embittered souls were plotting and bidding their time awaiting the day they could take satisfaction in the fall of the king (41:8).

Psalm 41:9 –  “Yea, mine own familiar [close] friend, in whom I trusted [a confidant], which did eat [devour; consume] of my bread [food; meal], hath lifted up his heel [foot] against me [magnified himself].

Psalm 41:9 gives us insight into the personal nature of the treachery that had befallen David.  [I believe verse 9 is also a Messianic prophecy that was fulfilled when Judas betrayed Christ].

David’s adversary wanted to grind the king under his heel and humiliate him.  His enemy waited for the satisfaction of the king’s demise.  Although not identified by name, I believe David’s enemy was either Absalom, the king’s own son (2 Samuel 15) or Ahithophel, the king’s trusted counselor who had joined in Absalom’s rebellion (2 Samuel 16:23).

The fourth stanza of Psalm 41 concludes with a doxology of praise (41:10-13).

Psalm 41:10-13 – “But thou, O LORD, be merciful [be gracious; show me favor] unto me, and raise me up, that I may requite them. [reward them for the evil his enemies had done] 11  By this I know that thou favourest [delight in] me, because mine enemy doth not triumph over me. 12  And as for me, thou upholdest me in mine integrity [innocence], and settest me before thy face [presence] for ever. 13  Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen.”

David’s hope was renewed when he turned his thoughts from his hurts and disappointments to the LORD.

Let’s take a lesson from David’s life: God is just and He favors those who put their trust in Him (41:11-12).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Got problems? I have a promise! (Psalms 3-4, 12-13, 28, 55)

Scripture Reading – Psalms 3-4, 12-13, 28, 55

Today’s Scripture reading consists of six chapters from the Book of Psalms, but the focus of this devotional commentary will be limited to Psalm 3.

Psalm 3:1-4 – The Grief and Prayer of a Heartbroken Father

An editor’s note in your Bible identifies Psalm 3 as the psalm David composed when his son Absalom rose up against him. The historical context is chronicled in 2 Samuel 15 and marked the culmination of years of rebellion on the part of Absalom.

By subtlety and slander (2 Samuel 15:3-6) Absalom had ingratiated himself to the people and “stole the hearts of the men of Israel” (2 Samuel 15:6). Conspiring against his father, Absalom led a coup and forced the king to flee Jerusalem. Psalm 3 is a song that expresses David’s anguish and cry to God. [Note – The amplification of the italicized text is by this author.]

Psalm 3:1-4  – “LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Self-existent, Eternal God], how are they increased [multiplied] that trouble [cause distress; afflict] me! many are they that rise up [stand up as a foe] against me.

2  Many there be which say [speak; tell] of my soul [life; person; being], There is no help [deliverer] for him in God. Selah.

3  But thou, O LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Self-existent, Eternal God], art a shield [buckler; defense] for me; my glory [honor; splendor], and the lifter up [exaltation; to move in a higher direction] of mine head.

4  I cried [called out] unto the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Self-existent, Eternal God] with my voice, and he heard [answered; responded; replied] me out of his holy [sanctuary; sacred place] hill. Selah [i.e. to pause—most likely an instruction to musicians].”

David found himself surrounded by enemies who had once shouted his praises.  The loneliness of the king and his desperate cry to the LORD stirs the heart of all who have been in leadership and felt the blow and sorrow of betrayal.  Emboldened by his flight from Jerusalem, the king’s enemies derided him saying, “There is no help [deliverer] for him in God” (Psalm 3:2b).

Notice in verse 3 how David takes solace in the character and promises of God.  His reflections on the character of God strengthened his soul. David remembered the LORD of eternity was his “shield”, defender and the sovereign of creation.

Though driven from his throne, David was confident that God would exact vengeance and His justice would prevail.  Alone, afraid, humiliated, discouraged, but not defeated; David was certain God saw his plight and heard his cry. The king expressed his trust and faith in the LORD writing:

Psalm 3:4 – “I cried [called out] unto the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Self-existent, Eternal God] with my voice, and he heard [answered; responded; replied] me out of his holy [sanctuary; sacred place] hill. Selah [i.e. to pause—most likely an instruction to musicians].”

The heartache borne by David is all too familiar to parents of sons and daughters who reject God in spite of their parents’ love, sacrifices, and the spiritual lessons engrained in them from their youth. Prodigal sons and daughters heap indescribable heartaches and sorrows on those who love them. I can only wonder how many desperate parents are praying their rebels will face the emptiness of their souls and come to themselves before it is too late (Luke 15:11-21).

Psalm 3:5 – “I laid me down [took rest] and slept [i.e. long sleep; fell asleep]; I awaked [i.e. arise]; for the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Self-existent, Eternal God] sustained [to prop; braced; held up] me.

All was not lost for David. When the deposed king looked past his sorrows and reflected on the LORD his hope renewed. Perhaps for the first time in days or weeks, David found solace in the LORD and slept (3:5). Sweet sleep-a quietness of heart and thoughts God gives a believer whose solace is in Him. David’s words (3:5) echo a bedtime prayer I was taught as a child:

“I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, If I shall die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take, Amen.”

Awakening from sleep, David’s faith was renewed and his soul refreshed.

Psalm 3:6-7  I will not be afraid [fear; tremble; frighten] of ten thousands of people, that have set [made; lay; fixed] themselves against me round about [on every side; surround].
7  Arise [Rise up; stand; perform], O LORD; save [deliver; help; rescue; avenge] me, O my God [Elohim; Mighty God]: for thou hast smitten [slay; kill; beat; strike] all mine enemies [foes; adversaries] upon the cheek bone [i.e. or jaw bone]; thou hast broken [shattered; crushed] the teeth of the ungodly [wicked].
8  Salvation [help; deliverance] belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing [prosperity; generosity] is upon thy people [tribe; flock]. Selah [pause].”

Betrayed by a son and surrounded by enemies, David asserted he was confident the LORD would save him.

Are you a parent who identifies with David’s sorrows and disappointments?

To face an enemy is sorrow enough, but when that enemy is your child mere words fail to express the grief and anguish of a parent’s broken heart.

Take heart: God hears and answers your cries in the night.  He is the same for you as he was for David: your Shield and Defender.  The LORD will answer your prayers and lift you up in His time.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Thou art the man!” (Psalm 32, 51, 86, 122)

Scripture Reading – Psalms 32, 51, 86, 122

Our previous devotional, 2 Samuel 11-12 and 1 Chronicles 20, is the background for two penitent psalms in today’s Scripture reading (Psalm 32 and Psalm 51). Today’s devotional commentary is focused on Psalm 51.

Psalm 51 is a prayer of brokenness, confession, repentance and a plea for forgiveness and restoration. The prophet Nathan’s dramatic confrontation with David (2 Samuel 12:7-13)  had exposed his adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of David’s mighty men. Added to the disgrace was the king’s attempt to conceal his sin that ultimately ended in the king’s directing Uriah’s death.

It is frightening to consider the depths of sin into which a man or woman might descend. At the zenith of success and power, the words of the prophet Nathan had echoed in the palace and resonated in David’s soul: “Thou art the man!”  (2 Samuel 12:7)

Late 19th century British historian Lord Acton made the observation, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  That is true of monarchs, politicians, business leaders, professors and, yes, pastors.

One should ponder how a man like David was befallen by sin. Considering the disgraced king, we can scarce remember the innocent shepherd or the young king humbled by the adulation of his nation. He has dishonored his crown and the servants of his kingdom revile him in private whispering, “adulterer” and “murderer.”

David acknowledged the nature and curse of hereditary sin, confessing, “I was shapen in iniquity: and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). The disposition to sin is bound in the heart of all men and women, for “there is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).

While I am dismayed by the depths of sin to which David descended, it is the length of time he tolerated the burden of such sins while acting as judge in other men’s affairs that surprises me. How long might David have continued his charade if it were not for God’s deploying his prophet to confront the king on his throne?

“Thou art the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7) echoed in the judgment hall and resonated in David’s heart who cried out to God for mercy and forgiveness (Psalm 51:1).  David prayed, “Wash me throughly,” because his heart and hands were dirty with his transgressions (51:2-3). He had sinned against many, but was acutely aware his foremost sin was against the LORD. The king prayed, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight” (51:4).

David continued, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me…12  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit” (51:10, 12).

No more pretense. No more hypocrisy. No more vain worship. The king confessed, “For thou desirest not sacrifice…17  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart” (51:16a, 17a).

I close suggesting at least three factors contributed to David’s moral failure.

The first, he entertained lusts that inevitably led to a neglect of his duties and responsibilities as husband, father and king.

The second factor, his role as king had insulated him to accountability. His moral failure occurred when he was alone, far from the battlefield and separated from his wives and children.

Finally, though he was a man with a heart for God, he was nonetheless too proud to confess his sin (2 Samuel 11:6-22) and accept the consequences of his moral failures.

Lesson: If you are hiding sin, be forewarned: You are living on borrowed time. Be assured, the consequences of secret sins will inevitably catch up with you and your loved ones (Galatians 6:8; Psalm 32:3-4).

Invitation: The LORD is waiting to hear you pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God…Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (Psalm 51:10a, 12a).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

How Far Will You Go? (2 Samuel 11-12; 1 Chronicles 20)

Daily reading assignment: 2 Samuel 11-12; 1 Chronicles 20

2 Samuel 11 – “And it came to pass, after the year was expired”

The opening phrase of today’s Scripture (11:1) appears contradictory to the enormity of events that were about to unfold in David’s life. His choices and consequences would forever change his future.

“Came to pass” is an apt description of the passing of life. No one knows what a day may bring forth, but each day presents us with an array of choices and their consequences that inevitably leave their mark on our existence.

If it were possible, we would readily strike this tragic moment from David’s life. What sin! What sorrow! But 2 Samuel 11 is a startling reminder to each one of us, of who we might become if we fail to consciously abide in the presence of the LORD and remember He sees and knows all.

We have followed the king from his humble start as a youthful shepherd, rejoiced when he slew the Philistine giant, and sensed Israel’s great future when the prophet Samuel anointed him to be that nation’s next king.

We have been with David when he took to flight from King Saul and hid in the caves of the wilderness. We followed his transition from boyhood to manhood. We rejoiced with his string of victories in 2 Samuel 10 as the fugitive of Israel became that nation’s warrior king, for “the LORD preserved David whithersoever he went” (1 Chronicles 18:13b).

All Israel celebrated David’s conquests in 2 Samuel 10; however, 2 Samuel 11 introduces an observation that is sadly, a forewarning of tragedy about to befall David. We read, “at the time when kings go forth to battle…David tarried still at Jerusalem” (11:1).

David is at least fifty years old and has faithfully served as king for twenty years.  His name has been a common household word in Israel since slaying Goliath, and his exploits on the battlefield inspired songs that celebrated his valor (1 Samuel 18:7). David, however, was but a man. We should take a lesson from his life that will serve as a warning to all:

Grave consequences inevitably befall the man who underestimates the sinful bent of his nature (Psalm 51:5).

Disobeying the law (Deuteronomy 17:16-17), David had given rein to the pleasures of the flesh and taken to himself “more concubines and wives” (2 Samuel 5:13). He had foolishly indulged in carnal pleasures and neglected his duty to the nation.

David was at the pinnacle of his success, enjoying God’s blessings, and Israel was strong and prosperous. However, we find David lounging on his bed when he should have been with his men on the battlefield (11:2).

The king’s idleness and lack of accountability became the catalyst for a tragic series of wicked decisions that would forever scar his life, family, and reign (2 Samuel 11:3-15).

How far will a “man after God’s own heart” fall?

Lust, adultery, deceit, guile and murder were sins that haunted David to his grave.  The consequences of his sins that passed to his family, servants and Israel were incalculable. Guilt, shame and eventually humiliation, would shadow David to his grave. We read:

“The thing that David had done displeased the LORD” (11:27).

David attempted to maintain a facade of routine for nearly a year as he sat on his throne conducting the affairs of state.  On the outside, things might have appeared as usual; however, David was conscious of God’s displeasure and would later write:

Psalm 32:3-4 – “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.  [4]For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.”

2 Samuel 12 – “The LORD sent Nathan unto David” (12:1a).

In His timing, God sent a man of courage and integrity to speak to the king. Evidencing both wisdom and caution, the prophet Nathan approached David with a story that contrasted a rich man’s abuse of a poor man (12:1-6). Intrigued by the story and incited to anger, David passed sentence against the rich man, proclaiming, “As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: 6 And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity” (12:5b-6).

Having pronounced sentence, David and his attendants fell silent when Nathan raised his voice and boldly confronted the king, saying, “Thou art the man” (12:7).

David’s heart was smitten with conviction for he was indeed the man: adulterer; murderer; hypocrite and a wretched, miserable soul (12:8-12). His heart was convicted, and his proud, hypocritical façade crushed (12:13). David realized the sorrow his sin would bring on his family (12:15-17).  The king prayed,

Psalm 51:3-4For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.  [4] Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

I close inviting you to turn the spotlight of truth and focus it on your heart and life. 

First, a warning: Realize the danger of idleness and the tragedy when one trifles with sin and temptation. I challenge you, “Flee also youthful lusts” before it is too late (2 Timothy 2:22)!

Second, a reminder: Solomon warned his son, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper” (Proverbs 28:13a).  When it comes to sin, the question is not “if,” but “when” the consequences of secret sins will befall you.

Third, a blessed promise: “Whoso confesseth [sins] and forsaketh them [sins] shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13b).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Overcoming Fear and Regret (Psalms 25, 29, 33, 36, 39)

Scripture Reading – Psalms 25, 29, 33, 36, 39

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Today’s Scripture reading covers five chapters in the Book of Psalms. I commend you for persevering through lengthy passages that might prove daunting. Understanding the length of some daily readings, I feel it is prudent for me to limit the length of my daily commentaries.

Psalm 25 – A Prayer for Grace, Help and Deliverance

Regret, sorrow, and disappointment cast a dark shadow over the earthly sojourn of humanity, and only the most seared conscience will deny they do not look back on life and have cause for remorse.

Some bear the burden of sin and regret to their graves. John Bunyan described this type of weight as the “slough of despondency” in his classic novel, The Pilgrim’s Progress.  Those who wrestle in the mire of sin and sadness, rather than repent of their sin, tend to indulge and continually repeat the very offenses that pierce their soul with sorrow and distress.

Others entertain sinful temptations hoping the salve of temporal pleasure might assuage their empty soul. There are those who contend with guilt by blame shifting and charging loved ones for the consequences of their sinful choices.

Some turn to alcohol and drugs (legal and illegal) in a vain attempt to appease the piercing burden of regret and find no relief for their hurting soul.

Psalm 25 reminds us that there is only one place to go when you are beset with fear and regret: Go to the LORD!  I cannot tell you when David penned this moving psalm; however, its content reveal the King was struggling as he confessed his sorrows and confronted his fears.

David begins the psalm expressing his faith and confidence in the LORD and prays, “Unto thee, O Lord” (and I might add, “unto thee alone”), do I lift up my soul [life; person] (25:1).

Surrounded by enemies, in his distress the King prayed, “O my God, I trust [trust; confident; bold] in thee: let me not be ashamed [confounded; disappointed; put to shame], let not mine enemies [foes; adversary] triumph [rejoice; exult] over me” (25:2).

Physically weak and emotionally fragile, David’s faith and confidence in the LORD had not wavered. He prayed,

Psalm 25:3 – “Yea, let none that wait [look; hope] on thee be ashamed [confounded; disappointed; put to shame]: let them be ashamed [confounded; disappointed; put to shame] which transgress [offend; act deceitfully] without cause.

David’s prayer was not only for the LORD to save him from his enemies, but also as a testimony to all who call upon the name of God (25:3a).  He reasoned, if some should be put to shame, let it be those who have sinned and transgressed against the LORD without provocation (25:3b).

David cried for wisdom praying, “Shew me thy ways [road; path], O LORD [Jehovah; Eternal God]; teach me [instruct; accept] thy paths [way; conduct; manner]” (25:4).

There are two ways, two paths in life. The way of man who denies God which leads to death (Proverbs 14:12); the way of the LORD that is straight and narrow begins at the cross and is the way of life (Matthew 7:14).

David’s prayer should be the prayer of every believer. We have the Word of God, but we need the LORD to give us insight, discernment and understanding. David continued,

Psalm 25:5 – “Lead me [bend; guide; aim] in thy truth [right; faithfulness], and teach me [instruct; accept]: for thou art the God [Almighty God] of my salvation [liberty; deliverance]; on thee do I wait [look; behold; hope] all the day [time].”

What does that prayer look like in a twenty-first century vernacular?

“LORD, show me the path I should take. Teach me how to conduct myself in a way that pleases You. Bend my will to be in harmony with Your truth’ (John 17:17).

David confessed, “Lord, you are my salvation, safety, and deliverer!” (25:5b).

What does a heavy soul do after crying out to the LORD? Wait! In fact, David prays, “on thee do I wait all the day” (25:5c). The word “wait” is hope. David prays, “LORD, I am looking and waiting on you!”

What do you do when you struggle with fear or regret?

If we are honest, we are prone to be impatient.  Fear and flight are the natural reactions of a troubled soul, and many refuse to accept “fiery trials” as part of God’s refining process in their lives (1 Peter 4:12).

In the midst of his sorrow, David prayed, “Remember, O LORD [Jehovah; Eternal God], thy tender mercies [compassion] and thy lovingkindnesses [mercy; kindness; goodness]; for they have been ever of old [eternity; everlasting; perpetual]” (25:6b).

What a comforting promise! “LORD, I remember your compassion and your mercies are never ending!”

Finally, David called upon the LORD and prayed, “Remember not the sins of my youth [childhood], nor my transgressions [sin; trespass; guilt]: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ [welfare] sake, O LORD [Jehovah; Eternal God]” (25:7).

Knowing the LORD is omniscient (meaning, “all-knowing”), why would David pray, “Remember not the sins of my youth?” David was not praying for the LORD to set aside an attribute that defines who He is; but rather, he was asking the LORD to not hold against him the foolish sins of his youth! In other words, “Lord, do not rehearse the sins and transgressions of my youth.”

Knowing the LORD is a God of mercy, David cast the burden of his sorrows and regret on the LORD and prayed, “according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ [welfare] sake, O LORD [Jehovah; Eternal God]” (25:7).

I close with a quote of the great 19th century preacher Charles Spurgeon: “It is the mark of a true saint that his sorrows remind him of his sins, and his sorrow for sin drives him to his God.”

What have you done with your regret, sorrow and disappointments?

Copyright – 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Ever Feel Like Complaining, “Life’s Not Fair”? (Psalms 73, 77-78)

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 73, 77-78

Today’s Scripture reading consists of three chapters in the Book of Psalms, however, our devotional commentary will focus on only Psalm 73.

Psalm 73 – “A Psalm of Asaph”

Asaph was a priest and musician in King David’s court (1 Chronicles 6:39; 15:19; 16:7) and the author of Psalm 50 and Psalms 73-83. Psalm 73 is a psalm of praise to the LORD and a testimony of Asaph’s journey of faith. Asaph opens the psalm with an affirmation of God’s goodness asserting:

Psalm 73:1 – “Truly [i.e. Only; Certainly] God is good [lit. only good] to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.”

Unlike sinful men of whom it is said, “there is none that doeth good” (Psalm 14:1; Romans 3:12), God is wholly, absolutely good, and there is no evil or sin present in Him.  The first verse of Asaph’s song declares an immutable truth: God is only good to Israel and to all who are of “a clean heart” (meaning pure, innocent and sincere heart).

Psalm 73:2 commences a series of candid observations and humble confessions on Asaph’s part. Describing his spiritual struggles, Asaph confessed he was on the brink of backsliding (73:2) when he observed how the wicked seem to prosper in their sin (73:3). While the righteous struggled, it seemed to Asaph that the wicked were not “plagued (troubled) like other men” (73:5).

In spite of God’s promises and goodness (73:1), Asaph wondered how the wicked could oppress others, speak against heaven, and “increase in riches” (73:8-12). In other words, while Asaph’s heart told him to “trust the LORD,” his feelings cried, “It’s not fair!” Asaph appeared to be on the crisp of quitting when he decried, “the ungodly…prosper…[and] I have cleansed my heart in vain” (73:12-13).

Have you ever felt life is not fair? Ever wish you could quit?  If not yet, you will certainly wrestle with that temptation one day.  Unfortunately, there are many who have done that very thing. They quit and walked away from marriage, family, friends, church, and ministry. For a season they may appear relieved and happy, until the ripple effect of their decision invariably catches up with them and their loved ones.

Asaph, wrestling with his conflicting thoughts and emotions, appeared ready to turn from the LORD, until he weighed the consequences of his decision and the offense it might be to the next generation (73:15-16). The pain and sorrow his abandonment would inflict on others motivated Asap to go to and enter the “the sanctuary of God” (at this time, the tabernacle).

It was in the LORD’s presence that his perspective on the wicked and their end changed (73:17-20). Asaph confessed, “my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins (i.e. pierced within his soul)” (73:21).

With his heart renewed and his eyes fixed on eternity, Asaph remembered the prosperity of the wicked was temporal (73:27). With his faith in the LORD restored and his desire to serve Him renewed (73:28), Asaph concluded his song with what should be the aspiration of every believer:

 

Psalm 73:28 – “But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the LORD GOD that I may declare all thy works.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Royal Lineage and the Consequences of a Generational Sin (1 Chronicles 3-5)

Daily reading assignment – 1 Chronicles 3-5

1 Chronicles 3 – A Royal Lineage

The sons of King David and their descendants are recorded in 1 Chronicles 3:1-9. Solomon’s sons and their lineages are noted in 1 Chronicles 3:10-16.  1 Chronicles 3:17-24 chronicles the births of the royal lineage who were born during the Babylonian captivity (3:17-24).

1 Chronicles 4 – The Genealogical Records of Judah, the Royal Tribe, and the Tribe of Simeon.

Five sons of the lineage of Judah are noted in 1 Chronicles 4:1. Pharez, however, is the only son of Judah mentioned, and the others were most likely grandchildren or relatives whose lineages follow (4:2-23).

The lineage of Simeon, the second son of Jacob (i.e. Israel), is recorded in 1 Chronicles 4:24-43 and includes that tribe’s inheritance in the land as well as the cities and villages assigned to it (4:28-43).

1 Chronicles 5 – The Tribe of Reuben: The Generational Consequences of a Father’s Sin

The descendants of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh had settled on the east side of the Jordan River, and at the threshold of Canaan. Their lineages are recorded in 1 Chronicles 5:1-17.

Reuben was the firstborn son of Israel (i.e. Jacob); however, he was disinherited as the principal successor of his father when he sinned in lying with Bilhah, his father’s concubine (Genesis 35:22; 49:3-4). The consequence of Reuben’s sin was that his inheritance passed to the sons of Joseph (1 Chronicles 5:1). The privilege of Reuben’s birthright as the firstborn of Jacob, passed to Judah (5:2).

The sons and descendants of Gad are named in 1 Chronicles 5:11-17.

The men of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh were distinguished in battle and described as “valiant men, men able to bear buckler (a small shield) and sword, and to shoot with bow, and skillful in war” (5:18). Their achievements in warring with their Gentile neighbors are detailed in 1 Chronicles 5:19-22.

Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh, though distinguished in battle as “mighty men of valour, famous men,” (5:24), were the first tribes to be defeated and carried away captive by the Assyrians (5:23-26). They had “transgressed against the God of their fathers, went a whoring after the gods of the people of the land,” (5:25) and the LORD delivered them over to their adversaries.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Life Got You Down? (Psalms 43-45, 49, 84-85, 87)

Daily reading assignment: Psalms 43-45, 49, 84-85, 87

Today’s scripture reading is lengthy, and for that reason our devotional commentary will focus only on Psalm 43.

Psalm 43

Spiritually mature believers are well aware of the conflict that assaults the soul when our knowledge and understanding of God’s truth and His promises seems to be contradicted by our thoughts, circumstances, heart and emotions.

Heavy heart, downcast, melancholy and depression are just a few of the terms that define someone who is “weary” of life (Job 10:1) and broken in spirit (Proverbs 17:22).

Descriptions of this condition have evolved through the centuries; however, the reality that depression is the plague of man’s soul is undeniable.  Robert Burton, the 17th century Oxford scholar and author of The Anatomy of Melancholy, wrote: If there be a hell upon earth, it is to be found in the melancholy man’s heart.”

Psalm 43 offers an opportunity to peer into the depressed soul of a great king pleading to the LORD to rescue his heart from loneliness and his soul from the pit of despair.

David appealed to the LORD to hear his prayer and deliver him from a wicked, “unjust” enemy (Psalm 43:1). Though he did not name his enemy, the tactics of his enemy are the same as those you and I face in our day.  Lies, libel, slander and threats are the modus operandi of the enemies of God and His people.

Rallying his heart, David stated what he knew, “God is my strength” (43:2), literally, my fortress, stronghold and refuge.  However, what David believed concerning the character of the LORD was at odds with his feelings and state of mind.  The king knew God was faithful; however, he confessed he felt forsaken, alone and overcome by his adversaries (43:2).

Turning his thoughts from despair, David looked to the LORD, like the captain of a ship peers through the fog and darkness for the piercing beam of a lighthouse (43:3-4). David appealed to God to “send out thy light” and illuminate his way (43:3).  His longing was for the LORD to guide him with His truth to the safe haven of God’s “holy hill” and the “tabernacles” where the saints of God gather to worship (43:3).

Though despairing, the king rallied his heart to look past his sorrows and set his heart upon the joy of once again offering sacrifices to God and singing His praises (43:4).

Turning his focus from his enemy and troubles, David counseled his soul with two questions: Why are you depressed?  Why are you so troubled?   (43:5)

Psalm 43:5 – “Why art thou cast down [depressed; sink; brought low], O my soul [life; person; heart]? and why art thou disquieted [troubled; roar; in tumult; roar] within me? hope [wait; patient; tarry; trust] in God: for I shall yet praise [give thanks; confess; revere; worship]  him, who is the health [deliverer; salvation; welfare] of my countenance [face], and my God.”

David comprehended the error of his fears and doubts, and counseled his heart, “hope in God” (43:5b)!  Resetting his spiritual compass from the delusion that is self-pity to one of trust and faith in the LORD, David took courage and declared, “I shall yet praise [give thanks; worship] Him [the LORD], who is the health [deliverer; salvation; welfare] of my countenance [face], and my God” (43:5c).

I do not know what fears haunt your soul; however, I know the way to pass through trials is to turn your thoughts from your doubts and trust the LORD!

1 Corinthians 10:13 – “There hath no temptation [test or trial] taken you but such as is common to man [i.e. your trouble is not unique]: but God is faithful [trustworthy; true], who will not suffer [allow] you to be tempted [tried or tested] above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape [lit. to pass through the trial], that ye may be able to bear it [endure].”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith