Category Archives: Fool

“The Sins and Signs of a Failing Nation and a Dying Culture” – part 2 (Isaiah 3)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 2; Isaiah 3

This is the second of two devotionals for today’s Scripture reading. The focus is Isaiah 3.

The Bible is filled with examples of godly men who did not have the luxury of ignoring the wickedness and perversity of their leaders or nation. Zechariah was stoned to death when he condemned the sins of Judah and her king (2 Chronicles 24). God commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh and warn that wicked nation, except they repent the city would be destroyed. John the Baptist lost his head when he dared confront the wickedness and adultery of King Herod. And so, we come to Isaiah, whom God called to assail the wickedness of Judah and her kings.

The Removal of “the Stay and the Staff” (3:1-4)

A study of history reveals the rise and fall of nations follows the pattern of sin and wickedness we find in Isaiah 3.  We read, “1For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, Doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff” (3:1).

Interpreting this verse in context, you find God was removing from Judah that nation’s leaders. The “stay” (masculine form, meaning support or protector) represented that nation’s loss of “manly men,” who had been strong leaders in Judah. The removal of the “staff” (feminine form, meaning a support), meant the nation would have a void of godly, influential women (3:1).

Judah’s rebellion against God invited His judgment, and the losses are enumerated in Isaiah 3.

There would be a shortage of bread and water (“the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water” (3:1). The nation would want for male leaders, men of integrity described as, “the mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient” (3:2).

A second tier of leadership, the backbone of a nation, would be lost. There would be no “captain of fifty [lower military officers], and the honourable man [men of integrity], and the counseller [wise men], and the cunning artificer [skilled workers; i.e., carpenters, mechanics], and the eloquent orator [persuasive speakers]” (3:4)

Judah Turned to Weak, Incompetent Men for Leaders (3:4-6)

With a void of spiritual, “manly men” leaders (3:7-9), the people turned to foolish, inexperienced leaders, dominated by brazen women (3:12, 16-23). The people chose “children [weak] to be their princes, and babes [immature] shall rule [have dominion or power] over them (3:4). With weak, inexperienced, unprincipled leaders, Judah became a lawless, oppressed society (3:5). Those weak leaders were proud and emboldened “against the ancient [elderly]” (3:5), and “base [without a moral compass] against the honourable [men of rank]” (3:5).

How did those weak, spineless, effeminate leaders come to be in authority? They were not chosen because of their character, but because of their influence (having acquired wealth by inheritance, 3:6).

Judah Turned to Domineering Women for Leaders (3:12, 16-23)

Instead of nurturing and protecting the youth of the nation, women diminished their femininity, and became worse brutes than men (3:12 – “women rule over them…they which lead thee cause thee to err, And destroy the way of thy paths”). The women of the nation, identified as “the daughters of Zion,” were proud and immodest (3:16), haughty, and flirtatious with “wanton [painted] eyes” (3:16).

Closing thoughtsLike most nations that fail, Judah was destroyed, not from an enemy without, but from an enemy within.

What becomes of a nation that chooses weak men, and proud women to lead? The strong women would be afflicted with disease (3:17). They would be reduced to the poverty of a household slave (3:18-24). Their fine jewelry (3:18-21), and costly apparel would be taken (3:22-23), and their well-groomed hair would be replaced by baldness (3:24).

Yet, there was still hope. Though the majority of Judah had turned to wickedness, not all were faithless. God promised He would not forget the righteous, and would avenge His people (3:10-24, 25-26).

Do the signs of a dying nation sound familiar?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Cursed Be the Man Who Usurps God’s Authority (2 Kings 15; 2 Chronicles 26)

Scripture Reading – 2 Kings 15; 2 Chronicles 26

Continuing our chronological study of the Scriptures, we return to 2 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 26, parallel passages of the same historical events. Though the names of kings might be confusing and their deeds soon forgotten, what is important is that we take from our study of the Scriptures an insight into the ways of the LORD, and His sovereign rule in the affairs of men and nations.

2 Kings 15 – Kings rise and fall, but the reign of the LORD endures forever.

His father having been assassinated in a conspiracy (2 Kings 14:19), Azariah (also known as Uzziah in 2 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 26) became king of Judah.  He was only sixteen years old when he ascended to Judah’s throne, and would reign as king fifty-two years (15:1-2).

2 Kings 15:5 states with no explanation that Azariah (i.e. Uzziah), was smitten with leprosy by the LORD and was forced to live in a “several” [separate] house from the palace (2 Kings 15:5a). The king’s son, Jotham, handled the administrative matters of the palace, “judging the people of the land” (2 Kings 15:5b).

To understand the cause for the king’s leprosy (which in the Scriptures is a symbol of the dreadfulness of sin), we turn to 2 Chronicles 26.

2 Chronicles 26 – Stricken with Leprosy for Usurping the Priesthood

King Uzziah’s (i.e., Azariah in 2 Kings 15) remarkable achievements are recorded in 2 Chronicles 26, which also gives us the cause for his successes: “He sought God in the days of Zechariah [the high priest], who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he [Uzziah] sought the LORD, God made him to prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5).

Uzziah had been a successful warrior (26:6-8), for “God helped him…and his name spread abroad” (26:7-8). He had reinforced the fortification of Jerusalem, and to secure the land he “built towers in the desert, and digged wells” (essential in the dry, arid wilderness, 26:10). I especially admire the mention of Uzziah’s heart for the agrarian way of life, for we read, “he loved husbandry” (i.e., he loved to farm, (26:10).

Yet, this king with a farmer’s heart, was also a gifted administrator, who numbered and ordered his army, providing for his soldiers the necessary implements for war (26:11-15). Perhaps he was also a gifted engineer, and strategist, for he is said to have “made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal” (26:15a). What those “engines” of war were, is a matter of speculation, but Uzziah achieved the admiration of his friends and foes (26:15b).

Tragically, when he was at the pinnacle of success in his 52-year reign over Judah, we read, “But when he [Uzziah; i.e. Azariah] was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense” (2 Chronicles 26:16).

Why did the LORD afflict King Uzziah (i.e., Azariah) with leprosy, a dreaded disease that would follow him to his grave?

Uzziah was afflicted with a malady more dreaded than leprosy– PRIDE (26:16). Forgetting his successes had come because of the LORD’s blessings, Uzziah’s “heart was lifted up to his destruction” (26:16), and he foolishly usurped the role of the priest and entered “the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense” (26:16; Numbers 16:40; 18:7).

Bloated with pride from his achievements, the king treaded upon ground God had reserved for the priesthood.

The chief priest Azariah and eighty priests with him, confronted Uzziah (26:17-18). Rather than humble himself and confess his sin, the king was enraged and the LORD immediately struck him with leprosy which evidenced on his forehead (26:19). The law regarding leprosy demanded a leper be put out from the living (Leviticus 13:45-46) to avoid the spread, and seeing the blight on the king’s face, the priests expelled Uzziah from the Temple, even as he sought to flee (26:20).

As a leper, Uzziah lived the rest of his life in a separate house from the palace. Because he was a leper, he was not buried in a royal tomb, but was instead buried in a field near the place where kings were buried.

Closing thoughts – What a tragedy! The legacy of the great king gave testimony of his skill as a warrior, builder, administrator, but sadly—tainted as a leper. Uzziah’s (i.e., Azariah) life, in spite of his achievements, read simply, “He [was] a leper” (26:23).

I wonder what counsel Uzziah might offer, if given an opportunity to counsel a 21st century believer? Perhaps he would warn:

Sinful pride, and one’s failure to honor the Lord and keep His Commandments, will not only risk your legacy, but your life.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 11, 2 Chronicles 9

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

2 Chronicles 9 (1 Kings 10)

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

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

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

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

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

1 Kings 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Please remember to subscribe to www.HeartofAShepherd.com, and have daily devotionals sent to your email address. In the next year, there will be bonus devotionals only available to subscribers of www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith, Pastor

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Two Paths: One to Joy, the Other to Ruin (Ecclesiastes 9; Ecclesiastes 10)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 9; Ecclesiastes 10

Nearing the conclusion of our study in the Book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon’s observations, though penned nearly 3,000 years ago, are applicable to our day. In spite of our 21st century sophistications, there continues to be, as Solomon so aptly penned, “no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

Ecclesiastes 9

Seeing life from a human, earthly vantage, Solomon observes that good men and evil men come to the same fate. Solomon wrote, “all things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked.” What one thing do good and evil men have in common? Death (9:1-3).

Better to be living than dead (9:4-6), appears to be a statement of the obvious, but it is stated poetically by the king in Ecclesiastes 9:4-6. One proverb of that truth was, “a living dog is better than a dead lion” (9:4b). From two different spectrums, the lion was considered king, while the dog was looked upon with disgust (unlike our society that pampers dogs as pets). Solomon wisely used these two comparatives to help us visualize the great value of life (9:4).

Four Suggestions that Contribute to Joy (9:7-10)

1) Seize the day, and be happy. Live life, and enjoy the life that you live. God accepts your work, when your work is judged acceptable in His sight (9:7).

2) Set your heart to be joyful (9:8). Solomon draws a reference to the priesthood and to kings. The priests wore unstained, white garments, that represented walking in righteousness. Like the priests in Solomon’s day, we should also walk in righteousness.

3) Make your marriage a priority, and “live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life” (9:9). A happy marriage is the foundation of one’s companionship, friendship, pleasure, and joy.

4) Make the most of your labor: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” (9:10a). Whether in the work place, the home, or any area of life, give your best! Paul, in his letter to believers in Colosse, wrote the same sentiment: “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23).

Ecclesiastes 10

Ecclesiastes 10:1 draws upon an analogy that is foreign to our day; however, by keeping the verse in context we can understand its truth. Recalling the original manuscript of the Scriptures would not have had verses, and chapter breaks, let us consider Ecclesiastes 10:1 by drawing upon the previous verse. We read, “Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good” (9:18). Knowing the immediate context was a reference to “one sinner” who is able to destroy “much good” we read:

Dead flies cause the ointment [oil; perfume] of the apothecary [a clay vessel containing ointment] to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly [silliness; foolishness] him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour” (10:1).

In context with the verse prior to Ecclesiastes 10:1, I suggest we consider the “dead flies” to be “little sins” (at least from a human perspective). In the same way “dead flies” pollute the perfume and cause it to become rotten and putrid, “little sins” (i.e., “a little folly”) can discredit a wise man, and ruin his reputation (10:1).

The Influence and Character of One’s Counselors (10:12-15)

Ecclesiastes 10:12-15 states a contrast between the words and counsel of wise men, and the counsel of fools. The counsel of a wise man is described as “gracious” (10:12), meaning his words are to be looked upon with favor. However, “the lips of a fool will swallow up himself,” and anyone foolish enough to heed his counsel (10:12).

Solomon continued his admonitions regarding a fool’s counsel, stating: “The beginning of the words [counsel] of his [the fool’s] mouth is foolishness [folly]: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness.” From the outset, the words of a fool express what is in his heart—foolishness. And, where does the counsel of a fool lead? In the words of Solomon, “mischievous madness,” or sheer insanity! (10:13).

While wise men tend to be men of few words, the fool “is full of words” (10:14a), and is wise in his own eyes.  And what can you teach a fool? Nothing, absolutely nothing! (10:14b) Another sad trait of a fool is he not only refuses wise counsel, but he lacks the competence to find his way “to go to the city” (10:14). In other words, he is incapable of following simple directions.

Defining the moral character of a leader (king) as “a child” (10:16), Solomon observed:

Ecclesiastes 10:16 16Woe to thee, O land, when thy king [leader] is a child [unwise, inexperienced, lacks discernment], and thy princes [leadership] eat in the morning!

Closing thoughts – Today’s society is often guilty of promoting incompetency over qualification. Rather than promote persons based upon their skill or moral character and merit, governments, corporations, educational institutions, and yes, churches often fail to choose leaders whose lives are a testimony to wisdom, self-disciplines, and hard work.

Failing to seek the candidates with moral character, self-discipline, and proven success, leads to the downfall of any institution, government or nations (10:16). Woe to the nation, corporation, or ministry that prefers failure, immaturity, inexperience, and self-indulgence, over godly wisdom and unwavering convictions (10:16).

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 7; Ecclesiastes 8

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

Ecclesiastes 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Need to Be Needed (Ecclesiastes 4; Ecclesiastes 5)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 4; Ecclesiastes 5

We are continuing our study of the Book of Ecclesiastes, and this is the first of two devotionals from today’s Scripture reading, Ecclesiastes 4 and 5.

Ecclesiastes 4

Unfair, Unfair (4:1-3)

Solomon, now an aged king and near the end of his days, returned to a familiar subject in this book. Contemplating the injustices men suffer in life (4:1-3), the king wrote, “So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter” (4:1).

What a sad commentary on how men oppress and victimize the innocent, and less fortunate. The king observed, the oppressed have nowhere to turn for comfort. In his state of heart and mind, Solomon concluded, an innocent man might be better dead than to suffer the sorrows of oppression (4:2-3).

Four Sinful Attitudes Regarding Wealth (4:4-8)

Moving to another matter, the king considered four sinful attitudes concerning wealth and material possessions. The first was envy. Some people are envious of their neighbor’s wealth and possessions (4:4). While the nature of man is not to envy the labor of another, it is to desire the fruit and success of his work. An envious, jealous spirit is unloving, and violates the command, “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18).

Laziness is also a sinful attitude when it comes to prosperity. Solomon observed, “The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh” (4:5).  The fool in this verse is one who quits work, and is dependent upon others (4:5a). He is a sluggard, and is slothful (Proverbs 19:15; 21:25). The effect of his laziness is that it cannibalizes his future, for he “eateth his own flesh,” and what might have been (4:5b).

The workaholic is the polar opposite of an indolent man, for he labors to fill his hands with wealth, and toils at the sacrifice of himself, his health, and his family (4:6b). Solomon observed, it would be better to have a little (“a handful”), and enjoy peace and “quietness” (4:6b).

The miser is the fourth sinful attitude that was observed by Solomon (4:7-8). Like the rich fool who toils away his life for riches, but is never content (Luke 12:15-21), the miser may find himself rich in goods, but alone. He has money, but no family or friends to bless.

Three Principles for Life, Work and Friendship (4:9-12)

I find three life principles when it comes laboring with others (4:9-12). The first: Working with others is satisfying, and more rewarding than working alone (4:9-10).

Solomon writes, “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour” (4:9). Like oxen that are stronger and more productive when they share the same yoke, we are by nature happier and more satisfied when we work with others (4:9).

The king perceived, For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up” (4:10). Working together builds a bond, discourages selfishness, and provides an opportunity to encourage and minister to others (4:10).

Working with others affords us protection, and encourages perseverance (4:11-12). Solomon wrote: “if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone12  And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (4:11-12).

Everyone needs to be needed, and “huddling together” affords us comfort and encouragement. Like a husband and wife who find warmth together on a cold night, we are made stronger when we laugh together, cry together, and work together!  Should an enemy threaten, or when difficult times come, a sincere friend will keep you from falling or failing (4:12).

Working together fulfills God’s plan, for He never meant for us to be alone (4:12b).

In the beginning, God created everything perfect and good (Genesis 1-2), with one exception–After He created Adam, “the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:19).

You are happiest when you are needed!  You are more effective in your work, and less likely to quit when you work with others who are striving for the same goals.

One Can Be a Fool at Any Age (4:13-16)

Contrary to the opinion of some, youth does not own the market when it comes to being a foolish. A child that is poor, but wise, is better than a king corrupted by power, and unwilling to hear or heed correction (4:13).

While the foolish sometimes rise from obscurity (i.e., “prison”), and seize opportunity to wield power, their blunders inevitably bring them low (4:14). Remembering people are fickle by nature, they turn and embrace youth (4:15). Those in whom the public celebrate today, they will “not rejoice in” tomorrow (4:16).

Closing review – 1) There will always be injustices, and you should expect them (4:1-3). 2) Warning: The wealth and success of others may tempt you to be envious, or lazy if you sit idly focusing on what others have that you do not (4:4-8). 3) Remember – You will be happiest when you labor with others (4:9-12). 4) People are fickle, and foolishness will characterize the young and old, and the poor and rich.

* Please subscribe to http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com for future daily devotionals. This is the first of two daily devotionals published today by Pastor Smith. The second devotional will be taken from Ecclesiastes 5, and is only available by going to www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Few Things Are as Repulsive as One Who Praises Himself” (Proverbs 27)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 27

Our brief study in the Proverbs continues with chapter 27. Though filled with golden nuggets of “uncommon common sense,” the focus of our devotional will be limited to Proverbs 27:2.

Proverbs 27

The Book of Proverbs is a king’s instructions to his son.  On several occasions, Solomon has expressed concern that the heart of his son might not be lifted up in pride. Born into a home of wealth and privilege, it would have been easy for a young prince to be carried away by the grandeur of the palace, and the presence of servants ever ready at his beckon call. Proverbs 27:2 presents a wonderful consideration regarding the insightful counsel of a father who understood the bent of the heart of his son. Lest he be led astray by the pride of youth, Solomon urged his son to recognize how uncomely it was for a man to boast, and praise himself.

Proverbs 27:2 – “Let another man praise thee [boast; celebrate; sing your praises], and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips [speech].

Few things are as repulsive as a man boasting in his achievements. It is, however, the nature of man to “proclaim every one his own goodness” (Proverbs 20:6). Such a man has forgotten the raw clay from which he was taken. While praise and acknowledgement are rewarding, they ring hollow when expressed by one’s own lips.

Why is a conceited, pompous, self-congratulatory spirit so distasteful to others, and inappropriate before God?

The answer is clear – because it is not the Spirit of God, but the evil spirit of self-promotion. The prophet Isaiah, comparing the fall of Nebuchadnezzar, the great king of Babylon, to the fall of Lucifer, noted how that fallen angel had boasted in his pride, and exalted himself to be the Creator’s equal (Isaiah 14:12-15). Notice the number of times Lucifer employed the pronoun “I” to glory in himself.

Isaiah 14:12-15 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
13  For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
14  I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
15  Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

Closing thoughts – Before you dismiss the thought of being proud and vain, evaluate how much of your conversations are actually self-focused? Are you given to bragging and boasting? Does your social media wall reveal you to be arrogant, self-righteous, and self-promoting?

The ugly little secret is: others have already noticed how much of your life is self-focused.

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

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Hawking One’s Self and Gawking at Others has become a Passion” (Proverbs 25:6-7)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 25; Proverbs 26

Today’s Scripture reading is Proverbs 25 and 26. As with all the chapters in Proverbs, the number of verses, and couplets of wisdom are daunting if addressed in a brief devotional. My devotional commentary from Proverbs 25will focus on Proverbs 25:6-7. This is the first of two devotional studies today.

Proverbs 25

The Internet has opened up a world of fame and/or infamy for those who want to impact the social media world. Such a platform has given opportunity to anyone who wants to be an overnight, self-made, internet sensation.

I am often amazed at the magnitude of information individuals are willing to share on social network sites. Hawking one’s self and gawking at others has become an all-consuming past time. It is estimated that 18-34-year-olds spend 3.8 hours a day social networking! The infatuation with self, reminds me of a comment my tourist guide in Israel made years ago when he observed the national pastime of Israeli youth was “to see and to be seen.”

Proverbs 25:6-7 cuts against the grain of our self-promoting society. Solomon urged his son to show discretion and humility, especially in the presence of great men. The king wrote:

Proverbs 25:6-7 – “Put not forth thyself [don’t be a self-promoter; overtly ambitious; seeking vainglory] in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men:
7 For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up [ascend; go up] hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower [humbled; humiliated] in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.”  

Christ taught a similar lesson regarding humility in Luke 14:8-10.

Luke 14:8-11 – “When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room [place of honor]; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him;
9 And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room.
10 But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.
11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

Closing thoughts – Take a few minutes and inspect your social media page, and the pictures you have posted. I encourage you to be honest about the things you have written, and the photos you have posted. Forget how many “Likes” or “Comments” you have received and consider: How much of what I have posted glorifies God? Are you guilty of self-promotion?

In a day of shameless self-promotion, HUMILITY is still the quality God cherishes in His people.

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

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Matters of the Heart” (Proverbs 15)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 15

We continue our study in Proverbs, with the focus being Proverbs 15:18-21. While today’s devotional addresses a variety of different topics, they all ultimately fall under a subject I have titled, “Matters of the Heart.”

The Angry Man vs. The Patient Man (15:18)

Proverbs 15:18 “A wrathful [angry, raging] man stirreth up [meddles; causes contention] strife [quarrels; arguments]: but he that is slow [patient; longsuffering] to anger [wrath; flaring nostrils; huffing and puffing] appeaseth strife [quiets disputes and quarrels].”

It is the fate of some families to have a loved one whose demeanor is described in Proverbs 15:18 as “a wrathful man.” Such a one is characteristically self-centered, provokes contention, and has an angry spirit. Trouble follows him, and his presence at gatherings is often anticipated with dread and anxiety.

The contrast to the “wrathful man,” is the man who is “slow to anger” (15:18b). Unlike his quick-tempered, unloving cousin, this man loves and seeks peace. His patient demeanor tends to de-escalate a potentially volatile moment. His response is one of love, extending grace, and is therefore “not easily provoked” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).

The Way of the Lazy vs. The Way of the Righteous (15:19)

Proverbs 15:19 – “The way [road; journey] of the slothful [lazy; sluggard] man is as an hedge of thorns [full of obstructions and difficulties]: but the way [path, road, journey] of the righteous [upright; just] is made plain [smooth].”

Contrasting a lazy, “slothful man” with the “the righteous” seems an odd comparison, until we understand it is not the men, but the way that is the subject.

The “way” (path, journey) of the “slothful” is difficult, for his laziness has allowed his way to become figuratively overgrown with thorns. According to him, he is too tired, too sleepy, mistreated, misunderstood, undervalued, and so goes the list of excuses for the “slothful man.” Such laziness inevitably leads to a life filled with failures, and frustrations.

The way of the “righteous” is described as “made plain” or smooth (15:19b). It is plain and smooth, not because man has prepared it thus, but because it is the LORD’s path. The path of the righteous is smooth, because he has been diligent and maintained his walk and way with the Lord.

Two Manner of Sons (15:20)

Proverbs 15:20 “A wise son [intelligent; wise hearted son] maketh a glad father [proud; rejoicing]: but a foolish man despiseth [disdains; shows contempt for] his mother.”

Proverbs 15:20 affords an opportunity to reflect on an earlier proverb in this chapter, that read: “A fool [mocker; rebel] despiseth [abhors; has contempt for] his father’s instruction [discipline; chastisement; warnings]: but he that regardeth [keeps; attends to] reproof [rebuke] is prudent [crafty; shrewd] (15:5).

The spiritual state of a child’s heart is not determined by intellect, talent, or outward beauty, but in how a child responds to his parent’s instruction and correction. A fool has contempt for correction, while a wise son responds with humility.  It is prudent for parents to honestly consider their child’s response to instruction and correction, not only within the home, but also with authorities outside the home.

A wise son is a father’s pride and joy; however, a fool treats his mother with contempt and disdain (15:20).

A Tale of Two Courses (15:21)

Proverbs 15:21 “Folly [silliness] is joy [mirth] to him that is destitute [without; lacking; void] of wisdom [lit. a heart without feelings]: but a man of understanding [wisdom; insight] walketh uprightly [go straight; righteous; just].”

Silly, insensitive fools have become the celebrities of our culture, and it follows that their sinful ways are modeled by the youth of this generation. “Destitute of wisdom” (15:21a), absurdity rules, immoral character governs, and sociopaths desensitized to the feelings of others have become the icons of our day. Let God’s people set their hearts to reject the folly of our day, and walk the straight path according to His Laws, precepts and commandments.

Closing thoughts – We have observed in our devotional a contrast of ways. The way of the wicked is angry, thorny, foolish, and folly. The way of the upright is God’s way, and is smooth, wise, and straight.

Matthew 7:13–1413Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
14Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

What path have you taken?

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Whose Side Are You On? (2 Samuel 17)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 17

2 Samuel 17 continues the historical record of the insurrection led by Absalom, David’s thirdborn son. We are given a window, a front row seat, concerning Absalom’s war council, and the opposing strategies he was proffered.

Ahithophel’s Counsel for Pursuing David (17:1-4)

Ahithophel, an embittered, but wise man and the grandfather of Bathsheba, counseled Absalom to allow him to pursue David and his entourage that very night (17:1). His strategy was to ambush David before he could organize his “mighty men,” and “smite the king only” (17:2). Ahithophel encouraged the king, by striking the head (the king), he would “bring back all the people [and] all the people shall be in peace” (17:3). Absalom and “all the elders of Israel” agreed to the counsel (17:4); yet, Absalom made a fateful error, and a providential one for David, for he said: “Call now Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear likewise what he saith” (17:5).

Hushai’s Contrary Counsel and Diversion (17:5-14)

Remembering Hushai’s loyalty was to David, he fulfilled his mission by giving opposing counsel to that of Ahithophel. Ahithophel’s counsel was to pursue, and destroy David before he could organize, even before he could pass over the Jordan River. Hushai, however, urged that Absalom had the luxury of time, and an opportunity to gather a superior force, and by strength of power would defeat his father (17:6-12). Appealing to Absalom’s pride, and pursuit of glory, Hushai painted a picture saying that, if necessary, “all Israel [would] bring ropes to that city, and…will draw it into the river, until there be not one small stone found there” (17:13).

Though Ahithophel’s counsel was the wiser of the two, Absalom rejected his advice, and followed Hushai’s strategy, “For the Lord had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the Lord might bring evil upon Absalom” (17:14).

David’s Flight Across Jordan (17:15-29)

The priests, who were on David’s side in the conflict, sent word to him by way of a woman (“wench”) who met with two of David’s men at a well (17:17). After being concealed in the well by the woman, she deceived Absalom’s men with a tale that David’s men had fled the city (17:20). David’s spies returned to his encampment, and warned the king concerning Absalom’s plot (17:21). Hushai warned the king, he and his company must pass that very night over the Jordan before resting (17:22).

Absalom followed his father in a desperate pursuit; however, David and all that were with him had crossed the Jordan to Mahanaim, located on the east side of the Jordan River. There the king and his company not only refreshed themselves, but were comforted by gifts from those who were sympathetic to David (17:27-29).

The Tragic Death of Ahithophel (17:23)

His counsel rejected, Ahithophel, a man who had been one of David’s trusted counselors, understood what Absalom and those who followed him would soon learn…All was Lost. The opportunity to crush David’s forces was when he was in hasty retreat, but that time had passed. Though shamed, and humiliated by the insurrection led by his own son, David and those who were with him were men of war. In the words of Hushai’s counsel to Absalom:

2 Samuel 17:8, 10 – “Thou knowest thy father and his men, that they be mighty men, and they be chafed in their minds, as a bear robbed of her whelps in the field: and thy father is a man of war…all Israel knoweth that thy father is a mighty man, and they which be with him are valiant men.”

Knowing his counsel had been rejected, Ahithophel exited Absalom’s presence, and went home to put his personal affairs in order, and “hanged himself” (17:23).

Closing thoughtsThe problem with Ahithophel was not his counsel, but his spirit.

There was a time he exercised the gifts of discernment, and the wisdom of a man that consulted with the word of God (2 Samuel 16:23). Tragically, he had allowed bitterness and a vengeful spirit to supplant godly wisdom. He had opposed David, God’s anointed, and committed high treason against the king.

Warning – Before choosing sides in a conflict, a wise man assesses his spirit, for only fools oppose the LORD’S side.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith