Category Archives: Fool

The Tongue and Its Nature (James 3)

Scripture reading – James 3

Our study of the Epistle of James continues with chapter 3, and the focus is three major themes of the book: Trials, Temptations, and the Tongue. Wonderfully practical and convicting, the overriding subject is the tongue and the trouble it is for all mankind.

A Warning to Teachers (3:1)

James 3 opens with a warning to all who aspire to be teachers: “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (3:1). The word “master” is in essence the teacher (an experienced professor may be called a “master teacher”). James included himself in the admonition, saying, we [teachers]shall receive the greater condemnation” (3:1b). Because the tongue is the tool of all who teach, James warned: We will face God’s greater judgment.

The Tongue: Its Characteristics and Dangers (3:2-12)

The author identified man’s tongue as an instrument for both good and evil. The tongue has the power to bless or curse, to affirm or offend, and to cause some to err. In fact, the tongue is so powerful and influential, only a “perfect man” (one mature and spiritually disciplined) has the power to restrain and bridle his tongue (3:2).

Though small, the tongue boasts much and has power and influence. Consider two analogies James drew upon to illustrate the influence of the tongue. The first compares the tongue to a small bit in the mouth of a horse. Small in size, the horse’s bit has the power to harness the strength and direct the will of the horse to submit to the authority of its rider (3:3). The same is true of the rudder of a ship (3:4). Though a small mechanism in proportion to the ship, the rudder can guide a massive vessel through “fierce winds” and troubled seas.

The application: What the bit is in the horse’s mouth, and the rudder is to a ship, so is the tongue to mankind. Though small, the tongue can boast, and destroy lives, marriages, families, and institutions (3:5). “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity [evil]: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth [inflames] the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell” (3:6). Like a spark can turn into a raging forest fire, so the tongue unchecked can destroy everyone and everything.

The tongue of man is also restless, and untamed (3:7-8). Men have been able to capture and tame different “beasts…birds…serpents, and of things in the sea,” but man has never been able to tame his tongue (3:7-8a). Why? For the tongue is by nature, “an unruly evil” and full of venomous poison (3:8b). Treacherous and hypocritical by nature, men pretend to bless God, and curse men; yet, man is made in the likeness and “after the similitude of God” (3:9b). James then declared, “My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (3:10).

Three Things that Cannot Be (3:10-12)

To illustrate the intolerable nature of a tongue that pretends to worship God, and curse men, James proved his point with three things that are unnatural. The first, it is unnatural for a water fountain to spew both sweet and bitter water. It is impossible for a fig tree to bear olives, or a vine to bear figs (3:12a). Finally, it is impossible for a fountain to “produce salt water and fresh” (3:12b).

A Contrast Between Earthly and Heavenly Wisdom (3:13-16)

This passage began with an admonition to teachers (3:1), and I suppose the “wise man” in the passage is the teacher. Consider then, teachers with heavenly wisdom will epitomize three qualities: Their conversation [not just their words, but their ways] should uphold the highest, moral good, and their works should reflect meekness, and wisdom (3:13b).

Worldly wisdom is the antithesis of heavenly wisdom—it is neither good, nor wise. The wisdom of the world spues bitterness, and envy (3:14a). The wisdom of man is selfish, ambitious, proud, and deceitful (3:14b). Such wisdom is born in the bowels of the hearts of evil men, and is worldly and demonic. The Spirit of God does not abide envy and strife (3:15). Warning: Reject implementing the Word of God and confusion and evil will prevail (3:16).

Closing thoughts (3:17-18) – True wisdom has it source in God, and its character reflects His nature. True wisdom is morally pure, peaceable (pursues peace with others), gentle (kind, patient), reasonable (“easy to be intreated”), merciful (compassionate, caring), bears “good fruits” (caring, loving actions), is impartial and just(“without partiality”), and honest and sincere (“without hypocrisy)” (3:17).

What is the effect of godly wisdom? Righteousness [obeying God’s law and commandments] that results in peace with God and others (3:18).

Are you wise or foolish? Which wisdom is characteristic of your heart and life?

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Prodigal Son, and the Question of Divorce (Luke 15; Luke 16)

Scripture reading – Luke 15; Luke 16

Today’s devotional reading continues our study of the Gospel of Luke. Chapters 15 and 16 contain some of the most beloved parables taught by our LORD. The Lost Sheep (15:4-10), The Prodigal Son (15:11-32), The Unfaithful Servant (16:1-13), and The Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-31) are illustrative of God’s longsuffering and love. Because the latter used a man’s proper name (Lazarus), some suggest it was in fact an actual story, and should not fall into the category of an allegory (parable).

Luke 15

The parable of The Prodigal Son (15:11-32) is among the most beloved of all the parables. Notice there are three main characters in the tale: the loving father, the prodigal who was the younger son, and the eldest son who was proud and unforgiving. Because the tale is so well-known, I will limit my observations to a few remarks.

The first two verses reveal the setting and circumstances that prompted the story: “Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. 2And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them” (15:1-2).

As you read the drama between the father, and his sons, notice the parallel between the actors in the parable and those mentioned in Luke 15:1-2. The “publicans and sinners” were like the rebellious younger son, who “wasted his substance with riotous living…and began to be in want,” yet, were received by Christ (15:14). The Pharisees and scribes, like the elder brother who refused to accept his younger brother, resented and criticized Jesus for receiving and eating with sinners (15:2, 28-30). Of course, the father who received his younger son, forgave and restored him as a son, was a picture of Christ’s love for sinners (15:2b, 20-24).

Luke 16

This chapter opens with The Parable of the Unjust Steward (16:1-12), and concludes with the dramatic story of The Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-31). In the midst of the chapter are five verses that seem to interrupt the flow of the narratives, until we remember they embodied Christ’s response to his adversaries (16:14). The Pharisees, often used the occasion of Jesus teaching the people as an opportunity to criticize and confront Him. Having listened to the parable of “The Unjust Steward” (16:1-13), the Pharisees “who were covetous” (16:14) began to “deride” Jesus, openly mocking Him before the people.

Rather than retreat, Jesus answered the derision of the Pharisees and used the occasion to expose their hypocrisy.  He accused those religious leaders of aspiring for men’s venerations, and unmasked the hypocrisy He knew was in their hearts (16:15).

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

John the Baptist was the bridge from the prophets and prophecies of the Old Testament, to Christ, and His preaching the gospel of “the kingdom of God” (16:16-17). Then, Jesus addressed an issue of Old Testament law the Pharisees had distorted… marriage and adultery— “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery” (16:18).

The Pharisees had failed to uphold the sanctity of marriage being between one man and one woman as God designed (Genesis 2:21-24; Matthew 5:31-32; 19:4-10; Ephesians 5:28-33). Those hypocrites had mislead the people, and misinterpreted Deuteronomy 24:1-4. They gave liberty for men to divorce their wives for the silliest of reasons.

Closing thoughts – I close today’s devotional with a few parting thoughts.  The first, God’s will and His design of marriage is a lifetime covenant between one man and one woman. Furthermore, the Scriptures are abundantly clear–God hates divorce (“For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away,” Malachi 2:16).  On a personal, and closing note: I believe the only grounds for divorce is unrepentant adultery, and I cite three proof scriptures for my authority in the matter.

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

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

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

So much more might be said on the subject of marriage and divorce, but I will address that topic at another time.

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Where is your treasure? (Luke 12)

Scripture reading – Luke 12

Our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 12. Once again, we are considering a passage that has been treasured by believers for two millennia, and one that provokes conviction in the hearts of sinners. Christ cautioned His disciples regarding things men ought to fear (12:1-12). We are to fear hypocrisy (12:1-3), but not fear those who persecute or threaten our life (12:4). We are to fear the LORD, for He has the authority “to cast into hell” (12:5), and He knows all things; “even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (12:7).

Beginning with Luke 12:13, the LORD addressed a sin that has been the malady of humanity since the fall of Adam and Eve—the sin of covetousness. When Satan tempted Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3:1-7), he proposed she consider the fruit of the tree God had forbidden, the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17). Initially, Eve resisted the temptation; however, the more she considered the forbidden fruit, the more she pondered what the serpent (Satan) suggested were its benefits. She observed the fruit God forbade was “good for food,” was “pleasant to the eyes,” and had the prospect “to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6). Tragically, she coveted what God had forbidden, and “took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7And the eyes of them both were opened” (Genesis 3:6-7).

The sin of covetousness goes by many names and is expressed in many evil ways. Greed, lust, discontentment, “love of money” (1 Timothy 6:10), hoarding, and stinginess are but a few words that define a sin that has driven men to self-destruction, and eternal damnation. Consider a parable Jesus told that aptly defined the enslaving, damnable nature of covetousness. The appeal of a man at odds with his brother concerning an inheritance prompted the story of the rich fool. In the Jewish culture, the eldest brother had the right of inheritance, and the man who came to Jesus was most likely a young brother seeking a portion of his father’s estate (12:13-15).

The Parable of the “Rich Fool” (12:16-21)

Jesus told the story of a rich man whose “passion for possessions” could not be satisfied. Even when he was blessed, and his barns were filled and overflowing, he was not satisfied. So, the rich man determined to build greater barns, and boasted within himself, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” (12:19).

Sadly, the sum of the parable has been repeated and condemned by the LORD since the fall of man: “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?”(12:20)

What prompted this enduring illustration of covetousness?

It was the request of a man whose “passion for possessions” had taken precedence over the natural affection one brother should have for another. The man came to Jesus demanding, “Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me” (12:13).  The Law was clear regarding inheritance, yet this brother was discontented, and demanded his inheritance out of a heart of greed.

Jesus knew the heart of that man, and recognized in the brother’s request an inordinate affection for wealth and possessions. Rebuking the man for his demand that He act as a judge in a matter where the law had clearly spoken, Jesus warned: “Take heed [be quiet; i.e. listen], and beware of covetousness [i.e. greed; a desire or craving to have more]: for a man’s life consisteth [i.e. is defined by] not in the abundance [surplus; affluence] of the things which he possesseth” (12:15).

Closing lesson: A fool sets his affections on riches, and eventually finds himself a slave to them.

Luke 12:2121So is he [a fool] that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

Where is your treasure?

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Heart is Deceitful (Jeremiah 17)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 17

Our study of Jeremiah brings us to an oft quoted verse, serving as a reminder to the beguiling nature of man’s heart. We read in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Before I address some observations inspired by that verse, let us first consider the context of that spiritual truth.

Jeremiah 17 – The Sinful Depravity that Lies in the Heart of Man

Chapter 17 opens with the prophet bemoaning the sins of Judah, and declaring the permanent scar sin engraves upon the heart. Leaving no doubt for why God’s judgment would come upon the nation, Jeremiah rebuked the people saying, “The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron [for engraving upon stone tablets], and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns [corners] of [their] altars” (17:1).

We recall the LORD’s exhortation given to Israel through His servant Moses, when He instructed His words and commandments were to reside in the people’s hearts (Deuteronomy 6:6). Jeremiah’s generation, however, eschewed the Law and had no regard for the word of the LORD. It was the sins of the people, not the word of the LORD, that was “graven” and deeply furrowed in the hearts of the people (17:1).

Generational Sins (17:2)

What a sad, and tragic lesson! Rather than be known for the blessing the Lord’s Commandments bring, Judah was known for being engraved with the ways of the sinful nations that surrounded them. Even more tragic, we read,“their children remember” (17:2). To “remember,” was to follow in the steps of their parents. What did the children remember? They remembered the sins of their forefathers, and the altars where they sacrificed their sons and daughters. They remembered the notorious “groves” that were known for their idolatries and adulteries (17:2).

The Tragic Consequences of a Nation’s Sins (17:3-4)

Jeremiah declared God’s judgment, saying “my mountain in the field I will give” (probably a reference to Mount Zion, upon which the Temple of the LORD was built), and “all thy treasures to the spoil” (17:3). The army of Babylon would raze the Temple, palaces, and the dwellings of Jerusalem (17:3-4).

Cursed is A People Who Trust in Man (17:5-11)

The world is governed predominately by a man-centered philosophy, and is the product of man’s musings apart from God. The LORD, however, would have His people be God-centered, and follow a path clearly defined in His Word, and is antithetical to the natural bent of man’s heart.

What does God’s Word teach concerning a people that look to man for purpose of life and direction? Jeremiah 17:5-11 contrast two philosophies of life: one is cursed and the other blessed.

Jeremiah 17:5-6 declared a man-centered outlook on life is cursed, because it “trusteth in man” (17:5a), and is departed “from the LORD” (17:5). Such a man is like a stunted bush of the desert, and will not thrive (17:6).

Quoting Psalm 1:1-3, the LORD reminded Judah, a man is blessed when he rejects the philosophies of the world and delights in the Word of the LORD. Such a man is blessed and he “shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit” (17:7-8).

After contrasting the foolish heart of the man that trusts in man, with the blessed heart that trusts in the LORD, Jeremiah warned: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (17:9)

Jeremiah 17:10 is a comfort to the godly, but woe to the sinner who continues in his sin, for the LORD declared: “10I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (17:10).

Closing thoughts – There is much more to consider in the balance of today’s Scripture reading (Jeremiah 17:12-27), but our devotional concludes with an invitation for you to ponder Jeremiah 17:11, which reads, “As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.”

Perhaps this little parable sounds strange, until we ponder the empty, meaningless life of a bird (“partridge”), that spends her life brooding on eggs that remain lifeless, and come to nothing (17:11). The partridge sitting on eggs that “come to nothing” is a waste (17:11a), but not as tragic as the covetous man whose greed drives him to accumulate and sit upon wealth, only to be unprepared for the inevitability of death. His barns may be filled, and overflowing, like the rich fool who failed to plan for eternity (Luke 12:18-21), but “his end shall be a fool” (17:11).

Warning: The heart of man is naturally self-deceived (17:9), and every man will be rewarded “according to the fruit of his doings” (17:10).

How is your heart?

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“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