Category Archives: Doctrine

Does the LORD Seem Distant? (Psalm 10)

Scripture reading – Psalm 10 

The author of Psalm 10 is not identified, and are we not given the historical context for the psalm. However, the subject of the psalm is evident, for the focus is on the pride and oppressive nature of the wicked. I invite you to consider two portraits of man found in Psalm 10. The first portrait is that of the wicked (10:2-11), and the second is a portrayal of the righteous, and their appeal to the LORD (10:1, 12-16).

The Astonishment of the Righteous (Psalm 10:1)

When facing a wicked foe, the psalmist felt as if he had been abandoned by the LORD. He questioned, Why standest thou afar off, O LORD? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble [anguish; distress; adversity]?” (10:1) Facing an enemy whose desire was to hurt, and destroy him, the psalmist despaired, and felt the LORD was far from him in his hour of need.

The Will of the Wicked (10:2-4)

Psalm 10 paints a vivid portrait of the wicked. Consider the will, resolve, and determination of the wicked. They are arrogant, and oppressors of the poor and needy (10:2). The wicked are boasters, and glory in sinful lusts, passions, and desires (10:3). That which God abhors, the wicked praise (10:3). “Through the pride of his countenance,” the wicked “will not seek [follow] after God,” and God is far from his thoughts (10:4).

The Way of the Wicked: They are insensitive, and desensitized to the grievous nature of their sin. (10:5)

They deceive, and defraud the naive with their platitudes, and lofty promises. They do not fear God, and are blind to His judgments (10:5). The wicked are “his enemies, [and the LORD] puffeth at them” (10:5). They are proud, and sneer at any who oppose them.

The Words of the Wicked (10:6-7)

Lifted up with pride, the wicked boast, “I shall not be moved [removed; carried; fall down]: for I shall never be in adversity [distress; harm; injured]” (10:6). He believes he is too big, or too strong, to be brought to justice (10:6), and he threatens all who oppose him (10:7). He swears, “his mouth is full of cursing.” He deceives, insults, and his tongue is venomous, full of “mischief and vanity” (10:7).

The Wiles of the Wicked (10:8-11)

Like lions stalking their prey, the wicked lie in wait to catch the poor, the innocent, and spiritual stragglers unawares (10:8-10). With one fierce swipe, they seek to crush the righteous. (The portrayal in Psalm 10 is of a physical attack; however, the implication might also be intimidation, slander, and lawsuits that can crush, and destroy.) A wicked man is spiritually deluded, and like the fool that he is, “He hath said in his heart [mind; will], God hath forgotten [oblivious; ignored]: he hideth [conceals] his face; he will never see [look; behold; perceive] it” (10:11).

The Appeal of the Righteous to the LORD (10:12-18)

The psalmist had prayed to the LORD, “let them [the wicked] be taken [captured; taken hold; seized] in the devices [inventions; plots] that they have imagined [devised; purposed; conceived]” (10:2). Remembering the LORD is Just (10:12), Omniscient (10:13-14), and Judge (10:15), he called upon the LORD to save him from the wicked (10:12). He reminded Him that the wicked boast, and believe the LORD “wilt not require it” [call to account] (10:13).

Closing thought: Psalm 10 concludes on a victorious note, for the psalmist took comfort, knowing the LORD was Sovereign (10:16). Though the wicked boasts, the righteous can be confident the LORD hears and answers the prayers of the humble (10:17).

You may not always see justice come to pass, but you can be certain that the LORD is on the side of the righteous, and He is a righteous Judge (10:18).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“What is Man?” (Psalm 8-9)

Scripture reading – Psalm 8-9

Today’s Scripture readings, Psalms 8-9, are authored by David. Both of the psalms have captured the imagination of saints for centuries, and inspired musicians and poets to put the words of the psalms to music. With the exception of my amplification of some word meanings, I invite you to meditate on the words of the psalms.

Psalm 8 – The Wonder and Majesty of the LORD and Creation

1 O LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent God] our Lord [Master; Sovereign of Creation], how excellent [noble; mighty; majestic; glorious] is thy name [character; person; reputation] in all the earth! who hast set [put; made; given] thy glory [splendor; majesty; authority] above the heavens [i.e. stars of the sky].  
2  Out of the mouth of babes [young children] and sucklings [nursing infants] hast thou ordained [appointed; established; lay a foundation] strength [might; power; boldness] because of thine enemies [adversary; foes; distress], that thou mightest still [cease; silence; rest; observe] the enemy and the avenger.  
3  When I consider [look; behold; perceive] thy heavens [i.e. stars of the sky], the work [acts; labor; i.e. accomplishments] of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained [prepared; established; fashioned; fixed];  

4  What is man [mortal man], that thou art mindful [remember; think of] of him? and the son [children] of man, that thou visitest [care for; concerned with] him?”

David beheld the splendor and glory of the LORD displayed in His handiwork, the sun, moon and stars (8:3). He marveled at God’s power to hold the stars and planets in their courses. Overwhelmed by the beauty and majesty of creation, David exclaimed, “What is man?”  (8:4)

Why would the Creator of the heavens give even a thought to sinful, weak, foolish men?  Why would the Infinite take a single moment of time to visit, care or concern Himself with such an ignoble race?  Surely, only a fool would gaze into the heavens and state, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

5  For thou [the Lord] hast made him [man] a little [smaller; less than] lower [wanting; lacking] than the angels [heavenly beings], and hast crowned [encircled; compassed; surrounded] him [man] with glory [splendor] and honour [beauty; majesty].
6  Thou madest him [man] to have dominion [rule; reign; power] over the works [acts; deeds; i.e. creation] of thy hands; thou hast put [placed; set; fixed] all things under his feet:
7  All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts [domesticated animals..i.e. horse; mule] of the field [land; country];
8  The fowl [birds] of the air [sky; heavens], and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas [roads; ways; i.e. we have learned there are currents].
9  O LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent God] our Lord [Sovereign; Master], how excellent [great; powerful; glorious; majestic]is thy name [character; position; renown] in all the earth [land; country]!

Psalm 9 – A Call for Thanksgiving

Psalm 9 is a psalm of praise and thanksgiving to the LORD for His judgment upon the wicked, and His deliverance of the righteous. Psalm 9:1-6 stated David’s praise, in anticipation that the LORD would give him victory over his foes.

Psalm 9:7-12 listed David’s reflections on the character of the LORD, who is eternal (9:7), righteous in His judgment (9:8), a refuge and safe place for the hurting (9:9), trustworthy (9:10), worthy of all praise (9:11), and just (9:12).

Understanding the LORD is merciful, David called upon Him to look upon his troubles, and behold his enemies. He believed God would deliver him in the future as He had in the past (9:13-14). Though his adversaries threatened him, David was confident the heathen would be overtaken in their own plots against him (9:15).

Knowing the LORD is just and righteous in His judgments, David declared, “16The Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth: The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion [think, meditate]. Selah [pause]. 17The wicked shall be turned into hell, And all the nations that forget God” (9:17-18).

David’s psalm of thanksgiving closed with a benediction, as he called upon the LORD to remind the heathen, and the nations of the world that they are but men! (9:19-20).

Closing thought: Take a few minutes and ponder the majesty of the LORD reflected in not only His creation, but also in His “marvelous works” in your life. The LORD is great, and worthy of all praise!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Home Sweet Home: A Family Portrait (Psalms 128)

Scripture reading Psalms 128

Psalm 128 continues our study of the Psalms titled, “A Song of Degrees” (Psalms 120-134), and is a song of rejoicing for the LORD’S blessings.  The central focus of the psalm is the promise of the LORD’S blessings on the household of the man who fears the LORD, and walks in His ways.

Notice the promise of happiness found in the first two verses of Psalm 128.

Psalm 128:1–21Blessed [Happy] is every one that feareth [reveres; worships] the Lord; That walketh in his ways. 2For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: Happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well [pleasant] with thee.

Is there anyone who does not desire, and long for happiness? Some look for affirmation as a way to happiness, but trophies, medals, and applause never gratify. Some climb the ladder to success, pursue wealth and acquire possessions, but find happiness just isn’t there. Sadly, the happiness the world promises is temporal, and never satisfies!

To whom does the psalmist promise happiness? To those who fear the LORD, and walk in His ways (obeying His Laws, and Commandments). Such a man will be happy and satisfied, and has the promise he will enjoy the fruit of his labor. (128:2). The man who loves and serves the Lord is physically blessed through his seed.  His wife is compared to a fruitful vine, and in Scripture vines symbolize a life-giving force.

The psalm continues with how the blessing was given: “The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion [the mountain upon which the Temple was built]: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life” (Psalm 128:5).The Temple was a majestic symbol of God himself.  It represented life, and Israel’s prosperity.

We have observed two family portraits in our study of Psalm 128. The first was of a man and his wife who, under the shadow of her husband’s love and piety (128:1-3a), was like “a fruitful vine,” and a source of joy to her husband. The second portrait was of the couple’s children, sitting around the table. The children had not grown up to become wild weeds, but were like olive plants; trained and cultivated. They were growing up to be a blessing (128:3).

The third family portrait was one of contentment (128:5-6), and the concluding verses of Psalm 128 served as a benediction.

The man that had feared the LORD (128:1) was now old, and stooped in age. His body was weak, but his spirit was strong as he aspired to see God’s blessings on his nation (128:5). Because the LORD is the rewarder of them who love and fear Him, the old man was promised, “6  Yea, thou shalt see [look; discern] thy children’s children[grandchildren], and peace [Shalom; prosperity] upon Israel” (128:6).

Closing thoughts: There are some reading this devotional who long for their family to be a picture of happiness and joy. You long for the LORD to pour out His blessings on your marriage, and to see your “children’s children” living in a nation that enjoys “Shalom,” the peace and prosperity of the LORD (128:6).

Those are admirable desires; however, they are promised only to them who fear the LORD, and walk in His ways (128:1).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Critics Got You Down? Hope in the LORD! (Psalm 123)

Scripture reading – Psalm 123

Our Scripture reading is Psalm 123, and it is in the midst of the psalms that are titled, “A Song of Degrees” (Psalm 120-134). The author of Psalm 123 is not identified, and it would be mere speculation on my part to identify its author by name.

As stated in prior devotions, the psalms identified as “Song of Degrees,” are thought to have been those sung by pilgrims in their ascent to Jerusalem. There is also a great probability the “Song of Degrees” were sung by the priests and Levites as they ascended the steps to the Temple.

I suggest you consider three themes for Psalm 123.

The Focus of the Psalmist: The God of Heaven (123:1)

The psalmist writes, 1Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens” (123:1). I believe it is instinctive for man to look to the heavens, and the breadth and wonders of the sun, moon, stars, and galaxies, and ponder the Creator of it all. The author of Psalm 97 writes: “6The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory” (97:6). The LORD “dwellest in the heavens,” for He is Sovereign, and sits upon His throne. The prophet Isaiah was given a vision of God upon His throne, and he wrote, “I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple…[and the seraphims] cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: The whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:1-3).

The Heart of the Psalmist: He looked to the LORD for His Will (123:2)

I invite you to consider four “looks” in verse 2. The first, a look of deference: Rather than the pride of his enemies, the psalmist looked to the LORD as “servants look unto the hand of their masters” (123:2a); a look of humility and servitude. Notice also a look of dependence: for the psalmist describes himself as looking to the hand of the LORD to meet his needs, “servants look unto the hand of their masters, And as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress” (123:2b). A third look I notice is the look for direction: This is a longing, expectant, look that “[waits] upon the Lord” (123:2c). There is finally, a look of determination: To wait upon the LORD “until that he have mercy upon us” (123:2d).

The Hope of the Psalmist: A Cry for Mercy (123:3-4)

The psalmist’s cry to the LORD appears to be one of desperation. He cried, “3Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us:” (123:3a). He had been the object of contempt, scorn, and mocking (123:3b). He longed for God to fill him with his loving mercies, and grace. Who were those who had treated him with scorn? Who had heaped upon him such sorrows?

The psalmist identified them as “those that are at ease…the proud” (123:4). His harsh critics were “at ease,” complacent, lazy, and proud.

Closing thoughts: I have learned that my harshest critics are seldom those who are laboring for the LORD, and serving His people. No, the critics arise from those whom the psalmist describes as “at ease…[and] proud” (123:4).

Let us take a spiritual lesson from the psalmist. He had suffered abuse, and lesser men might have quit; however, he determined to set his focus on his Creator (123:1), turn his heart to the LORD, and cry out for mercy (123:3-4).

Hope in the LORD!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Divine Providence: The Steps of a Good Man are Ordered By the LORD (1 Samuel 29)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 29

Today’s Scripture reading sets the stage not only for the death of Saul, Israel’s first king, but also for that of his son Jonathan (28:19).

We find the armies of the Philistines gathered against Israel, and Saul and his army pitched across the way “by a fountain which [was] in Jezreel” (29:1). David found himself in a conflicting place, for he had been chosen by Achish, the king of the Philistines, to be that king’s bodyguard (28:2).

As the Philistine soldiers mobilized, and began their passage to the battlefront, providentially, David and his men were placed in the rereward with Achish, and were spared from warring against their countrymen (29:2).

Though King Achish entrusted his life to David, the Philistine generals were far less trusting, and protested the thought of going to war against Israel with David and his men in their midst (29:3-4). Arguably, more astute than the king, the Philistines reminded Achish how David had served as Israel’s champion, and had led men of Israel to slay “ten thousands” (29:5).

Achish reluctantly consented to the demands of his generals, and with affirming words, commanded David and his men to remove themselves from the battlefield (29:6-7). Though David offered a weak protest to the king’s command (29:8-10), in the providence of God, the next morning he and his men returned “into the land of the Philistines” (29:11). As the Philistines prepared to wage war against Israel, the LORD wonderfully spared David from lifting his sword against the LORD‘S chosen people.

Psalm 37:23–2423The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: And he delighteth in his way. 24Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: For the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Loneliness: No Man Cared for My Soul (Psalm 142)

Scripture reading – Psalm 142

At what time David penned Psalm 142 is uncertain; however, the title of the psalm gives us an occasion: “Maschil of David; A Prayer when he was in the cave.” Our study in 1 Samuel placed David in a cave on two occasions. When he first grasped Saul’s intent to kill him, he sought refuge in the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1), where he was joined by his family. Later, when he retreated to “the wilderness of Engedi” (1 Samuel 24:1), David and six hundred men, hid in a cave overlooking Saul’s encampment (24:2-4). Providentially, it was the same cavern where Saul retreated for privacy (24:2-4).

Before we consider 1 Samuel 25, I invite you to read Psalm 142, for I believe it reflects David’s state of heart when he received the news that the prophet Samuel had died (25:1).

Perhaps it was the loss of that spiritual leader, the man who had anointed him to succeed Saul as king (1 Samuel 13:14, 16:11-13), that moved David to express in Psalm 142:4, 4I looked [beheld; gazed intently] on my right hand, and beheld, But there was no man that would know me [no one took notice]: Refuge failed me; No man cared [sought for; inquired after] for my soul.”

Someone reading today’s devotional might reflect that sentiment, for we are social creatures by nature, and loneliness is a haunt of us all at some point in life. Before God created Eve, He observed in Adam, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Trying circumstances can leave us feeling lonely, and abandoned. Disappointments, failure, sickness, or the death of a loved one intensifies a sense of isolation, and a feeling no one cares.

Where do you turn, when you struggle with thoughts, and feelings of abandonment?

David models the answer to that question, writing: “1I cried unto the Lord with my voice; With my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication. 2I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble” (142:1-2).

David attested, “I cried [out loud]…I [made] my supplication [I asked for His favor, and mercy]. I poured out my complaint [telling the LORD all his anxieties]” (141:1-2), and “I shew before him my trouble” (141:2b). The LORD knew David’s troubles, but it was freeing for him to acknowledge, and state them specifically in his prayer. He confessed, “my spirit was overwhelmed within me,” and admitted he did not see a way forward (141:3a). Though it did not lift the cloud that shadowed him, David took comfort knowing the LORD realized the hard place where he found himself (141:3b).

In his despair, David looked, and hoped there was someone who might come to encourage him (141:4), but he found no man to offer strength, or comfort (141:4). Tragically, he felt there were none who seemed to care, or take notice of his despair (141:4b).

Having exhausted every hope of comfort or rescue, David cried to the LORD, and said, “Thou [the LORD] art my refuge [shelter] and my portion [share] in the land of the living” (142:5). He had come to realize there was no one who could rescue him. No one who could save him from “persecutors” that were stronger than he (142:6).

With boldness of faith, and believing the LORD would hear and answer his prayer, David petitioned, “Bring my soul out of prison” (142:7a), the spiritually gloomy place he found himself. Renewing his trust in God, he promised to use his deliverance as an occasion to praise the LORD’S name, and to declare His goodness to the righteous (142:7).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“I know God is for me!” (Psalm 56)

Scripture reading – Psalm 56

As we consider Psalm 56, remember that the psalms began as an integral part of worship in ancient Israel’s history, and continue even until our present day (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).

The title of the psalm states the occasion that inspired it, for it was when David fled from King Saul, and sought refuge in Gath. When he was identified, and taken prisoner, David feared for his life, and made a pretense of insanity before King Achish (1 Samuel 21:10-15). I believe Psalm 56 was composed many years later when David was king. After composing the verses, the king sent the song to the chief musician of the Levites. Psalm 56 records David’s meditations, and the words were inspired by the Spirit of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21).

Recalling the desperation, when he was taken by the Philistines, David had prayed: “1Be merciful [be gracious] unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up [trample; crush]; He fighting daily oppresseth [torments] me.2Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: For they be many that fight [attack] against me, O thou most High. 3What time I am afraid, I will trust [be confident] in thee” (56:1-3).

Trusting in God’s favor, David faced his enemies (56:1). They threatened his life with malicious words, and tormented him daily (56:2). Though he did not deny his fears, he determined to trust that the LORD would protect him (56:3), and declared, “In God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me” (56:4). Wicked men will slander your testimony, and may threaten your life, but no man can threaten your soul! (Matthew 10:28)!

David’s enemies came upon him like ravenous wolves; they twisted his words, and waited for him to stumble (56:5-6).  He sometimes questioned, “Shall they escape by iniquity?” (56:7). Will they escape the consequences of their sinful ways?

He prayed the wicked would be punished, and took comfort knowing the LORD considered his sorrows, and his tears (56:8). Referencing a practice of ancient monarchs whose tears were collected in a bottle as a memorial to their sorrows, David prayed, “Put thou my tears into thy bottle: Are they not in thy book?” (56:8) He was confident the LORD would answer his prayers, and he made a wonderful statement concerning divine character: “This I know; for God is for me” (56:9b).

What a wonderful truth! You may be facing trials, and you feel abandoned. An enemy may be plotting to injure, or even destroy you. However, by faith you can claim David’s assertion and say, “I know, God is for me!”

Having stated his confidence in the LORD, David declared, “10In God will I praise his word: In the Lord will I praise his word. 11In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me” (56:10-11).

I have learned that my heart is comforted, and my spirit emboldened when I write, and speak what I believe. When David determined to praise God for His Word and promises, he was no longer a prisoner of fear. He had no cause to fear “what man can do” (56:11b).

The closing verses of Psalm 56 are a doxology of praise to the LORD (56:12-13). Trusting the words, and vows [promises] of the LORD, David praised the LORD at the prospects of his deliverance from his enemy.

Closing thoughts: Even the man after the heart of God went through seasons when he feared what tomorrow would bring, and struggled with the fear of man. It is natural to fear criticism, rejection, and those who gloat in our struggles. When those times come, and they will, take a lesson from David and determine to write, and sing praises to the LORD. Meditate in His Word, claim His promises, and declare, “I know, God is for me… I will not be afraid what man can do unto me” (56:9, 11).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Wicked Will Not Go Unpunished (Psalm 52) – * Bonus devotional.

Scripture reading – Psalm 52

Psalm 52 records the prayer and meditations of David when he learned that Doeg, the Edomite, had betrayed him to King Saul (1 Samuel 21-22). The accusations of that wicked man had deceived the king, and he believed Ahimelech the priest had conspired to assist his enemy.

Doeg had witnessed Ahimelech giving David five loaves of bread, and the sword of Goliath as he requested (1 Samuel 21:3-4, 8-9); however, the priest had not done so as an act of ill will toward the king. Nevertheless, Doeg used the occasion to accuse Ahimelech, and he provoked the king’s fury (1 Samuel 22:16). When Saul’s soldiers refused to slay the priests, Doeg did the king’s bidding, and killed eighty-five priests and their families (1 Samuel 22:18-19). One man survived the slaughter, Abiathar, the son of Ahimelech (1 Samuel 22:20-23).

It was the news of this tragic event that inspired Psalm 52.

Psalm 52:1-4 chronicles David’s assessment of the character of Doeg, and reveals that the wicked take pleasure in injuring the righteous. They employ their tongues to destroy the believers (52:1-2), and prefer lies over truth. They are liars, and love to deceive (52:3-4).

While the righteous take no pleasure in the suffering of the wicked, it is the judgment of God that reminds them He is just (52:5). Believers will see the LORD’S judgment, revere Him, and be satisfied His justice will be served (52:6). Doeg had committed a great evil, and God abandoned him to the consequences of his wicked ways (52:7).

News of the deaths of Ahimelech, and the priests of Nob had troubled David, but he took solace in the LORD’S loving mercies (52:8). He vowed, 9I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it: And I will wait on thy name; for it is good before thy saints” (52:9).

Closing thoughts:

Believer, God is ever good, and it pleases Him when His people make it a habit to praise Him before His saints (52:9)! Remember, the wicked make light of their transgressions, and take pleasure in lies and deceit. Though we are often tempted to complain, and declare—unfair, and unjust, in those times, take comfort in the confidence that the LORD is just, and the wicked will not go unpunished.

Take a few minutes, and rehearse all the good the LORD has done in your life!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Overcoming Fear (Psalm 27) * First of two devotionals.

Scripture reading – Psalm 27, 31

Fear can become a paralyzing, dominant emotion.

Not all fear is negative. Some concerns of life warrant a good healthy dose of fear.  For instance, it is good to fear, and revere authority if that authority cautions you against the consequences of foolish or unlawful choices.  It is also wise to fear true dangers in life, such as fire, or the deadly potential of lightning. Fearing the effects of failing to study for an exam, or the potential harm from being careless and irresponsible, of course is good!

It is the negative aspect of fear that pangs the soul. For some, the fear of failure, renders them incapable of making decisions. For others, the fear of rejection may be the most dominant fear they face. Most fear criticism, and in a vain attempt to be insulated from detractors, retreat into self-imposed isolation from friendships, and relationships.

Can we have victory over fears? Absolutely! Psalm 27 affords us a lesson in resolute, victorious faith that overcomes fear. Time and space prevent me from presenting a thorough verse-by-verse study, but the first three verses of Psalm 27 are a sampling of David’s meditations when he was hunted by an enemy who would not be dissuaded until he was dead.

Of what are you afraid? (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; rock; protection; refuge] of my life; of whom shall I be afraid [fear; tremble]?”

Notice that David asserted his faith and courage in three phrases. The first, “the Lord is my Light – His courage arose from his conviction that the LORD alone, was the source of light to his soul (John 1:4-5, 9; 1 John 1:5). “The LORD…is my Salvation” – Only God was able to deliver him from his enemy. David then declared, “The LORD is the Strength of my life” – my Rock, Fortress and Refuge!

Asserting his faith that, the LORD was his light, salvation, and strength, David asked, “Whom shall I fear?”  Is there a trial too big for the LORD?  An enemy too strong?  Is there a circumstance greater than God? Absolutely not!

David went on his thoughts and meditations, and encouraged his soul by reflecting on the LORD’s providences, and protection in the past (27:2).

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

David had experienced the threats of adversaries who relished in smearing his character, and exulted in his sorrows.  He had been the object of malicious attacks, and disparaging lies.  Of those enemies, David testified, “they stumbled and fell” (27:2b). Then, taking courage by stating his faith in the LORD, and remembering His faithfulness in the past, David affirmed 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].”

Believer, follow David’s example, and declare: The LORD is my Light, Salvation, and Refuge! His faithfulness in past trials should embolden you to set aside your present worries, and affirm: I will not allow fear to overcome me, or the threat of the unknown to rob me of peace, and joy in the LORD.  

2 Timothy 1:7 –7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear [cowardice; timidity]; but of power [ability to overcome], and of love [self-sacrificing love], and of a sound mind [disciplined in one’s emotions, feelings, thoughts].”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God?” (1 Samuel 6)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 6

As Israel despaired the loss of the “Ark of the LORD” (4:11), the Philistines came to fear that its presence had brought the LORD’s judgment not only upon their god Dagon (6:3-4), but also upon the cities where it had been located. Ashdod, the capital city of Philistia, was physically afflicted and the men of that city declared, “the ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us” (5:7). When the Ark was moved to Gath, they felt the “hand of the LORD against the city with a very great destruction” (5:9). When the Ark was moved to Ekron, the people of that city “cried out, saying, They have brought about the ark of the God of Israel to us, to slay us and our people” (5:10). The Ekronites demanded the Ark be returned to Israel, for the judgment of the LORD fell heavily upon the people, “and the cry of the city went up to heaven” (5:12).

Desperate, the Philistines Return the Ark (1 Samuel 6:1-12)

The Ark of the LORD remained in Philistia for seven months, and its presence became a symbol of God’s judgment, rather than a trophy of war (6:1). Desperate, the Philistines called upon their religious leaders, and urged the ark be returned to its place (6:2). The priests suggested the Ark be returned to Israel, with “a trespass offering,” that He might be appeased and his hand of judgment be lifted (6:3).

It was determined the trespass offering should reflect the symbols of the plagues the people had suffered. They fashioned “five golden emerods [possibly skin boils, others suggest hemorrhoids], and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines [there were five major Philistine cities]” (6:4). The priests reminded the leaders that Egypt and Pharaoh had suffered when they hardened their hearts against Israel’s God (6:6).

The Philistine priests proposed the leaders “make a new cart, and take two milch kine [milk cows], on which there hath come no yoke, and tie the kine [cows] to the cart, and bring their calves home from them: 8And take the ark of the Lord, and lay it upon the cart; and put the jewels of gold…in a coffer [wooden chest] by the side thereof; and send it away, that it may go” (6:7-8). This they did to prove whether the plagues they had suffered were indeed God’s judgment, or simply chance. With the Ark sitting on the cart, and beside it the chest of gold ornaments for a trespass offering, the Philistines watched as the cows did not return to their calves, but instead pulled the cart a distance of nine miles, turning neither to the left, nor to the right (6:9-12).

Rejoicing, Turned to Sorrow (1 Samuel 6:13-21)

Reaping wheat in their fields, the people of Beth-shemesh “lifted up their eyes, and saw the ark, and rejoiced” (6:13). The cows pulled the cart into a field owned by a man named Joshua, and they stopped by a great stone (6:14). Remembering that Beth-shemesh was a Levite city (Joshua 21:13-16), we are not astonished when the men of that city removed the Ark from the cart, and cutting up the cart for its wood, they “offered the kine [cows as] a burnt offering unto the Lord” (6:14).

Unfortunately, rejoicing turned to tragedy, when the people of Beth-shemesh violated the sanctity of the Ark. Rather than cover the Ark, the inquisitive people looked inside the chest, and “fifty thousand and threescore and ten men (50,070)” were slain (6:19). They had treated as common, that which represented the throne, and the holy presence of God (6:19). As they mourned the deaths of their loved ones, the people asked, “Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God? and to whom shall he go up from us?” (6:20). Messengers were sent “to the inhabitants of Kirjath-jearim, saying, The Philistines have brought again the ark of the Lord; come ye down, and fetch it up to you” (6:21)

Closing thoughts: The LORD guided the cows pulling the cart bearing the Ark from Ekron, to His people in Beth-shemesh, and the lords of the Philistines were satisfied that all they had suffered was from Israel’s God (6:16). Sadly, the indiscreet people of Beth-shemesh, a Levite town, violated the law (Numbers 4:20), and by looking inside the Ark, defiled its holy nature.

“Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?” (6:20)

The slain of Beth-shemesh serve as a reminder of God’s holiness, and judgment. Rightly, the Ark of the LORD was returned to Israel, and sovereignly, God had prepared a man to call the nation to repent, and turn to Him. His name was Samuel.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith