Category Archives: Fear

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

Scripture reading – Psalm 109; Psalm 110

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

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

Psalm 109 – The “Iscariot Psalm”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Safe to the Rock that is Higher Than I (Psalm 61)

Scripture reading – Psalm 61

The title of Psalm 61 is, “To the chief Musician upon Neginah [a stringed instrument], A Psalm of David.” The setting of the psalm is unclear; however, the prayer indicates it was at a time the king faced grave danger. Perhaps, like preceding psalms, it was penned during the insurrection led by Absalom. Once again, the preserved Word of God makes us privy to David’s desperate cry to the LORD. I invite you to consider Psalm 61 in four parts. [* Use of brackets indicates the amplification of the author.]

A Prayer for Divine Intervention (61:1-2)

Assuming this psalm was inspired during the time the king fled from Jerusalem, and was living in exile, David prayed:

Psalm 61:1-21Hear [Listen] my cry [pleading], O God [Elohim; Mighty God]; Attend [Incline; Listen attentively] unto my prayer [petition; lament].
2From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart [mind; inner man; will] is overwhelmed [weak; faint]: Lead [Guide] me to the rock that is higher [exalted; lifted up] than I.

Writing far from home, “from the end of the earth,” and his heart “overwhelmed” by his troubles, David cried to the LORD: “Lead [Guide] me to the rock that is higher [exalted; lifted up] than I” (61:2). In a very real sense, the king prayed, Lord, take me higher, and to a safer place than I am able to go alone.

A Reflection on the Goodness and Faithfulness of the LORD in the Past (61:3-4)

Psalm 61:3-43For thou hast been a shelter [refuge] for me, and a strong [fortified; mighty] tower [watchtower] from the enemy.
4I will abide [dwell; gather] in thy tabernacle [i.e. tent; the abode of the Ark of God] for ever [all time]: I will trust [seek refuge] in the covert [covering; hiding place] of thy wings. Selah.

Verses 3-4 of Psalm 61 have inspired many great songs and hymns of faith over the centuries. David reflected on the goodness of God he had experienced in life, and was reminded that the LORD had “been a shelter [refuge]…and a strong [fortified; mighty] tower [watchtower] from the enemy” (61:3).

Think about that truth for a moment. In a time of trouble, you can take comfort in the assurance that the LORD is waiting to be your shelter, refuge, and strong tower. Knowing the faithfulness of the LORD, David resolved he would forever abide in His presence (61:4), and trust him to shelter, and cover him as a hen protects her chicks.

An Assurance that God Hears and Answers Prayer (61:5-7)

Psalm 61:5-75For thou, O God [Elohim; Mighty God], hast heard [listened to] my vows: Thou hast given [set; placed] me the heritage [inheritance; possession] of those that fear [revere] thy name [fame; reputation].
6Thou wilt prolong the king’s life [day; time]: And his years as many generations [i.e. generation after generation].
7He shall abide [dwell] before God for ever: O prepare [reckon; assign; count] mercy [favor; goodness; kindness] and truth [trustworthiness; faithfulness], which may preserve [guard; keep; watch] him.

What began as a solemn, and passionate petition for the LORD to hear the king’s prayer (61:1-2), continued with him being comforted that God hears and answers prayers! David reflected on his godly heritage, and that he was of a people who feared and revered the LORD (61:5b). No longer fearing for his life, David asserted with confidence, “6Thou wilt prolong the king’s life: And his years as many generations [i.e. generation after generation]” (61:6). He believed the LORD would, in His mercy and truth, keep watch over him (61:7).

A Renewed Consecration to Worship and Serve the LORD (61:8)

Psalm 61:88So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, That I may daily perform [fulfill; complete] my vows [promises].

David’s thoughts were no longer bound by his troubles, but were refocused on the LORD and His faithfulness. His spirit was renewed, and he resolved to forever sing praises to God, and to keep all he had vowed to do.

Closing thoughts – Do you find yourself in a troubled, difficult place? You might be in the midst of fears, and feel your “heart is overwhelmed” (61:2). Cry out to the LORD, confess your fears, and remember He is waiting to lead you to a “rock that is higher” than you will ever reach alone (61:2c). Feel like hiding? Seek the LORD; He is “a shelter… a strong tower” (61:3), and He wants to shelter you under His wings (61:4).

The Lord is our Rock, and a Shelter in the Time of Storm!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Plight of the Human Race (Psalm 53; Psalm 60)

Scripture reading – Psalm 53; Psalm 60

Our Scripture reading is from two psalms of David, Psalm 53 and Psalm 60. Our devotional is taken from Psalm 53.

Psalm 53 – An Observation of the Human Condition

Notice that Psalm 53 is nearly a restatement of truths observed by David in Psalm 14. The title of Psalm 53provides us the title of the person to whom it was addressed, “the Chief Musician.” It also provides the instrument used to accompany the singer, Mahalath (probably a stringed instrument), as well as the name of the melody, Maschil, that accompanied the psalm. As already noted, David is identified as the author in the title.

I invite you to identify three major truths found in Psalm 53: The fact of universal wickedness (53:1-3); the wicked’s denial of the providence of God (53:4-5); and David’s prayer that the LORD would save Israel, and rejoicing and gladness would be restored.

The Fool and His Plight (53:1-3)

David’s observations concerning the condition of man is not only well known, but should be self-evident to an honest observer. The folly of the fool is that he is an atheist, in word and deed! We read, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” Notice the phrase, “there is,” is in italics, indicating it was added by editors hoping to give clarity to the passage. I suggest, however, that the addition was unnecessary, for the folly of the fool is that he has not only denied God in his heart, but also in his deeds. David observed that the atheism of the fool carries him down a path of corruption, and destruction. Indeed, “there is none that doeth good” (53:1b).

The doctrine of God’s omniscience is stated in the next verse, where we read, “2God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God” (53:2). Having denied God, the fool may be convinced his sins go unnoticed and unpunished. Yet, God’s gaze is perpetually upon man, and he sees and tries the hearts to see if any seek Him (53:2).

Consider also that the plight of man is universal, and without exception: “Every one of them [every man, woman, boy, and girl] is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; There is none that doeth good, no, not one” (53:3). Universal rebellion; universal immorality; universal sin… “There is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (53:3).

Ponder that truth for a moment. There are no exceptions to the infection of sin. We are all infected by its curse, and the mass of humanity past, present, and future is born under the curse of sin (of course, the one exception was Jesus Christ who, though born of a woman, was not born of the seed of man, but of the Holy Spirit, Luke 1:35).

The apostle Paul observed the universality of sin, writing: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and the universal consequences of sin: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).

The Wicked’s Denial of the Providence of God (53:4-5)

The fool has not only rejected God, but he has also denied the visible evidences of God’s essence and providences as seen in His creation every day (53:4a). David warned, God is jealous of His people, and the wicked will not go unpunished for their ill treatment of them (53:4b).

There is a sad irony in this psalm. On the one hand, men boast, “There is no God,” but there is coming a day a judgment when fear will take hold of the hearts of men, and those who set themselves against Him will be destroyed (53:5a). Indeed, the wicked will be put to shame, for the LORD will hold them in contempt (53:5b).

David’s Prayer and Intercession for Israel (53:6)

Psalm 53 concludes with David looking forward to the day when Israel will be saved. In that day, “Jacob shall rejoice” (the lineage of the Twelve Tribes), and “Israel shall be glad” (53:6). Whom would God send to answer David’s prayer for a Savior? His name would be Jesus, “for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

Closing thoughts – Without exception; Every man or woman who rejects God, and refuses His offer of salvation through the sacrifice of His Son…is foolish. We might boast of our good works, but the prophet Isaiah declared, “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). A sinner cannot be saved “by works of righteousness which [he has] done, but according to [God’s] mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5).

Is He your Savior?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Majesty of God, the Eternal Judge (1 Chronicles 18; Psalm 50)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 18; Psalm 50

Today’s Scripture reading comprises Psalm 50, and 1 Chronicles 18. You should be familiar with the narrative of the latter, for it chronicles events we considered in a prior study of 2 Samuel 8. Psalm 50, therefore, is the focus of today’s devotional.

Psalm 50

The title of Psalm 50, “A Psalm of Asaph,” introduces a song writer who was a chief musician during the reign of David (1 Chronicles 6:39; 16:7). This is one of twelve psalms attributed to Asaph. The occasion for the writing of the psalm is not given; however, it rejoices in the LORD as a righteous judge (50:1-6), encourages the saints of God in their worship (50:7-15), and admonishes the wicked for their sin (50:16-21).

God, the Righteous Judge (50:1-6)

Knowing the names of God define His character, consider what we can learn of Him in the introductory verse: The mighty God [El Elohim – Mighty Ruler; Great God; Supreme], even the Lord [Yahweh; SELF-EXISTENT ONE], hath spoken, and called [summoned] the earth [all inhabitants] from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof” (50:1).

Psalm 50:2 declares the majesty of God: “2Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined;” while Psalm 50:3 announces He is coming: “3Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: A fire shall devour before him, And it shall be very tempestuous round about him.”

I believe it is the Second Coming of Christ that is described here, for the LORD is pictured as one coming in judgment [like a fire], and mankind is admonished to prepare for His judgment (50:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 10:27).  The saints of God will be gathered, and the judgment of God will be righteous (50:5-6).

God’s Message to the Saints of Israel (50:7-15)

I notice three major truths regarding the LORD summoning His people to come before Him. The first, He is God, and therefore He has the right to judge Israel (50:7). God is pictured as pondering His judgment of the people, and acknowledges they had brought before Him sacrifices and burnt offerings continually (50:8). Nevertheless, the people were reminded that in offering bullocks and goats to the LORD, they were giving only that which was His (50:9). All that has life, and breath is the LORD’S (50:10-11).

In a wonderful reminder of God’s Sovereignty as Creator and LORD, He challenged the people, “If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: For the world is mine, and the fulness thereof” (50:12).

Stop for a moment, and consider that last statement! There is nothing you and I can give the LORD, that is not already His, for all the world is His! We own nothing, but we are chosen to be stewards of possessions that are the LORD’S. Not only what we possess, but our very being is the LORD’S. In this, God has the right and authority to command us to “present [our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is [our] reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).

Lesson – How might we honor and glorify the LORD? By giving ourselves to Him out of a heart of gratitude, and present to Him all that is due (50:14). When we come to the LORD with a heart of gratitude, He promises: “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me” (50:15).

God’s Message to the Wicked (50:16-21)

The focus of Psalm 50 then turns from the saints, to God’s judgment of the wicked (50:16). Consider the hypocrisy of the wicked: Externally they acknowledge the statutes of the LORD (His Law and Commandments), and worship Him with sacrifices and offerings; however, God knows their hearts. He admonished the wicked, for they hated to be instructed in the way of righteousness, and had contempt for the Word of God (50:17). They violate His commandments, and fail to rebuke the thief (50:18a; Exodus 20:15). They observe the adulterer, but fail to condemn his adultery (50:18b; Exodus 20:14). The wicked lie and slander others (50:19-20; Exodus 20:16).

Notice in Psalm 50:21 how the threat of God’s judgment rose to a crescendo (50:21a), as He warned the wicked that they had abused His silence, His patience, and their day of judgment was coming (50:21b).

Conclusion: A Warning and a Promise (50:22-23)

The Warning: Fail to obey the LORD, and express gratitude of His blessings and longsuffering, and He will “tear you in pieces” and none can deliver you out of His fury (50:22).

The Promise: It is a heart of praise and thanksgiving that glorifies the LORD (50:23). When a sinner sincerely seeks the LORD, He promises to show him the way of “the salvation of God.” What is the way of salvation, and the forgiveness of sin?

Ephesians 2:8–108For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“A Right Motive, and a Wrong Method Invite God’s Judgment” (Psalm 132; 2 Samuel 6)

Scripture reading – Psalm 132; 2 Samuel 6

We continue our chronological study of the Scriptures with today’s reading taken from the Book of Psalms (Psalm 132), and 2 Samuel 6 where the Ark of God is transported to Jerusalem. That event should be familiar to my readers, for we considered the same event in 1 Chronicles 13. Psalm 132, titled “A Song of Degrees,” was one of several psalms that were sung by pilgrims going up to Jerusalem, and by the Levites when the priests ascended the Temple Mount. Today’s devotion will consider the spiritual lessons we can derive from the transport of the Ark of God to Jerusalem.

2 Samuel 6

Remembering the Ark of God symbolized God’s heavenly throne, and was a testimony of His presence among His people (Psalm 80:1; 99:1), David set his heart to bring the Ark to Jerusalem, his capital (2 Samuel 6:1-2). Neglected throughout the reign of King Saul, David longed to return the Ark to its prominence in Israel, and he had prepared a new tent that would serve as its tabernacle. The movement of the Ark to Jerusalem was a cause for celebration, and “David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand” (6:1) to accompany its journey.

Celebration turned to tragedy when David “set the ark of God upon a new cart,” and failed to employ the “staves” or poles God had prescribed for its movement in the wilderness (Numbers 4:5-6). When the Ark appeared ready to topple from the cart, Uzza placed his hand on the Ark to steady it, and was struck dead for defiling that which the LORD had sanctified for Himself (6:3-7).

A faithful servant died because David had failed to search the Scriptures and seek the mind of the LORD in transporting the Ark. We read, “David was displeased,” he was angry with the LORD (6:8). His anger then turned to fear, and the king complained, “How shall the ark of the Lord come to me?” (6:9)

The balance of the now familiar story continues with its temporary placement in the household of Obededom the Gittite, whom the LORD blessed abundantly in the three months it resided with him (6:10-12). David then renewed his plan to retrieve the Ark, and celebrated and offered sacrifices to the LORD as it was carried by the Levites (6:13-15).

It seemed that all Israel celebrated the entrance of the Ark of God into Jerusalem, with one exception: “Michal Saul’s daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart” (6:16).

After celebrating the appointment of the Ark of God in its place on Mount Zion, David blessed the people, and sent them home with “a cake of bread, and a good piece of flesh, and a flagon of wine” (6:19). Sadly, for David, he “returned to bless his household,” but was greeted by his wife who scorned the king’s delight in the LORD (6:20-23).

Closing thoughts – Though observed in an earlier devotion, it is worthwhile to be reminded of some spiritual principles we can take from 2 Samuel 6.

The first: Right motives can never justify wrong methods. The failure to seek the LORD, and His pattern for moving the Ark, came at the expense of a faithful servant’s life (6:3-7).

A second lesson: Never treat as common what God has declared and deemed holy. Uzza touching the Ark violated God’s holiness (1 Chronicles 13:3; Numbers 4:15).

I close with a quote by the late evangelist Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.- “It is never right to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right!”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Let All the Earth Praise the LORD! (1 Chronicles 16)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 16

The celebration of the arrival of the Ark of God in Jerusalem continued in 1 Chronicles 16. David had prepared a new tent for the Ark, while the original tabernacle from the days of Moses remained in Gibeon, a city north of Jerusalem, and located in the midst of the territory of the tribe of Benjamin.

The Ark’s return, and the restoration of sacrificial offerings (16:1-2) was cause for a national celebration. David did not usurp the role of the Levites; however, as king he placed himself at the forefront of the celebration. After blessing the people in the name of the Lord” (16:2), we read that “every man and woman [was given] a loaf of bread, and a good piece of flesh [possibly a serving of meat], and a flagon [clay jar] of wine” (16:3).

David had re-established, and set in order the service of the Levites and priests (16:4). He appointed singers and musicians to lead in daily worship (16:4-6), thus reminding us of the prominent role music and singing has always held when believers worship the God of heaven. A poet and musician himself, David had prepared a special psalm of thanksgiving for the occasion (16:7-36), and entrusted it to Asaph, one of three chief musicians (16:7).

A Festive Song, A Psalm of Thanksgiving (16:8-36)

David’s psalm heralded a new day, and a new beginning for the people. Calling upon all Israel to worship and give thanks to the LORD, David invited the congregation to sing: “9Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, Talk ye of all his wondrous works” (16:9). Boast of the LORD, and “10Glory ye in his holy name: Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord” (16:10).

Three times the song called upon the people to “seek the LORD” (16:10-11). What did it mean to “seek the LORD?” It meant to diligently seek Him; call upon Him as one wholly dependent on Him (16:10).

Not only were the people to glory in the LORD, and seek Him, but they were to remember all He had done for them as a nation (16:12). Abraham, and Jacob were dead, but the covenant promises of the LORD had not failed (16:13-17). All He had promised He had fulfilled, for He had given Israel “the land of Canaan” for their inheritance (16:18). Though Israel had been small among the nations of the world, the LORD had protected His people from the heathen. He had warned the kings of the earth, “touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” (16:22).

The focus of the song turned to rejoicing as the people were reminded that the LORD is King and Sovereign of the earth (16:23-33). All the world was encouraged to “sing unto the LORD,” for every day declares His salvation, and His glory is not hid from the eyes of the heathen” (16:23-24). Fools look to the heavens and declare, “No God” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1), but the heavens themselves declare the glory of their Creator (16:25). He is great, and “is to be feared above all gods. 26For all the gods of the people are idols: but the Lord made the heavens” (16:25-26).

How should believers respond when they realize the glory and majesty of the LORD? With hearts of thanksgiving and rejoicing, we are to bring to the LORD our offerings, and worship Him who is holy (16:27-29). Though all about us seems in turmoil, we should not forget that God sustains the earth, and “the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved” (16:30).

All nature should rejoice, for “The LORD reigneth” (16:31). 32Let the sea roar…let the fields rejoice…the trees of the wood sing out at the presence of the Lord” (16:32-33a). Why all this rejoicing? For David, like all the faithful saints of the Old Testament, was looking for the coming of the LORD. The psalm declares, the LORD “cometh to judge the earth” (16:33b).

A Doxology of Praise (16:34-36)

David’s psalm concluded with a prayer for deliverance, and a doxology of thanksgiving. I can hear the crescendo of voices and instruments, as the people sang, “34O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever” (16:34). Acknowledging that salvation is from God (16:35), the song fell silent with the last refrain: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel for ever and ever” (16:36). The voices of the people thundered in response, “Amen, and praised the Lord” (16:36).

1 Chronicles 16 concluded with a register of Levites that had been assigned to minister before the Ark in Jerusalem (16:37-38), and the names of men assigned to attend the altar and sacrifices in Gibeon, where the tabernacle of Moses remained (16:39-40). As in Jerusalem, so it was in Gibeon, that musicians accompanied the worship of the LORD (16:41-42).

Closing thoughts – With the celebration ended, David and all Israel returned to their houses (16:43). Though the episode with Michal, the daughter of Saul, and the first wife of David was unwarranted and disheartening (15:29), the past was the past and David and the nation looked forward to the blessings of the LORD (1 Chronicles 17).

I encourage you to do the same! Be willing to forgive, and leave the past in the past. We too often stumble over trifles, make minor issues major, and fail to recognize the blessings of the LORD. Take a moment and count your blessings, and then pause and meditate on the greatness of God displayed in His Creation, and in your salvation.

Let all the earth rejoice, and praise the LORD.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Right Motive, Wrong Method invites God’s Judgment (1 Chronicles 13; Psalm 107)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 13; Psalm 107

Our first Scripture reading is taken from 1 Chronicles 13, and records the tragic events that accompanied David’s failed attempt to retrieve the Ark of the Covenant. Newly crowned as king (1 Chronicles 12), it was in his heart to honor the LORD, and bring the Ark to Jerusalem so that all the people might worship the LORD. With the affirmation of his leaders (13:1), David proclaimed to “all the congregation of Israel” his desire to “bring again the ark of our God to us” (13:2-3).

The Ark, a testimony of God’s presence in the midst of His people, and its mercy seat a symbol of His heavenly throne, had been forsaken for many years (13:3). After it had fallen into the hands of the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:4-17; 5:1-12), the Ark had been returned to Israel; however, when the men of Bethshemesh had touched the Ark and violated its holiness, they had been slain by the LORD (1 Samuel 6:19-21). Fearing the LORD’S judgment, the men of Kirjathjearim had retrieved the Ark, and placed it in the home of Abinadab, where it remained for the next twenty years (7:1-2).

David had admirable intentions for bringing the Ark to Jerusalem (13:4-6); however, he violated spiritual principles (13:7-10). 

The first, by reaching out and touching the Ark, Uzzah had treated as common what God had declared to be holy. He had lived in the home of Abinadab where the Ark had been kept, and he should have known the reverence the Ark of God not only deserved, but demanded (13:3). The Law of God was clear—the Ark was never to be touched (Numbers 4:15).

Though Uzzah’s motive was to steady the Ark, he violated God’s precepts, and regardless of his motive, his actions were unacceptable to God! The use of a cart to transport the Ark violated the method God had prescribed for its transport. It was to be carried by priests using staves overlaid with gold (Exodus 25:13-14).

From where did the notion of employing a “new cart” to transport the Ark arise?

It was the means the Philistines had used when they returned the Ark to Israel (1 Samuel 6:7-8). David had employed a pagan method to accomplish a righteous end, and that was unacceptable to God. While his desire to bring the Ark to Jerusalem was “right in the eyes of all the people” (13:3-4), it was the means, not the motive God judged.

Consider David’s response to Uzza’s death.

He was “displeased,” meaning he was angry. Was he angry with God, or with himself for failing to seek the way of the LORD? His anger was soon displaced with fear, for “David was afraid of God…[and asked] how shall I bring the ark of God home to me?” (13:12).

David did not continue bringing the Ark on its journey to Jerusalem, but entrusted it to “the house of Obededom the Gittite” (13:13). The LORD smiled upon the household of Obededom, “14And the ark of God remained with the family of Obededom in his house three months. And the Lord blessed the house of Obededom, and all that he had” (13:14).

My study of 1 Chronicles 13, has reminded me of a quote I often heard thundered from the pulpit of my Bible college:

“It is never right to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right!” (Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.)

Psalm 107 – A Psalm of Celebration and Thanksgiving

I close with a brief introduction of Psalm 107, which does not bear a title, and we do not know the author or the date it was composed.

Given the celebratory nature of the psalm, and the call for those “Whom [the LORD] hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy; 3And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south,” a good case can be made the psalm was composed after Israel’s return from Babylonian captivity.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Don’t Worry, Our God Changes Not! (Psalm 102)

Scripture reading – Psalm 102

The author of Psalm 102 is not known; however, the title of this psalm may offer insight into the period in which it may have been composed. The title reads, A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord.” Speculative on my part, but I am in agreement with some scholars who suggest its author may have been one of the children of Israel who was living in Babylon during the captivity.

A Cry of Lamentation (Psalm 102:1-11)

Assuming the psalm was penned by an exile, I understand the pitiful cry of its author who has earnestly prayed, and longed for the LORD to lend a sympathetic ear and answer his prayer (102:1-2). Reflecting on his miseries, the psalmist painted his physical and emotional state (102:3-8).

He felt his life was passing, and his bones were wasting away (102:3). His heart was depressed, and his appetite lost (102:4). Physically, he had been reduced to skin and bones (102:5). Like a sparrow that had lost its mate, he moaned there was no one to comfort him (102:6-7).

The psalmist did not identify his adversary; but his enemy had been unrelenting in his attacks (102:8). He had become inconsolable. He could not hide his sorrows, and his tears flowed till they ran into his drink (102:9). Like a fading shadow, or grass that withers in the heat of the sun, he felt he was perishing (102:11).

A Confession of Faith, Hope, and Trust (Psalm 102:12-22)

In the midst of his darkest hour, the psalmist looked past this mortal, temporal life, and prayed, 12But thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever; And thy remembrance unto all generations” (102:12). With his hope renewed, he confessed his confidence that the LORD had appointed a time when He would “have mercy upon Zion” (Zion was a reference to the mountain range upon which Jerusalem and the Temple had been built, 102:13). Knowing the LORD would not forsake Israel forever, the author believed He had set the time He would renew His favor, and Jerusalem would be rebuilt (102:14-16).

Looking beyond sorrows, the psalmist was confident, though God was enthroned in heaven, His eye was always upon His people, and He heard their groanings (102:19-20). Stirring hope anew, our author looked forward to the time the LORD’S name would be declared in His city, and the people would worship, and serve Him (102:21-22).

The Majesty of God Overshadows Human Frailty (Psalm 102:23-28)

Have you ever been through dark times? Do you recall how you felt as though you were riding a rollercoaster, and experiencing the physical, emotional, and spiritual ups and downs of life?

Our psalmist began Psalm 102 with a prayer and cry for sympathy, but then his faith carried him to spiritual heights, and he believed the LORD had heard, and would answer his prayers. Yet, from a pinnacle of rejoicing, the present realities of his sorrows suddenly plunged him into a sensation that his strength would fail him (102:23a), his life would be shortened (102:23b), and he would not live to see Israel restored to her homeland (102:24).

Then, the psalmist remembered. He remembered God had revealed Himself as the Creator (Genesis 1), and He had “laid the foundation of the earth: And the heavens [were] the work of [God’s] hands” (102:25). He foresaw the temporal nature of the earth, the stars, and the planets, and that they would all “perish…[and] wax old like a garment” (10:26; Luke 21:33). He believed the LORD would change the earth and the heavens like you and I change our clothes (102:26; 2 Peter 3:13).

I believe our author was familiar with Isaiah’s prophecies, for the LORD had revealed to that prophet, “17For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: And the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind” (Isaiah 65:17). He surely knew the LORD had promised Israel, “22For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, Shall remain before me, saith the Lord, So shall your seed [Israel] and your name remain” (Isaiah 66:22).

Closing thoughts – The earth and the heavens are temporal, and the days of a man’s life pass “like a shadow” (102:11); however, the LORD is immutable and eternal, for His “years shall have no end” (102:27).

Be confident! Every promise of God is backed up by His divine character, and He is immutable, and eternal!(102:28)

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Season of Sorrow, But the End is Rejoicing (Psalm 88, 92)

A word from the author: My purpose for writing these daily devotions is to give a historical context, an explanation when necessary, and application of spiritual truths I often label as “closing thoughts.” I pray my effort proves to be a blessing to you and your families. With the heart of a shepherd, Pastor Travis D. Smith – HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

Two chapters in the Book of Psalms are the subject of our Scripture reading and today’s devotional. Psalm 88 is a psalm by “Heman the Ezrahite,” and was an appeal to the LORD for mercy and grace, in the midst of sorrows and troubles. Psalm 92 is described in its title as “A Psalm or Song for the Sabbath Day.”

Psalm 88 – “A Psalm of Lamentation”

What troubles and sorrows the author was facing is not revealed in the verses of the psalm; however, it was certainly a time of great trial for the author who appealed to the LORD, calling upon the “God of my salvation” (88:1). The cry and prayer of the psalmist was “day and night” (88:1), as he poured out his heart to the LORD (88:2).

Heman felt as though he would die if the LORD did not relieve him of the burdens of his troubles (88:3-6). Adding to his grief, he felt he was oppressed by God’s anger (88:7), and complained of loneliness, writing, “8Thou hast put away mine acquaintance [friend; kindred spirit] far from me; Thou hast made me an abomination [detestable] unto them: I am shut up [restrained; confined], and I cannot come forth” (88:8). (Some who have had COVID, or been quarantined because of it, have faced this loneliness.)

Overcome with tears, the psalmist wrote, “I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee” (88:9). He pled with the LORD to spare his life, for should he die, he would be unable to give testimony of the LORD’S character (88:10). In the grave, he could not share the mercies of the LORD, or tell others of His faithfulness and love (88:11-12).

The reason for Heman’s trials, and troubles is not known, but his plea that he might be heard was insistent (88:13). He felt abandoned by God, and prayed, “14Lord, why castest [reject; expel] thou off my soul? Why hidest thou thy face from me?” (88:14) Exhausted from his afflictions (88:15), overwhelmed by his sorrows, he confessed, “15I am afflicted [crushed] and ready to die from my youth up” (88:15). He felt he had suffered his whole life, even from his youth. The psalm concludes finding Heman in a dark place. He confessed he felt abandoned by those who loved him, and it seemed as though only darkness was his friend (88:18).

Closing thought: If not yet, you will one day suffer disappointments in this earthly life. In fact, you may find yourself in a similar dark place where we found Heman. He was a spiritual leader, a musician in the LORD’S sanctuary, nevertheless, though he prayed his focus was on himself…his sorrows, physical sufferings, and loneliness.

A dark place indeed. It is in such an hour, that we are challenged to bow our hearts to the will of the LORD, and accept He is sovereign. May we be like Job of old, and trust God knowing he is faithful (Job 42:10, 17).

Psalm 92 – “A Psalm or Song for the Sabbath Day”

We find the author of Psalm 92 rejoicing in the LORD on the Sabbath. The psalmist rehearses five things that were good: It was good “to give thanks,” and good “to sing praises,” It was good to begin the day praising the LORD for his kindness, and end the day reflecting on His faithfulness (92:1-2). It was also good to worship the LORD in song, and meditate upon Him with a “solemn sound” (92:3).

We saw in Psalm 88 that there are seasons of life that are filled with sorrows, and the author of Psalm 92 reminds us that there is also a cause for rejoicing in the LORD (92:4-5). Believers are privileged to know what the “brutish” men of this world cannot know (92:6). While the wicked appear to spring up, and flourish like weeds, the psalmist reminds us the justice of God will demand their everlasting judgment (92:7-9).

The author of Psalm 92 anticipated God’s loving favor. Like the “horn” that was a sign of strength among beasts, the psalmist was confident the LORD would strengthen him. Although the wicked seemed to prosper, the psalmist foresaw they would suffer judgment, and the righteous would “flourish like the palm tree…[and] grow like a cedar in Lebanon” (92:12, the palm flourishes in drought, and the cedar of Lebanon was a picture of strength).

Psalm 92 concludes with an amazing promise to those who have lived righteous lives: “14They shall still bring forth fruit [be fruit bearers] in old age; They shall be fat [healthy; lit. full of sap] and flourishing [i.e. evergreen]; 15To shew that the Lord is upright [faithful]: He is my rock [security], and there is no unrighteousness in him [the LORD]” (92:14-15).

Closing thought: Psalm 92:14-15 promises all that a person could ask: to live to a ripe old age, and your life be a testimony of fruitfulness, healthy, and flourishing. What a great promise, but remember that promise is only for the righteous whose faith and hope is in the LORD. You cannot be righteous in the sight of God, without knowing Christ as Savior. Turn from your sinful ways, trust Christ as your Savior\Redeemer, and accept God’s offer of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith