Category Archives: Depression

The Dilemma of a Backslidden Missionary (Jonah 2)

Scripture reading – Jonah 2

Returning to our study of the Book of Jonah, we find the prophet where his disobedience had taken him… facing death “in the belly of the fish” (1:17). Jonah had disobeyed the LORD because he feared He would spare Nineveh from judgment if the people repented of their sins (Jonah 4:1-2). Refusing to obey the LORD, he set sail on a ship going in the opposite direction of God’s will. Pursuing His disobedient prophet across the sea, the LORD sent a storm against Jonah’s ship, and when the sailors understood his presence was the cause of the storm, they cast him overboard, saving their lives and the ship (1:11-12). The LORD saved His unfaithful servant from drowning, by sending a great fish to swallow Jonah when he was cast into the deep (1:17).

Jonah’s Appeal (2:1-2)

Now, the heathen sailors had “cried every man unto his god” (1:5), but to no avail. Jonah, however, had not prayed to God until he found himself in the bowels of the great fish (2:1). We read, “Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God” (2:1), not out of sorrow for his sin, but because of his “affliction” (literally, his trouble, adversity, and sorrow, 2:2a). Without the LORD’S help, the prophet knew he was a dead man, for his circumstances were like “the belly of hell,” and the abode of the dead (2:2b). What a blessed hope we are given when we read when Jonah cried for help, the LORD heard his prayer (2:2c).

Jonah’s Agony (2:3-6a)

Humbled, and broken, Jonah acknowledged the LORD had chastened him for his disobedience, and all he had was because of his sin (2:3). He did not blame the sailors who cast him overboard, but accepted that God chastens His children like an earthly father chastens a disobedient child (2:3; Psalm 119:67; Hebrews 12:6). Jonah was troubled, for he realized his disobedience had resulted in his being “cast out of [the Lord’s] sight” (2:4a). He was a prisoner in a watery dungeon, and the belly of the fish had become his grave (2:5-6a).

Take a moment and consider what God revealed to Jonah concerning the ocean and its depths. We read, “I went down [descended] to the bottoms [base] of the mountains [mountain ranges underwater]” (2:6a). Thousands of years before the submarines of our time, God revealed to Jonah there were mountain ranges in the sea!

Jonah’s Affirmation (2:6b-10)

Reflecting on the LORD, and His faithfulness, Jonah declared, “they that observe [keep; guard; watch] lying [deceit]vanities [meaningless; purposeless] forsake [relinquish; refuse] their own mercy [lovingkindness; grace]” (2:8).  Jonah began his journey supposing he might flee from the LORD, but in the belly of the great fish he acknowledged he had forsaken God’s mercy and favor. He acknowledged that death awaits all who reject the LORD’S mercies.

Closing thoughts – From the belly of the great fish, the LORD heard Jonah’s promise to offer sacrifices as an expression of his gratitude, to give God His due, and faith that “salvation is of the LORD” (2:9). Then, “the Lordspake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (2:10).

If you are running from the LORD, and your sins have taken you far from Him, remember He is only one prayer away. God hears and answers the prayer of those who confess their sin, repent, and turn to him.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Shame and Sorrow of Compromise (2 Chronicles 19; 2 Chronicles 20)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 19; 2 Chronicles 20

Our Scripture reading for this final day of the year is 2 Chronicles 19 and 20.

The setting of 2 Chronicles 19 follows the bloody battle at Ramoth-Gilead (2 Chronicles 18), and the death of Israel’s king, Ahab. Jehoshaphat had returned home from the battle in peace (19:1), in spite of his foolish compromise with Ahab and the displeasure of the LORD (19:1).

As the king approached Jerusalem, he was met in the way by the prophet Jehu (he had been a prophet in Israel, but had moved to Judah 1 Kings 16:1-7). Jehu rebuked the king, saying, “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord” (19:2).

Though He had despised Jehoshaphat’s compromise with the wicked, idolater Ahab, the LORD, nevertheless spared, and blessed the king of Judah whose son had married Ahab’s daughter. Yet, as we will soon see, the effects of Jehoshaphat’s unequal yoke with Ahab will have dire consequences for the throne of David and God’s people (21:3-7). In spite of His displeasure, the LORD spared and blessed the king of Judah, because he had “taken away the groves out of the land, and [had] prepared [his] heart to seek God” (19:3).

Jehoshaphat was a gifted administrator, and one of his great accomplishments was the foresight to put in place judges who were charged with applying the law and commandments judiciously (19:5-11). We read, the king “set judges in the land [in the walled cities]6And said to the judges, Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for man, but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgment” (19:5-6).

Imagine how different our world would be if judges in our day were committed to judging matters according to the will and the Word of the LORD. Jehoshaphat charged the judges to fear and revere the LORD for He is righteous, and to have no “respect of persons, nor taking of gifts [accept no bribes]” (19:7).

The king also assigned judges (Levites, priests, and the high priest) who were charged with judging matters in Jerusalem, and settling controversies and conflicts that would arise in the capital city (19:8). Jehoshaphat admonished the judges to rule according to “law and commandment, statutes and judgments,” and “warn [the people] that they trespass not against the Lord” lest they suffer His wrath (19:10). The matter of the law and judges concluded with a distinction being drawn between rulings in spiritual matters, which were the responsibility of the high priest, and civic matters, which fell upon “Zebadiah, the son of Ishmael” (19:11).

2 Chronicles 20

Time and space prevent a thorough study of 2 Chronicles 20; however, it is a chapter that begins with Jehoshaphat and Judah enjoying the blessings and protection of the LORD. In this chapter, God blessed His people for their faith, and rewarded them with a great victory over their enemies, without the soldiers of Judah lifting a sword or spear (20:1-21).

The LORD caused Judah’s enemies, the Ammonites, and Moabites, to turn, and destroy each other’s army (20:22-23). When the army of Judah came upon the battlefield, they saw a landscape littered with the bodies of their enemies, and a spoil so great it took three days to strip the bodies of the precious jewels that were on them (20:24-28). Sadly, the godly legacy of Jehoshaphat ended with yet another compromise with a heathen king (20:31-37).

Closing thoughts – Jehoshaphat will die (21:1-7), and tragically, Jehoram his son will not follow in his father’s godly legacy. Influenced by his wife’s family, the son of Jehoshaphat, will walk “in the way of the kings of Israel…for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife” (21:6).

In the words of the apostle Paul, Be not deceived: evil communications [companions] corrupt good manners [morals] (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

God is Holy, Merciful and Forgiving (1 Kings 21) – Part 1 of 2 devotionals.

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 21; 1 Kings 22

Our study of the kings of Israel and Judah continues with today’s Scripture reading, 1 Kings 21 and 22. This is the first of two devotionals, and will focus on 1 Kings 21.

Lifted up with pride, and failing to consult the LORD, Ahab had spared the life of Benhadad king of Syria, and provoked God’s wrath (20:31-34). The LORD then sent one “of the sons of the prophets” (20:35), and he prophesied the death of the Ahab, saying, “Thus saith the Lord, Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people” (20:42). Heavy-hearted and dejected, Ahab returned to his palace in Samaria (20:43).

1 Kings 21

A Sulking Monarch (21:1-6)

Rather than repent of his failures, and seek the LORD, the king set his covetous heart upon a vineyard that was next door to his palace. Now, the vineyard belonged to a man of Jezreel named Naboth, but it was a vineyard which Ahab coveted, so he proposed that Naboth trade his land for “a better vineyard,” or sell it (21:1-2). While the proposition appeared fair, it was intolerable for Naboth for it had been his inheritance from his father, and no doubt, was passed down through his family for generations (21:3). Rejected, Ahab went to his palace sulking over Naboth’s refusal, and then laid upon his bed refusing to eat (21:4).

Jezebel, the wicked queen of Israel, observed the king’s spirit and asked, “Why is thy spirit so sad, that thou eatest no bread?” (21:5) Ahab then confided in his wife how Naboth had refused his offer, and would not sell him his vineyard (21:6).

A Scheming Queen (21:7-16)

With scorn, Jezebel rebuked the king, and asked, “Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel?” (21:7) Are you king? Dare you allow a man of your kingdom to refuse you? Assuring Ahab, she would take care of the matter of Naboth’s vineyard, Jezebel encouraged the king saying, “arise, and eat bread, and let thine heart be merry: I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite” (21:7).

Foolish Ahab did not question his wife, but allowed her to plot against Naboth. Plagiarizing the king’s name and seal on letters, she engaged “two men, sons of Belial,” wicked, worthless men, to bear false witness against Naboth, accusing him of blasphemy against God and the king (21:10). Proclaiming a fast, and placing Naboth in a position of privilege, the false witnesses arose against Naboth, and accused him of blasphemy. The men then “carried [Naboth] out of the city, and stoned him with stones, that he died” (21:13).

“When Jezebel heard that Naboth was stoned, and was dead, [she] said to Ahab, Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite…for Naboth is not alive, but dead” (21:15). Without a question, it seems Ahab did as his wife had said, and took possession of Naboth’s vineyard (21:16).

A Startling Prophecy (21:19-23)

Now, the murder of Naboth so stirred the wrath of the LORD, that He commanded Elijah to confront Ahab, and prophesy the king’s death, saying, “in the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine” (21:19).

Elijah arose to obey the LORD as he had been commanded, and Ahab scoffed at the prophet saying, “Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?” (21:20)

Bold in his faith, and courageous in his obedience, Elijah declared all the LORD had commanded him. The prophet foretold the king would die, and his lineage would be cut off from ever reigning in Israel (21:20-23). He then prophesied the king’s wife would be cast over the wall of Jezreel, and “the dogs shall eat Jezebel” (21:23).

Closing thoughts – Let us consider in closing not only Ahab’s failure as king, but also that of his wife Jezebel. The wickedness of Ahab had exceeded that of all the kings who had gone before him. Rather than a moral influence for good, Jezebel had “stirred up” the king to serve idols” (21:26).

Astonishingly, Ahab responded to the warning of God’s judgment with humility, and “rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly” (21:27). Even more astonishing was the LORD’S response to Ahab, for He restrained His judgment saying, “29Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son’s days will I bring the evil upon his house” (21:29).

* This concludes the first of today’s devotionals. Please remember to subscribe to Pastor Smith’s daily chronological devotionals, and have them sent to your email address.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Prophet on the Run (1 Kings 19; 1 Kings 20)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 19; 1 Kings 20

Our study of Elijah’s life follows that faithful servant of the LORD after enjoying one of the greatest victories of his lifetime…the slaughter of the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:40). God had answered the prayers of Elijah, and elevated not only Himself, but also His prophet in the eyes of the people.

Yet, the life of Elijah is an illustration of what becomes of a believer when he takes his focus off the LORD, and forgets His past blessings and provisions. Today’s Scripture reading reminds us that even the most dedicated servants of God can fall victim to discouragement and depression. The focus of this devotion is 1 Kings 19.

1 Kings 19 – From the Pinnacle of Victory to a Plight of Despair

King Ahab had retreated to his palace in Jezreel (18:45), and there he “told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets [of Baal] with the sword” (19:1). Furious at the news of what had become of her servants of Baal, the queen sent a messenger to Elijah and threatened slay him the next day (19:2).

How did Elijah respond? “He arose, and went for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongeth to Judah [fleeing beyond the borders of Israel], and left his servant there” (19:3). Knowing Jezebel was seeking to kill him, Elijah might have dismissed his servant, fearing he would soon be slain. Elijah continued his journey another day into the wilderness, “and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers” (19:4).

How could a prophet of the LORD experience such a great victory in 1 Kings 18, yet find himself as an exile in 1 Kings 19? (19:4-14)

I see several factors contributing to Elijah’s flight and depression. His contest with Ahab and the prophets of Baal had taken its toll and left him physically exhausted (19:3-7). Physically worn, he had made decisions with a skewed, inaccurate, wrong focus. Jezebel’s threats had registered deep, causing Elijah to lack trust, and take his eyes off the LORD.

Notice also that Elijah exaggerated his circumstances, and protested, “I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (19:10). In that statement, and a repetition of the same in verse 14, Elijah embraced a negative, critical spirit, and an unbiblical view of God (19:10, 14).

How did the LORD respond to Elijah’s protests and depression? (19:5-8)

There are several things God employed to get Elijah out of his “spiritual funk.” He allowed the prophet to rest, for he laid down “and slept under a juniper tree” (19:5). The LORD then sent an angel, who provided the prophet with nourishment, “a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water. And [Elijah] did eat and drink, and laid him down again” (19:6). The angel came to Elijah a second time, and counseled the prophet, “Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee” (19:7). The prophet learned he was to make his journey to “Horeb the mount of God” (19:8), for there he had a divine appointment and mission.

Sheltering in a cave at Horeb, “the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?” (19:9)

Elijah answered the LORD, but his protests revealed where he was spiritually and emotionally. The prophet said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (19:10), and repeated the same in verse 14 after Elijah had witnessed a violent storm, an earthquake, and fire (19:11-12). Finally, the LORD spoke to his prophet in “a still small voice,” and asked, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” (19:13).

Elijah’s Threefold Mission (19:15-21)

The LORD commanded Elijah to begin his journey to Israel, and along the way he was to anoint three men who, in the sovereignty of God, were destined to take the place of other men. In Syria, Elijah was to “anoint Hazael to be king over Syria,” and thereby taking the throne from Benhadad, king of Syria (19:15). The prophet was also directed to anoint Jehu to suceed Ahab as king of Israel (19:16a). Lastly, he was to anoint “Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah” who would take Elijah’s place as a prophet in Israel (19:16).

In answer to Elijah’s exaggeration that he alone was a faithful prophet in Israel, God revealed, “I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him” (19:18).

Closing thoughts – Elijah obeyed the LORD, and in his journey came to Elisha, the young man whom God had chosen to become prophet in Israel (19:19). Knowing the call of the LORD upon His life would require him to never return to his former life, Elisha slew the oxen with which he had been plowing, and “then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him” (19:21).

In the words of an old Gospel song, for those who serve the LORD, there is “No Turning Back, No Turning Back.”

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“If the foundations be destroyed, What can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)

Apprehension, anxiety, and discord are epidemic in our society. We are living in a chaotic, dangerous world that is torn by division and strife over a myriad of matters. There is a concerted and coordinated effort to excite aggression, and provoke division in our communities, churches, schools, and families. Government bureaucrats, politicians, media personalities, institutions, and corporate entities are diminishing our Constitutional liberties.

Unlawful mandates attack our individual right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” and are eroding the most fundamental and sacred rights of man. What our nation’s founders declared to be self-evident truths, “endowed by [our] Creator,” are being battered by an unrelenting socialist ideology that attacks “individual soul liberty.”

A Bible Challenge for 2022

More than ever, we need to “think biblically,” and exercise godly wisdom and discernment. In a world that questions and challenges the most basic, fundamental facts, we need a sure foundation, and that foundation is the LORD, and His immutable Word!

Heart of A Shepherd 2-Year Scripture Reading Schedule After listing an inventory of sins and wickedness that would characterize “the last days” (2 Timothy 3:1-7), Paul challenged Timothy: “Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of…16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

I challenge you to follow the Daily Bible Reading schedule for 2022, and subscribe to this pastor’s daily devotional posts at www.HeartofAShepehrd.com.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
https://dailytestify.com/index.php/pages/59/

There is No Fool Like an Old Fool (1 Kings 11, 2 Chronicles 9)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 11, 2 Chronicles 9

Having concluded our study of the Book of Ecclesiastes, our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the final years of Solomon, king of Israel, the son of David. You will notice 2 Chronicles 9 is a parallel account of 1 Kings 10. We are reminded that 1 Kings was recorded before the Babylonian captivity, and its parallel account in 1st and 2nd Chronicles was penned after Israel returned from captivity.

2 Chronicles 9 (1 Kings 10)

Once again, we read of the Queen of Sheba’s visit to Jerusalem (1 Kings 10:1), which details the purpose of her visit, describes the great caravan that accompanied her, and lists the special gifts she presented to Solomon (1 Kings 10:1-10; 2 Chronicles 9:12).

Solomon’s wisdom, and the vast wealth of his kingdom had gotten international fame. The Queen of Sheba, believed to have been a rich kingdom in the southern Arabian Peninsula, had “heard of the fame of Solomon” (9:1), and came to hear and see if the king was as great as the rumors she had heard of in her kingdom.  She came to “prove Solomon with hard questions,” and spoke of all that was on her heart (9:1; 1 Kings 10:1-3).

She tested Solomon, inspected “the house that he had built” (9:3; 1 Kings 10:4), saw the evidence of his administrative skills, and the rich apparel of those who assisted him (9:3; 1 Kings 10:5). The queen concluded, all she had heard of the king was not only true, but his wisdom exceeded his “fame” (9:6; 1 Kings 10:6). Moreover, all who served Solomon were “happy” (9:7; 1 Kings 10:8).

The balance of our reading in 2 Chronicles 9 parallels the record in 1 Kings 10. We have the gifts the Queen of Sheba presented to the king, and his gifts to her (9:9-12). The opulence of the king’s palace, including his throne of ivory covered in gold (9:17) is recorded. Also, the approach to Solomon’s throne was unlike any in the kingdoms of the world, being appointed with twelve lions (9:18-19). His wealth was so great that he displayed beaten shields of gold in his summer palace, known as “the forest of Lebanon” (9:15-16).

Although Solomon’s death is recorded in 2 Chronicles 9, the writer of that book did not give us the tragic commentary on the last years of his life. For that dreadful tale, we must turn our focus to 1 Kings 11.

1 Kings 11

After stating the fame of Solomon’s wisdom, and the vast wealth of his kingdom (10:14-29), we read how the king was disobedient in his last years, and the consequences of his sins (11:1-8). Following the pattern of heathen kings who seek alliances with other kingdoms by marriage, the king had taken into his palace “many strange women” (11:1), including “the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites” (11:1). Those women brought to Israel their own idols, and despite God’s warnings, Solomon gave his affections “and his wives turned away his heart after other gods…and Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD” (11:3,4,6).

Who were the gods of Solomon’s wives?Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians,” the Canaanite goddess of sex and war (11:5). “Milcom,” also known as Molech, to whom the Ammonites, and later Israel, sacrificed their children (2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 32:35). The king also built an “high place for Chemosh,” the god of the Moabites (10:7).

Rather than the blessing of the LORD, the latter years of Solomon’s reign provoked God’s wrath (11:9). Because the king had disobeyed the LORD, and “kept not that which the Lord commanded” (11:10), the peace of Israel was replaced with turmoil. God forewarned, the kingdom would be divided upon Solomon’s death (11:11-13).

The LORD raised up three adversaries against Solomon:Hadad the Edomite” (11:14-22), Rezon who “reigned over Syria” (11:23-25), and Jeroboam who fled to Egypt during Solomon’s reign (11:26-32). It was Jeroboam whom the LORD appointed to “rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon,” and his son would face the consequences of God’s judgment for his father’s wickedness (11:31). Upon Solomon’s death, Jeroboam would lead an uprising against Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and heir, and ten of the twelve tribes would follow him (11:31). The tribe of Judah would remain loyal to Solomon’s lineage (11:32), and the tribe of Benjamin which was incorporated within Judah’s territory.

Closing thoughts – Our study of Solomon’s life and his forty-year reign concludes with the revelation that he went the way of all men;  he died and “slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David his father: and Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead” (11:43; 2 Chronicles 9:29-31).

When Solomon was young, and his heart tender, he enjoyed the blessings of the LORD. Tragically, when he was old, the king made wicked, foolish choices that shadowed the final years of his life. The consequences of his sins brought ruin upon his family, and kingdom. Someone has said, “an old fool is the worst kind of fool…and there is no fool like an old fool.”

Whether young or old, the wise choose the path of the righteous, and fools choose the way of sin. What path are you following?

* Please remember to subscribe to www.HeartofAShepherd.com, and have daily devotionals sent to your email address. In the next year, there will be bonus devotionals only available to subscribers of www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith, Pastor

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Four Principles for a Rewarding Life (Ecclesiastes 11)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 11

Remorse is a heavy burden to carry, but I have known many who, in their later years of life, were haunted by the sorrows of regret. Solomon understood that life holds many tendencies for regret, and wisely taught his son invaluable principles he had learned from years of experience. I invite you to consider Solomon’s wisdom found in Ecclesiastes 11.

Be Charitable. (11:1-4)

Ecclesiastes 11:1–21Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. 2Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.

The word, “cast” means to freely give, and “the waters” in the Scriptures is often a reference to mankind (i.e., the sea of humanity). The implication then is to “freely give” (in this case, bread) to others, for you cannot know what “evil” the days ahead might hold for you. A popular adage sums up a similar warning: “What goes around, comes around.” Solomon urged, while you have the power to give…GIVE, for the day may come when you will find yourself in want.

Illustrating the need to give while you are able, Solomon cited nature, using an illustration to which all could relate, writing, when “clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth” (11:3). In other words, like clouds that do not hoard their lifegiving moisture, we should not be misers with the bounty of that which God has entrusted to us.

Some put off the opportunity or inclination to be charitable, looking for a time when it is more convenient, or the economy more favorable. They are like the lazy farmer; he procrastinates tending his fields, always looking for perfect weather, and a more convenient time for his labor (11:4).

God Has a Plan and Purpose for Your Life. (11:5-6)

Solomon did not have the privilege of scientific research such as we have today. He understood the baby’s body was formed in its mother’s womb (11:5); however, he did not know the essence of DNA (genetics) that guided the formation of that little one from conception (Psalm 139:15-16). The king did not know, and neither do we, how God made us uniquely who we are, imparting to us an eternal spirit, distinctly like no other.

Know this: You are unique, and God has a plan, and purpose for your life (11:5c). He has numbered your days (Psalm 90:12), but you cannot know the number of your years on this earth (11:6). While you are young (“in the morning” of your life), you should “sow thy seed” (give of yourself and your means as you are blessed). “In the evening” of life, when you are old (11:6b), don’t restrain your hand from blessing others. Don’t presume you can put off till tomorrow the good that you should do this day. Whether you are young or old, Do Right!

Wise Men Enjoy the Good Times, But Plan for the Bad. (11:7-8)

The light of a sunrise is welcomed, and when you are young it promises a day that is “sweet, and a pleasant thing” (11:7). The sun of spring and summer brings warmth, and the promise of growth and harvest; however, look ahead, and know “the days of darkness [cometh], for they shall be many” (11:8). Live for today, and fail to plan for the failings and frailty of old age, and you will say, “All that cometh is vanity” (11:8c).

Rejoice in Your Youth, but Remember God will be Judge. (11:9-10)

 Ecclesiastes 11:9 – Rejoice [Be Glad; Joyful], O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.

“Rejoice,” be glad in the strength of your youth! Enjoy life, but remember, the sins of one’s youth are a draft on old age. “God will bring thee into judgment” (11:9b).

The foolish man counsels the young to, “sow their wild oats,” but fails to warn: the wild seeds planted in one’s youth will sprout weeds that will choke the joys from their future (11:9b).

“Therefore remove [depart] sorrow [anger; wrath] from thy heart, and put away [do away; remove] evil [sin; wickedness] from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity” (Ecclesiastes 11:10 )

Closing thoughts – The king urged youth to not mull over youthful grievances, nor allow them to become a flashpoint for anger and bitterness. The king challenged, “put away evil,” and give no place for the sins and lusts of the flesh.

The apostle Paul, in his letter to Timothy, wrote:  “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).

To put away sin, you must be fill the void with righteous choices, and godly attitudes. (Ephesians 4:22-32)

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Five Profound Truths for Life and Happiness (Ecclesiastes 7; Ecclesiastes 8)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 7; Ecclesiastes 8

You will find similarities between the Book of Ecclesiastes and the proverbs of Solomon from his earlier days. Time and space do not permit me to set forth a comprehensive study of both Ecclesiastes 7 and 8. This devotion will offer a summary of Ecclesiastes 7.

Ecclesiastes 7

Solomon returned to a comparative pattern we often observed in the Book of Proverbs. There he contrasted the choices of life with the comparative, “Better…Than” (7:1-10) statements found throughout the book. I invite you to consider five “better…than” truths recorded in the first five verses (7:1-5).

  • Better to have a “good name” and your integrity, than a man of wealth who affords the riches of a “precious ointment” (i.e., expensive perfume, 7:1).
  • The “day of [one’s] death” is “better than the day of one’s birth” [Solomon again reflecting on the trials and oppressions of this world] (7:1b).
  • Better to mourn at a funeral, than to gorge at a feast with fools (7:2).
  • Better to have a soul refined by fiery trials and sorrows, than a shallow life that knows only pleasures (7:3-4).
  • “Better to hear the rebuke of a wise” man, than be entertained by “the songs of fools” (7:5).

Five Profound Truths for Life and Happiness (7:11-22)

1) Riches are temporal, but wisdom endures (7:11-12). Wisdom and money give security and protection, but only wisdom gives life, lasting joy and prosperity.

2) No man can change what God has purposed (7:13). God is sovereign, and no man can divert Him from His plans and purpose. What God has determined will be crooked will be crooked, and what He has bent no man can straighten.

3) Adversity cannot deter God’s will, and in times of prosperity we should be joyful (7:14-15). God ordains the good, and the bad. Times of plenty, and times of famine are from the LORD. He is able to take the evil intent of men, and turn it for His good (Genesis 50:20; Psalm 91:10; Romans 8:28-29).

4) Be balanced and spiritually conscientious (7:16-18). Do not allow sinful pride to move you to become greedy to reign and rule over wealth or others (“Be not righteous over much” 7:16). Understand that unresolved conflicts, and unconfessed sin can send you to an early grave, and “thou die before thy time” (7:17-18).

5) Godly wisdom is powerful and influential. A man known for godly wisdom is stronger, and more influential than “ten mighty men” (7:19). Such wisdom is powerful, and prevails over the mightiest of men.

Closing thoughts – I leave you with a great challenge–GET WISDOM! Godly wisdom and wise counsel, though often spurned by men, are nevertheless powerful, convicting, and influential.

Examples – The wisdom of Joseph was valued by Pharaoh, and he became second only to the king of Egypt (Genesis 41:38-41). David, a mere shepherd boy, was a “man after [God’s] own heart,” and he became King of Israel (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). Daniel’s godly wisdom carried him from the role of a slave, to serving as counselor to the kings of Babylon (Daniel 5:11-12; 6:10). Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the king of Persia, but he was promoted to serve the king and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:4, 11).

Proverbs 22:29Seest thou a man diligent [prompt; skillful] in his business [labor; occupation]? he shall stand before kings [leaders will take note of him]; he shall not stand before mean men [wise men do not stand long in the shadow of foolish men].

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Five Strangers That Consume Happiness and Three Things that Never Satisfy (Ecclesiastes 6)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 6

Our study in the Book of Ecclesiastes continues with King Solomon echoing a sentiment I suggest can be summed up in three words: Life is not fair! Writing from his observations of men’s lives, we read:

Ecclesiastes 6:1–21There is an evil [depravity; distress] which I have seen under the sun, and it is common [great] among men: 2A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour [abundance; glory], so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power [control] to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it [feeds upon; consumes]: this is vanity [empty], and it is an evil [bad; displeasing] disease [grief].

What had Solomon concluded was an injustice, and therefore not fair? It was that men labor, store up riches, wealth, and possessions, only to leave it all to others. The king concluded; it is a grief that is common, an universal experience. Men spend their lives becoming rich, acquiring possessions, obtaining honors, only to leave all to those who come after them.

I suggest five “strangers” that enter uninvited into a family’s life, and steal their happiness, and wealth.  (Ecclesiastes 6:1–2)

Disease: Sickness consumes not only a man’s strength and vitality, but may leave him physically wasted and financially ruined. Divorce is another stranger; it not only destroys a family, but legal proceedings plunder a family of its home, possessions, and savings. Disobedience: rebellious children rob parents not only of their joy, but can bring financial woes upon the parent that enable a child’s rebellion. A fourth stranger is represented in  Disasters, such as natural calamities (hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, earthquakes, drought), and human calamities (war, and the danger of living in a violent society) can destroy a family’s wealth. Of course, the greatest “stranger” that will inevitably come knocking is Death: The death of a spouse, child, or the reality of one’s own mortality.

Three Things That Do Not Satisfy (6:3-8)

Solomon proposed three things men pursue, but do not bring happiness and fulfillment. The first is found in multiples: The man who begets many children, and lives many years (6:3-6). Solomon had observed children more concerned with their rights of inheritance, than they were in honoring their parents. He concluded, it would be better to be stillborn, than live to a ripe old age, and your children neither love or honor you (6:3-6).

Secondly, some men believe if they work harder, and longer hours, they will achieve success and happiness (6:7). Yet, a man might climb the ladder of success, earn titles, and gain fame, but die a miserable soul.

Lastly, some men pursue knowledge, believing academic achievement is the path to happiness (6:8). Still, having one’s name engraved on a “Who’s Who” plaque, or earning the applause and admiration of men, will not satisfy the hunger of an eternal soul.

What, then, satisfies the soul of man? (6:9-12)

Having a right perspective, and outlook on life is the path to happiness (6:9). It is better to be satisfied with what you see, than it is to be driven about by lusts for temporal possessions and vain pleasures (6:10). You see, God is eternal, and His purposes are “named already” (6:11). Did you know that nothing surprises God? He is sovereign, and we dare not “contend with Him,” for He is not only mightier, but also wiser than we (6:10).

Closing thoughts – “Many things” might attract our affections for a season. We might also increase in goods and honors, but in the end all is vain (6:11). God is loving and benevolent (6:12), and only those who trust Him will be satisfied.

Isaiah 45:9 – “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!”

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Living a Purposeful Life (Ecclesiastes 1; Ecclesiastes 2)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 1; Ecclesiastes 2

* The following is the second of a two-part devotion taken from today’s scheduled Scripture reading.

Ecclesiastes 2 – Some Things Have Not Changed

I suggest that Ecclesiastes 2 gives us a window into the soul of a backslidden, spiritually destitute man. Like the narcissistic culture we live in today, Solomon’s focus was upon himself. Forty-one times in the first ten verses of chapter 2, Solomon employs the personal pronouns “I…mine…myself” (2:1-10). Unless we consciously avoid it, we are all guilty of the same. In a vain attempt to find happiness, Solomon turned to wine in an attempt to dull his despair and emptiness (2:3). He played the fool with “the sons of men” (2:3), yet, accomplished feats in architecture, and agriculture (2:4-6). He amassed a great fortune, had “servants and maidens” to do his bidding (2:7), and musicians to entertain him (2:8). He was greater and wealthier than all who had gone before him (2:9), and there was nothing he did not afford himself for pleasure (2:10). Yet, there was no lasting joy, no satisfaction, for “there was no profit under the sun” (2:11).

The Wise and the Foolish (2:12-16)

In his lifetime, Solomon exercised two perspectives on life. When he was young, he had been dependent on God, and was tender and humble before Him. As an older man he amassed all that he could ever desire, he lived independent of God, and became spiritually destitute.

Every man faces similar choices in life. He can embrace worldly philosophies, gain wealth, and pursue temporal pleasures, but eventually find himself depressed and spiritually destitute.  Like the rich man in the parable told by Jesus in Luke 12, some men say to themselves, “take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:19), but find in the end they are fools, and spiritual paupers in the sight of the LORD (Luke 12:18-21). You too, can choose to be wise, turn to God, and seek wisdom and direction in His Word.

Sadly, for a portion of his life, Solomon chose the way of the fool, and walked in darkness (2:14). In his words, “As it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity” (2:15).

There is another perspective by which we are also challenged: If we seek peace and satisfaction apart from God, we will never be satisfied! (2:16-19) All eventually die; the fool and the wise man leave this world and take nothing (2:16).  Many aspire to wealth, and possessions, only to come to the end of life and realize: “18Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me” (2:18). Solomon goes on to observe, as with all men, he would have no influence over those who would follow him as king; whether they be wise or foolish (2:19).  One generation labors and sacrifices, and the next generation will reap what they have not sown (2:20-21).

Closing thoughts – A life lived apart from God, and in contradiction to His Law, shall never be satisfied!  No pleasures can mask the sadness, nor riches satisfy the void of a sinner’s heart apart from the LORD.  Solomon writes,

Eccles. 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.”

If your perspective on life is seeking peace and joy apart from God, you will never be satisfied.

* This concludes the second of two devotionals for today. * You are invited to subscribe to Pastor Smith’s daily devotionals in the box to the right of this devotion, and have future devotionals sent to your email address.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith