Category Archives: Fear

A Heavenly Vision (Isaiah 6)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 6

Isaiah 6 is a dramatic chapter that has captured the imagination of people down through the ages. We are given a heavenly portrait of God sitting upon His throne. Though a brief chapter, Isaiah 6 is a pivotal moment in our study of Isaiah. Before he was commissioned to be a prophet to Judah, God gave Isaiah a vision of His Creator sitting on heaven’s throne. I invite you to consider with me three major thoughts.

Isaiah’s Reflection on God’s Glory (6:1-4)

The setting of Isaiah 6 was at a time of national mourning (6:1).

It was “in the year king Uzziah died” (6:1). We have considered Uzziah in earlier devotions, and you may remember he reigned 52 years over Judah. His reign was long and prosperous (2 Chronicles 26:1-15), until his heart was lifted up with pride and God struck him with leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:16-20). Banned from the palace because of the disease, the king’s son oversaw the affairs of the government until his death. The news of the king’s death moved Isaiah to go to the Temple and seek the LORD.

The scene: Isaiah Witnessed the Majesty of the LORD Sitting on His Throne (6:1-3).

King Uzziah was dead, and though Isaiah and the people were shaken, the prophet was reminded that God is sovereign, and His authority is never in doubt. King’s rise, and kings fall, but the LORD is ever “sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up” (6:1). God’s throne is high above all earthly thrones and governments (6:1).

Standing above God’s throne were a number of seraphim. By their name, we know the seraphim were angels with a fiery appearance (representing God’s judgment), and each had six wings, two covering their face (showing reverence for God), two covering their feet, and two wings with which they hovered above the throne (6:2).

The seraphim were engaged in two occupations: They were proclaiming God’s holiness, and crying to one another, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts” (6:3a). They also acknowledged the LORD as Creator, and the earth displays His glory (6:3b). In Isaiah’s vision, the Temple was moved by the cry of the seraphim, and “filled with smoke” (6:4; smoke is associated with God’s presence in the Scriptures, Exodus 19:18; 2 Samuel 22:9).

Isaiah’s Response to the Heavenly Vision (6:5)

The vision of the majesty and holiness of God sitting on His throne moved Isaiah to acknowledge his sinful state. Confessing the sorrow of one that is helpless and hopeless (6:5), Isaiah cried, “Woe is me! for I am undone [dead; doomed]; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (6:5).

The prophet not only confessed his “unclean lips” (the sins of his tongue; i.e., rash, harsh, bitter words), but also the sins of the nation (6:5). Judah was guilty of outwardly worshipping and sacrificing to God, but their mouths were filled with pride, mocking, and false piety.

After confessing his sin, a seraph took a live, fiery coal from the altar, and placing the hot coal on Isaiah’s lips, the he pronounced his sins had been purged (6:7).

Isaiah’s Recruitment: His Call and Commission (6:8-13)

Suddenly, the voice of God was heard, and He asked, “Whom shall I send [Send forth], and who will go for us?” (6:8b). Isaiah, with a humble heart and his sins forgiven, did not hesitate to answer God’s call and said, “Here am I; send me” (6:8c).

The LORD then challenged Isaiah, saying, “Go, and tell [speak; command] this people, Hear [Hearken; Obey; Listen] ye indeed [Hearken; Obey; Listen], but understand [consider; discern; regard] not; and see [Look; behold] ye indeed [Look; behold], but perceive not. [know; understand]” (6:9). The people of Judah had grown callous; for they had heard the prophets, but refused to repent (6:9b). They had seen God’s protection and blessings, but refused to consider their sins.

Closing thoughts – Isaiah’s ministry was to go and admonish the people. Some would respond to His preaching and their hearts would become “fat” [calloused]. They would refuse to hear and heed God’s Word, and would become spiritually blind and deaf (6:10). Without repenting, Judah passed the point of no return.

Isaiah wondered, “How long?” How long would the people refuse to hear the truth (6:11a). The LORD revealed they would refuse the truth until His judgment fell upon the nation: The cities would be destroyed, the houses silent (without a man, woman, or child), the land would be wasted, and only one-tenth of the people would remain in the land (6:11-13).

Isaiah 6:13 concluded with a promise that the LORD would not annihilate His people. He would remember His covenant promises to Abraham and David. The Lord would look to a future day when “the holy seed [offspring] [would] be the substance thereof” [would spring for with new growth, and life]. Israel and Judah would be cut down to the ground, but seedlings of faith would begin to sprout into new life.

Copyright 2022 © Travis D. Smith

An Introduction to Isaiah – part 1 (Isaiah 1)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 1

Continuing our two-year chronological study of the Scriptures, we come to the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. Before we dive into this wonderful book, I remind you the purpose of this shepherd’s heart is to present to my readers, not only a daily devotional challenge, but a deeper survey of both the Old and New Testaments.

I want you to see history as “His-Story,” and as a testament to God’s sovereignty and His providential dealings with all people. Before introducing you to the prophet Isaiah, take a moment and subscribe to www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

Isaiah: Prophet to Judah

Isaiah lived in Judah in the 8th century B.C. His ministry spanned the reigns of four kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jothan, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (1:1), and three Gentile empires (the decline of Egypt, the waning years of Assyria, and the infancy of the nation of Babylon). He was, in my opinion, the foremost of the Old Testament prophets.

Isaiah: A Fearless Prophet

Isaiah was courageous, and boldly confronted the sins of Judah. He called upon kings to repent of their sins, condemned priests for their corruption and hypocrisy, and warned the people of Judah they would suffer God’s judgment should they fail to repent of their sins. Isaiah predicted the overthrow of Judah, the desolation of the cities, and the Babylonian captivity.

Isaiah: Prophet of God

Isaiah’s preaching was powerful, his words soaring, and his prophecies vivid and specific. He is quoted over 400 times in the New Testament, and his prophecies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled by Jesus Christ’s coming in exacting detail.

The Messiah’s Virgin Birth (Isaiah 7:14)
Isaiah 7:14 –  Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. [lit. “God with us”]

The Messiah Person (Isaiah 9:6)
Isaiah 9:6 –  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

The Messiah’s Rejection (Isaiah 53)
Isaiah 53:3 –  He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

The Messiah’s Suffering (Isaiah 53:4-5)
Isaiah 53:4-5 –  Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

The Messiah’s Vicarious Death – Substitutionary atonement (Isaiah 53:6-9)
Isaiah 53:6-9-7 – All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

The Messiah’s Resurrection (Isaiah 53:10)
Isaiah 53:10 –  Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Closing thoughts:

We will notice in Isaiah’s preaching, four distinct warnings of God’s judgment should the nation not repent of its sins and turn to God (Isaiah 5:20-23, 26-30). Those judgments are presented in four moving pronouncements of “Woe.” 1) Judah had rejected God’s Law and had no moral absolutes (Isaiah 5:20). 2) The people had become proud and unteachable (Isaiah 5:21). 3) Judah was a narcissistic people, and they loathed the righteous (Isaiah 5:22-23).
4) The fourth and final “woe,” Isaiah was shaken by a heavenly vision of God sitting on His throne (Isaiah 6:1-4), the prophet was so overwhelmed with a consciousness of his own sins, he confessed:

“Woe is me! for I am undone [dumb; silent; perish]; because I am a man of unclean [defiled; polluted] lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). When God asked, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah answered the call, and said, “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

A study of Isaiah 1 will follow as a second devotional reading.

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Prophet on the Run (1 Kings 19; 1 Kings 20)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 19; 1 Kings 20

Our study of Elijah’s life follows that faithful servant of the LORD after enjoying one of the greatest victories of his lifetime…the slaughter of the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:40). God had answered the prayers of Elijah, and elevated not only Himself, but also His prophet in the eyes of the people.

Yet, the life of Elijah is an illustration of what becomes of a believer when he takes his focus off the LORD, and forgets His past blessings and provisions. Today’s Scripture reading reminds us that even the most dedicated servants of God can fall victim to discouragement and depression. The focus of this devotion is 1 Kings 19.

1 Kings 19 – From the Pinnacle of Victory to a Plight of Despair

King Ahab had retreated to his palace in Jezreel (18:45), and there he “told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets [of Baal] with the sword” (19:1). Furious at the news of what had become of her servants of Baal, the queen sent a messenger to Elijah and threatened slay him the next day (19:2).

How did Elijah respond? “He arose, and went for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongeth to Judah [fleeing beyond the borders of Israel], and left his servant there” (19:3). Knowing Jezebel was seeking to kill him, Elijah might have dismissed his servant, fearing he would soon be slain. Elijah continued his journey another day into the wilderness, “and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers” (19:4).

How could a prophet of the LORD experience such a great victory in 1 Kings 18, yet find himself as an exile in 1 Kings 19? (19:4-14)

I see several factors contributing to Elijah’s flight and depression. His contest with Ahab and the prophets of Baal had taken its toll and left him physically exhausted (19:3-7). Physically worn, he had made decisions with a skewed, inaccurate, wrong focus. Jezebel’s threats had registered deep, causing Elijah to lack trust, and take his eyes off the LORD.

Notice also that Elijah exaggerated his circumstances, and protested, “I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (19:10). In that statement, and a repetition of the same in verse 14, Elijah embraced a negative, critical spirit, and an unbiblical view of God (19:10, 14).

How did the LORD respond to Elijah’s protests and depression? (19:5-8)

There are several things God employed to get Elijah out of his “spiritual funk.” He allowed the prophet to rest, for he laid down “and slept under a juniper tree” (19:5). The LORD then sent an angel, who provided the prophet with nourishment, “a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water. And [Elijah] did eat and drink, and laid him down again” (19:6). The angel came to Elijah a second time, and counseled the prophet, “Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee” (19:7). The prophet learned he was to make his journey to “Horeb the mount of God” (19:8), for there he had a divine appointment and mission.

Sheltering in a cave at Horeb, “the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?” (19:9)

Elijah answered the LORD, but his protests revealed where he was spiritually and emotionally. The prophet said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (19:10), and repeated the same in verse 14 after Elijah had witnessed a violent storm, an earthquake, and fire (19:11-12). Finally, the LORD spoke to his prophet in “a still small voice,” and asked, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” (19:13).

Elijah’s Threefold Mission (19:15-21)

The LORD commanded Elijah to begin his journey to Israel, and along the way he was to anoint three men who, in the sovereignty of God, were destined to take the place of other men. In Syria, Elijah was to “anoint Hazael to be king over Syria,” and thereby taking the throne from Benhadad, king of Syria (19:15). The prophet was also directed to anoint Jehu to suceed Ahab as king of Israel (19:16a). Lastly, he was to anoint “Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah” who would take Elijah’s place as a prophet in Israel (19:16).

In answer to Elijah’s exaggeration that he alone was a faithful prophet in Israel, God revealed, “I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him” (19:18).

Closing thoughts – Elijah obeyed the LORD, and in his journey came to Elisha, the young man whom God had chosen to become prophet in Israel (19:19). Knowing the call of the LORD upon His life would require him to never return to his former life, Elisha slew the oxen with which he had been plowing, and “then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him” (19:21).

In the words of an old Gospel song, for those who serve the LORD, there is “No Turning Back, No Turning Back.”

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 12, 1 Kings 10

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

An Admonition (Ecclesiastes 12:1-2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Personification of Wisdom (Proverbs 8-9)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 8; Proverbs 9

Today’s Scripture from Proverbs 8 and Proverbs 9, are wonderful expositions on the topic of biblical wisdom.

Proverbs 8

Proverbs 8 opens with two rhetorical questions: 1Doth not wisdom cry? And understanding [insight; discernment] put forth her voice?” (8:1).

The inference of the questions assumes the answer to each is, “Yes!” Yes, wisdom heralds her presence, and lifts up her voice to be heard. Godly wisdom, the skillful or right use of knowledge, demands not only to be heard, but heeded!

Where may one seek wisdom? According to Solomon, those who sincerely seek godly wisdom will find her. “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 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]” (8:2-3).

There was a day when wisdom was accessible in all those places, for she was sought out by men and women seeking spiritual insight and discernment. Wisdom, I fear, has been rejected and silenced. Her voice is no longer welcomed in academia. Church congregations gather, not for truth and wisdom, but for entertainment, and to have their ears tickled (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

To acquire wisdom, one must first have the necessary requisite for such a treasure: “The fear [reverence] of the LORD is the beginning [fundamental; the most important thing] of wisdom: a good understanding [insight; discretion] have all they that do [make; perform] his commandments: his praise [glory] endureth [stands; is established] for ever [eternity]” (Psalm 111:10).

To acquire wisdom, discernment, and understanding, a believer must first revere the LORD, and make His Word, law, and commandments his meditation “day and night” (Psalm 1:2).

Where can one go for wisdom?

Proverbs 8:22-26 identifies Wisdom as existing eternally with God. The LORD “possessed [birthed] me [wisdom] in the beginning” (8:22). Wisdom “was set up [ordained] from everlasting [eternal; perpetual; without end], from the beginning, or ever the earth was [i.e. before the earth was created]” (8:23).

Jesus Christ is Wisdom, and everything Wisdom is said to be in Proverbs 8:27-31.  He is co-eternal with God the Father.  He was present when the sun, moon and stars were set in the heavens.  He was present when the earth was formed as a globe (8:27).  When the clouds were set in the sky and the waters stored in the depths of the earth—Christ was there (8:28).  When God set the boundaries of the ocean and hung the earth in space—Christ was there (8:29).  He is co-eternal and co-equal with God the Father. He is the Architect and Creator of the earth and man (8:30-31; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 3:9). To find wisdom, one must turn to Christ.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Proverbs 9

You will notice in your reading of Proverbs 9 that Wisdom was introduced as having built a house supported by seven pillars (9:1). After completing the house, Wisdom invited guests to a banquet for which she had prepared and was hosting (9:2-6). Invitations were sent out to citizens of the city, and all were invited to attend the banquet, including the simple, the foolish, and the scorner (9:4-8).

To attend Wisdom’s banquet, one had to be willing to depart from the company of the foolish (9:6). Wisdom’s invitation to separate from the foolish came with a promise: “Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way [path] of understanding [wisdom; spiritual discernment]” (9:6).

Closing thoughts – What kind of life did Wisdom promise? The life promised was more than mere survival. Wisdom was promising a life of spiritual contentment.

Riches will not buy a soul happiness; however, walking with Wisdom will bring something money cannot buy–peace, discernment, and contentment.

Proverbs 9:10–1110The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: And the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
11For by me thy days shall be multiplied, And the years of thy life shall be increased.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Majesty of God (Psalm 113-114)

Scripture reading – Psalm 113-114

Today’s Scripture reading continues our study in the Book of Psalms, and the collection of psalms known as the “Hallelujah Psalms.” Like Psalm 111 and Psalm 112, Psalm 113 and Psalm 114 begin with the phrase: “Praise ye the LORD” (112:1, 113:1, 114:1). Psalm 113 and Psalm 114 belong to a group of psalms identified as the “Hallel psalms” (Psalms 113-118). The “Hallel psalms” were worship psalms sung at three feasts: Feast of the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles.

Psalm 113 – A “Hallel” Psalm

The author of Psalm 113 is not identified; however, its opening verse sounds a call to worship for the congregation of Israel: “Praise ye the Lord. Praise, O ye servants of the Lord, Praise the name of the Lord” (113:1).

Let all who “serve,” and obey the LORD, sing Hallelujah to His name! Let the LORD’S name be “blessed” [praised]…for evermore” (113:2), and everywhere, from “the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same” (113:3).

Why should the LORD be praised? (113:4-9)

The LORD should be praised for His throne is “high above all nations,” thrones, kings, and authority (113:4). He is higher than the stars of heaven (113:4b), and there is none that compare to Him (113:5). Our God is so high above, that He must humble Himself to look upon heaven and earth (113:6).

The LORD deserves our praise because he lifts up the poor and needy (113:7), and is able to exalt them over rulers (113:8). It is the LORD that blesses the barren” woman, and she embraces the joy of motherhood (113:9). Hallelujah, “Praise ye the LORD!” (113:9b)

Psalm 114 – A Psalm of Reflection on Israel’s Exodus

Psalm 114 is also a “Hallel psalm.” Because it celebrated Israel’s exodus out of Egypt, it would have been a song heard during the Feast of Tabernacles (also known as the “Feast of Booths,” it commemorated Israel’s wandering in the desert; Exodus 23:14-17; Leviticus 23:33-36, 39-43; Deuteronomy 16:13-15).

The psalmist memorialized the works and ways of the LORD in His dealings with Israel. In Psalm 114:1, He brought Israel “out of Egypt, and the house of Jacob [the twelve tribes of Israel], from a people of a strange language” [for Israel had serve Egyptian masters]. The LORD was Priest to Israel, and ordained His house be built in Judah (Jerusalem), for He had chosen “Israel as His dominion” (114:2). He divided the Red Sea when He brought Israel out of Egypt, and drove the Jordan (River) back for the people to cross into Canaan (114:3, 5).

When Israel encamped at Mount Sinai, where the LORD gave Moses His Commandments and Law, His Spirit descended and the mountains and hills trembled at His presence (114:4, 6-7; Exodus 19:18).

The psalmist then called upon all the earth to tremble at the presence of the LORD, saying, “Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, At the presence of the God of Jacob” (114:7). In His presence, even the rocks were cleaved in half, and water gushed forth from its fissures (114:8).

Closing thoughts – If you are a novice to Bible studies, you may wonder what application, if any, a psalm about Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness has for 21st century believers.

Besides reminding us of the majesty and greatness of the LORD, we are also reminded that the record of historical events during Israel’s sojourn are instructive for believers of all ages. For instance, the rock from which water came forth to quench the thirst of the people in the wilderness, was a type or picture of Jesus Christ.

Paul writes, “And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock [literally a massive rock] that followed [came with, or behind] them: and that Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4). The cloud that led and shadowed Israel by day, and the pillar of fire that was with them by night, was Jesus Christ!

Truth – As the LORD was ever with Israel, so He is with all believers who come into His family and walk in His ways. He protects, sustains, and meets our needs just as He did in days of old. While all the earth will one day tremble at His presence, believers are comforted knowing they are never beyond His reach, tender love and care.

Deuteronomy 31:6 – “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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