Category Archives: Devotional

Worship Music and the Character of Worship Leaders (1 Chronicles 25)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 25

Twenty-four Orders of Levite Musicians

Continuing the census and organization of the men of the tribe of Levi that began in 1 Chronicles 23, “David and the captains of the host” arranged the musicians who would minister in the worship of the Temple. David was intimately involved in the music of the Tabernacle, and the organization of the music ministry in the Temple. As both a poet and musician, the king understood the important role music would have in worshipping the LORD.

Three primary Levitical families are identified (25:1): “the sons of Asaph (25:2), and of Heman (25:4-5), and of Jeduthun (25:3).” The sons of those families were described as “separated to the service…who should prophesy [i.e., inspire by song] with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals” (25:1).

David appointed the sons of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun to serve in the ministry of music (25:1). Heman stands out not only as a chief musician, but “God gave to [him] fourteen sons and three daughters” (25:5). Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, evidently were excellent musicians, passing their skills to their children who served under their father’s direction “in the house of the Lord, with cymbals, psalteries, and harps, for the service of the house of God” (25:6). Altogether, there were 288 musicians who were described as “instructed [taught] in the songs of the Lord, even all that were cunning [skilled]” (25:7).

Of course, as noted earlier, there were 4000 singers and musicians whom David appointed to “offer praises to the LORD (23:5). These were divided by lot into twenty-four companies who ministered in the Temple in the morning and evening (25:8-31)

Closing thoughtsWorshipping the LORD was central to Israel as a nation, and the music ministry had an essential role. The orchestra and choir consisted of Levites whose lives were dedicated to ministering daily in the Temple.

The 21st century church would be wise to return to that standard, and remember the responsibility of those who minister in music was to “prophesy,” literally to inspire by word and song.

Godly character and musicianship were essential for those who ministered in music before the LORD and His people.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

 

The Judas Iscariot Psalm: The Treachery of a Friend (Psalm 109; Psalm 110)

Scripture reading – Psalm 109; Psalm 110

Today’s Scripture reading considers two psalms by David. Psalm 109, titled, “To the Chief Musician, A Psalm of David,” was intended to be a song for worship, praise, and thanksgiving to the LORD. Psalm 110, was titled simply, “A Psalm of David.”

Both of the psalms are often referred to as Messianic psalms, each carrying an immediate and prophetic application. For instance, Psalm 109 is identified by some as the “Iscariot Psalm,” noting there is much in the psalm that gives us a prophetic picture of Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus Christ, the Messiah King. Our devotional will be taken from Psalm 109.

Psalm 109 – The “Iscariot Psalm”

Psalm 109 gives us an agonizing testimony of a king who had known the sorrow and disappointment of betrayals. Like Christ who suffered the betrayal of Judas, and the denials of Peter, David suffered many disloyalties in his lifetime. King Saul, provoked by jealousy, turned against David and would have killed him. Absalom led an insurrection against his father, and Ahithophel, one of David’s trusted advisors, betrayed him and cast in his lot with his son. Shimei, a Benjamite, cursed David, and hurled stones and accusations against the king as he fled his palace in Jerusalem. I will suggest a brief outline of Psalm 109.

A Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies (109:1-5)

The psalm begins with David appealing to the LORD saying, “Hold not thy peace” (i.e., don’t be silent, 109:1). He then describes the sins of his enemies: slander, lies, deceit (109:2), and unprovoked hatred (109:3).

What was David’s response to the injustices he suffered? He prayed (109:4), and protested the cruelty of his enemies, saying, “they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love” (109:5).

A Prayer of Judgment Against One’s Enemies (109:6-20)

David, professed his virtue, and appealed to God to judge his enemies for their injustices. In the manner of an imprecatory prayer, David prayed: Let the wicked be judged by their own (109:6-7). Let his “days be few; and let another take his office” (109:8). After Judas betrayed Jesus, he hanged himself (Matthew 27:5), and fulfilled this prophecy. His days were few, and thus a believer named Matthias, took his apostleship (109:8; Acts 1:20-26).

The children and household of the wicked fall under the shadow of God’s judgment. David prayed, let the children of the wicked “be fatherless” and suffer loss (109:8-9). Let their estate fall victim to extortioners (109:11), and lineage be soon cut off (109:12-13). May the children of the wicked bear the curse, and judgment of their father’s sins (109:14-15).

What manner of men are the wicked? They lack compassion for the needy, and curse the innocent. They are resentful when others prosper (109:16-17). Predictably, they fall victim to their sinful ways, and their shame will be inevitably displayed for all to see (109:18-19).

A Prayer of Hope, Praise, and Thanksgiving (109:21-31)

Turning his focus from the wickedness of his enemies and the injustices he had suffered, David appealed to the LORD to make him the object of His mercy (109:21). Praying with a broken heart, David pled for compassion, and confessed his unworthiness, saying, “I am poor and needy; and my heart is wounded within me” (109:22). The king’s sorrows made him appreciate the brevity of life, and that it is like the passing of a shadow (109:23). Although he was king, he had become the object of scorn, and like those who mocked Christ when He was dying on the Cross, David’s enemies reproached him, and “[shook] their heads” (109:25).

Closing thoughts – David called on the LORD to be merciful, that His mercies might be a testimony to his enemies (109:26-27). He reasoned, he could accept the curses of his enemies, as long as he knew the LORD would bless him (109:28). The psalm closes with David resolving, though his enemies assailed him, he was confident the LORD would stand at his right hand (Hebrews 8:1; 10:12; 12:2), and save him from all who condemned him (109:30-31).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Faith is the Victory! (Psalm 108)

Scripture reading – Psalm 108

Psalm 108, is “A Song or Psalm of David,” as stated in its title, and is an unusual psalm. While the themes contained in the psalm are like many we have studied (praise and thanksgiving), it is actually a combination of portions from two other psalms. Psalm 108:1-5 is practically a reiteration of Psalm 57:7-11, and Psalm 108:6-13 is nearly identical to Psalm 60:5-12. It would be speculation on my part to ascertain the purpose for the repetition. I am satisfied the verses are repeated because its message was dear to the heart of the king, and fulfilled the LORD’s purpose.

A Psalm of Praise and Thanksgiving (108:1-5)

David declared, “O God, my heart is fixed” (108:1). The “heart” of man in Scripture is more than a physical organ; in its broadest sense, the “heart” refers to the mind, thoughts, and the seat of emotions within man.

Upon what was David’s heart fixed? He had determined his heart and affections would not waver from his purpose to “sing and give praise, even with my glory [honor; riches]” (108:1). Not only would he praise the LORD with his voice, but also on musical instruments: “2Awake [stir up], psaltery [lute; i.e., guitar] and harp: I myself will awake early [at dawn]” (108:2). He would unashamedly praise the LORD among his people, and “sing praises unto [God] among the nations” (108:3).

What had stirred David to passionately praise the LORD? It was the knowledge that the LORD’S mercy (lovingkindness and favor) was boundless; His truth, and faithfulness reached “unto [and beyond] the clouds” (108:4). Unable to contain his enthusiasm for the LORD, David exclaimed, “5Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens: And thy glory above all the earth” (108:5).

Prayer for Deliverance and Restoration (108:6-8)

Praying for Israel, David implored the LORD, “6That thy beloved [Israel] may be delivered [rescued]: save [Help] with thy right hand, and answer me” (108:6).

I am unsure what occasioned the king’s prayer, and who was a threat to the people, but David found courage in the LORD, writing: “7God hath spoken in his holiness [sacredness; i.e., sanctuary]; I will rejoice [triumph; be jubilant]” (108:7). Even before his prayer had been answered, he was confident the LORD would give him victory.

He planned as though his prayer had been fulfilled, saying, “I will divide Shechem [border town of Manasseh and Ephraim], and mete out the valley of Succoth [city on the east side of Jordan]. 8Gilead is mine [land east of Jordan, known for pastures]; Manasseh is mine [son of Joseph, and the tribe divided on the east and the west of Jordan]; Ephraim [youngest son of Joseph; land east of Jordan] also is the strength of mine head; Judah is my lawgiver [royal tribe of David]” (108:7b-8).

David Foresaw the Heathen Would be Subject to His Reign. (108:9-10)

“Moab is my washpot [son of Lot; land was east of Dead Sea]; Over Edom [i.e., Esau’s lineage; land south of Dead Sea] will I cast out my shoe; Over Philistia will I triumph [south of Palestine on Mediterranean Sea]. 10Who will bring me into the strong city [fortified, walled city]? Who will lead me into Edom [land south of Dead Sea]?” (108:9-10)

Moab, Edom, and the Philistines had been enemies of Israel. David, by faith, believed the LORD would bless Israel, and their adversaries would become subservient to his rule. Moab would become so vanquished, they would be like a washpot for washing one’s feet. Edom, would suffer the indignity of shame and defeat. Philistia, against whom David had waged war from his youth, would fall to Israel, and no walled city could stand with the LORD on his side.

David Appealed to the LORD to Be with Him (108:11-13)

11Wilt not thou, O God, who hast cast us off [reject; expel]? And wilt not thou, O God, go forth with our hosts [army on military campaign]?” (108:11) David was confident the LORD was his only source for help, and confessed he dare not place his faith in man:

12Give us help from trouble [enemy; attack]: For vain [worthless; futile] is the help of man.” David asserted his confidence in the LORD, saying, “13Through [with] God we shall do valiantly [power; strength; courage]: For he it is that shall tread down [trample] our enemies” (108:13).

Closing thoughts –You may not be facing a mortal enemy who desires to destroy you, but all believers face trials that challenge them to determine where they will turn, and whom they will trust. Some turn to fear, and flee. Some trust in men, only to find they are unable or unwilling to help.

David, gave us a model of overcoming faith. He fixed his heart on God, determined to sing and praise Him (108:1-4), and believed the LORD would give him victory (108:13).

Faith is the Victory!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Set Your Heart, and Seek the LORD! (1 Chronicles 22; Psalm 30)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 22; Psalm 30

Our Scripture reading brings us to the final chapter in David’s reign as king (1 Chronicles 22). The next chapter in our study in 1 Chronicles will begin with the statement: 1So when David was old and full of days, he made Solomon his son king over Israel” (23:1).

Psalm 30, the second portion of today’s reading, was written at an earlier period in David’s reign, for the title reads, “A Psalm and Song at the dedication of the house of David.” Time and space prevent a thorough study of each chapter; therefore, my focus will be that of the historian, 1 Chronicles 22.

1 Chronicles 22

David, accepting the end of his reign as king was imminent, devoted the last months of his life to making preparations for his son Solomon to build the Temple (22:1-19).

The Site of the Future Temple (21:22-30; 22:1)

“David said, This is the house of the Lord God, and this is the altar of the burnt offering for Israel” (22:1); with those words, the king began preparations for Solomon to build a Temple unto the LORD. We noted in an earlier writing the future site of the Temple was the “threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite” (whom the writer of 2 Samuel cited as “Araunah the Jebusite”, 24:18). I have already stated the significance of that place in Israel’s history, for this was where Abraham had offered Isaac (Genesis 22), and Jacob had said, “How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:16-17).

David’s Preparations for Constructing the Temple (22:2-5)

David chose “strangers [non-Hebrews] that were in the land of Israel; and he set masons to hew wrought stones to build the house of God” (22:2). In addition to the great building stones, David “prepared iron in abundance for the nails for the doors of the gates, and for the joinings; and brass in abundance without weight; 4Also cedar trees in abundance: for the Zidonians and they of Tyre brought much cedar wood to David” (22:3-4).

David understood his son was young and inexperienced, and the task to build a Temple worthy of the LORD would be a great undertaking. With the heart of a father, the king dedicated himself to not only preparing workmen and materials for the structure, but also preparing his son for the task.

David’s Charge and Instructions to Solomon (22:6-14)

The king described his longing had been to build a Temple for the LORD (22:6-7), but God had denied him that privilege, for his hands had been stained with the blood of many men whom he had slain in battle (22:8).

Suggesting Solomon might have wondered why this great job had fallen to him, David encouraged his son how the LORD had chosen him by name, saying, “9Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest…for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days. 10He shall build an house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever” (22:9-10).

David assured Solomon that the LORD was with him, and would prosper him as he built “the house of the LORD” (22:11). The king then prayed, and exhorted his son saying, “12Only the Lord give thee wisdom and understanding, and give thee charge concerning Israel, that thou mayest keep the law of the Lord thy God. 13Then shalt thou prosper, if thou takest heed to fulfil the statutes and judgments which the Lord charged Moses with concerning Israel: be strong, and of good courage; dread not, nor be dismayed” (22:12-13).

David Challenged Solomon with His Own Sacrifices and Diligence (22:14-16)

The king enumerated his preparations for the Temple, including the precious metals he had set aside (gold and silver), the brass and iron, and the timbers and stones (22:14). He had also chosen the workmen, for they were the craftsmen who would build the Temple (22:15). No expense would be spared in building the house of the LORD (22:16).

David Commanded the Leaders of Israel to Assist Solomon (22:17-19).

Acknowledging the youth and inexperience of Solomon, David bid all the leaders of Israel to assist Solomon, reminding them that the LORD had brought peace to the land for such a time (22:17-18). The king challenged them, saying, “19Now set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God; arise therefore, and build ye the sanctuary of the Lord God, to bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and the holy vessels of God, into the house that is to be built to the name of the Lord” (22:19).

Closing thoughts – Among the lessons we can take from today’s study is one David acknowledged, but many seniors ignore…the temporal nature of this earthly life.

David was old, his days were numbered, and he felt an urgency to prepare his son not only to be king, but he charged Solomon with the privilege for which God had chosen him… “build an house for the LORD God of Israel” (22:6-11).

The task was great, but David assured Solomon and the leaders of Israel that they had been chosen for such a time. The sum of David’s challenge was this: Set your hearts and affections to seek, and obey the LORD, and He would prosper you. Therefore, “build ye the sanctuary of the Lord God” (22:19).

Is the same true of you? The LORD blesses and prospers those who dedicate their hearts to seek, and serve Him.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

 

A Personal Greeting from the Author of “Heart of A Shepherd”

October 11, 2021

I am taking this opportunity to send a note of greeting to hundreds of regular readers and followers of http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

This devotional ministry began several years ago as a ministry to my church family (Hillsdale Baptist Church, Tampa, FL), and as a fulfillment of my role as a shepherd to a wonderful group of believers whom I have loved for over 36 years.

The pastoral staff, deacons, and church honored my wife and me on Sunday, October 10, 2021, and I am sharing a brief video that you might get to know my wife and me, and our ministry on a personal level.

With my writing, and my wife’s editing, we are privileged to be a part of the lives of hundreds of people every day, representing 30 or more nations (last year’s readership was from 187 nations).

It is my joy to share an exciting development for this ministry, and that is in May 2020, the Internal Revenue Service designated Heart of A Shepherd, Inc as a charitable organization. As a result, Heart of A Shepherd Inc is a 501 (c) (3) organization, and exempt from federal income tax.

Heart of A Shepherd Inc now has officers, and is allowed to receive and acknowledge tax deductible gifts and designations. In the near future, I am planning to expand Heart of a Shepherd Inc. and look forward to this ministry having its own website. I plan to publish materials that will be adaptable for personal and group Bible studies.

While Heart of A Shepherd, Inc is my ministry to my Hillsdale Baptist Church family, it is my prayer that others might value this daily ministry in God’s Word, and consider a charitable tax deductible gift to defray expenses.

Of course, every gift and donation will be acknowledged, and accounted with the officers of Heart of A Shepherd, Inc.

In the future, this ministry will have the means of electronic giving, but for now, you can designate a gift by check or money order to:

Heart of A Shepherd Inc
4230 Harbor Lake Dr.
Lutz, FL 33558

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith, all rights reserved.

Does God Repent? (2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21

Today’s Scripture readings are parallel accounts of the same tragic event. David commanded a census be taken, numbering the warriors in Israel. Because 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 are essentially mirror images of the same events, I will take today’s devotional from each.

David was an old man, and the shepherd boy of Bethlehem was a long past memory. Now in the latter years of his life and reign, the king made a proud, foolish decision and commanded, “Go, number Israel and Judah,” and in doing so provoked the “anger of the LORD…against Israel” (24:1). From where, or whom, did this provocation arise? The writer of 2 Samuel states, “he moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah” (24:1).

Who was “he?” The historian of 1 Chronicles revealed the inspiration for numbering the people was the Satan. We read, “Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel” (1 Chronicles 21:1). How did this happen? Why would a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22), find it his heart to do that which was contrary to the will of God? Various explanations might be put forward, but I suggest the central one is PRIDE. Satan targeted a “dead ringer,” a common area of weakness for most men, and provoked the natural inclination of the proud king’s heart.

Satan had provoked the natural inclination of a proud king’s heart.

“Joab, the captain of the host (i.e. army),” questioned the king’s motive for the census (24:3; 1 Chronicles 21:3), appealing to him with gracious words, saying, “Why doth my lord the king delight in this thing?” (24:3) Joab knew the king’s command was a provocation of God’s judgment, and suggested, “The Lord make his people an hundred times so many more as they be…why then doth my lord require this thing? why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel?” (1 Chronicles 21:3; 2 Samuel 24:3).

The census lasted nine months and twenty days, and when the number was given, David’s heart was convicted, and he prayed, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly” (24:10).

Though the king confessed numbering the people was a great sin, nevertheless, God’s nature would not dismiss the consequences of his sin. We read, “the word of the LORD came unto the prophet Gad, David’s seer” (24:11). David was mercifully given the opportunity to choose which of three judgments would befall him and Israel (21:10-12): Seven years of famine, three months of being overrun and pursued by adversaries, or three days of pestilence (24:12-13). David chose three days of pestilence, reasoning he would rather trust in God’s mercies, than fall into the hand of an enemy (24:14).

2 Samuel 24:15 – “So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men.”

The angel’s path of death and destruction spanned Israel, slaying 70,000 men, but as he neared Jerusalem, “the Lord beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the Lord stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite” (1 Chronicles 21:15).

God did not repent of wrong doing, but in His mercy He changed His mind, and halted His judgment for David’s sin. David and the elders of Israel had called upon the LORD, and as the shepherd king of Israel, he prayed, “Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, O Lord my God, be on me, and on my father’s house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued” (1 Chronicles 21:17).

The prophet Gad returned with a message from the LORD, and instructed David to buy the “threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite (the Jebusites being the original inhabitants of Jerusalem)” and build an altar there (24:18).[Note – 1 Chronicles 21:18 names one “Ornan” as the owner of the threshingfloor; they are the same man.]

David purchased the threshing floor, and there he sacrificed to the LORD the oxen he had bought. According to 1 Chronicles 21:26, the LORD sent fire from heaven and consumed the oxen as a sign of that David’s offering had satisfied God’s wrath (1 Chronicles 21:26).

Closing thoughts – What became of the land David purchased? Let us take a moment for a brief lesson from history:

The threshingfloor of Araunah had been the place God had tried Abraham, and he had offered his son Isaac (Genesis 22). This was also the place the LORD promised Jacob, “I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (Genesis 28:15). When Jacob awakened, “he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. 17And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:16-17). This same place would later be the site Solomon would build the Temple (1 Chronicles 22:1-2; 2 Chronicles 3:1).

Of course, it was not far from a place that would one day be beloved as Calvary, where Jesus Christ was crucified, suffered, and died for our sins, and the sins of the world.

“O how marvelous! O how wonderful!  Is my Savior’s love for me!”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD Who is Holy, Hears and Answers Prayers (Psalm 99)

Scripture reading – Psalm 99

The focus on the LORD’s Second Coming, and His reign on the earth continues in Psalm 99 (a topic that is the subject of Psalms 93-100). The psalms were, as the name implied, songs of worship and praise to the LORD. They have been cherished by sincere believers for millennia, and continue to be the focus of worship, prayer, praise, and meditations on the LORD. Some psalms commemorate special events in Israel’s history, and many are deeply personal for their authors. Especially in the life of King David, we have been granted an audience into his genuinely moving times of sorrow and joy, conviction and repentance, distress and thanksgiving. Those themes continue to resonate in the hearts of believers 3,000 years later.

Psalm 99

I suggest Psalm 99 be considered with four major themes.

The LORD Reigneth. (99:1)

The psalm commences with an incontrovertible truth: “The LORD reigneth” (99:1a). That statement is the foundation of all that follows in the psalm. The LORD is King of heaven and earth, and Sovereign of creation. The people of the earth should tremble with fear and reverence (99:1b). The LORD sitting “between the cherubims,” reminds us of the Ark of God, and its Mercy Seat upon which two cherubim were fashioned, representing God’s heavenly throne in the Tabernacle (99:1c; Exodus 25:18-22).

The LORD is Great. (99:2-5)

Consider the majesty of God: “The LORD is great in Zion” (the mount upon which Jerusalem is built, and where He will reign during His millennial kingdom, 99:2a). He is above all nations and people (99:2b). His name is “great and terrible; for it is holy” (99:3). The name of the LORD is holy, and it is not to be taken in vain (Exodus 20:7). The LORD is mighty, and “loveth judgment” (99:4a). He is just, fair, honest, and righteous (99:4b). He is holy, and there is none like Him. Let all who believe, exalt the LORD, and fall at his feet (99:5).

The LORD is to Be Adored for What He has Done (99:6-9)

While the focus of the first five verses has been upon the LORD’S person, Psalm 99:6-9 turned the focus of worshippers to what the LORD has done.

Three examples of men who worshipped, obeyed, and served the LORD are given. Moses and Aaron are identified as priests, and named with them was the prophet Samuel, all whom called upon the LORD, “and He answered them” (99:6).

The LORD “spake unto them (Moses and Aaron) in the cloudy pillar: They kept his testimonies [laws and commandments], and the ordinance [statutes] that he gave them” (99:7). The “cloudy pillar” (Exodus 33:9-10; Nehemiah 9:12) was a visible reminder of the LORD’S presence with Israel when the people wandered in the wilderness forty years. We are reminded that God is both merciful and just, for Moses and Aaron faced the consequences of their sins, and were not permitted to enter the Promise Land (99:8).

“The LORD our God is Holy.” (99:9)

Psalm 99 concludes with an exhortation to all who love the LORD: “9Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy hill [Zion; the setting of the Temple and sacrifices]; For the Lord our God is holy” (99:9).

Closing thoughts – Private and congregational worship is to be a central focus of all believers. The LORD is holy, and yet He loves us in spite of our sins and failures.

Aaron murmured against Moses, and fashioned a golden calf when the people rebelled (Exodus 32:4, 8, 19), and yet, he “called upon the LORD, and He answered” him (99:6). Moses disobeyed the LORD, and struck the rock in anger when the people were thirsty (Numbers 20:2-12), and though his sin prevented him from entering Canaan, the LORD forgave him (99:6, 8).

Isn’t it comforting to know, in spite of your failures, the LORD hears and answers prayers? Why? He is our God!

Is He your God?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Joy to the World, the LORD is Come!” (Psalm 97; Psalm 98)

Scripture reading – Psalm 97; Psalm 98

Today’s Scripture readings, Psalm 97 and Psalm 98, have a prophetic application. I suggest that both of the psalms are depictions of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Psalm 97 – The LORD on His Throne (97:1-6)

Psalm 97 opens with the LORD reigning as King, and the inhabitants of the earth rejoicing (97:1). Christ is presented in His majesty, and His judgment is described as one of righteousness and judgment (97:2).  He is  just, and holy, for “fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about” (97:3). The earth trembles, and nothing can stand in His “presence” (literally, the person), for God is holy (97:4-5). Indeed, “the heavens declare [God’s] righteousness, and all the people see his glory” (97:6).

The Shame and Confusion of the Heathen (97:7)

When Christ reigns, the heathen who have worshipped and served “graven images” will find their idols are not gods at all. They are, in the words of the psalmist, “The work of men’s hands. 16They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; 17They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths” (Psalm 135:15-17).

The Rejoicing of the Saints of God (97:8-9)

When the people of Zion (i.e., Jerusalem), hear how the heathen have been confounded and put to shame, they will be glad and Judah will rejoice (97:8). There is none like the LORD, for He is exalted, “high above all the earth… [and] above all gods” (97:9).

The Righteous and God’s Blessings (97:10-12)

How do the righteous prove their love for the LORD? They “hate evil” (97:10a), the evil way, and the path that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). They love the LORD, and keep their feet far from wickedness.

Because God loves the righteous, He preserves them (guards; watches over). Though the righteous find themselves hated, and even persecuted, the LORD will in the end save the righteous “out of the hand of the wicked” (97:10). To the righteous, the LORD gives light, and He rejoices the heart (97:11-12).

Psalm 98 – “Sing unto the LORD a New Song”

Psalm 98, like Psalm 97, is a reflection on the Second Coming of Christ, and inspired Isaac Watts’ memorable hymn, “Joy to the World” (although sung at services reflecting on Christ’s birth, it is in fact a celebration of Christ’s Second Coming). Psalm 98 is an invitation to believers to worship the LORD in song, and rejoice in His salvation and righteousness (98:2).

First Stanza: “Sing unto the LORD a new song” (98:1-3)

What is this “new song?” It is a song of victory, and praise to the LORD for His strength and power (98:1-2a). It is a song of redemption, and a praise to God for His grace (98:2b). It is a song of rejoicing that the LORD is faithful, and He had not forgotten Israel (98:3).

Second Stanza: A Call to all Nations to Worship the LORD (98:4-6)

The musicians in the Temple were Levites, and were trained, skilled, and dedicated musicians. The sound of their voices and instruments was not noise (98:4), but an energetic expression in music and song. The “joyful noise” and the “loud noise” was a “shout,” or cry or triumph (98:4, 6).

The music of the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, was not meant to entertain the congregation. The focus of the music was the LORD, and His holiness was reflected in both the message (words) and the music. Accompanied on string instruments (the harp, vs. 5) and wind instruments (trumpets and coronet, vs. 6), the focus of worship was “the LORD, the King” (98:6).

Third and Final Stanza: A Call to Creation to Worship the LORD (98:7-9)

Only when creation is freed from the curse of sin, and the LORD ushers in His millennial kingdom, will all creation rejoice (98:7-8). Romans 8:18-25 reveals the devastating effect man’s sin has had upon creation, and the world will not be delivered “from the bondage of corruption” (Romans 8:21) until the Second Coming of Christ.

Closing thoughts – Violent storms, earthquakes, and yes, pandemics, remind us that “creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together” (Romans 8:22). When Christ comes again, He will right the wrongs, and judge the earth in His righteousness (98:9). Think about that the next time you sing:

“Joy to the World, the LORD is Come!”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Why Worship the LORD? (Psalm 95)

Psalm 95.

Scripture reading – Psalm 95

Psalm 95 does not identify David as the author; however, the stamp of his life and testimony are, in my opinion, undeniable. There is; however, a far greater authority that identifies the king as the writer of the psalm. The author of the Book of Hebrews quotes a portion of Psalm 95:7, writing, “Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in DavidTo day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7).

I believe Psalm 95 would have been sung by the choirs and congregation of Israel during the Feast of the Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-44). Psalm 95:8-11 references Israel’s forty years of wandering in the wilderness, of which the Feast of the Tabernacles was a reminder of the sovereignty and providence of God.

Psalm 95 – A Psalm of Praise and Worship

In the exercise of praise and worship, notice how God’s people are to praise the LORD (95:1-2). We are to “sing unto the LORD” with a spirit of rejoicing. We are to “make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation” (95:1b). Remembering the singing of this psalm would have occurred when the priests entered the Tabernacle, we read, “Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, And make a joyful noise unto him with psalms” (95:2).

Why should we worship the LORD? (95:3-7)

The God of Israel is not a god among many gods; He is the LORD, the sovereign of creation. He “is a great [strong; mighty] God, And a great King above all gods” (95:3). He is the Creator, and “in his hand are the deep places of the earth: The strength of the hills is his also. 5The sea is his, and he made it: And his hands formed the dry land” (95:4-5).

The LORD is our Shepherd, and we should “worship and bow down…[and] kneel before the Lord our maker” (95:6). “He is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” (95:7). We are his “people,” and He protects and feeds us. We are “the sheep of his hands,” and He is our guide (95:7).

An Admonition: Do Not Provoke the Wrath of God (95:7b-11)

David, wrote, “To day if ye will hear his voice” (95:7b). The conjunction “if” introduces a condition, a possibility, a stipulation. God created man a “free will agent,” and each man and woman has the capacity to choose how they respond to the “voice,” the Word and Law of God (95:7b). Each of us has the capacity of hearing and heeding the “voice” of the LORD, or rejecting Him and hardening our hearts (95:8a).

David reminded Israel how their fathers had provoked God’s wrath when they murmured against Moses in the wilderness, and threatened to stone him and turn back to Egypt (95:8-9; Exodus 17:1-7; Numbers 20:2-13; Hebrews 3:7-19). David observed, for “forty years” that generation had grieved the heart of God and He did loath them. God said, “It is a people that do err [wander; stray] in their heart, and they have not known my ways” (95:10). The people had not learned the ways of the LORD, and He vowed in His wrath, “that they should not enter into [His] rest” (95:11).

What was the “rest” the LORD withheld from that generation because of their sin and rebellion? It was Canaan, the long-awaited Promised Land (Numbers 14:21-33; Deuteronomy 1:34-35). Because they had rebelled, the children of that unfaithful generation were burdened with burying their fathers and mothers in the wilderness.

What a powerful lesson, and warning to all! We all bear the responsibility of a “free will,” and have the capacity of turning to the LORD, from sin, or rejecting Him and facing the inevitable judgment of God.

Revelation 20:11, 1511And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them…15And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Whom will you choose to worship, and serve?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Last Will and Testament of King David (2 Samuel 23; Psalm 57)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 23; Psalm 57

Our Scripture reading comprises the historical narrative of David’s life in 2 Samuel 23, and Psalm 57.

Psalm 57 – God is Our Refuge

The occasion of Psalm 57 is identified in its title: “To the chief Musician, Al-taschith [meaning, “do not destroy”], Michtam [a type of poem] of David, when he fled from Saul in the cave (1 Samuel 22:1; 24:1-3).

Perhaps penned in the latter years of his reign, Psalm 57 was a record of God’s mercies through the years. David, remembered he had been a fugitive from King Saul who had sought to kill him out of jealousy. Hiding in the wilderness, and finding shelter in caves, David cried to the LORD,  “Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee” (57:1).  He recalled his enemies, like savage lions, that had ravaged him with their words (57:4). They had schemed to entrap him, only to perish in their own wicked devices (57:6).

In spite of the sorrows and humiliations he had suffered, David’s foremost desire in those years of exile was that God would be exalted and glorified “above all the earth” (57:5). The closing verses of Psalm 57 are the king’s affirmation of his faith in God. David testified, “My heart is fixed [set; ready], O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise” (57:7). The king’s heart was full of praise, and thanksgiving. He not only wanted his people to know the mercies of the Lord, he promised, “I will sing unto thee among the nations” (57:9).

2 Samuel 23 – The Last Words and Testament of King David

Our study of David’s life is in its finale, as we turn in the Scriptures to 2 Samuel 23. The first sentence of chapter 23 moves me emotionally when I read, Now these be the last words of David” (23:1a).

We have been privileged to examine the soul of the man whom God declared, “a man after [His] own heart” (Acts 13:22; 1 Samuel 13:14). David was far from being a perfect man; however, his tenderness toward the LORD, and his love for God’s Word and Law, are an inspiration to all sincere believers.

Ministering as a pastor, I have been an honored guest at the bedside of many dying saints. I have observed how the proximity of death stirs in a soul a reflection on things that genuinely matter in the light of eternity. The presence of the shadow of death will tend to cut away those things that once held our affections. Accomplishments, honors, and plaques on the wall, have no value when death is near.

For all his achievements, David’s life was not summed up as the giant slayer or victor over the Philistines, but as “the son of Jesse…the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel” (23:1). Though honored to have served as the king of Israel, David drew his joy from being the man to whom the “Spirit of the Lord spake…[and whose] word was in [his] tongue” (23:2)

As with many of the psalms, 2 Samuel 23:3-4, imparted words of wisdom and adoration. Identifying the LORD as, “The Rock of Israel,” David recalled God’s exhortation, “He that ruleth over men must be just, Ruling in the fear of God” (23:3). Simple, but profound! Imagine how different our world would be if men desired to have ruling over them, those who were “just” (righteous in their rulings according to God’s Law), and ruled “in the fear of God.” Such a leader would “be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth” (23:4a).

Time and space restrain an exhaustive study of the balance of 2 Samuel 23, but it is worth noting that David took time to acknowledge those men who had been his “mighty men” (23:9-39). 2 Samuel 23:13 gives the number of great warriors as “thirty,” and yet, the chapter ends stating that they were “thirty and seven in all” (23:39). How might that be? Was the number thirty, or thirty-seven an error? Also, there are a total of thirty-six men named, and not thirty-seven.

Some might disagree with my assessment of the dilemma in the number of David’s mighty men; however, I believe I have an acceptable explanation: When some of David’s mighty men perished in battle (for instance, Uriah the Hittite, 23:39), he would have chosen other men to take their place. I suggest the thirty-seventh man, and the one not named, was Joab, the brother of Abishai, whom I believe was in a league of his own.

Thirty-seven mighty men, from different backgrounds, but all had dedicated their lives to serve David, the great warrior king. David was content to be remembered as the man with whom God had established “an everlasting covenant” (23:5).

Perfect man? No, but that is the kind of leader God uses (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith