Category Archives: Friends

The God of the Scriptures is Just, Merciful, Gracious, and Good (Job 35; Job 36)

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(Additional languages available upon request by emailing HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.)

Scripture reading – Job 35; Job 36

Elihu, the fourth and youngest of Job’s friends, began lecturing him in chapter 32, and his denunciation continued to chapter 37. Our devotional continues with today’s Scripture reading, Job 35 and 36.

Job 35 – Elihu’s charged Job with three libelous accusations.

The first, that Job misrepresented spiritual piety as unprofitable (35:1-8). In fact, Elihu suggested he had implied his “righteousness [was] more than God’s” (35:2). Of course, Job had not expressed such an outrageous claim. Elihu’s judgment was flawed, for he supposed Job’s statement of innocence was a declaration of sinlessness (35:3-8).

A second inflammatory, judgmental statement was Elihu’s suggestion Job was motivated to pray, not out of a desire to draw nigh to God, but because he sought relief from his sorrows and afflictions (35:9-13).

Now, Job had complained he did not understand the cause of his plight, and had confessed he despaired of ever again enjoying God’s favor (35:14). Elihu, however, condemned Job, saying he was guilty of opening “his mouth in vain…[and multiplying his] words without knowledge” (35:15-16). Stated simply, in Elihu’s opinion, Job said a lot, but failed to humble himself before God.

Job 36 – Elihu’s Proposal to “Speak on God’s Behalf”

Continuing to evidence youthful zeal without wisdom, Elihu proposed to “speak on God’s behalf” (36:2), and impart uncommon “knowledge” (36:3). He confessed God “is perfect in knowledge,” and promised his words would be true (36:4a). He assured his small audience, he would say only what the LORD would have him speak (36:4b).

Elihu then returned to a rationale that was espoused by Job’s friends. He declared God was just, and always rewards men according to their works (36:5-15). He testified, “God is mighty… in strength and wisdom” (36:5), and declared He “preserveth [prolongs] not the life of the wicked: But giveth right [justice] to the poor” (36:6). In that statement, Elihu failed to make allowance for God’s grace and mercies.

He did not acknowledge the LORD is “longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). In fact, the LORD not only prolongs the life of the wicked, He graciously provides them opportunity to repent of their sins. (Another misrepresentation of Elihu was a suggestion the poor always receive the justice they are due in this earthly life (Job 36:6b).

Elihu proposed “hypocrites in heart heap up wrath…They die in their youth” (36:13-14a). In a perfect, sinless world, less God’s grace, that statement would stand as just, for there are many instances when wicked men die young. Nevertheless, it is also true the LORD is patient, and His grace is freely-offered to the worst of sinners.

Elihu also suggested Job’s sorrows had come upon him owing to his pride. He implored Job to humble himself and repent, assuring God would give him a “table…full of fatness [rich foods]” (36:16). Should Job refuse to repent, Elihu warned, the “judgment of the wicked” had befallen him (36:17), and no amount of riches would deliver him (36:18-19).

Job 36 concluded with Elihu attempting to inspire Job to concede the sovereignty and omnipotence of God (36:22-33); and that the LORD is supreme, and “exalteth” (sets up) whom He pleases (36:22a). He is omniscient, and no man can teach Him (36:22b). He is perfect, and none dare accuse Him of “iniquity” or wrong doing (36:23b). Then, Elihu invited Job to consider the greatness of the LORD displayed in creation (36:24-25; Psalm 19:1).

Closing thoughts – God is eternal, and “the number of His years [cannot] be searched out” (36:26b). His power and wisdom sustain His creation, and He even determines where the clouds drop their moisture (36:27-28). The clouds that a canopy, and shelter man from the sun (36:29-30), bring judgment on the earth in the flood, and bear life-giving water which “giveth meat [food] in abundance” (36:31). Contrary to Elihu’s assertions, God is not only just, He is gracious, merciful, and kind, for He “sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).

In light of Elihu’s youthful, hypocritical zeal, I close with a quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, the 26thpresident of the United States:

“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care!”

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

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The Tragic Consequences of Generational Sins (Job 20; Job 21)

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(Additional languages available upon request by emailing HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.)

Scripture reading – Job 20; Job 21

Our study of the trials and troubles of Job continues with today’s Scripture reading (Job 20-21). Admittedly, the text is dark, but the insights we gain from our study are illuminating. The chapters before us are lengthy, and at best, time and space permit only a brief commentary. As you read chapter 20, remember Zophar (the third of Job’s friends) is coming from an earthly, human vantage. His purpose was not to impart spiritual wisdom, but to assert that Job’s afflictions were the reward of the wicked.

Job 20

Job 20 is the record of the second and final response of Zophar the Naamathite (his first speech was recorded in Job 11). Zophar was offended by Job’s admonition in the closing verses of chapter 19. Job had maintained his innocence, and warned his “friends” would face God’s wrath for their harsh judgments (19:28-29). Zophar’s rebuke came swift and furious (20:1-3).

Job 20:4-29 – The Fate of the Wicked

Like his friends, Zophar inferred Job’s afflictions were to be expected by those who are wicked. His contentions revealed three erroneous opinions concerning the state and reward of the wicked.

First error: The wicked always come to destruction. (20:4-11)

Zophar suggested the rejoicing of the wicked is brief (20:4), the honors bestowed on them perishes with them, and they are soon forgotten (20:5-8). Neither of those statements are necessarily true. In fact, the wicked often live out their lives enjoying ill acquired wealth, and their funerals and tombs are often grand spectacles to behold.

Second error: The wicked do not prosper. (20:12-23)

Continuing his erroneous observations, Zophar suggested the prosperity of the wicked is brief (20:12), inevitably bites like a poisonous viper (20:13-16), and he dies in want.

The error in Zophar’s observations is evident when we remember the LORD’s parable of a rich fool (Luke 12:16-21). Beguiled with the pleasures of his riches, the rich man ordered his barns be torn down to build greater barns, and said to his soul, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:19). Rather than die in want, the rich fool died as he lived, enjoying his wealth until he heard in eternity that he was the poorest of men: “20But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20–21).

Third error: Only the wicked suffer devastating sorrows, and catastrophic losses. (20:24-29)

Zophar maintained the wicked are struck down (20:24-25), and all he has is destroyed (20:26).  He declared the wicked feels everything is against him, until his riches are consumed by God’s wrath (20:27-28). (While it may be argued how the wicked often suffer loss; I suggest it is more often true they are rewarded by the system of this fallen world, and hailed for their ill-gotten gains, John 15:19a).

Of course, the implication of Zophar’s argument was that Job’s sorrows were a wicked man’s afflictions, and such is the lot or “heritage” God has “appointed” for the wicked (20:29).

Job 21 – Rather than Suffer, the Wicked Prosper

Job 21 recorded Job’s response to Zophar’s fallacies. He demanded his friends be silent that he might speak, and challenged them, sarcastically, after he had spoken, “mock on” (21:1-2). Job confessed his struggle was with God, and not with men (21:3-6).

Contrary to Zophar’s assertions, he observed the wicked and their children often live long lives, and enjoy prosperity (21:7-13). He contended the riches of the wicked cause their hearts to be calloused, and “they say unto God, Depart from us; For we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. 15What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? And what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?” (21:14-15) The wicked fail to acknowledge they deserve nothing. Indeed,  all they have is a testimony of God’s grace and longsuffering, and the prosperity of the wicked moves them to reject God (21:16).

Closing thoughts (21:17-34) – Warning: Do not assume the wicked go unpunished.

The consequences of sin are inevitable, and the wicked are “as stubble before the wind, And as chaff that the storm carrieth away. 19God layeth up his [the wicked’s] iniquity for his children: He rewardeth him, and he shall know it” (21:18-19).

Generational Sins: Children are not punished for the sins of their parents; however, they often suffer the influence of their sins (Jeremiah 31:29-30; Deuteronomy 24:16). Three times the Law stated: “The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” (Numbers 14:18; Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9).

Warning: The consequences of your sins may be borne by your children.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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God Will Do Right as It Pleases Him, For He is God! (Job 9; Job 10)

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Scripture reading – Job 9; Job 10

Bildad had made his case, and accused Job of hypocrisy (Job 8). Job, however, rather than address Bildad’s harsh judgments, directed his lament to God (Job 9). Notice in Job’s answer, though he was a man of ancient days, he had profound insight into the character and attributes of His Creator. Looking to the God of heaven, Job asked the LORD, “How should a man be just [i.e., justified, righteous, perfect, sinless] with God?” (9:2). For Job, the implication was no man can be “just” or righteous in the sight of God Who is holy, “wise in heart, and mighty in strength” (9:4a).

Though he did not possess the Scriptures as we have them, Job had the knowledge of God’s revelation of Himself as Creator, Sovereign, and Sustainer of creation (9:5-9). Think about it…the LORD can move mountains (9:5), shake the foundations of the earth (9:6), and command the sun, moon, and stars in their orbit (9:7). His wonders cannot be numbered (9:10), and His ways are invisible (9:11). He is Sovereign of all, and “taketh away,” and no man dare say to Him, “What doest thou?” (9:12)

What were the things Job had seen, but the LORD had taken away? He lost his family, possessions, and health. When his “friends” came under the pretense of comforting him, they betrayed him with harsh judgments.

Job Pleads His Cause (9:14-35)

To interpret the balance of Job 9, I invite you to picture a heavenly courtroom, where God sits in judgment (9:15). We find poor Job standing before the presence of the Almighty, and he is both the defendant and his own advocate. Job realized God was a righteous Judge, and he dare not debate Him. After all, the LORD is altogether Just and Omniscient, and under no obligation to answer mortal man (9:16).

Job did not understand the cause for his troubles, and believed he was suffering “without cause” (9:17). In other words, he could think of no transgression to justify what he suffered. His troubles had come so swiftly, he could not catch his breath, before another assailed him (7:18). He searched his heart, and could think of no sin that deserved so many troubles. Nevertheless, with humility, Job acknowledged he had no grounds to protest or declare his innocence. He confessed, “If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: If I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse” (9:20). Job realized the LORD knew him, better than he knew himself (9:21).

Warning: Never Judge a Man’s Character by His Circumstances (9:22-24)

Eliphaz and Bildad contested, Job’s troubles were upon him because He was proud and unwilling to confess His sin (Job 4-5; 8). They declared his trials were God’s judgment for an egregious sin he had not confessed. Job, though, disputed their harsh judgment, and maintained, “This is one thing, therefore I said it, He [God]destroyeth the perfect and the wicked” (9:22). Job contended, the righteous and the wicked are both afflicted in this world (9:23).

Closing thoughts (9:25-35)

Our study of Job 10 will wait for another time and another year. I conclude today’s study with an invitation to marvel at the insight, discernment and wisdom of ancient Job. He was a man of flesh like you and me, but oh the depth of his wisdom and knowledge of the Creator! His trouble had come upon him “swifter than a post” (literally, a mail courier), and his days were passing like “swift ships…[and] as the eagle that hasteth to the prey” (9:25-26). Job set his heart to stop complaining, and turn to the LORD (9:27). His afflictions had given cause for his “friends” to accuse him of wrong (9:28-29). Yet, though he contended his innocence, he realized no man is pure and innocent before God who is perfect, holy, and immortal (9:30-32).

I pray those caught in trials and afflictions of any kind, might not despair. Remember, Job will come to realize God’s hand was never against him. God tried him, to the end his love and faith might be proved and “come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). If you are in the midst of sorrows, meditate on this principle, and claim it:

2 Corinthians 1:3-43 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith 

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

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Mailing Address:
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7853 Gunn Hwy
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When Hope Fails, Be Confident God is Just and Faithful (Job 7; Job 8)

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Scripture reading – Job 7; Job 8

We continue our chronological Scripture reading in the Book of Job. There are some difficult passages in Job, but I pray my efforts through Heart of A Shepherd will be an enhancement to your understanding. Thank you for embarking on this devotional journey.

Review – Remember, Job was in a dark place in life. He had suffered the loss of possessions (1:14-18), and the deaths of sons and daughters (1:15-19). Boils and open sores from his head to his feet added to his misery (2:7-8), and the harsh judgments of three “friends” well-nigh overwhelmed him (Job 4-5). Job’s friends came to him under the pretense of pity and compassion (2:11-13), but their words betrayed their prejudice of his present state.

The first friend to speak was Eliphaz, who argued God blesses the righteous and punishes the wicked. The implication was, in spite of his plea of innocence, Job was afflicted because he refused to confess his sin (Job 4-5). Job’s response to Eliphaz’s harsh judgment began in chapter 6, and continued to chapter 7.

Job 7 – Failing Hope

In his anguish, Job found Eliphaz’s words weighty and unsettling. Disheartened and despairing of life, Job’s thoughts turned dark, and he reasoned death alone might afford him relief from his distress.

Job’s Lamentations (7:1-6)

In his dejected state, Job pondered the brevity of life and that every man has his “appointed time…upon earth” (7:1). Physically afflicted, and emotionally despondent, he felt his days had come to nothing (7:3). With his body consumed by illness and disease, Job tossed and turned on his bed through the night (7:4-5). He felt his days rushing toward death, and confessed he was in a hopeless state (7:6).

Job’s Reflections on Death (7:7-10)

Praying to the LORD, Job was reminded his life was as unpredictable as the wind (7:7). He realized the inevitability of death (7:8-9), and all that a man has attained in life is soon passed, and will belong to others (7:10). Oh the tragedy of sinners whose treasures are in this world, and not in heaven. All such men are fools in God’s judgment, for they lay up treasures for themselves, and are “not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20-21).

Job’s Longings for Afflictions to Cease (7:11-16)

Eliphaz had berated Job for looking to death as an escape from his sorrows (Job 4-5). Yet, Job answered him and declared, “I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul” (7:11). He confessed, if his spirit were like a roaring sea, or a whale, he could have a boundary to reign in his sorrows (7:12). But when Job retreated to his bed, there was no relief from the terrifying dreams that emanated through the black expanse of night (7:13-14). He was so overcome with sorrow, he felt as though his very life (i.e., soul) was strangled (7:15). In fact, he had come to literally “loathe life” (7:16).

Job’s Petition for Pardon and Deliverance Him (7:17-21)

Our study of Job 7 concludes with Job asking a question that would later be echoed by David, “What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him?” (David wrote, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” (7:17; Psalm 8:4) Stating the same in the vernacular of the 21st century: “Why should God be concerned with common man?” After all, man is unpredictable, and ever given to change, and the LORD is ever trying the heart of man (7:18). Job wondered, how long before he would be left alone to die (7:19).

Job’s Confession: “I have sinned.” (7:20-21)

Some scholars suggest Job said, “If I have sinned” (7:20). He acknowledged God as the giver and preserver of life, but complained it seemed he was a man marked for afflictions and troubles (7:20). He felt his life was wasted under the burden of sin (7:21), yet, he found no pardon or forgiveness (7:21). So, Job resigned himself to death, and said, “now shall I sleep in the dust” (7:21).

Job 8 – The Counsel of Bildad the Shuhite

Chapter 8 recorded the counsel of Bildad the Shuhite, the second of Job’s friends. Like Eliphaz, Bildad came “to mourn with [Job] and to comfort” him (2:11); however, his counsel was insensitive and severe. He had listened to Job’s response to Eliphaz, and his plea for mercy and understanding. However, unlike Eliphaz, Bildad made no pretense of kindness, and his words were harsh and judgmental (8:2).

Bildad’s proud tone evidenced he had little experience with trials and hardships that bear the fruit of humility. He condemned Job’s lament (8:2), and alleged he had inferred God was unjust (8:3). Indirectly, Bildad implied Job’s children were dead because they sinned against God (8:4). Echoing Eliphaz’s counsel, Bildad reasoned, if Job was “pure and upright” God would bless him (8:5-7).

Closing thoughts (8:8-21) – So much more could be taught from this passage, but those lessons must wait until another year. Our devotion concludes with Bildad charging Job as a hypocrite (8:8-19), suggesting he had been forsaken by the LORD: “Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man, Neither will he help the evil doers”(8:20). Bildad’s counsel lacked compassion, and his reasoning lacked humility and spiritual discernment. He not only failed Job as a friend, he added to his sorrows. Tragically, His judgments were contrary to the ways of the LORD who is loving, compassionate, longsuffering, and just.

I conclude with a treasured principle for all who love the LORD:

“We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)

Copyright © 2023 – 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
7853 Gunn Hwy
#131
Tampa, FL 33626-1611

You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Why Does God Allow Sickness and Sorrow? (Job 4; Job 5)

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* Please request other translations if desired.

Scripture reading – Job 4; Job 5

Continuing our study of the Book of Job, we have noted it served as a record of one man’s righteous response to sorrows and troubles. It is a story of a heavenly drama between Satan and the LORD, concerning a godly upright man named Job (Job 1). Unbeknownst to Job, the trials that came upon him were a test and proof of the confidence the LORD had in him as a man of faith and integrity (1:8; 2:3).

Job proved to be worthy of the LORD’s confidence, even when his sons and daughters perished, his possessions were lost, and his body was afflicted with sores. When his wife looked upon him with disdain (2:9), Job rebuked her and placed his trust in the sovereignty of God (2:10).

Surely the arrival of “three friends” (2:11-13), renewed Job’s long for encouragement in the midst of sorrows. Nevertheless, as we will see in today’s Scripture reading, the opposite would be true. Shaken by his troubles, and overcome with sorrow, Job shared with his “friends” his longing for death to deliver him from his suffering (Job 3).

Job 4 – The Counsel of Eliphaz the Temanite

Eliphaz was the first of Job’s friends to respond to his desire to escape suffering by death (note, this does not imply suicide, but a natural course of life that inevitably ends in death). Job 4-5 records the first of three speeches given by Eliphaz to Job. The second and third discourses are recorded in Job 15 and Job 22.

Breaking his silence, and holding his tongue no longer, “Eliphaz the Temanite” (4:1), perhaps the eldest of the friends, questioned Job. Would he, a man who had counseled others, accept counsel himself? (Job 4:2-6) Eliphaz began with a conciliatory tone (4:1-4), but soon became accusatory, and suggested Job’s troubles were those of the wicked, and not a righteous man (4:5-8).

Rather than comfort, Eliphaz proposed a question that haunts some who have the privilege of ministering to others: 7Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? Or where were the righteous cut off?” (4:7)

It is difficult to accept, but sadly true: There are some who come on the pretense of offering sympathy, who take pleasure in a man’s troubles. Eliphaz’s words were biting, and implied Job’s pretense of faith was “fair-weathered,” for now that storms touched his life he was viewed as having fainted (4:7-11). He indicted Job’s character (4:6), and asserted, “They that plow iniquity, And sow wickedness, reap the same” (4:8). (In other words, he was reaping what he had sown.) Wrongly judging his friend, Eliphaz implied the losses and sorrows Job suffered were indicative of a man who lacked piety and was guilty of sin (4:12-21).

Eliphaz then claimed he had received a vision, and heard a voice (4:12-16). He asked Job, “17Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his maker?” (4:17). The implication was, Job’s troubles were because he failed to confess his sins (4:18-21).

Job 5 – Eliphaz Proclaims the Greatness of God

Eliphaz continued to contend Job’s trials were a consequence of his sins, and questioned, “To which of the saints wilt thou turn?” (5:1) In other words, “Job, to whom will you turn, if you don’t turn to the LORD for help?”

Eliphaz then accused Job of failing to respond to God with humility. He warned him, “2For wrath killeth the foolish man, And envy slayeth the silly one” (5:2). Increasing his assault on Job’s character, Eliphaz seemed to imply the deaths of his children were a result of his sin (5:4; 1:18-19). He encouraged Job to accept his troubles as a sign of God’s chastening, and urged him, “despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty” (5:17; 5:18, Hebrews 12:5; Proverbs 3:11-12).

Eliphaz urged Job to accept his troubles as God’s loving discipline, and then enumerated seven troubles from which the LORD delivers His people (seven being the number of perfection and wholeness). The seven troubles were: famine (5:20a), war (5:20b), a slanderous tongue (5:21a), natural calamities (5:21b), destitution (fear of famine or poverty, 5:22a), wild beasts (5:22b), and early death (5:26). The implication of Eliphaz’s observation was: “If the LORD delivers His people out of trouble, why are you (Job) left to suffer so much?”

Eliphaz’s reasoning reflects some truth; however, his argument that Job’s losses were God’s judgment was a false presumption. The wicked do suffer loss as a result of God’s punitive judgment; however, God chastens the righteous with the love of a Father (Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:6; Revelation 3:19). There are times He also allows trials and suffering, not because of sin, but as a means of deepening our walk of grace and dependence on Him (1 Corinthians 11:32; Jeremiah 29:11; Matthew 5:11).

A Closing Word of Caution – Lest some believers accept Eliphaz’s counsel as truth, and apply his statements to themselves, remember: Job’s trials were not caused by sinful failures or unconfessed sins. The LORD allowed him to suffer as a means of testing, that would eventually yield blessings. You and I cannot grasp all that is in the mind of God; however, we must accept He is Sovereign. When trials and sorrows come (and they will), remember they are temporal, and you can be confident in this:

The way of the LORD is perfect (Psalm 18:30).

Copyright © 2023 – 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
7853 Gunn Hwy
#131
Tampa, FL 33626-1611

You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

A Righteous Response When Mistreated (1 Peter 3; 1 Peter 4)

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Scripture reading – 1 Peter 3; 1 Peter 4

The apostle Peter’s letter “to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1) continues with today’s Scripture reading. As you will see, 1 Peter 3 and 4 are practical and insightful, presenting us with numerous principles that are spiritual guides to the believer’s daily life and relationships. Before we consider the subject of today’s devotional, consider the following outlines of 1 Peter 3-4.

An Outline of 1 Peter 3

  1. Peter charged wives and husbands with marital obligations that parallel those recorded by Paul in his epistles (3:1-7; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 318-19; Titus 2:2-7).
  2. Five precepts for “getting along” with others (3:8)
  3. A righteous response when you are mistreated (3:9)
  4. Three essential disciplines for loving life, and seeing good days (3:10-11)
  5. Spiritual responses to trials, troubles, and persecutions (3:13-17)
  6. Keys to a living, eternal hope (3:18-22)

An Outline of 1 Peter 4

  1. Four characteristics of believers who bear injustices without bitterness (4:1-6)
  2. Four characteristics of authentic faith (4:8-11)
  3. Enduring hope in the midst of fiery trials (4:12-19)

A Righteous Response to Injustice (3:9)

To put today’s devotional in context, we should remember Peter was writing to believers who were “strangers” (1:1). They had suffered rejections, persecutions, and been driven from their homes, businesses, and country. Peter, like a pastor who knows the sorrows and sufferings of his congregation, was guided by the Holy Spirit to exhort believers regarding their attitude and response to injustice and mistreatment.

Peter had already encouraged servants to respond to harsh masters in a “good and gentle” manner (2:18); and encouraged them to do so was “acceptable to God (2:20). Yet, not only were servants expected to respond to cruel masters with humility, but the same was expected of believers when they were treated unjustly and provoked. Peter exhorted, “Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (3:9).

The practical application of 1 Peter 3:9 is, believers are to be longsuffering, ready to forgive, and not retaliate (“not rendering evil for evil,” 3:9a). Retaliation and revenge are the natural response when we are wounded, and treated unfairly. Our fleshly impulse is to hurt others to the same degree we have been wronged. Yet, Peter taught the persecuted saints not only to shun retaliation, but to refuse to render “railing for railing” (3:9b).

Verbal assaults, threats, and slander will find their target, and a wounded heart is inevitable. Verbal jabs and counter jabs are the way of the world, for the wicked know nothing of grace and forgiveness. We often feel mocking, demeaning, name calling, and slander are too much to bear.

Nevertheless, Peter urged believers to go counter to their instincts, and bless those who leave you wounded, promising, “knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (3:9b). Instead of giving an offender a “piece of your mind,” we are to extend grace (“contrariwise blessing’), knowing God has a purpose, and He will reward His child with unconditional love and favor (3:9c).

Bite Your Tongue (3:10)

If you want to “love life, and see good days” (3:10a), bite your tongue, and speak neither “evil” nor “guile” (lies or deceit, 3:10). When everything within you cries unfair, keep silent, and trust God.

Closing thoughts – Why should believers suffer wrong, and not seek revenge? Why should we be silent, though an enemy would sow lies and seek our ruin?

Because the way of the wicked is to verbally attack, insult, and lie. Yet, our faith is in the Lord, and we trust Him to bestow His favor on us. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught the multitude, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:11).

In his letter to believers in Rome, Paul wrote: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath [make room for God’s wrath]: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

Truth – A believer’s silence and refusal to retaliate makes room for God to work and exercise justice.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

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 Greatest Man in God’s Sight is a Humble, Selfless Servant. (Philippians 2)

Click on this link for translations of this devotional.

Scripture reading – Philippians 2

Philippians 1 concluded with Paul urging Philippian believers to live worthy of the “gospel of Christ,” and strive for unity (1:27a). Setting aside petty differences, he exhorted them to “stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (1:27b). “Striving together” was an athletic term that implied not only discipline, but teamwork. What was the goal or coming together as a team? “For the faith,” meaning the doctrine, “of the gospel” (1:27b).

Knowing believers in Philippi faced adversaries, Paul encouraged them to not be afraid of those who opposed them, but to follow his example, “not only to believe on [Christ], but also to suffer for His sake” (1:28-30). Paul was passionate the believers in Philippi would encourage each other, knowing the enemies they faced were those who had opposed him (Acts 16).

Philippians 2

Four Conditions for Spiritual Unity (2:1)

Philippians 2:1 presents us with four realities that motivate believers to pursue spiritual oneness. The first, “consolation in Christ” (2:1a). In other words, like Christ, we should comfort and encourage others with our words and actions. Secondly, the love of Christ motivates us to extend love to others (2:1b). Believers also share in the “fellowship of the Spirit,” for we are by one Spirit…baptized into one body” (2:1c; 1 Corinthians 12:13). Finally, out of “bowels and mercies,” we extend grace and forgiveness to one another (2:1d). After all, we are to be “kindtenderhearted… forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Four Essentials for Spiritual Unity (2:2)

Motivated by four conditions necessary for unity (each beginning with “if” in verse 1), Paul prayed four essentials would be true of the believers: “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (2:2).

To be “likeminded” does not mean believers agree on everything. Paul encouraged the congregation at Philippi, not to strive for uniformity (attained only by pressure from without), but for unity (which is a matter of the heart, and attainable by pressure from within). Like-mindedness is attained when we submit our will to a cause greater than ourselves (for the believer, that cause is to glorify the Lord, the salvation of souls, and the welfare of the congregation; but never at the sacrifice of truth and spiritual integrity).

Three other essentials follow the mandate to be likeminded (2:2b). Spiritual unity exists only when believers have “the same love” (loving the same things—the Lord, the Word, and one another), are “one accord” (acting in harmony), and “one mind” (having the same heart, purpose, and intent).

Sinful Attitudes that Hinder the Unity of Believers (2:3-4)

Mentioned in verses 3-4, are three negative attitudes that hinder harmony among believers, and two positive attitudes that contribute to unity. “Strife” (a selfish, quarrelsome spirit) and “vainglory” (pride) were the first two of three attitudes Paul identified as contributors to disharmony. The apostle wrote, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory” (2:3a). Sadly, too many churches are known more for their quarrels and conflicts (James 4:1; 2 Corinthians 12:20), than their love and harmony. Pride, of course, is the rotten root that impedes unity, and is arrogant, self-sufficient, and unteachable (Proverbs 16:18).

The third hindrance to unity was a selfish, self-seeking spirit. Paul urged believers, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (2:4). Too many churches and institutions are destroyed by people who focus on what they might gain, rather than on what is honoring to Christ, and best for others.

Closing thoughts (2:3-11) – I conclude our devotion inviting you to consider two attitudes that are essential for peace and unity with other believers. The first was humility. Paul encouraged, “in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (2:3b). The ancient Greeks considered humility to be a sign of weakness, and I am afraid the same is true of 21st century societies. Humility is the nature of a Spirit-filled believer. Humility is slow to pass judgment (Matthew 7:1), and charitable toward those at fault (Matthew 7:2-5). Humility is ready to forgive, and overlooks offenses (“Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins,” Proverbs 10:12).

Finally, Paul commanded believers to follow a selfless spirit, writing: Look…every man also on the things of others” (2:4b). To put the good of others ahead of ourselves is the essence of a selfless spirit. We conclude our study by considering the greatest example of self-sacrificing love and humility: Jesus Christ (2:5-8).

Philippians 2:5–8 – “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

To be great in God’s judgment we must identify with Christ’s humiliation, humble ourselves, and be obedient.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

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.

Don’t Quit! (Galatians 6)

Scripture reading – Galatians 6

Today’s Scripture reading concludes our study of the Epistle to the Galatians. Previous chapters answered enemies who attacked the doctrine of salvation by grace, and were an exposition on the Law and grace of God through Christ. You will see Galatians 6 is practical, and needs little commentary. The focus of this devotional is Galatians 6:1-9, where Paul urged the believers of Galatia to be faithful and compassionate toward others, and in particular fellow believers.

Restoring Sinning Believers (6:1)

Paul urged spiritually-minded believers to be gracious, and patient with those who were overcome by the temptation to sin (6:1). Ruling out a spirit of judgment that is too often seen in churches, Paul encouraged “spiritual” believers to address the fault of another in a “spirit of meekness” (6:1b). The goal for going to a sinning believer is not to judge and condemn, but to the end they might be restored to the fellowship of believers (6:1b). Lest a believer be tempted to be harsh or judgmental, Paul urged, “considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (6:1).

Loving Encouragement (6:2)

Notice restoring a backslidden believer is to be done not only with a spirit of meekness (6:1), but is also a labor of love. Paul writes, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (6:2). The word “bear” indicates the need of coming alongside a faltering believer, and steadying them as they have stumbled. Such an effort is to be done with patience, love and compassion, which is “the law of Christ” (6:2b).

What is the “law of Christ?” It is the sum of all of the commandments stated in one directive regarding man with man, to “love thy neighbour as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18). Jesus quoted Leviticus when He taught His disciples, “Thou shalt love they neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 19:19). When He was questioned near the end of His earthly ministry, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matthew 22:36), Jesus answered, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

A Call to Humility and Self-examination (6:3-5)

Because the nature of man is prone to be proud, harsh and judgmental, Paul admonished the Galatian believers, “3For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself” (6:3). You see, when we have a right perspective on who we are, we realize we are nothing apart from Christ and His righteousness. Pride and self-righteousness have no place in the fellowship of believers.

How can believers avoid an attitude of pride and a spirit of judgment? Paul exhorted, “4But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5For every man shall bear his own burden” (6:4-5). We need to honestly examine ourselves, and avoid the error of fools, for comparing ourselves with other is foolish, and “not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).

The Duty of Believers to Support Those Who Minister (6:6-8)

Continuing the practical application of our devotional, Paul challenged believers to remember those who were faithful teachers “in all good things,” and “communicate unto him” (6:6). To “communicate” meant to share in the financial support of those who dedicated their lives to instructing believers in the highest truths and moral principles of God’s Word (Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Timothy 5:17).

Within the context of supporting faithful teachers, Paul taught the spiritual principle known as “Sowing and Reaping” (6:7-9). Unfortunately, those verses are seldom taught in their context, notice what Paul wrote:

Galatians 6:6–87Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

Stated simply, the duty of believers is to support their ministers, knowing God will not be ridiculed (mocked, 6:6a). Taking a lesson from the farm, what a farmer sows, he reaps (i.e., sow wheat, you harvest wheat; the more you sow, the more you reap). Then, as a believer sows (in this context, supports those who minister the Word), so he will reap (6:6b). Please the flesh and you will reap the consequences. Obey the Word, feed the spirit, and your will reap eternal life (6:8).

Closing promise (6:9) – We conclude our devotional commentary with Paul’s exhortation, “let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (6:9). It is the promise of the harvest that encourages the farmer to labor long hours and days in his field. So it is the spiritual promise of reaping “if we faint not” (6:9b) that encourages and stirs hope. When the time is right, faithful believers will reap eternal rewards. Don’t Quit!

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

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.

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).

* 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.

“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 HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.