Category Archives: Depression

The Lord Loveth the Righteous (Psalm 6, 8-10, 14, 16, 19, 21)

Daily reading assignment: Psalm 6, 8-10, 14, 16, 19, 21

Because we are following a chronological study of the Bible, there will be times when our study of a particular book of the Bible (for instance, we are currently reading 2 Samuel) will take us to other books that fit the timeline. You will notice our daily readings in 2 Samuel will include passages from the Book of Psalms and 1 Chronicles that fit the timeline and setting of our Bible reading.

Today’s devotional reading follows 2 Samuel 1-4 in which David, after he was crowned king of Israel by the tribe of Judah, was confronted by wicked men who were determined he not be king. Facing formidable, wicked adversaries, David’s hope and courage were restored when his heart considered the majesty, sovereignty, and justice of God. Psalms 6, 8-10, 14, 16, 19, and 21 reflect the meditations of David during that time. For the sake of brevity, I limit my commentary to Psalms 6, 9-10.

Psalm 6 – “Been there, Done that”

Psalm 6 carries a wealth of meaning for saints who are mature in years and experienced enough to say, “been there, done that.” Believers often focus on David’s failures and take comfort that even a man after God’s own heart was beset with sins and failures.  It is true: David was a man who loved the Lord, but he also carried the consequences of his sins to his grave.

Consider David’s prayer for God’s grace and mercy in the midst of chastening (Psalm 6:1-7).

Rather than respond in anger, we read David pled for God’s mercy (6:2).  Rather than bitterness, we see humility.  David reasoned, Lord, if I go down to my grave how can I praise you when my tongue has been silenced by death (6:4-5)? His was not the plea that protests injustice; instead, it was the confession of a sinner with a humbled, burdened soul (6:6-7).

Mature saints readily identify with David’s sleepless nights.  Many have cried themselves to sleep because of their sinful choices or those made by a loved one.  Are you weary? Take heart…God hears your cry in the night.

Perhaps you struggle to identify with David’s plea for mercy in the midst of God’s chastening. Have you felt the sorrow and shame of your sins? Do you fear God’s judgment?

The writer of Hebrews observed, “But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards (meaning, not a sincere believer and child of the LORD), and not sons” (Hebrews 12:8). I invite you, turn from your sin before it is too late and trust Jesus Christ as your Savior.

Romans 10:9 promises, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

Psalm 9 – A Call for Thanksgiving

Psalm 9 is a song of praise and thanksgiving for God’s executing judgment upon the wicked and delivering the righteous.

Psalm 10 – The Pride and Oppressive Ways of The Wicked

Though times have changed, the nature of man has not.  Contrary to their rhetoric, the nature of the wicked is, and has always been to oppress the poor and helpless (10:2-3, 7-11).

More than ever in my lifetime, the unveiled demagoguery of the wicked is on full display in the world. There is no shame in promoting every mode of moral depravity.

Consider the twisted rationality of the Coronavirus crisis (COVID-19). While left-leaning politicians demand isolation and “social distancing” under the pretext of saving lives, the same promote abortion as a virtue and an “essential” practice.

Such is the lunacy of the wicked: “Professing themselves to be wise, they [have become] fools” (Romans 1:22). Proud, angry, and vile, they are “without natural affection, implacable (unforgiving), [and] unmerciful” (Romans 1:31).

Of the wicked we read, “God is not in all his thoughts [and] his ways are always grievous” (Psalm 10:4-5). The righteous, however, know the LORD will hear the desire of the “humble” and their cry (Psalms 10:17).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Sin Will Rob You of Everything You Hold Dear. (1 Samuel 28-31)

Daily reading assignment: 1 Samuel 28-31

Knowing Saul was bent on killing him, David and his warriors had withdrawn from Israel and for sixteen months lived among the Philistines (27:8-11). Having earned the trust of Achish, king of the Philistines, David and his men prospered. Indeed, the opening verses of 1 Samuel 28 finds David being invited by Achish to go to battle with the Philistines against Israel (28:1-2).

1 Samuel 28 – A Portrait of Desperation

(c) Paintings Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Samuel is dead and Saul and all Israel lament his passing (28:3). Having put away some of the evil present in the land, Saul sees the armies of the Philistines gathered against Israel. Out of fear and desperation, Saul made a pretense of seeking the LORD (28:4-6); however, heaven was silent.

The king had rejected the LORD, and now the LORD rejected him. “The LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim (meaning the high priest), nor by prophets” (28:6).

Desperate and seeking a revelation for the battle he would soon face, Saul disguised himself and reverted back to the practice of divination, the practice he had just recently put out of the land. Saul sought the counsel of a witch (28:7-10; Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:31). Asked whom he was seeking, Saul requested Samuel be called from the dead (28:11). When Samuel’s visage appeared the witch realized her guest was the king (28:12).

Saul confessed, “God is departed from me, and answereth me no more” (28:15). Rather than give hope, Samuel warned the battle that would follow would bring the death of Saul and his sons, and the throne of Israel would pass to David (28:17-18). Saul learned the tragic consequences of his sins for himself, his sons, and the nation.

1 Samuel 28:19Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.

Terrified, Saul “fell straightway all along on the earth” (28:20).

1 Samuel 29 – A Providential Dismissal from Battle

Unlike King Achish, the princes of the Philistines did not trust that David would war against Israel and demanded he and his men be removed from the battle lest they turn their swords against them (29:1-5).

Achish yielded to his leaders’ demands and dismissed David and his men (29:6-7).  David pretended to protest his dismissal from the battle (29:8) and retreated from the field early in the morning (29:11).

1 Samuel 30 – Tragedy in Ziklag

After a three days journey to their homes in Ziklag, David and his men found the Amalekites had attacked their city, destroying their homes by fire and taking their wives, sons, and daughters captive (30:1-4). Overcome with grief, the hearts of David’s men were stirred to revenge, and some would have stoned him (30:6a).

How did David respond? Like a man after God’s own heart: “David encouraged himself in the LORD his God” and “enquired at the LORD” (30:6, 8).  Learning where the Amalekites had taken their loved ones (30:9-16), God answered David’s prayer and restored to him and his men their families and possessions (30:17-20).

1 Samuel 31 – The King is Dead!

One might feel compassion for Saul in the latter years of his life and reign.  The king was old, and the strength and vitality of his youth had faded.  He had made David, the man who had served him faithfully, his enemy. Saul was haunted by the knowledge the LORD was no longer with him (28:6).

On the next day, the battle went against Israel, and Saul received word his sons were dead and the army was in disarray (31:1-2).  Having suffered a mortal wound from an arrow, Saul commanded his armor bearer to slay him, but his servant refused.  Realizing he would soon fall into the hands of his enemy, Saul fell upon his own sword (31:3-4).  Adding to his ignoble death, when Saul’s body was discovered on the battlefield, the Philistines cut off his head, stripped his body of his armor, and “put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth: and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan” (31:10; 1 Chronicles 10:8-10).

Sin and disobedience cost Saul everything. He lost his army (31:1), his sons (31:2), his life (31:3-4), and his honor (31:9-10).

Numbers 32:23 warns: “Your sin will find you out” and James concludes, when it is finished, brings forth death (James 1:15b).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

When Friends Become Enemies (Psalms 17, 35, 54, 63)

Scripture Reading Assignment – Psalms 17, 35, 54, 63

While today’s Scripture reading covers four chapters (Psalms 17, 35, 54, 63), this devotional commentary will focus solely on Psalm 35. The parallel to Psalm 35 is most likely the events that are recorded in 1 Samuel 19:5; 20:1; 23:25; 24:9-15; 25:29; 26:18-19.

Psalm 35 – The Betrayal of Friends and Peers

Psalm 35 is a song chronicling a low time in David’s life when he had suffered the deep wounds of betrayal from King Saul, a man whom he had faithfully served on the battlefield and in the palace. David’s popularity in Israel had soared after he slew Goliath, provoking the king to jealousy who then set upon a plot to murder David. The king’s plot was to murder David as though he were a foe (1 Samuel 24).

Betrayed by his friends, David turned to the LORD and prayed for God to be his Advocate (35:1-3). We find David calling on the LORD in verse one. Falsely accused and fearing for his safety, David employed two metaphors in his petition that defined the work of an attorney: Plead, a call for the LORD to come to his aid and declare his innocence; and Fight, a request for the LORD to go to battle on his behalf.

David Prayed for the LORD to Be His Warrior. (35:2-3).

He called upon the LORD to come to his defense as a warrior with “shield,” a covering for the body, and “buckler,” a small shield for hand-to-hand combat (35:3). David prayed for the LORD to not only be his defense, but also to mount an offensive against his enemies (35:3) with the spear.

Psalm 35:4-10 – An Imprecatory Prayer

David prayed for God’s judgment upon his foes (35:4-6). He protested his innocence (35:7), declaring he had a clear conscience and the accusations of his enemy and their attempt to entrap him was “without cause” (for no reason). He pled for justice and that the traps and devices his enemies had planned for his destruction would be their own undoing (35:8-10).

Psalm 35:8 – “Let destruction [desolation; ruin] come upon him at unaware; and let his net that he hath hid [concealed] catch [take; capture; seize] himself: into that very destruction [desolation; ruin] let him fall [fail; cast down].”

A great illustration of such an event, an enemy of the LORD and His people falling victim to his own schemes, is the story of Haman being hung upon the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai, a righteous Hebrew man (Esther 7:9-10).

David was not seeking personal revenge for the wrongs committed against him. Rather than allow his soul to become controlled by a vengeful spirit, he had turned to the LORD to seek justice (Romans 12:14, 19-21).

David praised the LORD for His incomparable nature (35:10) and prosecuted his case against his enemies’ injustices (35:11, 16). He had been maligned by false accusations, slandered, and defamed (35:11). He had proven himself to be a fearless warrior; however, when facing the king and his soldiers (the equivalent of today’s federal government), David was helpless to defend himself.

He was a victim of malevolence, declaring: “They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul” (35:12-13). David had ministered to, prayed for, and grieved for King Saul when his soul was tormented, like a son grieves for a mother who is ill (35:14).

In his hour of need, those who had been his friends assailed David as an enemy (35:15-16). They had mocked, slandered, and publicly derided him. He had been the object of their rage and accusations (35:16).

Betrayal, broken trust, and treachery are wounds you must learn to bear in life.  They might be afflicted by an abusive parent, an unfaithful spouse, a disloyal friend, or an unfair employer. Be cautious whom you allow into your inner circle of confidants for invariably, there will be a Judas among them.

Lesson – Those you help the most are often the ones who turn and wound you deepest.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

No Longer a Slave to Fear (Psalms 7, 27, 31, 34, 52)

Devotional reading assignment – Psalms 7, 27, 31, 34, 52

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Follower, because we are reading the Scriptures chronologically, you will notice the interspersion of parallel passages of Scripture with a book of the Bible we are reading. In this instance, events in David’s life are recorded in 1 Samuel and contemplated in his psalms (a psalm being a sacred song that would be accompanied by musical instruments and sung in the Temple). Today’s psalms reflect David’s plight and flight from King Saul. It is impossible to present a thorough commentary on each psalm and for that reason I will choose one or two psalms as my focus.

Psalm 7 – David’s Cry of Innocence

Scholars believe Psalm 7, titled by one writer the “Song of the Slandered Saint”, was written when David was the object of slander and lies from Cush the Benjamite (he is identified in the title of Psalm 7).

King Saul was jealous of David’s popularity and Cush the Benjamite used his envy as an opportunity to accuse David of treason. It was Cush’s proximity to the throne that gave credence to the slanderer who subtly undermined David’s strained relationship with the king.  Already suspected by the king, David turned his appeal for justice and vindication to the LORD.

Psalm 7:1-2 – “O LORD my God, in thee do I put my trust [my refuge and hope]: save [deliver; help; preserve] me from all them that persecute [pursue; chase] me, and deliver [recover; defend; save] me: 2  Lest he tear [tear in pieces] my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces [break; tear apart], while there isnone to deliver [recover; save].”

David turned to the Lord and confessed, “O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust” (7:1). It was not his body, but his soul that endured the attacks of those who would tear and destroy his reputation (7:2).

Slander, gossip, lies and disloyalty are frequently the sorrows borne by God’s servants who serve Him with integrity.  The servants of the LORD do not aspire to popularity, but to faithfulness.  They seek not earthly applause, but heavenly commendation and to hear the LORD say: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21, 23).

David’s cry for justice and vindication is recorded in Psalm 7:3-5.

Psalm 7:3-5 – “O LORD my God, if I have done [make; wrought] this; if there be iniquity [wickedness; unrighteousness; injustice] in my hands; 4  If I have rewarded [treat; recompense; compensated]evil [sin; wickedness] unto him that was at peace with me; (yea, I have delivered [take off; plundered]him that without cause [empty; vain] is mine enemy [adversary]🙂 5  Let the enemy persecute [pursue; chase] my soul [life; person], and take [overtake; hold] it; yea, let him tread down [oppress; trample upon]my life upon the earth, and lay [settle] mine honour [glory; reputation] in the dust. Selah.”

I have learned that vindication of one’s life and testimony is often a process of years, not days or months.  Protestations of innocence are usually to no avail when some are more willing to believe the slanderer than they are to weigh a lifetime of faithful ministry.  When accusers attack one’s character and assault one’s testimony, the righteous must prevail to trust the Lord for vindication.

Psalm 7:6-8 – “Arise, O LORD, in thine anger, lift up [remove; depart; carry away] thyself because of the rage of mine enemies: and awake [stir up; raise up; incite] for me to the judgment [sentence; justice] that thou hast commanded [charged; appointed]. 7  So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about: for their sakes therefore return [return again] thou on high [exalted; above; dignity]. 8  The LORD shall judge [plead the cause; execute judgment] the people: judge [plead; avenge; vindicate] me, O LORD, according to my righteousness [justice; rightness before the law], and according to mine integrity [completeness; innocence; blameless] that is in me.”

With humility and confidence in God’s justice, David appealed to the LORD to be the judge of his enemies and the redeemer of his rightness and integrity.

Psalm 7:9 – “Oh let the wickedness [sin; evil] of the wicked [ungodly; immoral; guilty] come to an end [cease; fail]; but establish [prepare; ready; set up; confirm] the just: for the righteous  [just; lawful] God trieth [prove; test; examine] the hearts and reins [i.e. mind; inward parts].”

David made two requests in verse 9: 1) That the wicked would fail in their designs to destroy him. 2) That God, knowing David’s heart, would affirm his integrity and establish his testimony.

Some reading today’s devotional might be on the verge of resigning or leaving a post or ministry.  You have suffered personal attacks. You bear the sorrow of betrayal.  You feel abandoned.

Follow David’s example and cry out to the LORD knowing He is a God of justice and will vindicate His servant in due time.  Trust the Lord!

Psalm 27 – Breaking from the Tentacles of Enslaving Fear

Not all fear is negative and there are some things that warrant a good healthy dose of fear.  For instance: It is good to fear and revere authority when it guards us from the consequences of foolish or unlawful choices. We are wise to fear the dangers of a fiery blaze, the deadly potential of a lightning strike, the fast approach of a train at a railroad crossing, and the penalty of failing to study for an exam.

Fear might also be negative and enslaving. Some fears can paralyze and render one incapable of making decisions. Fear can spawn doubt, ambivalence, and drive one to retreat from relationships.

How can you overcome fear?  Let’s take some spiritual lessons out of David’s life experiences (Psalm 27:1-3).

Psalm 27:1 – “The LORD [Jehovah; Eternal God] is my light [brightness] and my salvation [Deliverer]; whom shall I fear? the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal God] is the strength [fortress; hold; rock; protection; refuge] of my life; of whom shall I be afraid [fear; tremble]?”

We notice three assertions of David’s courage and faith in verse 1.  The first, “The Lord is my Light:  David’s confidence was not in himself or in human thought or philosophy. His courage arose from his conviction that the LORD Who is Jehovah, Eternal God, was the source of light to his soul (John 1:4-5, 9; 1 John 1:5).

David’s second assertion was, “The LORD…is my Salvation.”  The Lord was his Deliverer and able to save his soul from the curse of sin.

David asks, Whom shall I fear?”  Is anyone too big for God?  Is anyone stronger than the LORD?  Is any circumstance greater than the LORD?

David’s third assertion was, The LORD is the Strength of my life.”  The LORD was his Rock, Fortress, and Refuge!  Why be afraid of mortal men if the Lord is your Protector?  Why scurry from a foe like a rat retreating from a predator?

Having stated the LORD is the object of his faith; David considered His providences and protection in the past (27:2).

Psalm 27:2 – “When the wicked [evil], even mine enemies [adversary] and my foes [hostile], came [approached; drew near] upon me to eat up [devour; consume; feed] my flesh [body], they stumbled [became weak; overthrown; staggered] and fell.”

David had experienced the threats of adversaries who savored besmearing his character and gloating in his sorrows.  His soul had been cannibalized by malicious attacks and disparaging lies.  Of those enemies David testified, “they stumbled and fell” (27:2b).

Remembering God’s faithfulness, David was emboldened and declared he would not be overcome with fear.

Psalm 27:3 – “Though an host [camp; great company] should encamp [pitch; lay siege] against me, my heart [mind; understanding] shall not fear [tremble; be afraid]: though war [battle; warfare; combat] should rise against me, in this will I be confident [trust; secure].”

Take heart friend!  If the LORD is your Light, Salvation, and Refuge, and He has proven faithful in the midst of trials that are past, cast aside your fears and affirm with David:

I will not be overcome with fear. I will not allow the threat of the unknown to rob me of my faith, joy, and confidence in the LORD.  

Romans 8:31 – “If God be for us, who can be against us?”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Caution: Revenge straight ahead! (1 Samuel 18-20; Psalm 11; Psalm 59)

Today’s Bible reading is 1 Samuel 18-20; Psalm 11; Psalm 59; 

An explanation on our Chronological Reading Plan: Today’s Scripture reading covers not only 1 Samuel 18-20, but also Psalm 11 and Psalm 59. This latticework that pulls together various passages   will become a pattern as we read the Scriptures chronologically. For instance, the events in 1 Samuel 18-20 are patterned in both Psalm 11 and Psalm 59. Because the Scripture passages are long, I will limit the length of my devotional commentary.

1 Samuel 18-20

We find David residing in the king’s palace, befriended by Jonathan, the son of Saul (18:1-4; 19:1-2).  The slaying of the Philistine giant Goliath had propelled David from shepherd and court musician to national hero. David’s fame as a warrior, and the affection of the people, had stirred jealousy in the heart of the king.  Believing David was a threat to his reign, Saul determined to kill him (18:5-30).

Nevertheless, the bond between Jonathan and David was never broken in spite of Saul’s attempts to kill him (1 Samuel 20:1-23). Jonathan, believing David was God’s anointed and the heir to the throne, vowed to befriend, support, and love David to the end of his life (20:35-42).  Thrust out of the kingdom by the king’s attempts to kill him, David began a ten-year journey of hardship and loneliness. Separated from his friend and his father’s household, the future king would live in the wilderness, hiding and seeking refuge in caves.

A Lesson from David’s Life: Serving God does not come with a guarantee of comfort or favor. Faithful servants of God are not insulated from criticism.

Psalm 11 – There are times when retreat is the wiser choice. 

David fled from Saul when the king attacked him. In Psalm 11 we do not know if the foe David faced was within or without his kingdom; however, the threat was significant and the king’s counselors advised him to flee (11:1b-2).  David answered his frightened counselors saying,

Psalm 11:1 – “In the LORD put I my trust [confide; flee for protection; make refuge]: how say [speak; command] ye to my soul [life; person; mind], Flee [disappear; remove] as a bird to your mountain?

The counselors reminded the king the plot of the wicked was to destroy the just and upright (11:2), and as king, he was the moral pillar, the foundation of the nation (11:3).

Psalm 11:2-3 – “For, lo, the wicked  [ungodly; immoral; guilty] bend their bow, they make ready [prepare; set up; fix] their arrow upon the string, that they may privily [secretly] shoot at the upright [right; just; righteous] in heart [mind].  3 If the foundations [purpose; support; moral pillars] be destroyed [thrown down; broken in pieces], what can the righteous [just] do?”

David’s counselors reasoned, not only was his life at risk, but so also were the lives of the people and the future of the kingdom (11:3b).  In other words, what will become of the righteous should the king fall?

We find David’s response in Psalm 11:4-7.

Psalm 11:4-5 – “The LORD is in his holy [sacred; hallowed] temple, the LORD’S throne [seat] is in heaven: his eyes behold [perceive; look; gaze], his eyelids try [examine; prove], the children of men. 5 The LORD trieth [proves; examines] the righteous [just; law-abiding]: but the wicked [ungodly; immoral; guilty] and him that loveth violence [injustice] his soul hateth [as a foe].”

What a great reminder! Regardless the threats of an enemy or his demands, we must not compromise our integrity. The LORD has not abdicated the throne of heaven; the ways of the righteous will not go unrewarded, nor the ways of the wicked unpunished!

Our devotion ends with the assurance, “the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright” (Psalm 11:7). The righteous are the objects of the LORD’s love!

Is there is an enemy who haunts your life with threats, maligning gossip, or with disapproving gazes?  Take confidence in this…the LORD loves the righteous and He is just. Trust the LORD!

Isaiah 40:31 – “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD is God and There is None Other! (1 Samuel 15-17)

Daily reading assignment: 1 Samuel 15-17

1 Samuel 15 – “To Obey is Better Than Sacrifice”

The LORD directed Samuel to go to King Saul and command him to lead Israel to war with the Amalekites, revenging how that nation had attacked His people when they “came up from Egypt” (15:2; Exodus 17:8-14). Saul’s marching orders were nothing short of the complete annihilation of Amalek. He was not to spare one “man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (15:3).

Saul’s army, now two hundred thousand strong (15:4), experienced a glorious victory over the Amalekites. Saul, however, disobeyed the LORD’s command and spared Agag, the Amalekite king, and the best of the livestock (15:9).  We read the king spared “all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them” (15:9).

Saul’s act of disobedience and his foolish attempt to hide his sin by lies and blame shifting (15:12-15) bring us to a spiritual principle that should be seeded in the heart of every believer:

1 Samuel 15:22-23 – “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 23  For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is asiniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”

1 Samuel 15 closes with a miserable portrait of the disastrous consequences of disobedience and rebellion.  Saul had disobeyed the LORD’s command, and now the LORD rejected him from being king (15:23).  Even in confessing he had sinned, he refused to humble his arrogant heart and accept unqualified responsibility for his wicked choices (15:24).

Making a pretense of spiritual piety, Saul asked Samuel to “turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD” (15:25). When Samuel refused, the king forcibly grasped the prophet’s upper robe, renting it in two (15:26-27). Provoked by Saul’s desperation, Samuel rebuked the king and prophesied his throne had been given “to a neighbor of thine, that is better than thou” (15:28).

Reminding us the LORD is longsuffering, but His justice is not to be trifled with, Samuel prophesied, “the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent” (15:29).

1 Samuel 15 ends on a tragic note when we read, “Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death; nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel” (15:35).

1 Samuel 16 – The Lord has Chosen a New King

Although he would reign for several more years, we find King Saul was a miserable soul, conscious the LORD had withdrawn His blessing from him as Israel’s king.

The LORD stirred up Samuel’s spirit, asking the prophet, “How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel?” (16:1a) He had genuinely mourned what had befallen Saul; however, the nation needed to look forward, and God informed Samuel He had chosen Israel’s new king (16:1c).

What a touching, but sad commentary on Samuel’s strained relationship with the king.  While the prophet mourned Saul’s ruin, he also feared the king would kill him should they cross paths (16:2).

Unlike Saul, whose physical presence impressed the people, God would choose a man not based on outward appearance, but rather, on his heart and love for the LORD. The youngest son of Jesse, and the shepherd of his father’s sheep (16:6-11). David is the man whom God chose to lead Israel (16:12). Taking a “horn of oil,” Samuel anointed David to be king in the presence of his father and brothers (16:13).

Now the Spirit of the Lord left Saul, and the spiritual emptiness of his soul was filled with “an evil spirit” (16:14) that continually troubled and saddened him. Realizing the healing powers of soothing music, Saul’s servants counseled him to seek a skillful musician to play the harp and calm his spirit (16:15-17).

God providentially orchestrated that David, the LORD’S anointed, would be the musician (16:18-19).  The stage was providentially set by the LORD for David, a mere shepherd boy, to be schooled in government and the role of a king (16:20-23)!

1 Samuel 17 – From Court Musician to a National Hero

We find the Philistines’ great army arrayed against Israel in 1 Samuel 17.

Israel’s king was sullen, and the nation was terrified. The people had lost confidence in Saul. Unlike the man he had been, the king showed no initiative to face the Philistines, let alone Goliath, the giant warrior of Gath (17:3-7).

There is much drama in this well-known story that pits a giant adversary against a shepherd boy whose faith in the LORD was greater than the enemy he faced. David’s success before all Israel would in God’s sovereign plan move a shepherd boy from court musician to a household name in Israel.

I leave you with a thought: When you face giants (and we all do), the important thing is not the size of your enemy, but the strength of your faith and confidence in God.

The LORD is greater than all your giants!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Here Comes the Bride! (Ruth 1-4)

Daily reading assignment: Ruth 1-4

The Book of Ruth is a beloved book of God’s people and of particular interest to Jews and Christians because it establishes the genealogy of David as a descendant of the tribe of Judah, the royal tribe of which Jesus Christ is born.  We read in Matthew 1:5-6, “And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth [the subject of today’s Bible reading]; and Obed begat Jesse; 6 And Jesse begat David the king…”

Ruth 1 – Far From God

The Book of Ruth is a bridge between two eras, from the time when judges ruled Israel but before kings reigned in the land.  It is a testimony of God’s sovereignty… overruling in the affairs of man and providentially working out His will through the frailty of human decisions.

The book of Ruth is often described as a book of “Redemption,” for it explains how Ruth, a Gentile Moabite woman who had no right of inheritance among the tribes of Israel, came to be named in the lineage of Christ when she became the wife of Boaz, a wealthy man who paid the price of her redemption.

The opening verses of Ruth introduce us to Elimelech and his wife Naomi. We find Israel in the midst of a crisis (“there was a famine in the land”) that demanded a response of faith and obedience.  Elimelech, however, failed to respond to the famine by faith and led his family to Moab…far from the LORD, his people, and the land of his inheritance (Ruth 1:2).

Elimelech’s fateful decision ended tragically when he and his sons, both of whom had married Moabite women, died in Moab leaving Naomi alone with the wives of her sons (1:3-5).

What a miserable fate Naomi had suffered during her ten-year sojourn in Moab!

She became a widow in a foreign land and was left in poverty and despair. A glimmer of hope ignited in Naomi when she heard, “the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread” (1:6).

Naomi determined to return to Israel, and, knowing Moabite women would have no place in Israel, she encouraged her daughters-in-law to find Moabite husbands (1:7-9).   When Orpah and Ruth, Naomi’s daughters-in-law, insisted on returning with her, she counseled them toward an unwise decision (1:10-12).

Orpah heeded Naomi’s counsel and returned to Moab (1:13-15); however, Ruth clung to Naomi, refusing to depart.  Ruth’s love for Naomi inspired one of the most beautiful confessions of faith in the Bible (1:16-17).

Ruth 1:16-17And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: 17  Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORDdo so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.

The trials and ten year sojourn in Moab had taken such a physical toll on Naomi’s appearance that when she returned to Israel, the people of Bethlehem looked on her and said, “Is this Naomi?(1:19) Ten-years of trials, troubles, and losses had dramatically changed her.

Naomi answered their inquiries and confessed her bitter spirit toward the LORD saying, “20b Call me not Naomi [pleasant], call me Mara [bitter]: for the Almighty [El Shaddai] hath dealt very bitterly with me…21b the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent One] hath testified [responded to her sin] against me, and the Almighty [El Shaddai—Eternal; All powerful; All Sufficient One] hath afflicted me?” (1:20b-21)

Ruth 2 – The Sovereignty and Providential Care of the LORD

Time and space do not allow me to carry this story of love and grace to a proper conclusion, but I urge you to read all four chapters in the Book of Ruth.

Ruth’s beauty and exceptional character captured the eye and the affections of Boaz, a wealthy kinsman of Elimelech, Ruth’s deceased father-in-law (2:5-17).   Although she was Moabite woman and stranger in the midst of God’s people, she changed her citizenship, and by faith became part of the house of Israel. The LORD sovereignly led Boaz to extend his grace to Ruth, and he loved her and acknowledged her faith saying, “the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust” (2:12).

Ruth 3Boaz proposed marriage and pledged his love to Ruth (3:10-12).

Ruth 4 – A Romance of Redemption

Boaz’s romance of redemption is completed in Ruth 4 when he purchased the right to take Ruth as his wife (4:9).   This amazing story of romance, grace, and God’s sovereignty ends stating that Ruth, a Moabite woman by birth, would be the great-great-grandmother of David, Israel’s future king (4:22).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Put a Smile On Your Face! It’s Contagious!” (Proverbs 15:13)

Proverbs 15:13- A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Readers, I am blessed to have a loving family, great co-workers, and a loving church family whom I have served for nearly 35 years. I have dear friends whose friendships encourage laughter and remind me to make my physical health and well-being a priority. 

There are many not so fortunate and I am writing to encourage you with a devotional reminder taken from Proverbs 15:13. Don’t fall victim to an assault of negative news! Take charge of your health and well-being during the Coronavirus Crisis..

Today’s proverb gives us a lesson on matters of the heart and challenges us to take note—a man’s countenance is often a reflection of his heart. Solomon writes:

Proverbs 15:13 – “A merry [glad; joyful] heart maketh a cheerful [pleasing, good] countenance: but by sorrow [hurt, emotional wounds] of the heart [mind, thoughts, emotions] the spirit [breath, courage] is broken [afflicted; wounded].”

I remember visiting Myrtle Beach, SC as a child and walking though the old pavilion where full-length mirrors were configured to distort the image of the ones who took time to pose.  The exaggerated images reflected in the carnival mirrors were hilariously funny–extremely tall and skinny, squat and plump, a gargantuan head supported by a pea-size body—all distortions of reality.

I have also found family photos, especially when displayed in a succession of years, to be a fascinating study in the dynamics of a family’s life.  Old black and white photos bear the image of childhood faces reflecting the purity, trust and innocent abandon of youth.  However, that same child in later photographs may reveal a countenance that is altogether different—bright, cheerful eyes replaced by hollow, lifeless eyes.  A happy, youthful grin had fallen prey to a sneer and smirking glare.  One wonders, what dynamics in that child’s life and family had altered their countenance in so dramatic a form?

Capture the countenance of a man or woman in a sincere, unguarded moment and you will have a proof test of the emotional and spiritual inclination of their heart.  A joyful heart will reflect itself in a happy countenance!

The countenance that can be a mirror capable of reflecting a merry heart, can also be a canvas that bears the image of a broken heart, burdened with sin and depression.  Sorrows, disappointments and unresolved conflicts weigh heavy on a man’s heart and can break his spirit.  An unforgiving spirit can proverbially, “suck the wind out of your sails”.

Feel like you need a facelift? Take the following principles and I promise you—they will improve your countenance!

Ephesians 4:26-27, 31-32  “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27  Neither give place to the devil…31  Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The Sanctuary and Security of The Saints” (Part 1) – Student outline in PDF

Good morning from the Pastor’s office at Hillsdale Baptist Church!

This has been a “learning-curve” week for me as it has for many of you. In addition to my first video-podcasts, I have prepared to preach to an empty auditorium for this morning’s service, post numerous updates, and upload a PDF to my daily http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com blog.

My life verse is Philippians 4:13, and I have embraced that for our ministry in the days ahead, believing in the LORD… “Together, We Can Do This!” The pastoral staff and Hillsdale’s IT team are committed to reach out to our community and the people we love in every way we can!

In addition to my daily devotional commentaries (today’s will be posted this afternoon), Family Pastor Eric Peterman and ministry intern Thomas Simpson are posting brief video clips for children on Hillsdale’s Facebook page and you are invited to check them out!

This morning at 9:45 AM, youth pastor Justin Jarrett will teach a teen Bible study for the family titled, “Coping with Cabin Fever,” on www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

The pastoral staff and I will follow at 10:30 AM with a regular Sunday morning worship service. Although abbreviated in your absence and missing our choir and musicians, we will give updates on our ministry, have a time of prayer as a “virtual congregation,” and teach the first of two messages from Psalm 91.

If you are unfamiliar with our ministry, you will find Hillsdale is a “traditional worship church” and I invite you to have your Bible in hand as we study God’s truths. Our philosophy of worship and ministry is foremost to glorify the LORD, preach His Word verse-by-verse with practical application of its truths, and invite sinners and saints to turn to the LORD.

I am attaching a link for a PDF copy of today’s student outline and invite you to print it out for use during the 10:30 AM service at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

01 – The Sancturary and Security of the Saints – Psalm 91 – March 22, 2020 AM – student blank

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Hype, Hysteria, and Hope (in the midst of uncertainty)

March 16, 2020

Dear Heart of A Shepherd readers,

I have been away from Tampa for only one week, however, the world and our nation have dramatically changed in that short span of time.

While I am not generally a conspiracy theorist, I believe there is a dark purpose behind what is happening in our nation. I think there are unseen, dark figures driving the present crisis and I wonder if this is a “dry run” for something diabolical and more malicious. Knowing the spiritual character of this generation is far different than the faith of our nation a century ago, I fear the potential of violent societal conflict.

The hype around the Coronavirus is a potential catalyst for an overreach of government that is, in my opinion, the perfect stage for a socialist agenda. The draconian measures that are being suggested and taken by federal and state governments (closing schools, churches, restaurants, and businesses; threatening curfews and outlawing gatherings of more than 50) threatens to ruin the economy and plunge our nation and world into an economic depression. Unless sanity prevails, businesses, ministries, and families will soon be forced into bankruptcy. (I do not write that sentence lightly).

No one could have foreseen the events of the past two weeks, nor can we predict the future ripple effect across our lives, families, and ministries. I have many concerns that I am sure are shared across our nation.

What impact will current events have on employers and employment?  What is the economic impact on businesses and families who survive paycheck to paycheck?  With hoarding on a scale never witnessed in my lifetime, how secure are our food supplies and staple goods?

In the immediate, I offer you counsel and encouragement:

Pray – Someone has said, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”

Mark 11:22-24 – “22 And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. 23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. 24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”

Plan – The distance between a panic attack and confidence is a plan.

Definition of “Plan” – “Since God knows exactly what would happen in every situation, He plans for the best thing to happen. God takes counsel, puts all things under advisement, and chooses the best way.” – Practical Word Studies in The New Testament.

Purpose – Put your trust in the LORD and hope in Him.

Isaiah 26:3-4 – “3  Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. 4  Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

http://www.HillsdaleBaptist.org

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith