Category Archives: Fundamentalism

Whose Doctrine Are You Following? (Matthew 16; Mark 8)

Scripture reading – Matthew 16; Mark 8

There are times when I read and study the Scriptures that I feel overwhelmed by the necessity to choose one truth from a passage that is rich in content. Today’s Scripture reading in Matthew 16 and Mark 8 presents us with that challenge: Mining one truth in a passage of Scripture arrayed with diamonds of truth too numerous to be counted.

Mark 8:1-9 begins with the account of the Feeding of the Four Thousand. Immediately after, Jesus and the disciples departed by ship to an area known as “Dalmanutha,” which was located on the western short of the Sea of Galilee near Magdala (8:10). It was in Dalmanutha that the LORD had a confrontation with the Pharisees, the religious legalists of His day. The Pharisees came to Jesus and demanded that He prove Himself with a “sign [i.e. a miraculous sight] from heaven” (8:11). Mark declares that the purpose of the Pharisees was to tempt Jesus, meaning to put Him to the test in hopes that He would fail (8:11).

Understanding Jesus knew the hearts of men, He rebuked the Pharisees saying, “There shall no sign be given unto this generation” (8:12b). Jesus then departed, setting sail for Bethsaida (8:13-22), a village located on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, that was the home of Peter, Andrew, and Philip (John 1:44-45).

As they crossed the sea, Jesus charged His disciples, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod” (8:15). “Leaven,” like yeast, was used in dough to induce bread to rise when baked. The disciples, hearing Jesus speak of leaven, assumed He was speaking of bread, because they had neglected to bring bread on their journey (8:14, 16).

The irony of the moment was summed up when Jesus asked the disciples, “Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? 18Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?” (8:17-18).

What was the irony? That the disciples would have been concerned with what they would eat at their next meal (8:19-20)! After twice witnessing Jesus take the lunch of a boy and feed 5,000 men, and seven loaves of bread and feed 4,000 men, and have leftovers on each occasion: Why would they be concerned about their next meal? “How is it that ye do not understand?” (8:21)

Matthew sums up the same narrative, concluding that the disciples then understood “how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matthew 16:12).

What was the “leaven (i.e. doctrine) of the Pharisees, and of the leaven (i.e. doctrine) of Herod”? (8:15)

It was a religious hypocrisy (Luke 12:1) that was rooted in their legalism (Matthew 23:27-29), traditionalism, doctrine of works for salvation, and other errors and departures from the Truth. I close asking,

Is the 21st century Church any different? How much of what we believe, and the Church observes, is rooted in traditionalism and not in the Truth?

As Bible believers, our doctrine and practice is to be solely based upon the Truth of God’s Word, and not traditionalism or the philosophies and interpretations of men.

John 17:17 17Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“HIS-STORY: The Cyclical Nature of God’s Providences and Man’s Fallen Nature”

You are invited to Hillsdale Baptist Church for this Sunday’s 10:30am worship service as Pastor Smith continues his prophetic series with our current focus on the writings and prophecies of Joel, the prophet of Judah.

Like other Old Testament prophets, Joel’s prophecies carried not only an imminent application to God’s people in his day, but were also a foretelling of events that are not yet come to pass. In fact, many of the headline news events we are observing in today’s world appear to be setting the stage for the fulfillment of prophecies we read in Joel 2-3.

There is, as the title of this blog states, a cyclical nature in history that evidences not only the sovereign, providential hand of God, but also the sinful, fallen nature of mankind. There is the rise, glory, decay, and eventual destruction of nations. There is a recurring pattern in the history of humanity that is one of spiritual darkness, followed by emerging light, that eventually fades away once again to darkness. There are times when there is a glimmer of hope for a national revival, a spiritual awakening, and renewal. Eventually, however, the depraved nature of humanity seems determined to eclipse the light entirely.

In this repeated cycle of spiritual light and darkness, where do you think we are as individuals, families, communities, churches, and as a nation? I fear we are seeing a growing darkness that is determined to extinguish the LIGHT. I sense an oppression that is already at war with Biblical faith, traditional family values, and our Constitutional freedoms as a nation and people.

There are many things to be learned from history, but the most important is that God is sovereign and we can be confident in His promises and providences. Jesus Christ is KING, LORD, and is Coming Again!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Consider you ways!” (Haggai 1-2)

Scripture reading – Haggai 1-2

The book of Haggai falls chronologically at the conclusion of Ezra 4 and the commencement of Ezra 5. The dateline of Haggai is, as the opening verse states, “In the second year of Darius the king [king of Persia], in the sixth month, in the first day of the month” (Haggai 1:1). Incredibly, eighteen years had passed since Cyrus, king of Persia, had declared, “The LORD God of heaven…hath charged me to build Him an house (Temple) at Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:2), followed by an edict freeing the Jews to return to their homeland (Ezra 1:3).

As is too often seen when great works are undertaken, there was initial enthusiasm as the people erected the altar and then set themselves to the task of clearing the rubble in preparation for laying the foundation for the new Temple. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel (also known by his Babylonian name, Sheshbazzar), who served as governor of Judah, and was of the Davidic line (named in the lineage of Jesus Christ, Matthew 1:12-13), the preparations to lay the Temple foundation were halted when adversaries opposed the work and discouraged the people (Ezra 4).

It was at this time, a time of discouragement, that God raised up two prophets to minister in Judah. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah, both mentioned in Ezra 5:1, were contemporaries in Judah. Though the book of Haggai is only two chapters in length, it carried an important message for that prophet’s generation, “Get to work!”

Haggai 1

Facing opposition to the work on the Temple, the people’s focus and labor moved from rebuilding the Temple to building their own homes.  For ten years, from 530 BC to 520 BC, the Temple was neglected while the people labored in their fields and lived in the comfort of their “ceiled houses” (1:4).  When they were reminded the task of rebuilding the Temple was not finished, the people answered, “The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built’ (1:2).

Does that sentiment remind you of someone you know?  Perhaps even yourself?  Most of us do not reject outright the opportunity to minister and serve the LORD. However, we might often be guilty of procrastination and suggesting by our words and attitude, “the time is not come” (1:2).

The LORD had been longsuffering with His people; however, the time of reckoning had come and He sent His prophet Haggai to rebuke the people for failing to build the Temple.  Haggai admonished the people, “Consider you ways!(1:5, 7), warning the people that the LORD was withholding His blessings from the nation, and their labor in the fields would be futile until the Temple was built (1:6-11).

The problem was not what they had done (building homes for their families and planting crops), but what they had failed to do.

Haggai left no doubt why the people were struggling, laboring much while harvesting so little, and detailed five effects for their failure to build the Temple: Poor harvests; ceaseless hunger; unquenchable thirst, futility in obtaining comfort, and financial distress (1:6). Haggai proclaimed:

Haggai 1:9 – Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.

Godly men that they were, after hearing the Word of the LORD spoken by the prophet, Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest, “obeyed the voice of the LORD their God…and the people did fear before the LORD” (1:12).

Because the people responded with humility, the LORD encouraged them saying, “I am with you, saith the LORD” (1:13).

Haggai 1:14 – “And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God,”

Meditate on this: You will want for nothing when God’s purposes and His glory are your priority.

Psalm 84:11 – For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace [favor] and glory [honor]: no good thing [blessing] will he withhold from them that walk uprightly [blameless].

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Evil Hosts and Their Opposition to the Prayers of the Saints (Daniel 10-12)

Scripture reading – Daniel 10-12

Daniel 10-12 is the fourth and final vision of Daniel. Daniel 10 introduces the vision. Daniel 11:1-35 revealed the immediate future, while Daniel 11:36-12:4 was a revelation of the distant future and a time we know as the Tribulation: “the time of the end” (11:36) in which the antichrist will appear. Daniel’s final vision concludes with a revelation of the Great White Throne (12:4-13) and God’s final judgment.

Today’s devotional commentary will focus on Daniel 10 and the introduction of the final vision.

Daniel 10:1-9 – A Heavenly Messenger

Writing in the third person, Daniel employs his Chaldean name Belteshazzar (no doubt the name he employed in his official capacity as an officer of the king’s court), and revealed a transition of leadership in Babylon citing the time of his fourth and final vision as, “the third year of Cyrus king of Persia” (10:1).

The date of the vision was about 536 B.C., about the time of Daniel’s experience in the Lion’s Den (Daniel 6) and soon after King Cyrus had issued his edict, freeing the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple (Ezra 1). Fifty thousand captives had returned to Israel, but soon after their arrival they faced opposition that not only hindered the work on the Temple, but finally succeeded in stopping it altogether.

Daniel, serving as an official in the Persian court, must have been privy to the opposition his brethren were facing in Israel and that may have been the cause for his “mourning three full weeks” (10:2). Daniel fasted and prayed for three weeks, and about the time of the Passover, “in the four and twentieth day of the first month” (10:4), God sent a messenger to Daniel as he “was by the side of the great river, which is Hiddekel” (the Tigris River, 10:4).

The messenger, described as “a certain man” (10:5), was so brilliant in appearance (10:5-6) that Daniel and his companions were terrified, though only Daniel saw the vision (10:7). With a voice that sounded “like the voice of a multitude” (10:6) and was accompanied by a great earthquake, Daniel’s companions fled (10:7), leaving Daniel alone to see the “great vision” (10:8).

Though the man in Daniel’s vision was not identified, I am of the opinion he was a pre-incarnate appearance of the LORD Jesus Christ.  The prophet was so overwhelmed by the heavenly presence of the man, that he felt himself to be utterly corrupt and physically weak (10:8). Lying prostrate before the man and his face to the ground, the voice and words of Daniel’s visitor brought on a “deep sleep” (10:9).

Daniel 10:10-21 – Revelation of an Unseen Spiritual Battle: The Angels of the LORD vs. The Demons of Darkness

Daniel was suddenly awakened when a hand touched him, lifting him up on his knees and the palms of his hands (10:10). The hand of this second visitor is not identified; however, he was an angel and might have been the angel Gabriel who had appeared twice before in Daniel 8:16 and Daniel 9:21. Comforting the prophet with his salutation, “O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent” (10:11a), Daniel stood to his feet still trembling (10:11b).

Daniel 10:12-21 gives us a great insight into an invisible spiritual conflict between the LORD and His angels, and Satan and his demons of darkness.  The angel informed Daniel that he had been sent by the LORD on the first day when he had prayed (10:2-3, 12); however, he had been hindered in his mission by “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” who had resisted him twenty-one days until Michael the archangel had come to assist him (10:13).

The angel stated the purpose of his mission in coming to Daniel saying, “I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people [the believing Jews] in the latter days [the time of tribulation]: for yet the vision is for many days” (10:14). Hearing the news of what would become of God’s people at the end of the ages, Daniel once again fell to the ground, dumbstruck and deeply troubled by the vision (10:15-17). Strengthened by the touch and encouraging words of his angelic visitor (10:16, 18-19), Daniel was ready to receive the prophecy that would follow (Daniel 11-12).

I close inviting you to consider the revelation of an invisible, spiritual warfare that is being waged by the angels of heaven against the demonic angels (10:20). Two great and wicked fallen angels are identified as “the prince of Persia,” and one who will follow him, “the prince of Grecia” (10:20b).

The next time you pray and grow anxious waiting on the LORD to answer your prayer, remember: There is an evil host of angels that are actively opposing God’s work on earth. They influence and possess men and women in the great halls of government, wield power for evil in society, and are ever encouraging wicked men and women to oppose God and commit evil against His people.

Ephesians 6:11-1211  Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Daniel: A Model of Godly Character, Integrity and Courage” (Daniel 1-3)

Scripture reading – Daniel 1-3

The Book of Daniel is a prophetic panorama of human history, beginning with the days of Nebuchadnezzar and ancient Babylon and encompassing a prophetic vision of world empires that would follow…Medo-Persians, Greece and Rome.  Daniel’s writing includes prophecies that are for the 21st century reader a footnote in history past and a foretelling of future events that conclude with the Second Coming of Christ. Today’s devotional commentary will be taken from Daniel 1.

Daniel 1

Daniel 1 opens with a straightforward, historical account and one we are familiar with from our earlier study of 2 Kings 24:12-16. The children of Judah are in Babylonian bondage, and the beloved city of Jerusalem, and the Temple will soon be laid waste (2 Kings 25).  The prophet Jeremiah warned Judah’s kings if the people did not repent of their sin and turn to the LORD, His wrath would rise “against His people, till there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:16).   Jeremiah prophesied the captivity in Babylon would last 70 years (Jeremiah 25:12) and when those years were “accomplished at Babylon [God] will visit you… causing you to return to this place [the promise land]” (Jeremiah 29:10).

Daniel was probably no more than 13-14 years old when he was taken from his home and transported to Babylon with its strange language and idolatrous culture. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, instituted a plan and chose the best and brightest of Israel’s impressionable youth that they might serve him in the administration of his empire (Daniel 1:8).  Daniel was numbered among those youth who were without blemish, handsome, discerning, cunning, and “understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans” (1:4).

Daniel soon proved he was not only a gifted young man, but also a child of faith. Three other youth of Judah shared Daniel’s passion for the LORD: “Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 7  Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego” (1:6-7). Leading by example and conviction, we read,

Daniel 1:8 – “But Daniel purposed [pledged; determined; made a decree] in his heart that he would not defile [pollute; soil; stain] himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine [lit. intoxicating wine] which he drank: therefore he requested [desired; sought; enquired] of the prince [captain; governor] of the eunuchs [most likely a castrated servant] that he might not defile [pollute; soil; stain] himself.”

Daniel purposed: He pledged his heart, and resolved in his character, “he would not defile himself” (Daniel 1:8).

What courage!  What conviction!  What passion!  God was at work and He blessed Daniel and providentially “brought [him] into favour [mercy; kindness; grace] and tender love [to have compassion; pity; i.e. brotherly love] with the prince[chief] of the eunuchs [who were the servants of the king] (1:9).

Faithful to their convictions and respectful of their authorities, God blessed the faith of Daniel and his three companions, and when they were proved (i.e. tested and examined), they appeared healthier than those “children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat” (1:15).

We will see in our study, that the testing of Daniel’s faith in his youth prepared his heart for the opportunities, challenges, and trials he would face in his service to the kings of both Babylon and Persia (1:21).

I close inviting you to consider four qualities that defined Daniel’s submissive and sensitive heart to authority: He was subordinate in his spirit (1:12); he was sincere in his appeal (1:12); he was Scriptural in his purpose (1:12-13); and he was sensitive in his request (1:13-14).

We would do well to weigh our spirit, manner, and relationship with the authorities in our lives, using Daniel as perfect example of a young man of faith and convictions.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Failure of Israel’s Pastors (Ezekiel 34-36)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 34-36

We have seen that Ezekiel was a priest (1:3) whom God called to be prophet to His people of the Babylonian captivity. With the siege of Jerusalem ended, the Temple plundered, and the walls and city of Jerusalem in piles of rubble, the attention of God’s prophet now turned to the failure of the religious leaders of Israel.

Ezekiel 34 – The Tragedy When Spiritual Leaders Fail God’s People

Ezekiel 34 is an indictment of the “shepherds of Israel” (the religious leaders), for their self-righteous, ungracious spirit. Consider the Character (34:1-10), the Conduct (34:16b-18), and the Calamity of the “shepherds of Israel” (34:19-21).

The Corrupt Character of Spiritual Shepherds (34:1-10)

Ezekiel 34:2b – “…Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?”

The shepherds (pastors) of Israel were self-centered consumers. They had put their interests above the needs of the people (34:2). They had saved the best of the sacrifices for themselves, rather than give the LORD the best (34:3). They had eaten the best portions of men, killed the best of the flock, clothed themselves in fine wool, but failed to spiritually feed the flock of God.

The pastors had neglected the needy (34:4a), failed to attend the sick (34:4b), and failed to set right those whose bones were broken (34:4b). When the sheep (people) strayed, they failed to gather them and protect them from wild beasts (heathen invaders) (34:5-6). Instead of leading the people, the pastors had terrorized them “with force [harsh, sharp] and with cruelty [cruel, severe](Ezek. 34:4).

The spiritual shepherds of Israel had neglected the sheep by failing to lead them to green pastures where they might have prospered (Psalm 23; John 10).

The Conduct of the Bad Spiritual Shepherds (34:16b-18)

The shepherds were inconsiderate of the spiritually weak and immature (34:18). The pastors had allowed the strong to “[eat] up the good pasture…tread down [stamped upon] with [their] feet the residue of your pastures” (34:18). The shepherds had neglected the weaker sheep and allowed the stronger to “foul the residue” (34:18b) and make it unfit for the weaker sheep.

The shepherds were also insensitive (34:20. They had allowed spiritual bullies to “thrust with side and with shoulder and “pushed all the diseased [weak and sick] with [their] horns” (34:21).

 The Calamity When Spiritual Shepherds Fail the Sheep (34:19-21)

Israel’s shepherds had failed the people and robbed them of an opportunity to enjoy God’s best. Like sheep neglected by their shepherd, God’s people had been forced to “eat that which [had been] trodden” and “drink that which [had been] fouled with [their] feet” (34:19). The shepherd’s insensitivity to the sheep had resulted in the sheep being scattered (34:21).

I close inviting you to consider the love and passion of the LORD, the Good Shepherd who is a model of grace and forgiveness (34:11-16a).

Like a Good Shepherd, the LORD loved His people and promised, “I will bring them…gather them…to their own land…[and] feed them” (34:13b-14a). The people “lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture…and…lie down…I will seek that which was lost, and bring again…and will bind up…and will strengthen” (Ezek. 34:14-16a).

It comes as no surprise that Jesus Christ’s description of Himself as the Good Shepherd reflects the longing of the LORD we find in Ezekiel 34.

Matthew 18:11 – For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.

John 10:11 – I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

Is the LORD Jesus Christ your Shepherd?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Woe be Unto the Pastors” (Jeremiah 23-25)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 23-25

Jeremiah 23:1-2 – A Denouncement of Unfaithful Pastors

As a pastor, I find the opening verses of Jeremiah 23 disturbing. “Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture” (23:1).  In addition to priests, numbered among the “pastors” were most likely the king and civil servants of his realm. Rather than benevolent men who shepherded the people in love and obedience to God’s Word, the pastors had abused and scattered the people. They had failed to “visit,” meaning to shepherd, oversee, or care for the people (23:2).

Jeremiah 23:3-8 – The Messiah King and the Millennial Kingdom

The LORD did not leave Judah without hope, and declared a day when “the remnant of my flock” (Israel and Judah) would be gathered “out of all countries whither I have driven them” (23:3). In that day, the LORD promised to appoint spiritual “shepherds…which shall feed [His people]: and they shall fear no more…neither shall they be lacking” (23:4).

Leaving no doubt who will be King in the Messianic Kingdom, we read, “I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. 6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (23:5-6; Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12).

Who is this “righteous branch” of David’s lineage of David? (23:5) Only one man could fulfill this prophecy and He would be the Christ (Isaiah 9:6-7; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:21-5:11).

Though Israel exists as a nation today, it is not righteous and its government is secular. There is no king who is of David’s lineage or reigns in righteousness. However, when Christ comes as Judge and conquering King, He will gather His people to their land from “out of the north country, and from all countries” where they have been scattered (23:8).

Jeremiah 23:9-32 – The False Prophets and Their Error

Knowing the judgment that His people would suffer, Jeremiah writes, “Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets” (23:9). False prophets had become the curse of the nation, and in a searing indictment of their sins, Jeremiah identified the ungodly character of the false prophets and their effect on the people: “The land is full of adulterers” (23:10) and the prophet and priest were hypocrites, “profane,” polluted and corrupt (23:11, 23:13).

The sins of the nation were so egregious that the LORD likened them to “Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah” (23:14).  Engrossed in their sins and lacking spiritual discernment, the people believed the assurances of the false prophets who said, “No evil shall come upon you” (23:17). The LORD, “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied” (23:21).

Jeremiah 23:33-36 – Judah’s Contempt for God’s Message and Messenger

Embracing the lies of false priests and prophets, the people ridiculed God’s prophet. The LORD instructed Jeremiah, when the people, their prophets and priests ask, “What is the burden of the LORD?” (23:33), he was to say, the “burden of the LORD” was that He had forsaken them (23:33b).

Jeremiah 23 concludes with a stern warning to any who pretended to bear “the burden of the LORD” as His messenger:

Jeremiah 23:39b-40 – “I will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and cast you out of my presence: 40  And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.”

James states a similar warning to preachers and teachers of God’s Word (James 3:1).

James 3:1 – “My brethren, be not many masters [teachers; instructors], knowing that we shall receive the greater [larger; greatest] condemnation [judgment; punishment; i.e. sentence].”

The work of the preacher is a great calling, as is the opportunity of teaching God’s Word. Whether a pastor or a lay Bible teacher, it is a privilege to teach God’s Word; however, we dare not treat it lightly for we will face the greater judgment.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

I’ve Got Happiness! How ‘bout You? (Psalms 111-118)

Scripture Reading – Psalms 111-118

Today’s Scripture reading entails eight glorious chapters in the Book of Psalms; however, I will limit this devotional commentary to Psalm 111 and Psalm 112.

Psalm 111 – Getting Wisdom

Three of today’s psalms begin with the same theme and call to worship: “Praise ye the LORD”(Psalms 111:1; 112:1; 113:1).

In essence, “Praise ye the LORD” is an expression of thanksgiving that boasts in the LORD Who is the Eternal, Self-existent God of creation. The psalmist asserts he will “Praise the LORD” with his “whole heart” – his mind, thoughts, and understanding undivided and focused on Him (111:1).

His praise and thanksgiving will be declared not only in the midst of those who are numbered among the “upright” (meaning those who obey the LORD’S Law and Commandments), but also in the midst of all the people (“the congregation” – 111:1).

In what will the psalmist praise the LORD? His meditations are on His works, the wonder and expanse of His creation (111:2) and “His righteousness”— for He is just, and “is gracious and full of compassion” (111:4b).

Believer, do you want to be numbered among the wise? Do you desire to be a man or woman of discernment and understanding? Remember this principle:

Psalm 111:10 – The fear [reverence; awe that begets righteous behavior] of the LORD is the beginning [is fundamental; foundational; most important thing] of wisdom: a good understanding [discretion; ] have all they that do [make; perform] his commandments: his praise [giving thanks] endureth [stands; is established] for ever [eternity].

Psalm 112 – Four Qualities of a “Blessed” Man

Psalm 112, like Psalm 111, begins with a word of praise to the LORD and an affirmation that the man who “feareth” [trembles; reveres] the LORD is “Blessed” [happy] because he “delighteth [desires; takes pleasure] greatly in His Commandments [Law; ordinances; precepts]” (112:1).

Notice there are four essential characteristics of a “Happy” man in Psalm 112: A “Happy” man is Blessed (112:1), Upright (112:4), Good (112:5-6a) and Righteous (112:7-9).

A man is happy and blessed because he recognizes he is the object of God’s grace (i.e. unmerited favor). 

Why is he the object of God’s grace?  Because he “feareth the LORD” (lit. reveres the name and rejoices in the character of the LORD) and “delighteth greatly in His commandments” (112:1c).  Such a man finds the Law and Commandments of the LORD a delight (Psalm 1:1-2), and the overflow of God’s grace in that righteous man’s life magnifies his influence (112:2) and blessed state (should his children follow his righteous path).

Secondly, a man is happy and “blessed” when he is “upright,” meaning just, righteous, a man who fears and reveres the LORD (112:4). 

God’s people are not spared from dark days, for they too suffer sickness, death of loved ones, disappointments, betrayals and broken promises. The righteous, however, have an assurance: “there ariseth light in the darkness” (112:4a).  David observed the same, writing, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

Believers are not spared dark days; however, they are assured the light of the LORD will pierce the darkness. What a precious promise! When we find we are “in the darkness,” the LORD promises He is “gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous” (112:4b).

Another quality of a “Happy” man is that he is a “good man” (112:5). 

We notice four traits evidenced in a “good” man’s character (112:5-6).

He is gracious in his demeanor (pleasant and pleasing – 112:5a). He is generous (he lendeth to those in need – 112:5b). He exercises “good sense,” guiding “his affairs with discretion” (112:5). He is well “grounded,” for a good man “shall not be moved for ever” (112:6a).

Lastly, a “Happy” man is “righteous” (112:7-9). 

We find three qualities of this righteous man in verses 7-9. He is fearless, “he shall not be afraid of evil tidings” (112:7a), for he has a settled confidence in the LORD.  His heart is firm, “fixed, trusting in the LORD” (112:7b), and “shall not be afraid” (112:8b). He is freehearted, generous and giving to the poor (112:9). A righteous man is not a hoarder of riches, but a steward of God’s blessings and a conduit for ministering to those in need.

I conclude today’s devotional inviting you to take note of the wicked man’s response to the Happy man who is Blessed, Upright, Good and Righteous:

Psalm 112:10 – The wicked [immoral; ungodly] shall see [look; behold; regard] it, and be grieved [troubled; provoked; angry]; he shall gnash [i.e. grate or grind] with his teeth, and melt away [faint; be discouraged]: the desire [longing; delight; greed] of the wicked [guilty; immoral; ungodly] shall perish [be destroyed].”

Envy! The joy and happiness of the righteous is a grief, a sorrow to the wicked who grind their teeth like rabid dogs and “melt away,” defeated and consumed by their envy (112:10c).

In the words of King David, “For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish” (Psalm 1:6).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“You Call that Worship Music?” (Psalms 95, 97-99)

Scripture Reading – Psalms 95, 97-99

Our Scripture reading for today is four psalms of praise. Though the author of the psalms is not identified, most scholars assign them to David because of their style and content. We know David authored Psalm 95 because the writer of Hebrews quoted the psalm and identified the king as its author (Hebrews 4:7).

Today’s psalms are too rich for one devotional commentary to adequately address them all; therefore. I will limit this devotion to Psalm 98.

Psalm 98 – “Sing Unto the LORD a New Song”

Like Psalm 97, I believe the theme of Psalm 98 is the Second Coming of Christ. Hymnwriter and preacher Isaac Watts, cited Psalm 98 as the inspiration of his hymn, “Joy to the World.” Although most often sung as a celebration of Christ’s birth, “Joy to the World” is in fact a celebration of Christ’s Second Coming.

Psalm 98 is an invitation to worship the LORD in song, rejoicing in His salvation and righteousness (98:2). Let us consider the instructions in worship music we find in this psalm as a basis for judging the music style your church has implemented in its worship services.

We find that Psalm 98 consists of three stanzas, each three verses in length. The first is a call for Israel to worship and rejoice in the LORD (98:1-3). The psalmist writes,

Psalm 98:1 – O sing unto the LORD a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory.

What is this “new song?” (98:1-3)

It is a victory song, for the LORD through His strength and power had given His chosen people salvation (98:1-2a). It is a song of redemption and praise for God’s grace (98:2b). It is a song praising the LORD for His faithfulness for He had not forgotten Israel.

Do you realize of all ancient people, the Jews are the only identifiable people from ancient times? The smallest, most insignificant people in all the earth have been preserved by the LORD.

The second stanza calls upon all nations of the earth to worship the LORD (98:4-6).

As one who loves music, and in particular congregational singing and choral anthems, notice with me that singing and playing on instruments was an essential part of worshipping the LORD.

The musicians who ministered in the Temple were trained, skilled, and dedicated musicians. The sound of their voices and instruments was not noise, but an energetic expression in music and song. The literal meaning of “noise” in vss. 4 and 6 is a “shout” or cry or triumph.

The music of the Tabernacle and Temple was never meant to entertain the masses or the congregation. The focus of worship music was the LORD, and His holiness was reflected in both words and music. The singers and musicians did not perform for the applause of the people. Singers were accompanied by string instruments (the harp, vs. 5) and wind instruments (trumpets and coronet, vs. 6). The focus of worship was “the LORD, the King” (98:6).

The final stanza in Psalm 98 calls on all Creation to worship the LORD (98:7-9).

All creation will rejoice (95:7-8) and be freed from the curse of sin when the LORD comes to set up His millennial kingdom. Romans 8:18-25 reveals the devastating effect of man’s sin on creation. Creation awaits its deliverance from the curse of sin (Romans 8:19), but will be delivered “from the bondage of corruption” (Romans 8:21) when the LORD comes again.

Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and yes, pandemics remind us that “creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together” (Romans 8:22) until the LORD comes to set up His earthly kingdom. He will right the wrongs for He is “to judge the earth” and will judge the earth in His righteousness (98:9).

An Observation

The Book of Psalms is a compilation of songs of praise and worship that was employed in daily worship in the Temple. While nothing took the primacy of reading and teaching God’s Word, the centrality of instrumental music and song is obvious throughout the Psalms and in other passages of Scripture in the Bible (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16-17).

Sadly, I fear today’s church has taken the command, “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD…make a loud noise” literally and not figuratively. While the priests and Levites were dedicated and consecrated to serve the LORD and lead God’s people in earnest worship, today’s “hip-worship leaders” evidence a greater affinity for the world than the holiness of God. Employing every music genre of the 21st century world, the church’s attempt to satisfy the palate of carnal Christians and a secular culture’s demand for entertainment has come at the sacrifice of sincere worship.

Challenge: – Make Colossians 3:16-17 the standard for your worship music.

Colossians 3:16-1716  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17  And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The End May Not Justify the Means. (1 Chronicles 13-16)

Scripture Reading – 1 Chronicles 13-16

While our Scripture reading covers four chapters, today’s devotional commentary will focus on only one, 1 Chronicles 13.

1 Chronicles 13 – A Great Celebration Goes Terribly Wrong

Heralding a call for revival, David commanded the “Ark of God” (also known as the Ark of the Covenant) be brought to Jerusalem, for the nation had “enquired not at it in the days of Saul” (13:2-3).  What a sad commentary on the reign of King Saul! The Ark, representing the heavenly Throne of God on earth and in the midst of Israel, had not been consulted nor a central point of worship in Israel for some seventy years.

Thirty thousand men of Israel (2 Samuel 6:1) had come to celebrate the Ark’s journey to Jerusalem; however, the joyous occasion was cut short when a man named Uzza “put forth his hand to hold (or steady) the ark” that was being carried on a cart pulled by oxen (13:7-10). Unfortunately for Uzza, neither David nor the Levites had consulted the scriptures on the God-appointed means and method for transporting the Ark (13:7-10).

“WHY?” becomes a question we should address. 

Why would God punish Uzza whose impulse to steady the Ark on the cart was not only instinctive, but also arguably innocent (13:9-10)? After all, was it not a good thing that the desire of David and the elders of Israel was to have the Ark, the symbol of God’s presence, in Jerusalem the capital city?

David’s response to God’s swiftly striking Uzza reminds us that the king was quite human. We read, “David was displeased” (13:11), meaning angry or burning with anger.  Frustrated and fearing God, David asked, “How shall I bring the ark of God home to me?” (13:12)

Is that not like you and me? Have you ever committed yourself to something, but then realized you failed to pray?  The question David asked after Uzza was struck down was the one he should have asked before attempting to bring the Ark to Jerusalem.

Uzza was not struck down because he was insincere or impassionate in his desire to see the Ark moved to Jerusalem.  He died because the manner in which the Ark was transported violated God’s instructions.  The Ark was to be carried by means of staves or poles (Numbers 4).  Touching the sacred Ark, the symbol of God’s heavenly Throne (which is holy), defied God’s instructions and defiled what God declared to be holy and sanctified for Himself (Numbers 1:51; 4:15, 20).

Regardless of how well-meaning or pious the motive was for moving the Ark to Jerusalem, employing any means other than that the LORD commanded was inevitably going to lead to a tragic end.

“It is never right to do wrong to get a chance to do right.”  (Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.)

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith