Category Archives: Friends

Bitterness: A Cancer that Destroys Everything (Mark 11)

Scripture reading – Mark 11

We are reminded the Gospel of Mark is one of the three Synoptic Gospels (the others being the Gospels of Matthew and Luke), and today’s Scripture reading is a parallel to our study of Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-16). His entrance into the city set in motion the final days that concluded with His appointment with the Cross.

Having already considered His grand coronation as the King of Israel, I forego another detailed study of Jesus’ approach to the city, and the great crowd that greeted Him. Remember though, He was greeted as “He that cometh in the name of the Lord: 10Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest” (11:9-10). Yet, in a few days many of those same voices would scorn Jesus as He hung dying on the Cross.

Mark 11 also recorded the miracle when Christ cursed the fig tree that bore nothing but leaves, and it withered and died (11:12-14; Matthew 21:18-22). Both Mark and Matthew noted Jesus driving the money-changers out of the Temple.

Faith and Forgiveness (11:22-26)

Two topics, “Faith” and “Forgiveness,” are the subject of Mark 11:22-26, and the LORD’s instructions for both are beautiful in their simplicity and convicting in their application (11:22-26). Christ’s challenge on faith and prayer was followed by the admonishment: “if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (11:25-26).

One of the most besetting sins in the 21st century church is an unwillingness to deal with offenses in a biblical manner, motivated by love for God and love for others. Many allow bitterness to fester in their souls, and like cancer in the body, it sometimes spreads until “many be defiled” spiritually, and infected emotionally and physically (Hebrews 12:15).

Closing thoughtsIf you harbor an unforgiving spirit, be sure it will not only rob you of joy, but also hinder your prayers.

Have you been infected by an angry, unforgiving, bitter spirit? Are you are harboring bitterness toward parents for what you perceive as slights during your youth?  Perhaps you are a parent, and find yourself struggling with bitterness because a child has disgraced you and the family by foolish, sinful actions.  Has your marriage become embittered, because of harsh words and broken vows?

Believers are commanded to be “kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).  When you grasp the magnitude of the sins God has forgiven you, you will find no justification for an unwillingness to forgive others!

Warning: An unwillingness to forgive is indicative of a soul that has never entered into God’s forgiveness (Matthew 18:23-35).

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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 for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“O Lord, Remember Me” (Nehemiah 13; Psalm 126)

Scripture reading – Nehemiah 13; Psalm 126

Our study in Nehemiah concludes today. We have followed Nehemiah’s rise from serving as the king’s cupbearer (Nehemiah 1-2), to the governorship of Judah. He could have chosen a life of ease and luxury in the king’s palace, but he could not rest when he heard the travail of the Jewish exiles in Jerusalem. With a heart for God’s people, he undertook building the walls of the city.

Like any great work, Nehemiah had critics and enemies. Yet, his faith in the LORD sustained him, and his courage was undiminished. With unwavering determination, he seemed to do the impossible, for the walls that had been in ruins for nearly 150 years were rebuilt in 52 days (6:15). Even his enemies realized what they had witnessed was more than the work of a man, “for they perceived…[the] work was wrought of [Israel’s] God” (6:16). With great pomp and circumstance, the walls of Jerusalem were dedicated (12:27-42), and the people brought tithes and offerings to the Temple to support the priests, Levites, and singers (12:43-47).

Nehemiah 13 – A Call for Sanctification and Separation

A Failure to Separate (13:1-3)

On the day the walls were dedicated, the book of the law of Moses was read aloud “in the audience of the people” (13:1). The reading of “the book of Moses” brought to the people’s attention a gross violation of God’s commandments. Remembering the trespass of the Ammonites and Moabites against Israel, the people realized those people were forbidden from coming “into the congregation of God for ever” (13:1). Hearing the grievances committed by those nations (Numbers 23-24), the people “separated from Israel all the mixed multitude” (13:3).

An Enemy in the Midst (13:4-9)

We were introduced to Nehemiah during the 20th year of the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia and Babylon (1:1). Coming to chapter 13, we find Nehemiah had departed from Jerusalem, and returned to the king’s court in the 32ndyear of his reign (13:6). In his absence a stunning event occurred when Eliashib, the high priest, made provision for Tobiah to dwell in one of the great chambers of the Temple (13:4). Tobiah, Nehemiah’s nemesis who had opposed him and the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem (2:20, 19, 4:3, 6:17-19), had come to live in a chamber of the Temple!

To provide a place for Tobiah, Eliashib converted one of the Temple chambers where the tithes and offerings were stored (13:5). When Nehemiah returned from his visit to the king, he was astonished to find not only had his enemy taken up residence in the city, but unbelievably, he was dwelling in one of the chambers of the Temple (13:7)! He was furious, for the high priest had failed to sanctify and treat as holy what was set apart for the LORD (13:8). With zeal, he cast Tobiah out of the chamber and purged it of “all [his] household stuff” (13:8). He then “commanded, and they cleansed the chambers: and thither brought [he] again the vessels of the house of God, with the meat offering and the frankincense” (13:9).

Sin of Neglect (13:10-14)

Nehemiah soon realized the Levites and the singers were not ministering in the Temple (13:10). An investigation revealed the people had not given their tithes and offerings as they should, and their neglect had forced the Levites and the singers to return to their fields to provide for their families (13:10). Defiantly bold, Nehemiah gathered the leaders and confronted them, asking, “Why is the house of God forsaken?” (13:11) Personally, I admire his next statement: I “set them in their place” (13:11c).

Proving he was a gifted administrator, Nehemiah appointed “treasurers over the treasuries” as the people began bringing their tithes and offerings to the Temple (13:13). Expressing the heart of a faithful minister, he prayed, “14Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof” (13:14).

Broken Covenant (13:15-22)

The people had covenanted with the LORD to observe the Sabbath Day and keep it holy (Nehemiah 10:31; Exodus 20:8). Yet, upon his return to Jerusalem, Nehemiah found the they had failed to keep their vow to the LORD (13:15-22). The Jews had secularized the Sabbath, and treated it like any other day (13:16). Then, Nehemiah confronted the leaders and asked, “What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day?”  (13:17). Notice how Nehemiah did not trifle with sin. Regardless of their excuses, he regarded their actions as an “evil thing” for they had profaned, and defiled the Sabbath.

Nehemiah then sent his own guards to shut the gates of the city, and thereby prohibit any trade on the Sabbath (13:19). In spite of the prohibition, some merchants came on the Sabbath, and finding the gates shut, camped outside the walls (13:20). Nehemiah confronted the merchants himself, and sent them away (13:21).

Closing thoughts (13:23-31)

Our study of Nehemiah’s life concludes with him realizing a grave sin was present among the Jews, for some “had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab” (13:23). Though their fathers were Hebrews, the children of those mixed marriages “could not speak in the Jews’ language, but according to the language of each people” (13:24). Their mothers were heathen, idolatrous women, and the children of those unequal marriages could not understand the language of the Hebrews, nor would they have been taught in the Scriptures.

Nehemiah’s response is telling for any who make light of being unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14). He confronted the Hebrew men, and “contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves” (13:25).

What a sight that must have been! Nehemiah’s spirit was stirred, and his passion mirrored his concern. He reminded the people the great sorrow Solomon’s mixed marriages had brought on his household (13:26). Even the high priest’s son was carried away with ungodliness, and Nehemiah wrote, “I chased him from me” (13:28).

Having cleansed the priesthood of wickedness, Nehemiah appointed priests and Levites to their work, and prayed, “Remember me, O my God, for good” (13:31).

God wonderfully heard and answered Nehemiah’s prayer, for his work and words recorded in the book that bears his name, is forever inscribed by the LORD.

2 Corinthians 6:14-15 – “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”

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 for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Failure of the Gatekeepers (Ezra 8; Ezra 9)

Scripture reading – Ezra 8; Ezra 9

Ezra received king Artaxerxes’ approval to lead a second delegation of Jews home to Jerusalem and Judah (Ezra 7:1-10). Incredibly, the king not only committed gold and silver vessels to be dedicated for the Temple, he also gave gold and silver from the royal treasury as compensation for sacrifices to be offered in Jerusalem (7:11-24). Ezra was also empowered to teach the people the law and commandments, and execute judgment (7:25-26).

Ezra 8 – The Journey Begins

With the king’s blessing, and letters affording him authority, Ezra “gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with [him]” to Jerusalem (7:28). Ezra appealed to 18 heads of Jewish households (8:1-14), and encouraged them and their families to voluntarily leave behind the comforts of Babylon and return to their ancestral lands.

Soon after beginning the journey from Babylon to Jerusalem (some 900 miles which took four months), Ezra halted and took an assessment of those with him (8:15). Sadly, he realized “none of the sons of Levi” were among the people (8:15b). Ezra then chose eleven men of the leaders, and sent them to seek Levites who would be willing to leave Babylon and go to Jerusalem as “ministers for the house of our God” (8:17). Eighteen Levites were recruited (8:18), and 220 Nethinims (servants who assisted the Levites with sacrifices at the Temple (8:20).

Before continuing his journey, Ezra called for a time of fasting and prayer, that the people might prepare and dedicate themselves to seek the LORD and his protection (8:21). Knowing the terror of enemies along the way, Ezra confessed he would be “ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help [them]against the enemy in the way” (8:22). While it was reasonable to request an armed escort for his delegation, Ezra remembered he had boasted the LORD’s blessing, and protection was upon His people (8:22b). So, the people prayed, and sought the LORD, and He heard the prayers of His people (8:23).

With a vast sum of gold and silver in their possession, Ezra chose “twelve of the chief of the priests” and entrusted them with the care and protection of all they had in their possession (8:24-30).

The LORD answered Ezra’s prayer, and his delegation arrived in Jerusalem (8:31-33). They rested three days, and on the fourth day gave a full account and inventory of “the silver and the gold, and the vessels…34By number and by weight of every one: and all the weight was written at that time” (8:33-34). As a great sign of unity, all the people gathered to offer “burnt offerings unto the God of Israel” (8:35). Ezra then took his commissions from the king to Persian government officials (“lieutenants, and to the governors”), giving him authority with the people and over “the house of God” (8:36).

Ezra 9

A Spiritual Crisis (9:1-5)

When it comes to family, parents are the gatekeepers of their home and children’s hearts. Sadly, Ezra 9 records a tragic failure of spiritual leaders and parents who failed to guard their homes from the influences of the heathen nations that had settled in Israel. Ezra writes, “the princes [leaders of the people] came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands…2For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed [the Jews] have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass” (9:1-2).

Ezra’s response to the tragic compromise of God’s people was notable. He was overcome with grief and sorrow (9:3). In a public display of heartbrokenness, he tore away his robe and outer garment, plucked out his hair and beard, and sat down stunned by the sins of the people, especially knowing the leaders of the people were “chief” in the trespass (9:3).

One by one, “those who trembled at the words of the God of Israel” (9:4) assembled before Ezra, who continued to sit “astonied until the evening sacrifice” (9:4b). Having said nothing to this point, it was at the evening sacrifice (3:00 pm) that Ezra rose from where he had sat, and fell upon his knees before the congregation. There he “spread out [his] hands unto the Lord” (9:5), and prayed (9:6-15).

Ezra’s Prayer and Reflection on God’s Grace (9:6-11)

Identifying with the sins of the people, Ezra confessed, “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens” (9:6). He rehearsed the past sins of the nation, and acknowledged God’s grace (9:7-8). Though the people had forsaken the LORD, He remembered, “our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage” (9:9).

In spite of God’s grace and mercy, he confessed, “O our God, what shall we say after this? for we have forsaken thy commandments” (9:10).

A Call for Radical Separation (9:12-15)

Having identified the sin and wickedness of the people, Ezra proposed a purging of sin that was nothing short of radical amputation of the offense. Ezra commanded the people, “Now therefore give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever” (9:12).

Ezra rehearsed the sins and judgments Israel and Judah had suffered in the past, and conceded only God’s grace and mercy would spare the people from complete annihilation (9:13-14). He acknowledged, God would be right and just if He destroyed Israel, for the people were guilty and had no standing before the LORD (9:15).

Closing thoughts – The spiritual leaders, and fathers had failed to be gatekeepers of their homes, and their children’s hearts. They had failed to insulate their families from the heathen and their ways (9:2). Tragically, their failure led not only to a familiarity with the sins of the heathen, but eventually a bond of friendship and marriage. Ezra’s response was a graphic display of sorrow, and fear of God’s judgment (9:3-6, 10, 14-15). The people had disobeyed God’s law, and invited His judgment.

Mom and dad, are you guarding the hearts of your children, and insulating them from the sins and wickedness of the world?

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 for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Jeremiah Remembered, and Rewarded (Jeremiah 40)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 40

As foretold by the prophets, God’s judgment was consummated against Judah, and Jerusalem laid in ruins.  With the arrest of king Zedekiah, and the slaying of his sons (39:5-7), all was lost. Only a remnant survived the fall of Jerusalem, and Babylon’s army gathered them in chains at Ramah, where they were taken to Babylon (40:1).

Jeremiah wrote of the great lamentation in Ramah (Jeremiah 31:15), but the prophetic implication of that place would later be observed by Matthew, when he wrote: “17Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 18In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not” (Matthew 2:17-18).

Contrary to Nebuchadnezzar’s orders (39:11-14), somehow Jeremiah came to be numbered among those in chains (40:1). Now, the captain of the guard named Nebuzaradan (40:1), intervened and “took Jeremiah, and said unto him, The Lord thy God hath pronounced this evil upon this place” (40:2). Nebuzaradan was aware Jeremiah had warned his people their sins against the LORD would be the cause for Jerusalem’s destruction (40:3).

In an extraordinary act of respect, Nebuzaradan set Jeremiah at liberty, and gave him opportunity to go to Babylon in peace and under his protection, or remain in Judah and serve the remnant that would remain in the land (40:4-5). Jeremiah chose to remain with his people (40:6), and Nebuzaradan provided the prophet with a parting gift (40:5).

Nebuchadnezzar had installed a Jew named Gedaliah, who was to serve the interest of Babylon, and rule Judah as governor (40:5). Hearing Gedaliah was governor, some of the factions that fled Judah began returning (40:7), and among them were five men (40:8). Named among the five was Ishmael, who according to Jeremiah 41:1, was “of the seed royal” and some distant kin of David.

Gedaliah appealed to Ishmael and his companions, encouraging them to lay down their weapons, and go harvest the land (40:10). Still other of the Jews that had been scattered among the nations, returned to Judah and began rebuilding their lives (40:11-12).

Some who returned to farming, soon learned there was a plot to kill Gedaliah. Leaving their fields, they came to the governor asking, “Baalis the king of the Ammonites hath sent Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to slay thee?” (40:13-14a). Gedaliah, though, refused to believe the report (40:14b), and dismissed Johanan’s offer to slay Ishmael (40:15). He feared Gedaliah’s death would give cause for the people to scatter, “and the remnant in Judah [would] perish” (40:15).

Failing to foresee the evil, and dismissing the men who came to him, Gedaliah accused Johanan of speaking “falsely of Ishmael” (40:16).

Closing thought – Our next devotional will continue the plot to slay Gedaliah. Tragically, his failure to discern his friends from his enemies would cost the governor his life (Jeremiah 41).

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, 4230 Harbor Lake Dr, Lutz, FL 33558. You can email for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Four Principles for a Rewarding Life (Ecclesiastes 11)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 11

Remorse is a heavy burden to carry, but I have known many who, in their later years of life, were haunted by the sorrows of regret. Solomon understood that life holds many tendencies for regret, and wisely taught his son invaluable principles he had learned from years of experience. I invite you to consider Solomon’s wisdom found in Ecclesiastes 11.

Be Charitable. (11:1-4)

Ecclesiastes 11:1–21Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. 2Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.

The word, “cast” means to freely give, and “the waters” in the Scriptures is often a reference to mankind (i.e., the sea of humanity). The implication then is to “freely give” (in this case, bread) to others, for you cannot know what “evil” the days ahead might hold for you. A popular adage sums up a similar warning: “What goes around, comes around.” Solomon urged, while you have the power to give…GIVE, for the day may come when you will find yourself in want.

Illustrating the need to give while you are able, Solomon cited nature, using an illustration to which all could relate, writing, when “clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth” (11:3). In other words, like clouds that do not hoard their lifegiving moisture, we should not be misers with the bounty of that which God has entrusted to us.

Some put off the opportunity or inclination to be charitable, looking for a time when it is more convenient, or the economy more favorable. They are like the lazy farmer; he procrastinates tending his fields, always looking for perfect weather, and a more convenient time for his labor (11:4).

God Has a Plan and Purpose for Your Life. (11:5-6)

Solomon did not have the privilege of scientific research such as we have today. He understood the baby’s body was formed in its mother’s womb (11:5); however, he did not know the essence of DNA (genetics) that guided the formation of that little one from conception (Psalm 139:15-16). The king did not know, and neither do we, how God made us uniquely who we are, imparting to us an eternal spirit, distinctly like no other.

Know this: You are unique, and God has a plan, and purpose for your life (11:5c). He has numbered your days (Psalm 90:12), but you cannot know the number of your years on this earth (11:6). While you are young (“in the morning” of your life), you should “sow thy seed” (give of yourself and your means as you are blessed). “In the evening” of life, when you are old (11:6b), don’t restrain your hand from blessing others. Don’t presume you can put off till tomorrow the good that you should do this day. Whether you are young or old, Do Right!

Wise Men Enjoy the Good Times, But Plan for the Bad. (11:7-8)

The light of a sunrise is welcomed, and when you are young it promises a day that is “sweet, and a pleasant thing” (11:7). The sun of spring and summer brings warmth, and the promise of growth and harvest; however, look ahead, and know “the days of darkness [cometh], for they shall be many” (11:8). Live for today, and fail to plan for the failings and frailty of old age, and you will say, “All that cometh is vanity” (11:8c).

Rejoice in Your Youth, but Remember God will be Judge. (11:9-10)

 Ecclesiastes 11:9 – Rejoice [Be Glad; Joyful], O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.

“Rejoice,” be glad in the strength of your youth! Enjoy life, but remember, the sins of one’s youth are a draft on old age. “God will bring thee into judgment” (11:9b).

The foolish man counsels the young to, “sow their wild oats,” but fails to warn: the wild seeds planted in one’s youth will sprout weeds that will choke the joys from their future (11:9b).

“Therefore remove [depart] sorrow [anger; wrath] from thy heart, and put away [do away; remove] evil [sin; wickedness] from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity” (Ecclesiastes 11:10 )

Closing thoughts – The king urged youth to not mull over youthful grievances, nor allow them to become a flashpoint for anger and bitterness. The king challenged, “put away evil,” and give no place for the sins and lusts of the flesh.

The apostle Paul, in his letter to Timothy, wrote:  “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).

To put away sin, you must be fill the void with righteous choices, and godly attitudes. (Ephesians 4:22-32)

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Two-year Bible reading schedule for Heart of A Shepherd Followers

Dear Heart of a Shepherd followers,

December 31, 2021 is a milestone for those who faithfully follow I commenced writing, and publishing daily devotionals, beginning with Genesis 1, last January 1, 2021. January 1, 2022 will mark the start of my second year of writing and publishing a daily, chronological study of the Scriptures.

In February 2021, I introduced a new facet of ministry for Heart of A Shepherd Inc, when I began posting a daily devotional video on several social network sites. My HeartofAShepherd1 channel on has to date enjoyed nearly 50,000 plays (  Heart of A Shepherd Inc is also hosted on YouTube at My preferred site for hosting daily video devotionals is (

If you enjoy these devotional posts, I encourage you to subscribe and have them sent directly to your email address. If you are following the video devotionals, please “Like” and become a follower.

A personal note: On average, I invest at least 3 hours a day studying, outlining, and writing daily devotionals. My wife edits the devotionals, and then I publish the final copy to my website. The labor is indeed sacrificial; however, God has blessed this outreach and thus far in 2021, has had over 105,000 views, and been followed in 197 nations and territories.

Heart of A Shepherd 2-Year Scripture Reading Schedule

Please find attached to this post a JPG and PDF of the 2-year Scripture reading schedule for 2022-2023. The schedule can be printed, folded into 1/4 page folds, and it will fit in your Bible to serve as a page marker.

With the heart of a shepherd,

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

Warning: Today’s Liberties May Seed Tomorrow’s Sorrows (Proverbs 2)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 2

Proverbs 2 is our Scripture reading, and today’s devotional will consider two subjects, taken from four verses found in Proverbs 2:12-15. [As a reminder, words and phrases in brackets are the amplification and application of the author.]

“Be Wary of Liberties Some Leaders Champion” (Proverbs 2:12-13)

Solomon advised his son that godly wisdom will induce a man to be wary of two enemies of youthWicked men and their influence (Proverbs 2:12-15) and the Adulterous woman and her ways (Proverbs 2:16-19). For this study, I will limit my focus to the influence of wicked men.

Proverbs 2:12-13 – “To deliver [rescue; save] thee from the way [path; course of life] of the evil man [wicked], from the man that speaketh [tell; say] froward things [lies and perverseness]; 
13 Who leave [forsake; abandon; depart from] the paths [way; manner] of uprightness, to walk in the ways [path; course of life] of darkness [i.e. ignorance; sorrow];”

Solomon exhorted his son to embrace godly wisdom and allow righteous discernment to set the course of his life.  Such wisdom directs youth to not only recognize the character of the ungodly, but to turn from their counsel [i.e. “froward things”].

The counsel of the wicked often comes from those who, to borrow an old adage, “should know better. Solomon exhorted his son to be cautious of those who once knew and followed the paths of uprightness, but departed to paths of darkness (2:13). The Apostle Paul challenged Timothy with a similar admonition writing, “in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Timothy 3:1), because there will be some who would have “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5).

It seems, in every generation, there are leaders who forsake “the paths of uprightness” (2:13), and entice young people to indulge in “grey areas” previous generations had steered from out of concern they might inflame lusts and induce sinful passions. Some leaders preach liberty, boast an “enlightened life,” and draw youth away from preservation and discretion. They become, what Solomon cautioned: Men who have left the paths of the upright, only to lead others astray, and walk in the way of darkness(2:13).

Closing thought – Be careful my friend! The liberties you trivialize today may enslave your children, and your children’s children.

Copyright © Travis D. Smith

“An Admonition to Parents and Youth” (Proverbs 2:14-15)

Every godly parent who shares Solomon’s concern prays that the wisdom they have imparted to their children will keep them from the path of temptation and sin.

Proverbs 2:14-15  “Who [men who forsake the paths of righteousness] rejoice [glad; merry] to do evil [sin; wickedness], and delight [rejoice; glad] in the frowardness [perversity] of the wicked;
 15 Whose ways [path; manner] are crooked [perverse; false; twisted], and they froward [depart; turn aside] in their paths [ways; trench; i.e. rut]:”

Solomon warned his son: The wicked are not content to pursue their sinful paths alone; they purpose to lure the innocent, the foolish, and naïve to follow in their sinful ways.

The wicked boast in their wickedness, and enjoy “the pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:25), and there are those who delight in enticing youth to accompany them in their sinful ways.

Closing thought – Wise parents must impress upon their children Paul’s admonition to believers in Corinth (a wicked, immoral city of the 1st century):

1 Corinthians 15:33 “Be not deceived [don’t be led astray]: evil communications [company and companions] corrupt [destroy; defile] good manners [morals; habits].”

Copyright © Travis D. Smith

David and His Mighty Men (1 Chronicles 27)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 27

We have followed the historian’s record of David’s census of the Levite tribe. The king had assigned men and their families to the task of ministering in the Temple, and in other matters related to their spiritual offices (1 Chronicles 23-26). With the important task of organizing the tribe of Levi complete, David’s focus shifted to the matter of his military organization.

1 Chronicles 27 – Israel’s Army and its Divisions

Today’s Scripture reading gives a record of the divisions and organization of the men who were leaders in David’s army (27:1-15). You will notice there were twelve divisions, and each division consisted of 24,000 men. A leader is named for each division. In addition, the princes, or rulers, who served as leaders of the tribes of Israel are named (27:16-22). The exception, neither the tribes of Gad or Asher are listed.

1 Chronicles 27:23-24 serve as a reminder of an earlier census when David had numbered only men who were twenty years and older (27:23a). The king, having received a promise from the LORD that Israel would be without number (“like to the stars of the heavens”), had not counted those who were younger than twenty years. We are reminded how Joab had questioned the king’s purpose for numbering the people (1 Chronicles 21:3), nevertheless, “24Joab the son of Zeruiah began to number” (27:24), but he refused to number the men of Levi and Benjamin (21:6). God had judged the nation for the king’s command to count the people, and His wrath “for it [had fallen]against Israel; neither was the number put in the account of the chronicles of king David” (27:24).

David had become a man of vast wealth in Israel, and he had appointed over his treasures, fields, vineyards, and herds, men who were trusted with all that he owned (27:25-31).

Recorded in the closing verses is a list of David’s trusted counselors (27:32-34). Named among them is Ahithophel, a counselor to the king, and Bathsheba’s grandfather. Although he had aligned himself with David’s son Absalom (2 Samuel 15:31; 16:23), when the insurrection failed, he hanged himself (2 Samuel 17); nevertheless, Ahithophel is named among David’s great men (27:33).

Closing thoughts – We have followed David’s life from his youth as a shepherd, to his last days as a powerful, and wealthy king. Here was a man who remembered it was the LORD who had taken him from herding sheep, to leading a great nation and people. His sinful passions, particularly his adultery with Bathsheba, shadowed his life, causing him to reap many sorrows. Yet, though he was a man surrounded by wise, and powerful men, he found his greatest joy and confidence in God’s Word.

Where, or to whom, do you turn for counsel?

Psalm 119:24 – “24Thy testimonies [i.e. words, laws, commandments] also are my delight and my counsellers.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Good morning, Father,” the words God loves to hear. (Psalm 5; Psalm 38)

Scripture reading – Psalm 5; Psalm 38

Departing from my narrative style of devotions, I am posting today’s Scripture readings with only my amplifications of word meanings in brackets and italicized. The Scriptures are in a bold font, and colored fonts are added to emphasize truths I invite you to ponder in your meditations.

Psalm 5 – An Introduction

How do you begin your mornings? I confess, I am the dreaded “morning person.” I generally wake up well before the alarm, and roll out of bed ready to start the day. How do you suppose David began his mornings? The answer: With prayer and meditation in God’s Word.

A Morning Prayer (5:1-3)

Psalm 5:1-3Give ear [hearken; listen] to my words [sayings; speech] , O LORD, consider [understand; regard; discern] my meditation [musings].
2  Hearken [hear; regard; be attentive] unto the voice [sound; noise] of my cry [i.e. cry for help], my King, and my God [i.e. might God]: for unto thee will I pray [make supplication; meditate].
3  My voice [lit. the sound of my voice] shalt thou hear in the morning [dawn; early morning], O LORD; in the morning will I direct [array; set in order; direct] my prayer unto thee, and will look up [behold; keep watch .

A Warning to the Wicked (5:4-6)

4  For thou art not a God that hath pleasure [desire; delight] in wickedness [iniquity; evil]: neither shall evil [wickedness] dwell [sojourn; gather together] with thee.
5  The foolish
[boasters] shall not stand [continue; remain; resort] in thy sight [presence; face]: thou hatest [set against; foe; detest] all workers [doers] of iniquity [wickedness; evil; unrighteousness].
6  Thou shalt destroy
[brake; annihilate] them that speak [say; talk] leasing [lies; deceit; falsehood]: the LORD will abhor [detest; loathe] the bloody [guilty; bloodthirsty] and deceitful [dishonest] man.

An Affirmation of Prayer and Worship (5:7-8)

7  But as for me, I will come into thy house [tabernacle; temple] in the multitude [abundance] of thy mercy [loving-kindness; goodness]: and in thy fear [reverence; i.e. fear of one superior] will I worship [bow down; reverence; prostrate] toward thy holy [consecrated; sanctified] temple.
8  Lead
[guide; bring] me, O LORD, in thy righteousness [justice] because of mine enemies [adversary; hostile foe]; make thy way [journey; road; course of life] straight [pleasing; direct; right; i.e. lawful] before my face.  

A Denunciation of the Wicked (5:9-10)

9  For there is no faithfulness [truth] in their mouth [word; speech]; their inward [heart] part is very wickedness [perverse; calamity; iniquity; destructive]; their throat [mouth] is an open [grave] sepulcher [grave; tomb]; they flatter [smooth] with their tongue [language; speech].
10  Destroy
[punish; make desolate] thou them, O God; let them fall [fall down; be cast down] by their own counsels [purpose; device; plan]; cast them out [drive out; banish; disperse] in the multitude [abundance; greatness] of their transgressions [sin; revolt; rebellion]; for they have rebelled [provoked; disobeyed; i.e. be contentious] against thee.  

An Assurance for the Righteous (5:11-12)

11  But let all those that put their trust [confide; i.e. make God their refuge; hope; flee to] in thee rejoice [be glad; joyful; i.e. make merry]: let them ever [evermore; perpetual; forever] shout for joy [sing; cry out; rejoice; i.e. be overcomers], because thou defendest [cover; i.e. put a hedge about] them: let them also that love thy name [i.e. embodying the person and character of God] be joyful [jump for joy; exult; triumph] in thee.
12  For thou, LORD, wilt bless
[adore; abundantly bless] the righteous [lawful; innocent; just]; with favour [delight; accept; pleasure] wilt thou compass [surround; encircle] him as with a shield [i.e. a prickly guard].

Psalm 38 – An Introduction

Psalm 38 does not indicate the time or circumstances that inspired this song of worship; however, its content indicates it was at a time of trial, sickness, and sorrow in David’s life.

David plead for mercy. (38:1-2)

Psalm 38:1 – O LORD, rebuke [reprove; correct; chasten] me not in thy wrath [anger; indignation; rage]: neither chasten [discipline; instruct; punish] me in thy hot displeasure [fury; wrath; indignation].
2  For thine arrows stick fast [sink; come down] in me, and thy hand presseth me sore [sink; come down].

David was physically weak and troubled. (38:3-8)

3  There is no soundness [wholesomeness] in my flesh [body] because of thine anger [fury; indignation]; neither is there any rest [peace; welfare; happiness] in my bones [body] because of my sin.
4  For mine iniquities
[sin; punishment; perversity; guilt] are gone over [passed over] mine head: as an heavy [grievous; difficult; great] burden [load] they are too heavy [burdensome] for me.
5  My wounds
[stripes; scourging] stink [abhor; loathsome; foul] and are corrupt [decay; consume; fester] because of my foolishness [folly; stupidity; silliness].
6  I am troubled
[bowed down; made crooked; twisted; distorted]; I am bowed down [cast down; depressed; humbled] greatly [exceedingly]; I go mourning [become dark] all the day [time] long.
7  For my loins
[trust; confidence; hope] are filled [overflow] with a loathsome [burning] disease: and there is no soundness  [completeness; wholesomeness] in my flesh [body].
8  I am feeble
[faint; weary; numb] and sore [exceedingly; greatly] broken [contrite]: I have roared [groaned; moaned] by reason of the disquietness [roaring; agitation; growling] of my heart [mind; seat of feelings and affections].
9  Lord [Master], all my desire [lust; greed; longing] is before thee; and my groaning  [sighs; mourning] is not hid [concealed; sheltered; secret] from thee.
10  My heart
[mind; seat of feelings and affections] panteth [throbs], my strength [power; might; ability] faileth[forsake; leave; abandon] me: as for the light [illumination; happiness] of mine eyes [sight], it also is gone [fails; incurable; nothing] from me.  

David had been deserted by his friends and family. (38:11)

11  My lovers [friends; those for whom he had an affection] and my friends [neighbor; companions; peers] stand [continue; remain] aloof from [against; counter to; in the sight of] my sore [wound; infective spot; i.e. leprous]; and my kinsmen [family; kindred] stand afar off [far from].  

David’s enemies sought advantage because of his weakness. (38:12)

12  They also that seek [search; require; desire] after my life [soul] lay snares [traps] for me: and they that seek [require] my hurt [calamity; distress] speak [say] mischievous things [wicked; perverse], and imagine [speak; declare; devise; plot] deceits [false; guile; treachery] all the day long.  

David refused to answer his enemies\critics. (38:13-14)

13  But I, as a deaf man, heard [hearken; obey] not; and I was as a dumb man [speechless; mute] that openeth not his mouth.
14  Thus I was as a man that heareth not
[hearken; obey], and in whose mouth are no reproofs [rebuke; arguments].  

David prayed earnestly for the LORD to intercede. (38:15-19)

15  For in thee, O LORD, do I hope [wait; tarry]: thou wilt hear [answer; reply], O Lord my God.
16  For I said
[speak; command; address], Hear me, lest otherwise they should rejoice [glad; joyful] over me: when my foot [walk; journey] slippeth [moved; fall], they magnify [praise; promote; advance] themselvesagainst me.
17  For I am ready
[prepared] to halt [limp; fall; stumble], and my sorrow [pain; grief] is continually [ever; perpetually; continually] before me.
18  For I will declare
[tell; shew; utter; confess] mine iniquity [fault; perversity; sin]; I will be sorry [afraid; anxious] for my sin.
19  But mine enemies are lively
[alive; living], and they are strong [mighty; increased]: and they that hate [detest; i.e. mine enemies] me wrongfully [lie; lying; deceit] are multiplied [many; increased].  

David’s enemies hated him, not for his sin, but for his righteousness. (38:20)

20  They also that render [reward; recompense; repay] evil [wickedness; hurt; trouble] for good [pleasant; pleasing; right; best] are mine adversaries [attackers; accusers]; because I follow [pursue; run after; chase] the thing that good is [pleasant; pleasing; right; best].  

David appealed to the LORD. (38:21-22)

21  Forsake [leave; relinquish; abandon] me not, O LORD: O my God, be not far [removed; recede; withdraw] from me.
22  Make haste
[hurry; be eager; hasten] to help [aid; assist; support] me, O Lord my salvation [deliverance; rescue; i.e. savior].

Copyright – 2021 – Travis D. Smith