Category Archives: Faith

Israel, Behold Your King Cometh!

September 22, 2017

Scripture Reading – Amos 5-9

Remembering the distinction between Israel, the northern kingdom made up of ten tribes, and Judah, the southern kingdom consisting of two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, Amos takes up the prophecy of the LORD against Israel in Amos 5.

God’s condemnation and exposure of Israel’s hypocrisy gives way to His lamentation over the judgment and sorrows that will soon come upon the people (5:1-3).   Though the heart of the nation was to do evil, nevertheless the LORD appealed to Israel to hear, heed and repent (5:4, 6, 8, 14-15)!

Amos names the sins of the nation…unjust and rejecting righteousness (5:7), hating bearers of truth (5:10), abusing the poor (5:11), afflicting the righteous and taking bribes (5:12).   Pronouncements of “Woe!” bring the chapter to a close (5:18-27).  The people had continued to make a pretense of outward conformity (5:21-22), but God knew their hearts and the prophet condemns their hypocrisy [note verse 23 – Even their songs had the character of noise].

Amos 6 continues the prophet’s declarations of “woes”, against Israel, identified as Samaria, and Judah, identified as Zion (6:1).  Identifying Philistine and Syrian cities that had fallen to the Assyrian army, Amos questioned if Israel and Judah were foolish enough to believe the same would not soon befall them? (5:2)

In spite of the clouds of doom on the horizon, the people continued to indulge themselves, resting on “beds of ivory”, eating “the lambs out of the flock”; entertaining themselves with music, drunkenness and reveling in pleasures till they were carried into captivity bearing the chains of slavery (6:4-7).

In Amos 7-8, the prophet states six prophetic visions; five of judgment and the 6th of the day God will establish His heavenly kingdom. 

The first judgment is of grasshoppers (Amos 7:1-3) – God planned to bring locusts to devour the people’s second harvest; however, God heard Amos’ plea for the people and the “LORD repented” [that does not mean God planned to do evil or changed His attitude toward the evil of His people; it means He is longsuffering and changed His mind after hearing the plea of His servant].

The second judgment is one of fire (Amos 7:4-6) – Fire drying up water is a picture of the drought God planned to bring against His people.  Once again, God heard the intercession of His prophet and “repented” (7:6).

The third judgment is the plumb line (Amos 7:7-9) – The plumb line is a tool used by a builder to make sure a wall is straight.  God’s plumb line of judgment is His Law.  Seeing the plumb line of God’s Law and Commandments and the failure of the people measured by the Law of God, Amos did not intercede for the nation.

Amos 7 reminds us faithful preachers who declare the Word of God often find themselves in conflict with government and religious authorities.

Jeroboam, the wicked king of Israel (the northern 10 tribes), appointed Amaziah to serve as “the priest of Bethel” and to offer sacrifices.  Hearing the words of Amos and his bold declaration of the prophecies of the LORD against Israel and the king, Amaziah counseled there was no place for Amos in Israel (7:10-11).   Rather than hearing and heeding the message God had given His prophet, both Amaziah and the king wanted the prophet silenced (7:12-13).   Rehearsing God’s call upon his life, Amos set his heart he would not be silent and boldly declared God’s judgment (7:14-17).

The fourth judgment is a picture of fruit harvested at the end of summer, expressing the imminent judgment of God (8:1-14).

The fifth and final judgment prophesied by Amos is a vision of a temple destroyed (most likely not the one in Jerusalem, but the idolatrous one established in Samaria) and worshippers slain in the destruction (Amos 9:1-10).

The words of Amos would come to pass.  Israel, the northern kingdom consisting of ten tribes, was the first taken captive, scattered “among all nations” and never to return to Canaan (9:9).   Judah, the southern kingdom consisting of Judah and Benjamin, is promised, “I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob” (9:8).  Seventy years after Judah was taken captive, the people were allowed to return to their land, rebuild the temple and Jerusalem (9:11-15).

Amos 9 concludes with God’s promise to one day restore God’s people to their land and place upon the throne of David a legitimate heir. 

An observation as I close: A legitimate heir of David has not sat upon the throne of Israel since the time of the captivity to our day.  The Jews have returned to their homeland, but no king reigns in Israel.  When a legitimate heir of Israel sits on the throne of David He will be none other than Jesus Christ, Son of David, the Only begotten Son of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Four Traits of a Happy Man

September 20, 2017

Scripture Reading – Psalms 111-113

The psalms in today’s scripture reading begin with the same opening theme and call to worship— “Praise ye the LORD” (Psalms 111:1; 112:1; 113:1).  In essence, to “Praise ye the LORD” is to boast of Him; glory in Him; celebrate the LORD for He is Yahweh, Jehovah, God Eternal!

Psalm 111 begins with a vow to “…praise [give thanks] the LORD with my whole heart…” (111:1b).  Sincere praise of the LORD arises from a trusting, undivided heart.  The psalmist’s meditations on the LORD reflected on His works…the wonder and expanse of His creation (111:2), “His righteousness”— He is just, and “is gracious and full of compassion” (111:4b).

Psalm 112, like Psalm 111, begins with a word of praise to the LORD and an affirmation that the man who “feareth” [trembles; reveres] the LORD is “Blessed” [happy] because he “delighteth [desires; takes pleasure] greatly in his commandments [Law; ordinances; precepts]” (112:1).

We find four traits of a “Happy” man in Psalm 112.   A “Happy” man is Blessed (112:1), Upright (112:4), Good (112:5-6a) and Righteous (112:7-9).

He is Blessed because he is the object of God’s grace (i.e. unmerited favor).

Because he “feareth the LORD” (lit. reveres the name and rejoices in the character of the LORD) and “delighteth greatly in His commandments” (112:1c), such a man finds the Law and Commandments of the LORD a delight (Psalm 1:1-2) and the overflow of God’s grace in His life affects his family (112:2).

Secondly, a “Happy” man is “Upright”, meaning just, righteous, a man who fears and reveres the LORD (112:4).  The “upright” are not exempt from dark days: they suffer sickness, deaths of loved ones, disappointments, betrayal of friends and broken promises; however, they have the assurance: “there ariseth light in the darkness” (112:4a).   David wrote from his experience, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

Believers go through dark times; however, they have assurance the light of the LORD will pierce the darkness.  Having experienced darkness and God’s grace, believers are “gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous” (112:4b).   Why are the upright inclined to be “gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous”?  Because they reflect the character of the God they love and serve!

Psalm 111:4 – “He [the LORD] hath made His wonderful works to be remembered: the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.”

Because they have known God’s light in the midst of darkness, the upright are gracious….kind to the needy and forgiving; full of compassion…merciful and tender.

Thirdly, a “Happy” man is a “good man” (112:5).

We notice four things about a “good” man’s character:  1) He is gracious in demeanor (pleasant and pleasing);  2) He is generous (“lendeth” to those in need);  3) He exercises “good sense”, guiding “his affairs with discretion” (112:5);  4) He is well “grounded” for “he [good man] shall not be moved for ever” (112:6).

The fourth and final trait of a “Happy” man is he is “righteous” (112:7-9).  Consider three qualities of this righteous man:

1) He is fearless… “he shall not be afraid of evil tidings” (112:7a) for he has a settled confidence in the LORD.

2) His heart is firm… “fixed, trusting in the LORD’ (112:7b) and “he shall not be afraid” (112:8b).

3) He is freehearted, generous, giving to the poor (112:9); he is not a hoarder of riches, but a steward of God’s blessings and a conduit ministering to those in need.

What is the response of the wicked to a man who is Blessed, Upright, Good and RighteousEnvy!

Psalm 112:10 – The wicked shall see [look; behold; regard] it, and be grieved [troubled; angry]; he shall gnash [i.e. grate or grind] with his teeth, and melt away [faint; be discouraged]: the desire [longing; greed] of the wicked [immoral; ungodly] shall perish [be destroyed].”

What do the wicked see in the “Blessed” man that provokes anger and grieves them?  Their joy! The joy and happiness of the godly is a grief to the wicked who grind their teeth like rabid dogs and “melt away”… consumed by their anger (112:10c).

In the words of King David, “For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish” (Psalm 1:6).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

If You Had One Wish…What Would You Choose?

September 19, 2017

Scripture Reading – 2 Chronicles 1-5

We come today to a new history book in our daily reading in the Old Testament.  2 Chronicles, like 1 Chronicles, are parallel books of 1 Kings and 2 Kings.   While 1 Kings and 2 Kings are written from the viewpoint of man; 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles, covering the same age as the Book of Kings, are written from God’s perspective.

1 Chronicles concluded with King David’s benediction on his life and exhortation for Israel to give allegiance to Solomon as king and support him in the greatest undertaking of his life and reign as king…building a Temple for the LORD in Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 29:1-25).   With understated fanfare, David, Israel’s greatest king, “died in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honour: and Solomon his son reigned in his stead” (1 Chronicles 29:28).

2 Chronicles opens with Solomon sitting on his father’s throne and the power and blessing of God resting upon him (2 Chronicles 1:1).   Solomon began his reign where all men should begin their day…he worshipped the LORD (1:2-6).   God appeared to Solomon “and said unto him, Ask what I shall give thee” (1:7).

What an incredible proposition!  Solomon, ask what you will and I shall give thee!  I wonder, what would you request should you have opportunity to ask for something, for anything, and it would be granted?    Would you ask for riches?  Possessions?  Power?  Popularity?  Fame?   The answer to that question reveals a lot about your character!

Solomon’s humble request no doubt puts us all to shame!  His request was not for those things which is the pursuit of carnal, worldly-minded men.   Solomon’s desire revealed a heart of deep humility.

2 Chronicles 1:10 –  “Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this thy people, that is so great?”

God commended Solomon for his request and promised to reward him with not only wisdom and knowledge, but also “riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like” (1:12).   The closing verses of 2 Chronicles 1 reveal the vastness of Solomon’s wealth as the LORD blessed him as He had promised.

2 Chronicles 2–4 gives us the record of Solomon directing the building of the Temple as his father David had instructed him.  The design, the carvings of wood and the gold that overlaid the walls and doors made the Temple Solomon built one of the great wonders of the ancient world.

With the Temple complete (5:1), Solomon directed the golden vessels assembled by his father David and the ark, representing the earthly presence of God among His people, be brought to the Temple (5:2-9).   With the ark in the “holy place”, the people celebrated with singing, trumpets and cymbals praising the Lord, saying, “For He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever” (5:13).

Having reflected on the glorious beginning of Solomon’s reign and his humility before the LORD; it saddens me to recall the spiritual and moral failures that would overshadow his accomplishments, wisdom and knowledge.  Of Solomon, we read:

1 Kings 11:3-4 – “And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. 4  For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.”

That same truth has played out in the lives of some I have known.  Too many saints go to their graves, remembered, not for their accomplishments, but for the tragedy of their moral failures.

Friend, don’t allow that to be true of you; discipline your heart, thoughts, eyes and affections.   Follow Job’s example:

Job 31:1 – “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

LOOK AND LIVE!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 21-24

The historical context of today’s scripture reading, Numbers 21-24, finds Israel near the end her 40-year sojourn in the wilderness after she left Egypt.   The generation that departed Egypt and refused to trust the LORD to enter Canaan and possess it had perished.  Miriam, Moses’ sister, died in the opening verse of Numbers 20 (20:1) and Aaron, his brother and the high priest of Israel, died in the closing verses of Numbers 20 (20:28).

The final six months of Israel’s 40 years wandering in the wilderness is the setting of Numbers 21 where we find Israel murmuring against Moses and the LORD (21:4-5).  Like their parents who had perished in the desert, this new generation followed the sinful, faithless pattern of their fathers and mothers, became discouraged and accused God and Moses of leading them “out of Egypt to die in the wilderness” (21:5).

The LORD answered their murmuring with “fiery [poisonous] serpents” and “much of the people of Israel died” (21:6).   Chastened by the LORD, the people confessed their sin and asked Moses to intercede and pray the LORD  would “take away the serpents” (20:7).

God answered Moses’ prayer and provided a way of salvation, instructing His servant to fashion a serpent of brass and suspend it in the air above the people (21:8).  The LORD promised, if the people looked upon the brass serpent they would live (21:9).  It was that same symbol Jesus referred to when He foretold His own sacrificial death on the cross when He said:

John 3:14-16“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: [15] That whosoever believeth in Him [Jesus Christ] should not perish, but have eternal life.  [16] For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

My friend, as the brass serpent suspended on a pole was the object God provided for Israel to look to and be spared death, Jesus Christ is the answer for the curse of sin of all sinners.

The invitation to Israel is the invitation to all…Look to the Cross…See with eyes of faith Jesus Christ crucified for your sin…and Live.

1 John 5:11-13 – “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
12  He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
13  These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”

LOOK and LIVE!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Performing Faith: The Life of Corrie ten Boom” – Sunday, October 8

Dear Hillsdale and Heart of a Shepherd Followers,

The troubles and trials suffered by our nation in recent weeks in the wake of Hurricane Harvey (Texas) and Hurricane Irma (FL and GA) and the violent protests of anarchists on college campuses and in major cities threatening our Freedom of Speech, moved me to invite Dr. Melissa Cancel and her students to revive for one Sunday morning performance the play, “Performing Faith: The Life of Corrie ten Boom”.

Because the play is so powerful and moving, I have taken the unusual step of scheduling it for 10:30 AM, Sunday, October 8, 2017 in Hillsdale’s auditorium.

The testimony of Corrie ten Boom’s faith in a Nazi concentration camp is nothing short of inspiring and convicting.  Her’s was a testimony of faith, perseverance, humility, and confidence in God’s mercy and grace.

Dr. Melissa Cancel is the director of the Chamber theater production and stars in the production as Corrie ten Boom.  Performing with her are four of Hillsdale’s teens who are students in Dr. Cancel’s Speech and Drama studio.

There is no cost for admission and I encourage you to invite family and friends to see this moving drama of life and faith set in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp for women, located in Nazi Germany, 1939-1945.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

 

“Slay the Three-headed Monster: Gluttony, Booze and Self-indulgence”

September 14, 2017

Scripture Reading – Proverbs 23-24

Proverbs 23-24 is our scripture reading for today as we continue to mine truths found in this book one author described as “Common Sense in Overalls” (source unknown).   The principles and precepts found in Proverbs leave no room for ambiguity if one believes Solomon wrote exactly what the Holy Spirit directed him to write (2 Peter 1:21).  Today’s devotional commentary focuses on Proverbs 23:20-21 and Proverbs 23:29-32.

Proverbs 23:20  “Be not among winebibbers [drunken; heavy drinkers]; among riotous eaters [gluttons; squanderers] of flesh:”

Solomon addressed a pattern of sin that has been the ruin of the greatest of men and women—drunkenness and gluttony.   American families are a tragic testimony of excess in each.   A 2009 survey found 63.1% of Americans are overweight [there are medical reasons for some; however, the majority cannot take refuge behind that defense].   Gluttony is not only sinful (Proverbs 23:2; Philippians 3:19); it is a leading cause for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, cancers and arthritis.  As a nation, we are eating ourselves to death!

Believers are not only guilty of gluttony, there is a growing number of believers trivializing imbibing in wine and alcohol.   Championing Christian liberty, some pastors are leading their families and congregations to accept wine and alcohol proving the adage: Liberty for one becomes a license for another.

Wonder what those torchbearers of “liberty” will say to parents burying a child killed in an alcohol related accident?   What rationalizations will they offer when a vice they approved leads a family to the morass of abuse and addiction?

Proverbs 23:21  “For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty [driven to poverty]: and drowsiness [sleepiness; indolence; slumber] shall clothe [dress] a man with rags.”

Solomon observed that a man given to excesses of drunkenness and gluttony tends to laziness [i.e. “drowsiness”] and follows a path to want [“poverty” and “rags”].  Solomon warned his son alcohol may desensitize a soul, but it never solves problems.  A series of six questions describe the sad lot of those given to wine and drunkenness (23:29-30).

Proverbs 23:29-30 – “Who hath woe [grief; despair; cry of lamentations]? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions [strife; brawlings]? who hath babbling [complaints; disparaging talk]? who hath wounds [bruise] without cause [for naught; for no good reason]? who hath redness [dullness, implied from drinking wine] of eyes [sight]? 30 They that tarry long [delay; remain] at the wine [strong drink]; they that go to seek mixed wine [with herbs or honey].”

Those who indulge in strong drink have a penchant for “woe” and “sorrow” or what some today describe as “mental illness” and depression.  The excessive cost of alcohol consumption in the United States in 2006 was estimated to be $223.5 billion.

Of course, we cannot place a dollar amount on alcohol’s human toll.   Solomon described the suffering of alcoholism as “wounds without cause…redness of eyes”.   Failing health, physical and sexual abuses, failed marriages, splintered families, ruined careers, crime, murders and suicides can all be ascribed to drunkenness.   Solomon admonished his son:

Proverbs 23:31-32 – “Look [examine; choose] not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth [walk; behave] itself aright. 32 At the last [in the end] it biteth [sting; strike] like a serpent [viper], and stingeth [wound] like an adder [poisonous serpent].”

The phrase “moveth itself aright” describes the redness of the wine and its sparkle when it is strongest and most alcoholic in content.   Solomon warned his son…don’t look at it; don’t desire and imbibe in wine when it has fermented for it will be like the bite of a poisonous viper when it delivers its mortal wound.

Someone reading today’s devotional will take an exception to my commentary and dismiss Solomon and this simple author.  You indulge your liberty and take solace in others coming to your defense; however, I wonder where those “friends” will be when your son or daughter descends into the dark, dismal hole of sinful indulgence attempting to fill the void and emptiness of their soul with drugs and alcohol?

1 Corinthians 6:9-10  “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10  Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Mass Exodus Out of Florida Returning Home

I want to thank you for your prayers on behalf of Hillsdale Baptist Church, its members and staff who anticipated the arrival of Hurricane Irma.  As our lives are getting back to normal, with the exception of some roof leaks, our church and school buildings are in great shape.  We are praising the LORD our membership suffered little damage as Category 1 and Category 2 winds whipped through our region.  Other than the inconvenience of losing electricity, we are rejoicing in God’s protection.

On a personal note:  In my opinion, sensationalism has become the daily diet of our culture and the mass exodus from Florida before and during Hurricane Irma’s arrival driven in large part to a news media given to hype and ratings.

“Breaking News”, “This Just In”, “Epic” are clichés used ad nauseam by news networks desperately competing for viewership that translates into revenue from advertisers.

The coverage of Hurricane Irma was indeed “epic” and the storm was without a doubt powerful and destructive; however, the news media’s use of images (replayed over and over) along with the hyperbole of exaggeration, ramped up both fear and anxiety that went far beyond the actual threat of the storm.

Citizens of Florida were running from the east coast to the west coast, then back to the east coast in an attempt to flee Irma based on the forecasts of meteorological “experts” that hadn’t a clue where the storm was going to make landfall or the track she would take.  Hundreds of thousands of Floridians fled homes located far from coastal waters and the predicted “surge” only to be overtaken by Irma in their northward flight (apparently, she was not listening to weather prognosticators failing to accurately predict her track even an hour ahead of her eye).

Two days before Irma’s arrival, hoarders emptied grocery shelves of food stocks and water; Gas stations ran out of gas as a panicked population clogged highway arteries.

I am left wondering what happened to the common-sense adage saints use to follow, “Prepare for the worst and pray”.

I believe the inspiration of that saying is Proverbs 21:31.   Solomon advised his son, “The horse is prepared [ready] against the day of battle [war; warfare]: but safety [salvation; deliverance; victory] is of the LORD.”

Believers are to use wisdom and exercise prudence in preparing for trials, troubles and storms (i.e. prepare the horse for battle); however, people of faith, having done all to prepare, must put their faith in the LORD who is Omnipotent and Sovereign, after all, “safety is of the LORD”, is it not?

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith