Category Archives: Elderly

The Gifts of the Rich Paled in Comparison to the Widow’s Offering (Mark 12; Matthew 23)

Scripture reading – Mark 12; Matthew 23

The Synoptic Gospels

Continuing our chronological Scripture reading in the Gospels, we notice again the beauty of the Synoptic Gospels. Each writer complemented the others with his own remembrance or understanding of Christ’s miracles, teachings and conversations. Matthew, also known as Levi (who may have been of the tribe of Levi), wrote to the Jews of his day who had a knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures.

Mark’s gospel seems to have been written to a non-Jewish audience, as he puts forth effort to explain biblical practices and traditions. Most likely Mark was writing to a Roman audience. Luke, thought to be a Gentile by birth, addressed his gospel to a man whom he addressed as “most excellent Theophilus” (1:3). Scholars are generally in agreement that Luke’s audience was Greek-speaking. Finally, John’s Gospel, not one of the synoptics, was written to all men and women, and declared Jesus is the Son of God (John 3:16). Together, Matthew, Mark, and Luke give what might be described as a three-dimensional portrait of Christ’s life and ministry.

Our Scripture reading in Mark chapter 12, is parallel to what we have read in Matthew 21-22 and Luke 20. For instance, Mark recorded the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (12:1-12), which we have considered in Matthew 21:33-36 and Luke 20:9-19. The question posed by the Pharisees and Herodians regarding civil and religious authority is found in the synoptic gospels (Mark 12:13-17; Matthew 22:15-22; and Luke 20:20-26). There is also the challenge of the Sadducees concerning the resurrection in Mark 12:18-27 (as it was in Matthew 22:23-33 and Luke 20:27-38. Even the question, “What is the greatest commandment?” is reiterated in Mark 12:28-34 (Matthew 22:34-40 and Luke 10:25-37).

For our devotional, I invite you to direct your attention to a story known widely as “The Widow’s Mite,” but one I will subtitle: “A Portrait of Consecration” (Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4). Remember, we are in the midst of Christ’s final week before the Cross.

Mark 12 – A Portrait of Giving

Mark wrote, “Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much” (12:41). The treasury of the Temple is believed to have been located in a large room known as the “Court of the Women.” Jesus sat and observed the rich bringing their offerings, and making a great fanfare of the size or amount of their gifts (Matthew 6:1-2). As He looked on, a poor widow came to the Temple to worship the LORD with her offering that was no more than “two mites, which make a farthing” (12:42).

Who was this widow? Why did one who gave so little, become an object lesson for giving one’s offering?

There are several items we might note concerning the widow. The obvious, she was alone, and described as a “poor widow” (12:42). Vulnerable, perhaps childless (or at least without one who cared to accompany her to the Temple), and lowly. Assuming the literal meaning of what it meant to be “poor,” she lived in an impoverished state. Perhaps with a haggard countenance, and in tattered robes she came to the Temple to cast into the treasury “two mites” (the smallest Jewish coin), which together was equal to a small brass coin known as a farthing(12:42).

Closing thoughts – You might wonder, “So what?” Herein is a wonderful truth: The widow’s offering was a great sacrifice in proportion to her means, and Christ looked upon her gift with admiration. She had given what she could not spare, while the rich gave out of their abundance (12:43-44). She “cast in all that she had, even all her living” (12:44). Giving up her right to use her two mites for her needs, she chose to trust God to provide. Think about it: For all eternity, the poor widow will be commended, not for the size of her gift, but for her faith and sincere devotion.

Lesson – When we give as the LORD would have us give, God’s heart is moved with compassion.

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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Elijah’s Departure, and Elisha’s Promotion (2 Kings 2)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 2

“And it came to pass,” and with those words, so began the last stage of the prophet Elijah’s life. After a long, and courageous ministry as God’s prophet to Israel, the day of promotion had come, for “the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal” (2:1).

Elijah’s Final Journey (2:2-9a)

Elisha, the man chosen by the LORD to be His prophet to Israel, was with Elijah at Gilgal, when the old prophet said, “Tarry here, I pray thee; for the Lord hath sent me to Beth-el” (2:a). Elisha, however, protested, and said, “As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Beth-el” (2:2b).

Elijah and Elisha journeyed from Gilgal (the ancient place where Israel had first encamped in the Promised Land, Joshua 5:9), and they came to Bethel where Elijah was met by “the sons (or a company) of the prophets” (2:3). The prophets asked Elisha, “Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head to day?” (2:3b). Elisha acknowledged he was aware the old prophet would soon depart, and perhaps with a heavy heart answered, “Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace” (2:3).

Departing Bethel, Elijah offered Elisha to stay at Bethel, but the young prophet declared, “As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho” (2:4). At Jericho, that ancient oasis in the desert, Elijah was met by a company of prophets who queried Elisha, “Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace” (2:5).

Elijah once again prevailed upon Elisha to stay at Jericho, “for the Lord hath sent me to Jordan [River]” (2:6). Again, Elisha would not remain behind, and insisted on journeying with Elisha to the Jordan (2:6). Departing from Jericho, the prophets of that town followed Elijah and Elisha from a distance, and observed the waters of the river part when Elijah struck the river with his mantle (2:9).

Elisha’s Request (2:9b-10).

The two prophets stood on the western shore of the Jordan, and Elijah questioned his young protégé, “Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee” (2:9b). Knowing he would soon face the challenge of being the prophet to Israel without Elijah, Elisha made a bold, but insightful request, and said, “I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me” (2:9c). Feeling the weight of his calling, and the responsibility of facing a rebellious people without his mentor, Elisha’s request for a double anointing of the Spirit’s power was an acknowledgement that his task was beyond his strength and ability. Elijah assured Elisha, should God give him opportunity to see him taken up to heaven, then his request for a “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit would be granted (2:10).

Elijah’s Glorious Departure (2:11-13)

Continuing their journey, suddenly the heavens opened and “a chariot of fire, and horses of fire” appeared, “and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2:11). Showing his affection for Elijah, Elisha cried out to the old prophet, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof” (2:12). In an act of sorrow, Elisha tore his clothes, and then “took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him” (2:13).

Three Miracles Confirmed God’s Anointing on Elisha (2:14-25)

Standing on the shore of the Jordan, Elisha took Elijah’s mantle, struck the river, and said, “Where is the LordGod of Elijah?” (2:14). The waters parted, and Elisha went to the other side (2:14). Seeing Elisha perform the same miracle as Elijah, the prophets exclaimed, “The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha” (2:15).

Having sought, but not finding Elijah (2:16-18), some men of Jericho came to Elisha contending the water of that city was bad, and the ground was infertile. Elisha went to the spring that watered the oasis, and casting in salt, the water was purified (2:19-22).

The third miracle was a tragic one, for as Elisha approached Bethel, young children came out of the city, “and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head [perhaps in the manner it was said Elijah had gone up to heaven]” (2:23). Elisha rebuked the children “in the name of the LORD” (2:24). Immediately, “there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them”(2:24).

Closing thoughts – The LORD left no doubt that Elisha was a man of God, and He sternly defended the honor of His prophet. We do not know the homes from which those children came, but they did not manifest a fear of the God of Israel, and together they taunted and scorned His servant. Tragic as it was for 42 children of that city to be struck down, it was nevertheless and act of justice that sent throughout Israel the news: There was a prophet in Israel, and his name was Elisha.

God’s will is for His servants to be respected, and we read, “Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father” (1 Timothy 5:1). Let no believer take lightly the consequences of failing to render “honour to whom honour” is due (Romans 13:7).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 19; 2 Chronicles 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Chronicles 20

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Sovereignty and Providences of God (1 Kings 15)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 15

A personal note: Though vitally important, do not be overwhelmed by the names of kings and queens in Judah and Israel. I would rather you be reminded that the same God who was sovereign in the lives of Israel’s kings and queens is also at work in our lives today.

Though the world around us may be in chaos, we can be confident our God is sovereign!

Why is that important? Because the will of God and His purpose will be accomplished. Understanding the providences of God in history emboldens us to trust Him, knowing He is ever at work in our lives. The LORD is not like man, who ever-changes with the times and seasons. God is immutable. He is Almighty, and unchangeable (Malachi 3:6a). He is perfect in all His ways, and what He says, He will do (Numbers 23:19). James wrote, there is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning” in the LORD (James 1:17). The author of Hebrews avowed, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Look beyond the personalities in today’s Scripture reading (1 Kings 15), and see the hand of God.

1 Kings 15

1 Kings 15 records a succession of kings that reigned over Israel and Judah. Rehoboam, the king of Judah, died and his son Abijam was crowned king, though he reigned only three years (15:1-2). Abijam [his name is stated as “Abijah” in 2 Chronicles] continued in the sins of Solomon and Rehoboam (15:3-8). His life was cut short, and his son Asa ascended to the throne of Judah (15:8) and reigned forty-one years in Jerusalem (15:10).

The Reign of Asa (15:9-24)

The reign of Asa was a glorious time in Judah, and the young king began leading the nation back to the LORD (15:11). The sodomites (homosexual prostitutes) had found refuge in Judah during Rehoboam’s reign (15:12), however, Asa drove them out of Judah (15:12). Even Maachah, Asa’s grandmother and the widow of Rehoboam, who was the mother of Abijam, was not spared the reforms of Asa. Maachah “had made an idol in a grove; and Asa destroyed her idol, and deposed her as queen mother (15:13). While he was not a perfect man, he had a heart that “was perfect with the LORD all his days” (15:14).

Unholy Alliance (15:16-24)

A contemporary of king Asa was Baasha, who became the king of the northern ten Tribes known as Israel (15:16). Baasha was determined to make war against Judah, and he built the fortress of Ramah to trouble Jerusalem (located only some five miles north of Jerusalem, 15:17).

Regrettably, Asa addressed the troubles he had with Baasha, by seeking a treaty with Benhadad king of Syria. Asa emptied the treasuries of the Temple, and his own treasury to pay for a league with Syria (15:18-21). As we will learn in 2 Chronicles 16, Asa’s decision to align himself with the king of Syria was not the will of the LORD (2 Chronicles 16:7-10). Though his alliance with Benhadad and Syria worked in the immediate, God did not bless Judah’s union and dependence on the heathen. The consequences of that compromise will be observed in our next devotional.

Troubles in Israel: The northern ten Tribes (15:25-34)

A succession of kings followed Jeroboam’s death, who reigned over Israel. Nadab, the son of Jeroboam reigned only three years, and continued in the sins of his father (15:25-26). He was assassinated in the third year of his reign by a man named Baasha, who was of the tribe of Issachar (15:27-28). Fulfilling the prophecy that the lineage of Jeroboam would be cut off for his wickedness, Baasha “smote all the house of Jeroboam (15:29-30). A summary of the kings that ruled in Israel is given in the closing verses of 1 Kings 15, as well as the observation that the pattern of idolatry and wickedness established by Jeroboam, continued (15:34).

Closing thoughts – Asa’s reign had been a glorious one, but like too many older leaders, his compromise in the last years of his life had lasting consequences for Judah. In the 39th year of Asa’s reign, God allowed him to be afflicted with a disease in his feet (15:23; 2 Chronicles 16:12). While I cannot be certain, the affliction might have turned gangrenous, for in his [Asa’s] disease he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians” (2 Chronicles 16:12). King Asa failed to turn his heart to the LORD.

Where do you turn in times of trial, disappointment, and affliction?

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 11, 2 Chronicles 9

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

2 Chronicles 9 (1 Kings 10)

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

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

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

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

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

1 Kings 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith, Pastor

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Remember Thy Creator” (Ecclesiastes 12, 1 Kings 10)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 12, 1 Kings 10

We conclude our study of the Book of Ecclesiastes with a look into the final chapter,  Ecclesiastes 12, and consider a sobering challenge from Solomon. Remember the king commenced this short book by introducing himself as “the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem” (1:1), and brings it to an end by embracing the same title, “the preacher” (12:9, 10). Today’s Scripture reading also includes 1 Kings 10.

An Admonition (Ecclesiastes 12:1-2)

Ecclesiastes 12:1Remember now [Think of; have respect of] thy Creator in the days [years] of thy youth, while the evil days [adversity; troubles; distresses] come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure [delight; desire] in them;

Patterns of life are set in one’s youth, when hearts are generally soft and pliable, and before sins and adversities have given rise to spiritual callousness. Solomon urged his son, “Remember,” think of, meditate on your Creator when you are young. While you have your whole life before you, consider the ONE that made you in His likeness and image, and formed you when you were in your mother’s womb (Genesis 1:27; 2:7-8). Remember your Creator, before you face “evil days,” and adversities plague your life (12:1), that you have no more desire to live.

Ecclesiastes 12:3-7 paints a depressing picture of the future, and old age with its physical ailments and frailties.

Solomon described the coming of a season when the days of a man would be darkened (12:2). Men who were once strong, would shake and “tremble” (12:3a), and become stooped with old age. The picture Solomon painted was of an old man whose teeth (“grinders”) had failed, and whose eyesight was dimmed (“windows be darkened”).

Continuing his depressing description of old age, Solomon described the loneliness of the elderly. Their lives become like a village whose doors are shut (none are coming or going), and streets are silent (12:4a). The “grinding is low” (perhaps the grinding or milling of grain), and if not for the “voice [or crowing] of the bird,” there would be no reason to awaken, for work has ceased (12:4b). Where there was once the exuberance of daughters, there is silence instead (12:4c).

Fear takes hold of an old man apart from the LORD (12:5a). His “desire [appetite]” fails (12:5c), and mourners gather in expectation of his death, for he “goeth to his long [future] home” (12:5d). Bible scholars suggest Ecclesiastes 12:6 describes the physical decline of the elderly, the failure of their circulatory system, and the imminence of death. Solomon wrote, the “wheel is broken at the cistern” (and is no more), the lifeless body returns to “dust,” and the “spirit [of the man] shall return unto God who gave it” (12:7; Genesis 3:17-19).

The physical body of man goes to the grave until the resurrection of the dead, but the spirit of man is eternal. The spirit of lost sinners will be judged, and condemned to everlasting punishment (2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 20:11-15). The spirit of the saved shall dwell in the presence of the LORD forever (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 3:20-21). It is true, that apart from God, life is a vapor, and “all is vanity” (James 4:14; 12:8).

Did Solomon Repent in His Last Days? (12:8-12)

Though he strayed far from the LORD in his later years (1 Kings 11), it seems Solomon returned to his longing for the LORD, being mindful He would give account of his life. Solomon once again took up the mantle of the “preacher,” and “taught [instructed] the people knowledge…and set in order [set straight] many proverbs” (12:9). With urgency, the king studied, and “sought to find out acceptable words…even words of truth” (12:10). He comprehended “the words of the wise are as goads,” for they prick, and convict (12:11).

What were the “goads” that were as “nails fastened by the masters” (12:11)? They were the “words of truth” (12:10), being God’s Laws and Commandments (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and were “given from One Shepherd,” Who was the LORD Himself (12:11; Hebrews 13:20; John 10:3-4).

An Epilogue: “Fear God, and Keep His Commandments” (12:13-14)

Solomon concluded his ponderings, by summoning the attention of all who would hear:

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 – Let us hear [Listen; obey; publish] the conclusion [end] of the whole matter [account; speaking]: Fear [Revere] God, and keep [observe] His commandments [Laws; Precepts]: for this is the whole duty[purpose] of man.
14  For God shall bring every work [act; deed] into judgment, with every secret thing [hidden; concealed], whether it be good [right], or whether it be evil [sin; wickedness].

Closing thoughts – When youth are not guided by spiritual principles, they squander their lives on sinful indulgences that inevitably leave them with sorrow laden souls. To my youthful readers, I exhort: Enjoy your youth, remember your Creator, but know “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”(Hebrews 9:27).

To parents and grandparents: I urge you to remember, fear, and revere your Creator. Conform your life to the likeness of Christ, and reflect in your attitudes and actions His Laws and Commandments.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 7; Ecclesiastes 8

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

Ecclesiastes 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Time Marches On” (Ecclesiastes 3)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 3

The word “Ecclesiastes” is a word for a public assembly or congregation, and a record of the ponderings of the wisest of men, King Solomon. Rather than a book of happy reflections, Solomon bares his heart and gives us opportunity to consider the soul of a man whose lusts had taken him far from the LORD. In a statement of the obvious, Solomon writes,

Ecclesiastes 3:1 – “To every thing there is a season [a time appointed], and a time to every purpose [matter; pleasure] under the heaven [sky].”

As a youth, I could not grasp what old folks meant when they remarked, “time is flying.” I have come to realize time does indeed fly. Sometimes, I catch myself reflecting on former days, and seasons of life that have passed. Whether physically, or in my thoughts, I go back and visit places that held meaning when I was young. Familiar places hold precious, memories. The names of deceased loved ones still resonate in my heart. Familiar names and faces, long silenced by death, echo in my thoughts, and I am reminded, there is “a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted” (3:2).

Solomon drew several analogies in today’s text, and each began with “a time,” and all bring us to the conclusion that time is passing (3:3-8). And so, the king who had assessed life as “vanity and vexation of spirit” (2:26), asked his readers, 9What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?” (3:9).

Man’s life apart from God is aimless, and pointless. (3:10-11)

We might sum up Solomon’s observations with an exclamation, “What’s the use?” The king observed, “I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised [troubled] in it” (3:10). The king had seen the troubles, trials and travails that God allows to come upon men. Though He had created everything good, and beautiful (3:11), and set in man’s heart a longing for eternity, it was the entrance of sin into the world that brought the curse of God’s judgment upon man and creation (Genesis 3:17-19).

God has placed in man’s heart the reality of eternity, and a longing He alone can satisfy. (3:12-14)

Though born under the curse of sin, and therefore mortal, man longs for immortality (3:12; Romans 6:23a). That men are able to enjoy the fruits of their labors, is a testimony of God’s grace and favor (3:13); however, all that men build apart from God (wealth, fame, legacies, buildings, monuments) is temporal and passing. Only what God has ordered and blessed will endure. “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear [revere; be afraid] before him” (3:14).

God’s Sovereign Courtroom (3:15-17)

The preacher’s focus then turned to a courtroom where God presided as judge, and Solomon observed the LORD was judge of the wicked and the righteous (3:16). The New Testament reveals there will indeed be two judgments. Revelation 20:11-15 gives us God’s prophetic revelation of the Great White Throne, where the LORD will judge the lost who rejected Christ’s sacrifice for their sins by His death, burial and resurrection. The righteous, those who placed their faith in Christ’s substitutionary death for their sins, will be judged according to their works at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). Solomon understood there would be a day when all men would be judged by God (3:17).

The Destinies of Men and Beast (3:18-22)

I have been asked by some who were particularly fond of their pets, where their spirit might go after death. Many have had pets who were great companions, and it is only natural that the same soul that longs for eternal life, would also long for those they love to enjoy the same, even their pets.

Solomon observed that death eventually befalls man and beast (3:19-20). The curse of sin is death, and “we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together” (Romans 8:22). Man, and beast eventually go to the grave, for “all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again” (3:20).

But what about the spirit of man, and the spirit of the beast? Solomon writes, “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” (3:21) The spirit of man, and the spirit of beasts are not the same. The beasts of the earth were created by the spoken word of God (Genesis 1:25); however, God made man (Genesis 1:26-27), and “formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7).

Unlike beasts, the breath of God gave man life, and an eternal soul. When beasts die, they cease to exist and their spirit “goeth downward to the earth (3:21). When a man dies, his spirit “goeth upward” (3:21), and “shall return unto God who gave it” (12:7).

Closing thoughts – God who “made every thing beautiful in his time [season]” and put “the world [lit. eternity]in [our] heart [mind; thoughts] (3:11). Only God can satisfy the soul. Will you not turn from your sin, and trust the LORD’S provision of salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ? (1 John 5:13)

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

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Living a Purposeful Life (Ecclesiastes 1; Ecclesiastes 2)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 1; Ecclesiastes 2

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

Ecclesiastes 2 – Some Things Have Not Changed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

King David’s Farewell (1 Chronicles 28-29)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 28-29

We began our study of the life of David in 1 Samuel 16, and were first introduced to him as the youngest son of Jesse, a Bethlehemite, and a shepherd of his father’s sheep. None who knew David, including his father, would have imagined this lad of a boy was destined to become one of the most pivotal figures in human history.

David had been chosen by God (for the LORD recognized in him as man after His own heart, 1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). He had been anointed by Samuel, who had been admonished, “the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Our recent Scripture readings have followed David’s last days on the earth, for he was “old and full of days, [and]he [had] made Solomon his son king over Israel (1 Chronicles 23:1). Rather than bemoaning the frailty of old age, he had busied himself preparing the plans and acquiring the materials necessary for Solomon to build a Temple to the LORD. David numbered the Levites, and divided them according to their ministries in the Temple (1 Chronicles 23-26). He had also numbered and organized his military by divisions (1 Chronicles 27).

Today’s Scripture reading (1 Chronicles 28-29), brings us to David’s final challenge to the people of his beloved Israel.

1 Chronicles 28 – David’s Final Preparations

Summoning all the leaders of his kingdom (28:1), the king shared with them how he had longed “to build an house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and for the footstool of our God, and had made ready for the building” (28:2). God had denied him the privilege to build the Temple, because he had been “a man of war, and [had] shed blood” (28:3). Accepting God had chosen Solomon, to build a house for the LORD, David had poured himself into its preparations (28:4-6).

David’s Challenge to Solomon (28:9-21)

With the people serving as his witness (28:4), David charged Solomon to seek and obey the LORD (28:9). Solomon’s dominant task was to build the LORD a house, according to the pattern, and with the materials the king had prepared, and provided for the building (28:10-12). No detail was unimportant, and no expense was to be spared (28:14-18). The Temple would be unlike any building ever constructed, for “said David, the Lord made me understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern” (28:19).

1 Chronicles 28 concludes with David challenging Solomon: “Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the Lord God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord” (28:20).

1 Chronicles 29 – David’s Final Acts as King

The author of this first chronicle of Israel’s history has presented God as the Creator of Adam, the first man (1 Chronicles 1:1), and the Savior of Noah’s family in the great flood (1:4-17).  It was also revealed that God had chosen Shem, Noah’s son (1:17), and of his lineage Abraham was born (1:27). God had established His covenant with Abraham, that was later fulfilled in Jesus Christ, “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1).

David’s Challenge to Israel (29:1)

David reigned forty years as Israel’s king (29:27) and his final appeal to the leaders of the nation was recorded in 1 Chronicles 29. The king reminded the leaders and the people that God had chosen Solomon to succeed him as king. Nevertheless, David reminded the people that his son was “young and tender [inexperienced], and the work…great: for the palace [Temple] is not for man, but for the LORD God” (29:1).

Leading by Example: David’s Testimony (29:2-5)

David had given liberally and enthusiastically for the building of the Temple (29:2-5). Following the king’s example, the leaders of the nation “offered willingly” (29:6-9). Witnessing the spirit of their king and leaders, the people had “offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the LORD: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy” (29:9).

A Doxology of Praise, and A Prayer of Intercession for Solomon (29:9b-19)

A beautiful benediction of praise and worship is recorded when David rehearsed God’s blessings on Israel (29:10-13) in light of God’s grace (29:14-15). Remembering his humble beginnings, David prayed: “14  But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort [remember, David was a son of a shepherd]? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee. 15  For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow [shade; temporal; passing], and there is none abiding [no hope in this life]” (1 Chronicles 29:14-15).

Knowing the great task his son would face after his death, David prayed: “Give unto Solomon my son a perfect heart, to keep thy commandments, thy testimonies, and thy statutes, and to do all these things, and to build the palace [Temple], for the which I have made provision” (29:19).

David’s Final Charge to Israel (29:20-22)

David’s last words moved the hearts of the people to bow their heads, and humble their hearts before the LORD (29:20). The people then sealed their confessions with offerings and sacrifices (29:21). Although he had been crowned king at an earlier time (23:1), the people affirmed Solomon a second time as king, and also anointed “Zadok to be priest” (29:22).

Solomon Ascended His Father’s Throne (29:23-25)

God would answer David’s prayer, and “the LORD magnified Solomon exceedingly in the sight of all Israel, and bestowed upon him such royal majesty as had not been on any king before him in Israel” (29:25).

David’s Obituary (29:26-30)

David reigned as king for forty years (29:26-27). He ruled Judah for seven years, and was king of a united Israel for thirty-three years. Altogether, his life was summed up in this simple obituary: “He died in a good old age, full of days [he enjoyed life], riches [he had become wealthy], and honour [and been blessed]: and Solomon his son reigned in his stead” (29:28).

Closing thoughts – All men and women will die, but few die having lived a full life that has been blessed, and bears the honor of God’s blessings as the crowning achievement.

What about your legacy? What will be said of your life and character when you have passed?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith