Category Archives: Family

God’s Call to Holiness

Monday, July 17, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 16-18

After addressing the issue of leprosy (Leviticus 13-14), the opening verse of Leviticus 16 reminds us of a tragedy that occurred in the priesthood when two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, “offered strange [foreign] fire before the LORD, which He commanded [charged] them not” (Leviticus 10:1) and were slain for their sin against the LORD (Leviticus 10:2).

Reminding us the office of high priest was a holy office and Aaron’s ministry before the LORD on behalf of the people was a sacred duty; the LORD instructs Moses the high priest was only to enter the holy place, the “holy of holies”, once a year (16:2) on “the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month” (16:29).   The Day of Atonement, known as “Yom Kippur” and the “Sabbath of Sabbaths”, is the most holy day on the Jewish calendar and was the day the high priest offered sacrifices for nation’s sins against God.

The pattern of blood sacrifices was necessary to remind all sinners the penalty of sin is death and there is no forgiveness of sins apart from the shedding of blood, for “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).

Once a year and every year, the high priest offered sacrifices for the sins of the people.  Under the new covenant, this annual ritual is no longer needed following Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross for sin, His burial and resurrection from the dead. We read in the Book of Hebrews,

Hebrews 9:24-28 – “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
25  Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
26  For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
27  And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
28  So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”

Leviticus 17 continues the LORD’s instructions to Moses concerning sacrifices the priests were to offer for the people before the door of the tabernacle.   Thirteen times in chapter 17 the centrality of blood sacrifices for sin is mentioned and explicit instructions are given regarding the offerings to the LORD, including the prohibition regarding the consumption of blood (17:10-14).   For those curious regarding the meaning of “Kosher” meats; they are meats derived from animals slaughtered and the blood drained according to Biblical guidelines.

Morality and the sanctity of marriage is the subject of Leviticus 18:1-30 and one that should be a subject of teaching in the 21st century church.   Several moral issues are addressed including the prohibition of incest (18:6-19), adultery (18:20; Exodus 20:14), homosexuality (18:22), and bestiality (18:23).

The wicked immoral practices the people might remember from Egypt and the immorality that might observe in the new land were prohibited.  In other words, the world was not to be the standard of God’s people in conduct and lifestyle.  Israel was to not follow in the ways of Egypt and Canaan (Leviticus 18:3; 24-29).  The LORD commanded His people, “Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God” (18:4).  Excommunication from fellowship and living among the people was the judgment against any who chose to walk contrary to the law and commandments (18:29).

Friend, there was a time the church and God’s people set the moral standard for these United States and defined a godly lifestyle according God’s Word, law and commandments.   It troubles me to observe the average Christian home in America has an appetite for the world and looks to society, politicians, judges, and liberal media for their moral judgments.  Our homes, churches and schools will not be blessed until we allow our consciences to be disciplined by God’s Word, law and commandments (18:30).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Beware Wolves in the Midst of Sheep

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Luke 19-20

Today’s devotional reading brings us to Jesus’ last days before Judas’ betrayal, the abandonment of His disciples and His crucifixion.

Luke 19 is rich in much that characterized our LORD’s earthly ministry.  His love for sinners, seen in the story of His meal in the home of Zacchaeus, a despised tax collector of Jericho (19:1-10); His challenge to be faithful and vigilant in His parable of the pounds (19:11027); and His love and sorrow for the citizens of Jerusalem knowing God’s judgment would come on the people and city after they rejected Him (19:28-44).

We find Jesus teaching in the Temple in the opening verses of Luke 20.  His antagonists, the religious leaders of Judaism, confronted Him in the Temple demanding by whose authority He performed miracles and taught the people (20:1-2).  Our beloved LORD, evidencing divine wisdom and insight into the heart of sinners answered their question with a question: “I will also ask you one thing; and answer me: 4  The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?” (Luke 20:3b-4). When the Jewish leaders refused to answer, Jesus responded, “Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things” (Luke 20:8).

Turning from hypocrites masquerading as devout religious men, Jesus taught the people the Parable of the Vineyard (20:9-19) and told the story of servants laboring in their master’s vineyard while he was away on a prolonged journey.  When the master sent trusted servants to collect the profit he was due from the vineyard, those laboring in the vineyard refused them and sent them away.  Finally, the owner of the vineyard sent his son (20:13); however, the laborers in the vineyard rose up and slew him (20:14-16).

Quoting Psalm 118:22, Jesus made it clear the application of that parable was those who rejected the son would themselves be rejected (20:17-18).   The chief priests and scribes realized the parable described their own wicked designs against Jesus and renewed their plot to kill Him (20:19-26).

I have had some ask over the years about the relationship of husband and wife and if they are bound in heaven.  This is an important concern to those who have, whether by death or divorce, had more than one husband or wife.   I believe the saints of God will know one another in heaven and am also convinced there will be no marriage in heaven.  We read in Luke 20:35, “But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world [heaven], and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage” (Luke 20:35).

Having silenced the scribes by His answers and questions (20:39-40), Jesus warned His disciples, 46 Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; 47  Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation” (Luke 20:46-47).

As it was then, so it is today–religious leaders, rather than serve the people as shepherds and servants, often burden their churches with an expectation they should be favored while they ravage the poorest and weakest to enrich themselves and make a pretense of religious piety.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Idle Hands Are The Devil’s Workshop”

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 10

The following study is taken in part from my devotional commentary post on the Book of Proverbs dated December 10, 2014.

Today’s study in proverbs features what I will call three “stand alone proverbs” – three proverbial statements of “Uncommon Common Sense” communicating three distinct observations.

Proverbs 10:15  “The rich man’s wealth [property; possessions; savings] is his strong city [a fortified city]: the destruction [ruin; dismay; terror] of the poor [needy; helpless] is their poverty.”

“You didn’t build that!”, was an adage employed by liberal politicians in the 2012 election cycle in the United States.   Hoping to stir up class envy, the statement taunted the successful while dismissing the sacrifices and risks taken by employers and business owners.  I accept the statement if the intent is to acknowledge divine providence; however, an ideology that taunts hardworking entrepreneurs, spawns an expansive welfare state, inevitably makes citizens debtors and slaves of big government.   How tragic!   While excoriating the successful, the poor are left weak, dependent and one crisis from destitution!

Proverbs 10:15 is a statement of fact—a rich man finds comfort and security in his wealth.   In the same way citizens of a medieval city found refuge behind the walls of a city, a rich man finds security in riches providentially provided to him by God.   By contrast, the working poor are often a crisis away from desperation (an incentive to be a “saver” and not a “spender” or “debtor”).

Proverbs 10:16 – “The labour  [wages; reward] of the righteous [just; law-abiding] tendeth to life [strength; satisfaction]: the fruit [result; reaping] of the wicked [ungodly; guilty] to sin [punishment; i.e. leads to greater sin].”

Though the curse of sin left man laboring for food by the sweat of his brow (Genesis 3:19),  the reward of an honest day’s labor brings its own satisfaction.   I am not sure who to credit with the quote, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”; however, there is a lot of truth in that statement.   The prevalence of depression in our society is, I believe, directly related to the gross amount of leisure time we enjoy as a society.  Too few of us come to the end of a day and enjoy the reward of having accomplished anything that is lasting!

Proverbs 10:17 – “He is in the way [path] of life that keepeth [heeds] instruction: but he that refuseth reproof [refuses to hear and heed correction] erreth.”

Solomon continues a common theme in verse 17—God blesses a man who heeds correction and rebuke; however, a rebel will inevitably follow a path to his own destruction.

As Solomon challenged his son to take the path of righteousness, it is the duty and responsibility of parents and spiritual leaders to challenge men and women with the same enduring truths from God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:2)!

Two questions to ponder: What path are you taking?  Is your heart open to correction? 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Some People Cannot Be Trusted

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Kings 6-10

The history in today’s scripture reading consists of five chapters and is too broad and the spiritual lessons too many to do justice; however, that is our task if we are to read through the Bible in one year. For the sake of today’s devotional commentary, I will pick out one highlight and make a few brief observation.

Consider the integrity evidence by a young prophet under Elisha’s tutelage (2 Kings 6:1-7).   Surely a minor miracle in light of Elisha’s many miracles; nevertheless God raising an iron axe head from the waters of the Jordan River after Elisha cast a stick on the water is a miracle only God’s blessing can explain (6:6-7)!

Elisha was overseer to a school for prophets and was preparing the next generation to serve the LORD. When the school outgrew its meeting place, the students proposed building a larger facility on the Jordan River (2 Kings 6:1-2). After Elisha gave his approval, the students set about building until a borrowed axe head fell from its handle and into the water. The poor student who had borrowed the axe bemoaned his loss and the expense to replace it (6:5). Elisha had sympathy for his student’s plea and God blessed raising the axe head from the waters.

Should you be left wondering where the lesson on integrity is found in this story, I ask you to consider the young prophet’s confession of his loss and recognition of his indebtedness and duty to return it to its owner (6:5).

Small thing you say? Insignificant?  No, I have known too many occasions where believers failed the integrity test in small things.  Something they accidentally broke, misplaced and lost, or borrowed with seemingly no conscience or concern they were obligated to replace or repay the owner for their loss.

Of course such men and women are unworthy of one’s trust in anything consequential.

Luke 16:10 “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Common Sense is Wisdom in Overalls”

Farmall tractorThursday, July 06, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 8-9

Of all the chapters in the Book of Proverbs, among my favorite is today’s scheduled reading, chapters 8 and 9.  Before presenting today’s devotional commentary, I invite you to remember I have posted a verse-by-verse commentary on Proverbs on this “From the Heart of a Shepherd” blog in 2014-2015.

Knowing it is an impossible task to address two full chapters in Proverbs, I limit this devotional commentary to a brief introduction of Proverbs 8, a chapter that personifies “Wisdom” delivering a soliloquy on godly wisdom.

I am at a loss to know to whom to attribute the insightful quote that is the heading of today’s devotional proverb, but I love the definition: “Common Sense is wisdom in overalls.”   My late maternal grandfather, Roland Whitley of Monroe, NC, wore overalls throughout my childhood.  Hardworking, diligent, self-sacrificing, faithful to the wife he called “Sugar”, loving to his family, a no-nonsense man of the soil [he always had a beautiful garden]…a common, hardworking, industrious man—he personified Common Sense in overalls!

Common Sense is nigh nonexistent today, not because overalls are out of vogue, but because our society scorns godly wisdom!   

What is wisdom?   Solomon taught his son, “The fear [reverential fear] of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”(Proverbs 1:7) and is the “principal [highest] thing” (Proverbs 4:7).  According to Proverbs 8:11 and Job 28:18, wisdom is priceless, “above rubies” and the acquisition of wisdom is possible only if we are willing to acknowledge God and seek Him.  By definition, a man may possess a brilliant intellect and acquire a lot of knowledge; however, if he denies the existence of God he is a fool and wholly lacking in wisdom.  After all, The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God…” (Psalm 53:1).

Wisdom implies the “skillful use of knowledge” or the right use of knowledge.   A man who knows Christ as Savior and is a student of God’s Word has the potential of becoming a man of wisdom though he has no formal education (James 1:5).

Solomon introduces Proverbs 8 with two rhetorical questions: “Doth not wisdom cry? And understanding put forth her voice?” (Proverbs 8:1).  The implied answer to the questions is “YES!”  Wisdom does cry and raise her voice yearning to be heard and heeded.

Proverbs 8:2-3“She [Wisdom] standeth in the top of high places [where cities were built in ancient times], by the way in the places of the paths [where roads meet or intersect]. 3 She crieth at the gates [where city elders sat in judgment], at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors [in shops and places of commerce].”

Where can wisdom be found today?

Wisdom’s voice is silent in the halls of academia and expelled from the majority of churches and pulpits.  However, godly wisdom is found where she has always been— “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do His commandments…”  (Psalm 111:10).

Godly wisdom belongs to those who have knowledge of God through His Word and His revelation of Himself in His Son Jesus Christ.

An old farmer wearing overalls and driving a Farmall tractor might lack the education of a college graduate; however, he is the personification of godly wisdom if he knows the Lord as His Savior, meditates on God’s Word, and walks according to the law and commandments. farmer on tractor

Godly wisdom belongs to those who fear the Lord” [lit. revere, worship—implying a personal, intimate knowledge of God, made possible through His Son Jesus Christ] and align their lives with His Word.

James 1:5 – “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

Copyright 2015 – Travis D. Smith

Divorce: Don’t Do It!

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Luke 15-16

Today’s devotional reading is from the Gospel of Luke, chapters 15-16 and contains some of the most beloved parables taught by our LORD:  The Lost Sheep (15:4-10); The Prodigal Son (15:11-32); The Unfaithful Servant (16:1-13); and The Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-31).  The latter is believed by some to not fall into the category of a parable because it uses a man’s proper name, Lazarus.

In the midst of Luke 16 we come to five verses that seem an interruption in the passage until we remember they come as a response to the Pharisees (16:14) who were adversaries of the LORD and often used occasions He taught the people in public to confront Him.   Having listened to the parable of “The Unjust Steward” (16:1-13), the Pharisees “who were covetous” (16:14) chose the occasion to “deride” the LORD (i.e. to openly mock, sneer, scoff).

Rather than retreat, the LORD answered the derision of the Pharisees using the occasion to expose their hypocrisy.  Accusing them of aspiring for men’s venerations, Jesus unmasked the hypocrisy God knew was in their hearts (16:15).

Having rebuked the Pharisees who considered themselves experts in the law of God, I believe Jesus turned His focus to His audience and said, 16  The law and the prophets were until John [the Baptist]: since that time the kingdom of God is preached [marked by the coming of Jesus Christ], and every man presseth [pushes by force; forcing his own way] into it. 17  And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle [small stroke of a pen] of the law to fail” (Luke 16:16-17).

After addressing the transition between the Old Testament Law bridged by John the Baptist to the LORD’s ministry and His preaching concerning the gospel of “the kingdom of God” (16:16-17), Jesus addressed an issue of Old Testament law the Pharisees had distorted… marriage and divorce (16:18).

Luke 16:18 “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.”

Rather than being strong advocates of the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman as God designed (Genesis 2:21-24; Matthew 5:31-32; 19:4-10; Ephesians 5:28-33), the Pharisees misinterpreted Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and gave liberty for men to divorce their wives for the silliest of reasons.

I close with a few parting thoughts on marriage, divorce and remarriage.  The first, there is no doubt God’s will and design is that marriage is a lifetime covenant between one man and one woman.  The second, God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16 – “For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away”).

Finally, although there is heated debate over this point, I believe the only grounds for divorce is unrepentant adultery and I cite three passages of scripture for my authority in this matter.

Matthew 5:31-32 “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32  But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”

Matthew 19:9 “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”

1 Corinthians 7:15 – “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.”

Some might ask, “What if my adulterous spouse claims to be a believer, does 1 Corinthians 7:15 apply?”  My answer is, “Yes”; but you must be a member of a church that is willing to address the sins of its members biblically and follow the guidelines for restoration found in Matthew 18:15-17.  When a professing believer refuses to repent after repeated attempts for restoration, the church is to declare that one “an heathen”, an unbeliever.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Who You Gonna Blame? (a version of today’s post and title for this Sunday’s sermon)

Dear Hillsdale family and Heart of a Shepherd Readers,

One of my joys in writing daily devotional commentaries has been my edification from the disciplined readings and meditations in God’s Word.   A fruit of that discipline has been the opportunity of sometimes preaching on a current topic that has an ancient parallel; today’s devotional is such an example.

The subject and context of Ezekiel 18, part of today’s scripture reading, is as current as news headlines in this morning’s newspaper (and a lot more truthful)!   In fact, I have decided to make Ezekiel 18 the topic for this Sunday morning’s patriotic sermon.

As I read and meditated on Ezekiel 18 and observed how the youth in Israel blamed their troubles on their fathers, I realized the “victimhood” complaints of today’s millennial generation, their demands for “entitlements” and practice of blame shifting are a mirror of the depravity that has been in the heart of man since the fall.

I look forward to preaching, “Who You Gonna Blame?” this July 2, 2017 Sunday morning.  I conclude this post with an excerpt from my unabridged post for today.

There was no debate over the question of God judging Israel for sin; however, a question of responsibility for the calamities facing the nation rose among the people.

The younger population said,  “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?” (18:2).  In other words, some were blaming the nation’s troubles and miseries on the sins of their forefathers.  In our day when “blame shifting” is epidemic and everyone is a victim, Ezekiel 18 is applicable to the homes of believers and non-believers .

The universality of man’s wickedness and the inevitable consequences of sin are declared by the LORD: Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (18:4).  While all have sinned, nevertheless, the LORD is just and His judgments are right and He blesses the man who chooses righteousness and obeys His statues and judgments (18:5-9).

Herein is a spiritual lesson for us all: Every generation bears responsibility for its sins and God does not hold a father accountable for the sins of his son (18:10-13) no more than he holds a son accountable for the sins of his father.   When a son see his father’s sins, but chooses the way of righteousness, that son will not bear his father’s guilt (18:14-17); however, the father will be punished for his own sins (18:18-20).

So, who you gonna blame for your troubles?

I close with a challenge to parents who, though not perfect parents, are loving parents but find themselves burdened with an adult child that is a sorrow to their hearts.  Guard your heart against false guilt!  Don’t allow a child wallowing in the mire of self-pity give you cause to despair.  No man or woman has the privilege to blame others for the consequences of their own sinful choices.

God is just and He judges every man and woman “according to his ways” (18:30).   A family will suffer consequences for a family member’s sinful choices; however, the key is in how you respond to those troubles and sorrows.

Remember:  “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20). 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith