Category Archives: Hope

The Sovereignty of God, Fiery Troubles and Trials (Proverbs 16; Proverbs 17)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 16; Proverbs 17

Our Scripture reading is Proverbs 16 and Proverbs 17. Today’s devotional will consider two great truths that can be life changing, if you embrace them!

Proverbs 16

God is Sovereign (Proverbs 16:1)

The Sovereignty of God is one of the great doctrines of the Scriptures, and has been a spiritual anchor for believers who have found themselves in the midst of trials and troubles. The Word of God reveals that He is Creator, and is therefore the Sovereign Ruler of the universe, all nations and people. Solomon, because his son would be king, and men’s lives and the future of the nation would rest in his hands, stressed the importance of both planning, and trusting God. Solomon wrote:

Proverbs 16:1 – “The preparations [plans; blueprints; i.e., plan for battle] of the heart [mind; thoughts; emotions] in man [belong to; are the responsibility of man], and the answer [reply] of the tongue, is from the LORD.”

What is the essence of Proverbs 16:1?

It is that man bears the responsibility of planning and preparing for each day, as well as for the future; but  the final answer to man’s preparations is from the Lord, the Sovereign of all. Whether a king plans for battle, or a humble farmer plants his crops; success is dependent upon the LORD’s blessings. Wise men plan, but the wisest of men acknowledge, and accept the sovereignty of God. In the words of Solomon, “the answer” (whether the outcome is favorable or unfavorable) is from the Lord.

Closing thought – Those who lack faith, and are unwilling to accept that God is sovereign, will be overtaken by racing thoughts, and fears that will erode strength.

Remember: A wise man plans, and will then “trust in the LORD with all [his] heart” (Proverbs 3:5a).

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Proverbs 17

Are You Feeling the Heat of Fiery Trials? Look Past the Flames! (17:3)

Fire is one of nature’s most valuable, yet destructive elements. The fire of a BBQ grill can stir a hungry appetite with the aroma of flame-broiled meats. Fire in a boiler can power a mighty steam engine, and turn massive electric turbines. Fire unleashed, however, can make a trail of destruction devastating everything in its path, rendering pain and sorrow.

Capitalizing on the theme of fire, Solomon compared the flames of a furnace that smelted and purified silver and gold, to the fiery trials God employs to test the hearts of His spiritual sons and daughters.

Proverbs 17:3 – “The fining pot [refining] is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD [Jehovah; Self-existent] trieth [proves; examines] the hearts.”

The process of purifying precious metals required intense heat. A smelter would take a refining pot of raw silver or gold, and sit the pot in the midst of an intense fire. He would then melt the raw material, causing the dross to boil to the top, where a skimmer would remove the impurities, leaving pure silver or gold.

Comparing times of trial and trouble to a refining pot and furnace (17:3b), Solomon taught his son to anticipate the LORD would prove, test and purify the hearts of His people by fiery trials. Trials and troubles not only test the heart, but purify the motives, and humble the spirit of a man. Nearly a thousand years later, James exhorted believers:

James 1:2-3 – “My brethren, count [consider] it all joy when ye fall into [encounter] divers temptations [trials; adversity]3 Knowing this, that the trying [testing; proving] of your faith worketh patience [strength; perseverance].”

The singe of fiery trials can hurt and humiliate, if not received with a humble, broken spirit. Trials can also benefit us, by burning away the crutches of self-will, and independence. The betrayal of a friend, or the rejection of a loved one can benefit us when we trust the way of the LORD is perfect, good and altogether right (2 Samuel 22:31Psalm 18:30; Romans 8:29-29).

Job, the Old Testament patriarch, confessed, “But he [the LORD] knoweth the way that I take: when he [the LORD] hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

Closing thoughts – Are you feeling the heat of fiery trials and troubles?

I know it hurts, and you want to flee the flames of pain and disappointment. It is tempting to focus on the circumstances, and personalities who have hurt and disappointed you. My exhortation and counsel is:

Look past the flames! Trust God will take you through the pain, to the other side!

1 Corinthians 10:13 – “There hath no temptation [trouble; trial] taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer [allow] you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape [to pass through the trial], that ye may be able to bear it.”

Will you turn your hurts and sorrows over to the LORD, and trust Him?

I welcome hearing how this wonderful truth has moved your heart to let go of your pain, fears and anxieties, consciously placing your trust in the LORD. You may email me at: HeartOfAShepherdInc@gmail.com

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Who Do You Trust?” (Proverbs 3)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 3; Proverbs 4

Our chronological study of the Scriptures continues today in the book of Proverbs. Understanding it is impossible to mine the spiritual richness of this great study in godly wisdom in a few brief devotionals, I invite you to avail yourself of my year-long study in Proverbs that can be found at www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

Today’s Scripture reading is Proverbs 3 and Proverbs 4. As with all the chapters in Proverbs, the number of verses, and couplets of wisdom are daunting if addressed in a brief devotional. I must of necessity choose to focus on one or two proverbs from each chapter. This is the first of two devotional studies today.

Proverbs 3“Who (or what) do you trust?” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Permit me to begin today’s second devotional by posing a question: “Who (or what) do you trust?” Some trust in their intellect. Others put their faith in the counsel of friends; however, I have found there are few whose counsel is spiritually wise, and can be trusted.

Some counsel others, “Follow your heart,” or “Trust your heart.” The Scriptures, however, warn: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

I am afraid there are many believers that make life decisions without prayer, or seeking godly wisdom. Some make lifechanging, unalterable decisions that shadow the rest of their lives, and never take time to pray, seek wisdom, and wait on the Lord.

Knowing his son would one day be king, and hold in his hands the power of life and death, Solomon counseled his son:

Proverbs 3:5 – “Trust [lean on; hope; be confident and secure] in [near; beside] the LORD [Jehovah, Eternal, Self-existent God] with all thine heart [mind, emotions, will]; and lean not [do not trust] unto thine own understanding [wisdom; knowledge].”

What does it mean to, “Trust in the LORD?” It means to be so close, and dependent on the LORD that His Spirit guides every thought and action. Permit me to offer you some counsel of mine own. Before you make a major decision in matters that require wisdom and discernment, consider the following four steps:

  • Cultivate a wealth of wisdom by reading and obeying God’s Word.
  • Bathe every decision in prayer, and in the light of truth.
  • Seek counsel from those whose lives are a testimony of godly wisdom and discernment. (Proverbs 11:14; 24:6)
  • Trust the Lord: Wait on Him, and weigh every thought and action in the light of His Word.

Solomon continued:

Proverbs 3:6 – “In all thy ways [journey; path] acknowledge [observe; know; recognize] Him [the LORD], and He shall direct [make smooth and straight; prosper; make pleasant] thy paths.

Never make a vow, sign a contract, or make a commitment that you have not committed to prayer, and patience (Psalm 27:14). Solomon challenged his son to acknowledge the Lord “in all thy ways.”  In other words, nothing was too small for him to take to the Lord.

Closing thoughts – Are you facing a major life decision? Have you cultivated a wealth of wisdom by studying and meditating in God’s Word? (Psalm 1:1-2) Have you prayed and sought godly counsel?  Will you be patient, and wait on the Lord, and allow Him to guide in your choices, and make the way smooth and straight?

Psalm 27:14 – “Wait on [hope; patiently wait; look for] the LORD: be of good courage [strong; courageous], and he shall strengthen [make you steadfast and stronger; bold] thine heart [thoughts; seat of your affections]: wait [patiently wait for and hope], I say, on the LORD.”

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Here Comes the Bride: The Joys of Love and Marriage (Song of Solomon 5)

Scripture reading – Song of Solomon 5

We continue King Solomon’s story of romance in today’s Scripture reading, Song of Solomon 5. While my approach to The Song of Solomon has been a literal interpretation; we also have here a portrait of God’s love for His people (Ephesians 5:25-27). King Solomon and his wedding entourage had arrived for him to claim his bride in Song of Solomon 3, and she had accepted his proposal of love (Song of Solomon 4).

The King’s Wedding Night (5:1)

Solomon had taken his bride, and expressed his joy and pleasure in his new wife and her love saying, “I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk” (5:1b). Bidding his wedding guests good night, the king retired into his palace with his beautiful Shulamite bride (5:1c).

The Young Bride’s Nightmare (5:2-9)

The young bride dreamed that her husband had departed, but then returned in the night. She dreamed he had knocked at her bedchamber door, but she had fallen asleep, and at first did not want to be disturbed (5:2b-3). Hearing her husband’s attempts to unlock the door, her heart yearned for him (5:4); however, when she opened the door he had departed into the night (5:5-6).

She then dreamed she had veiled her face, and went out into the night to seek her husband, but to no avail. When she questioned the watchmen, in the absence of the king, she dreamed they had treated her roughly (5:7). Longing for her husband, she dreamed that she had inquired of the “daughter of Jerusalem” (5:8), but they did not know her, and treated her harshly asking, “9What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? What is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us?” (5:9). * Remember, this is a dream, for none would dare speak to the king’s wife in this manner.

The Young Bride’s Description of Her Husband, the King (5:10-16)

Still dreaming, and longing for her husband, the bride detailed to the young maidens the physical traits and qualities of her husband. It is my opinion that Song of Solomon 5:10-16 was not only a physical description of King Solomon, but more so that of Christ at His Second Coming. The following words and phrases in brackets is my suggestion for the application of this passage to the appearance of Christ at His Second Coming.

Song of Solomon 5:10–1610My beloved [the bride speaking] is white [speaking not of Christ’s skin color, but His holiness] and ruddy [red, His sacrificial blood], the chiefest among ten thousand [the greatest of all men; He is the sinless Son of God].

11His head is as the most fine gold [i.e. a crown of royalty Christ will wear], His locks are bushy, and black as a raven [the prime of manhood; for our LORD was put to death in His early 30’s].

12His eyes are as the eyes of doves [tender; compassionate] by the rivers of waters [tears], Washed with milk, and fitly set.

13His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers [His heavenly countenance]: His lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh [in His mouth are the words of Truth].

14His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl [that were pierced for our sins]: His belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires [His physical body that did bear the penalty of our sins].

15His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold [He is strong, Almighty God]: His countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars [indicating His might and strength].

16His mouth is most sweet [Christ’s Words toward His people are grace and mercy]: yea, he is altogether lovely [He is the King of kings, and Lord of lords]. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

Closing thought – The young bride’s description of her husband was moving, and beautiful. The last phrase summed up a wonderful description of love and marriage between a husband and wife. The young bride said: “This is my beloved [lover], and this is my friend [darling; companion; favorite]” (5:16b).

Lesson – Lover and friend: a happy marriage demands both. A lasting marriage consists of two souls, dedicated to a lifetime of patience and romance.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Looking Through the Eyes of Love (Song of Solomon 3; Song of Solomon 4)

Scripture reading – Song of Solomon 3; Song of Solomon 4

Our love story continues with Song of Solomon 3 and 4. The implication of our study is both literal and prophetic. I believe Solomon penned this love story as a young king, but I also consider it a beautiful portrayal of God’s love for His people.

The Dreams of Young Love (3:1-3). 

We find the young maiden dreaming of receiving Solomon as her husband. She had dreamed of marrying him (3:1-2), but with her wedding night approaching, she could not find the man she loved. She dreamed that she had wandered the streets of the city, looking for Solomon. She had approached the “watchmen” (the guards) of the city, and asked, “Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?” (3:3) When she found her groom, she held him tightly in her embrace, and dared not let him depart until she had led him to her “mother’s house (3:4).

The Patience of Young Love (3:5).

Rejoicing she had found her beloved, she challenged other young maidens (“ye daughters of Jerusalem”) to be patient in the matter of love and marriage: “Stir not up, nor awake my love” (3:5b) and wait “till he please” (3:5c). She challenged young maidens to not stir up desires that cannot be righteously satisfied outside the bounds of marriage.

The Joy and Happiness of Young Love (3:6-11).

Our young maiden had dreamed about her mysterious shepherd, and he (Solomon) had courted her lovingly and patiently. She had dreamed of her wedding day, and waited for him to come with his wedding party, and claim her as his bride.

One day she lifted up her eyes, and saw on the horizon what appeared as a cloud of dust, (“pillars of smoke,” 3:6a).  The entourage brought with it a fragrance of burning incense, “perfumed with myrrh and frankincense” (3:6b). In the midst of the caravan, she spied a royal litter, a “bed, which [was] Solomon’s” (3:7). The bed was borne along by sixty “valiant men,” bearing swords on their thighs (3:8).

No longer disguised as a shepherd, the king of Israel, had come to claim her as his bride! (3:9) Imagine the pageantry and wonder of that moment. Her skinned tanned dark by the rays of the sun, and her hands calloused by her labors, yet, she had been borne away on a bed of the finest “wood of Lebanon” (3:9-10).

The young bride, overwhelmed by joy, urged her attendants (“ye daughters of Zion), to behold their king wearing the crown given to him by his mother (3:11b), and perhaps adorned by her for his wedding day.

Song of Solomon 4 – King Solomon Boasts in the Beauty of His Bride (4:1-7)

Our love story continued with the groom having come to sweep away his bride on her wedding night. Though she was beautiful, she was a of lowly means, and Solomon lovingly assured her, boasting of her beauty.

Looking through the Eyes of Love (4:1-7)

Solomon’s poetic portrayal of his bride is foreign to our concept of beauty; however, we must remember he is looking at her through the eyes of love. The focus was not so much on how she looked (though she was physically beautiful to Solomon), but how he felt when he looked at her.

He regarded her beauty, and gentle eyes, saying, “thou hast doves’ eyes within thy locks” (4:1). Her hair flowed over her shoulders, and reminded him of a “flock of goats” skipping down the slopes of “mount Gilead” (4:1). Her teeth were white, like sheep “shorn, which came up from the washing” (4:2). Her lips red, “like a threat of scarlet” (4:3). Her mouth was beautiful to behold, and her “temples” (i.e., cheeks) red “like a piece of a pomegranate,” and framed by the locks of her hair (4:3b).

Solomon described her neck “like the tower of David,” and her chastity like a great tower, and not easily taken (4:4). Solomon claimed her as his wife, and said, “7Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot [i.e., no blemish] in thee” (4:5-7).

The Groom’s Invitation to His Bride (4:8-11)

Solomon invited her to come away with him, and mentioned four mountain peaks in northern Palestine (4:8). He professed she had stolen his heart (4:9). He declared his physical attraction to his bride (4:10-11), whose lips were as sweet as “the honeycomb,” and whose garments bore the freshness of the outdoors (4:11).

Two Metaphors Described Solomon’s Bride: “12A garden inclosed [and]… a fountain sealed” (4:12-16).

“Closed” and sealed,” portrayed that she had guarded her virtue and moral innocence. She had been a chaste woman, and given no man her favor. It was their wedding night, and Solomon tenderly took his young virgin to himself. With seven costly spices, the king described the precious nature of her love (4:13-14), and the young bride accepted her husband, saying, Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits” (4:16).

Closing thoughts – Cinderella stories abound with the narrative of a peasant girl who falls in love with a handsome prince. Sadly, our society is robbing little girls of their innocence, and many parents are failing to instill in their sons the qualities of a genteel, caring spirit.

The beautiful love story found in The Song of Solomon is more than an ancient tale of a king and his maiden. It is the portrayal of God’s love for people of faith, and Christ’s love for His bride, the Church.

Ephesians 5:25, 2725Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it27That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Love Focuses on the Positives (Song of Solomon 2)

Scripture reading – Song of Solomon 2

The love and courtship of King Solomon and his unsuspecting, but beautiful peasant maiden continues in today’s Scripture reading. Song of Solomon 2 makes us privy to the courtship and affections between the king (whom I have suggested was disguised as a lowly shepherd), and the object of his affections, a young Shulamite woman. Conscious of her appearance, her skin darkened by laboring in the sun (1:5), she dreamed of her shepherd’s affections.

Song of Solomon 2 – An Unroyal Courtship

Notice in the opening verses of chapter 2 a dialog between a Shulamite maiden, and Solomon (whom she believed to be a shepherd). Dreaming of her shepherd’s affections, the young maiden professed of herself, “I amthe rose of Sharon [cactus rose], and the lily [flower]of the valleys” (2:1). Disguised as a shepherd, Solomon admired her beauty, and responded, “As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters” (2:2a).

She shared her beloved’s affections, and said, “3As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste” (2:3). Comparing her shepherd to a flowering, fragrant, fruit bearing tree (2:3), she felt secure “under his shadow,” and glowed with joy (2:3b). She believed her courtship was with a humble shepherd, but came to understand she was the object of the king’s affections when “he brought [her] to the banqueting house, and his banner over [her]was love” (2:4). Secure in Solomon’s presence, she asked him to stay by her side (2:5), and imagined his loving, assuring embrace (2:6).

The young maid was in love, and her beloved, the king, cherished her! Her heart leaped when she imagined hearing his voice (2:8). She dreamed of Solomon coming in the strength of his young manhood (2:8). He was to her, like a male gazelle, “a roe or a young hart” (deer). When he looked through the lattice work of her window, the king called her to himself (2:9).

As many young women who dream of love and marriage, the young maiden fantasied Solomon sweeping her away with his affections, and saying,” Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away” (2:10). She described her courtship, like the passing of winter and the joys of springtime (2:11). Spring was come, and joy and love were in the air (2:12). Their love was like the fig trees that put forth their fruit and green leaves in springtime, and the fragrance of flowering grapevines that fill the air (2:13a). Her dreamed concluded with Solomon coming, and saying, “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away” (2:13b).

Song of Solomon 2:14-15 expressed beautifully Solomon’s poetic affections. Knowing the young woman of his affections lived in the mountains, the king identified the beauty of her rural home, and said:

14O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, Let me see thy countenance [the beauty of her face], let me hear thy voice; For sweet is thy voice [the melodious sound of her voice], and thy countenance is comely” (2:14). Shunning any that might intrude upon their love, Solomon described them as foxes: “15Take us the foxes, The little foxes, that spoil the vines: For our vines have tender grapes” (2:15).[Foxes running through flowering grape vines would ruin the fruit.]

Our Scripture concluded with the young maiden expressing her love for Solomon, and saying, “16My beloved is mine, and I am his: He feedeth [grazes his sheep] among the lilies” (2:16). With the shadows of daylight fading into the night, she dreamed her beloved would return to her (2:17).

Closing thoughts – My prior devotional concluded with the principle, “Love is not blind.” I would like to suggest a second principle on the subject of love: Love focuses on the positives. Solomon and his maiden gushed with words of tender love. She thought of herself as a cactus rose (2:1), but he encouraged her that she was his “lily…[and his] love” (2:2). He showered her with his love, and attention (2:4), and she dreamed of him calling for her (2:8-9).

Lesson – Sincere love is unconditional, and focuses on the positive traits of one’s beloved. Love forgets flaws, and wrongdoings, and does not drag up sins and failures (Ephesians 4:31). Love is kind, tender, forgiving, and self-sacrificing (Ephesians 4:32). Love chooses to give the best (Ephesians 5:25-27).

Is your love for the Lord and for others focused on the blessings and the positives, and not on the negatives?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Love Thinketh No Evil! (Psalm 72, Song of Solomon 1)

Scripture reading – Psalm 72, Song of Solomon 1

Today’s Scripture reading was authored by two kings of Israel, David and his son Solomon. Psalm 72 was most likely penned in the last weeks or months of David’s life, and was titled, “A Psalm for Solomon.” The last verse of the psalm identified the elderly king as its author with the words, “20The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended” (72:20).

Psalm 72 – David’s Prayer for His Son, King Solomon

Psalm 72 expresses David’s prayer for God’s blessings on Solomon’s reign (72:1), and his prayer that his son will be a just, honest, and a good man.

In my opinion, Psalm 72:2-17 had an immediate application for Solomon’s kingdom, and a prophetic implication that will only be fulfilled during the millennial reign of Jesus Christ. David’s desire and prayer was that Solomon’s judgment as king would be righteous (72:2), and the effect of his rule would be one of peace (72:3-4).

Psalm 72:5-8 will only be fulfilled when Christ shall return, and rule the earth. His reign of righteousness will provoke fear and reverence over those whom He will rule (72:5), and like the rain and dew upon green pastures (72:6), His rule will bring peace (72:7). Though Solomon’s kingdom would be great, it is Christ’s future kingdom that will span “from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth” (72:8).

The reign of Christ will be compassionate, and “He shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and himthat hath no helper. 13 He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy” (72:12-13). What a glorious day it will be when men will be redeemed “from deceit and violence” (72:14), and He will be continually the object of praise in the earth (72:15). Christ’s reign upon the earth will be a time of plenty (72:16), and His name, like His kingdom, will “endure for ever…and men shall be blessed in Him: all nations shall call him blessed” (72:17).

David concluded the psalm with a doxology offering praise and thanksgiving to God, and foreseeing the day the glory of the LORD would fill the earth (72:18-19).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Song of Solomon 1 – An Introduction to a Timeless Love Story

The second half of today’s Scripture reading bears the name of its author, “The Song of Solomon.” The Song of Solomon has been described as a story of love, and a celebration of love between a man and woman. The book does bear messianic implications (meaning it is a prophecy, and portrayal of the millennial reign of Christ following His second coming). Throughout the book you will find Solomon expressing a young king’s passion, and love for a peasant woman whom he identified as a “Shulamite” (Song of Solomon 6:13).

Possible Interpretations of The Song of Solomon

It has been suggested that “The Song of Solomon” might be interpreted in three genres. Some suggest an Allegorical interpretation, and that it is a narrative describing God’s relationship with His people, Israel. Early church fathers took the approach that the Song of Solomon was meant to describe Christ’s love for His church. A Typical interpretation has also been suggested by some who contend, “The Song of Solomon” is descriptive of Christ’s love and relationship with the Church (Ephesians 5:25, 29).

For the sake of our brief study, I suggest a Literal interpretation of “The Song of Solomon.” I believe the narrative of the book is a story of romance, a love story. I suggest “The Song of Solomon” is a celebration of love and romance between the young king and the woman whom he loved. Song of Solomon 1 is the beginning of that courtship.

Following a literal interpretation, I tend to agree with some who suggest that King Solomon had departed his court and royal city, disguised as a lowly shepherd. That he had traveled northward, and in his journey noticed a beautiful young woman, a peasant laboring in a vineyard her family had leased, perhaps from the king himself (1:6).

Identified as a Shulamite (6:13), she did not recognize her king and, concluded she and the shepherd were of the same rank in society. Like many young women who dream of love, she met the stranger and was flattered and embarrassed by the attention he had shown her (1:2-4). Mindful of her skin tanned by the rays of the Middle Eastern sun, she reasoned within herself, 5I am black, but comely [beautiful], O ye daughters of Jerusalem, As the tents of Kedar [Bedouin shepherds], as the curtains of Solomon. 6Look not upon me, because I am black, Because the sun hath looked upon me: My mother’s children [not her brothers, but her step-brothers] were angry with me; They made me the keeper of the vineyards [another’s vineyards, perhaps the kings]; But mine own vineyard have I not kept” (1:5-6). She dreamed of meeting the shepherd again, and wondered where his flocks graze (1:7).

Romance was in the air, and she knew their interests were mutual; however, she did not know the object of her affections was Solomon, the king of Israel! (1:9, 15) Her love for the shepherd is expressed in verses 9-14. She imagined lying beside the shepherd on a bed of green grasses (1:16). With a canopy of cedar and fir branches above her head (1:17), she dreamed of love.

Closing thoughts“Love is not blind.” Though their stations in life were different, the king loved the tanned skin woman who labored in the vineyard, and she loved him (though she believed him to be a lowly shepherd). Ignoring the traits that might have been undesirable (weathered skin, and calloused hands from labor), Solomon loved the young woman, and focused on the positives of her beauty and character.

Lesson – Negative traits will inevitably become obvious in your relationships (friendships, courtship, marriage, or church family). When they do, you have a choice:

Dwell on the negatives, or love and look past them. After all, “Charity [Love] thinketh no evil” (1 Corinthians 13:5).

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Surviving, and Thriving in a World Gone Mad (Psalm 37)

Scripture reading – Psalm 37; Psalm 71

Today’s Scripture reading consists of two lengthy psalms: Psalm 37, “A Psalm of David,” and Psalm 71, a psalm whose author is not known (although it may have been penned by David in his old age). Today’s devotional is taken from a portion of Psalm 37.

Psalm 37

Don’t Worry; Be Happy in the LORD! (37:1-11)

Every day we are inundated by reports of wickedness that can only be explained as evidence of abject depravity. We cannot go a day without violence and wickedness blazed across news headlines; yet, when I was a child, parents allowed their children to play outside, unmolested, for hours on end, with ne’er a worry. What happened?

How should Bible-believers respond to a culture that is the antithesis of godliness and morality? Where do we focus our thoughts and emotions when we witness injustices that grieve the soul, and stir us to anger and indignation? Psalm 37 tackles those questions.

“Fret not” (37:1-2)

David wrote, Fret [angry; angered] not thyself because of evildoers [wicked], neither be thou envious [jealous; provoked to jealousy] against the workers [makers] of iniquity [wickedness; unrighteousness] (37:1).

Don’t allow the sins of the wicked to stir you to anger. Don’t be jealous when the wicked appear to prosper in their sins. Remember, there is pleasure in sin, but only for a season (Hebrews 11:25), and the wicked shall soon [speedily; quickly] be cut down [cut off] like the grass, and wither [fade away; sink down] as the green herb [tender grass](37:2). 

Like grass that withers under the summer heat, God’s wrath will inevitably consume the wicked in their sin.

“Trust in the LORD” (37:3)

Rather than fret and worry (37:1-2), we are to, “Trust in the Lord, and do good (37:3).

Psalm 37:3 – “Trust [be confident; bold] in the LORD, and do good [pleasing; pleasant]; so shalt thou dwell [abide; remain; continue] in the land, and verily [truth; faithfully; believe] thou shalt be fed [shepherd; lit. graze or pastured].”

Not only must we not fret, and trust in the LORD; we must also “delight…in the LORD.” (37:4)

Psalm 37:4 – “Delight [be content] thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give [deliver; put; make] thee the desires [request; petitions] of thine heart [mind; feelings; understanding].”

To “delight” is to be content and satisfied. We delight in the LORD when we are content to enjoy His presence, study His Word, and accept that His will and purpose is always good (Romans 8:28-29). Consider what the LORD promises those who delight in the Lord: “He shall give [deliver; put; make] thee the desires [request; petitions]of thine heart [mind; feelings; understanding](37:4b). Of course, when your delight is in the Lord, His will is your heart’s desire!

To thrive in a “sin mad world,” believers must “roll over on the LORD” their burdens, troubles, and anxieties. (37:5-6)

Psalm 37:5-6 – “Commit [roll over; trust] thy way [journey; manner; road; course] unto the LORD; trust [secure; confident; bold] also in him; and he shall bring it to pass [make; wrought; commit; create]6 And he shall bring forth [bring out; finish; i.e. make to appear] thy righteousness [justice; prosperity; justice] as the light [illuminate; i.e. light of day], and thy judgment [manner; right; cause] as the noonday.”

To “commit thy way” is to “roll over” one’s burdens onto the LORD.  The “way” is one’s life path, road, and future.  When we give our life to the LORD (Romans 12:1), we must learn to “trust also in Him” (37:5). David invites believers to be bold, and confident the LORD will accomplish His will in us.  He will defend us from slander, and vindicate us [“thy righteousness”] in the light of day (37:6).

Surrounded by wickedness, and facing unjustified attacks of an enemy, we must seek that special place of finding “rest in the Lord.” (37:7-11)

Psalm 37:7 – “Rest [be still; silent] in the LORD, and wait patiently [lit. endure anguish; tremble] for him: fret not [don’t be soon angry] thyself because of him who prospereth [to succeed; to have success] in his way [journey; road; course], because of the man who bringeth [create; wrought; make] wicked devices [lewd; mischievous] to pass [creates wicked plots].”

The discipline of silence is nearly lost in today’s society. We are surrounded by noise and activity everywhere we go. Even worship services are filled with noise and activity! Yet, we are exhorted to “rest in the Lord,” be still, silent, and quiet. Sadly, many are unwilling to be quiet long enough to pray, and allow the LORD an opportunity to speak deep within their hearts.

Returning to the admonition he used in the first verse, David again urged, “fret [angry; angered] not thyself because of him who prospereth  [succeeds; to have success] in his way [journey], because of the man who bringeth [create; wrought; make] wicked devices [lewd; mischievous] to pass [create; wrought; make]. 8 Cease from [forsake; abandon] anger [wrath], and forsake [relinquish; abandon] wrath [fury; anger; rage]: fret [angry; angered] not thyself in any wise [altogether] to do evil [hurt; afflict; break](37:7-8).

Don’t allow the sins of others to provoke you to sin! Don’t be overcome with anxiety, when the wicked flaunt their sin, and appear to prosper.

Psalm 37:9-10 – “For evildoers [the wicked] shall be cut off [destroyed; consumed]: but those that wait upon [look for; expect; tarry] the LORD, they shall inherit [occupy; take possession of] the earth [land]. 10  For yet a little while [a brief time], and the wicked [ungodly; guilty] shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider [understand; perceive; regard] his place [home; country], and it shall not be.”

The lives of the ungodly are short-lived, but the LORD rewards those who wait on, and look to Him (37:9-10). David assured believers, “the meek [humble] shall inherit [possess; be heir; take possession] the earth [land; country]; and shall delight [refresh; delicate] themselves in the abundance [great] of peace [Shalom; completeness; happy] (37:11).

Closing thoughts – Jesus Christ quoted Psalm 37:11 in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:5). While the world portrays the “meek” as weak, the biblical definition is of one who exercises spiritual discipline and self-control. The meek are, by God’s grace, and the work of His Holy Spirit, strong and tender. Of such a man, God promises, He will give him an inheritance, and lasting peace.

How should you respond to the evil and wickedness in the world? Don’t worry (37:2), trust the Lord (37:3), delight in Him (37:4), roll all your anxieties onto Him (37:5-6), and seek that perfect place of rest (37:7).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Be Strong; Be A Man! – A Study in Human Character (1 Kings 2)

Scripture Reading – 1 Kings 2

Our chronological study of the Scriptures continues in 1 Kings, and gives us a glimpse of history long past (some 3,000 years ago). For those who query, why the Old Testament Scriptures are filled with historical details, allow me to explain from my perspective.

History is an amazing teacher, if one is willing to be its student. History affords us lessons in life, and human character that men ignore or despise at their peril. Tragically, we are living in a time when monuments are being destroyed, historic facts distorted, and history rewritten.

Let all be forewarned: A biased, dishonest view of history is both dangerous and destructive. In the words of philosopher George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

A History Lesson in Human Character (2:1-9)

I have learned the strengths and weaknesses evidenced in a man’s character tend to be constant throughout his life. For example, consider the counsel David gave Solomon regarding his adversaries (2:1-9).

Because he was old and frail (1:1), David made it his mission to prepare Solomon to reign after his death, and challenged him, “I go the way of all the earth [i.e., the inevitability of death]: be thou strong therefore, and shew thyself a man” (2:2).

To put David’s charge in a 21st century vernacular, he challenged Solomon to “BE A MAN!”

Perhaps in his early 20’s, Solomon would have to be stronger than his tender youth, for he would have to contend with mature, more experienced men than himself. Not only would he be confronted by an older brother who arguably had some claim to the throne, but he would also be forced to contend with his father’s enemies. David urged his son to walk in the ways of the LORD, and “to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses” (2:3). He assured Solomon, God would prosper and bless him and his children if they would walk before the LORD “in truth with all their heart and with all their soul” (2:4).

David’s Political Enemies (2:5-9)

David cautioned Solomon regarding the flaws and failures of untrustworthy men who had wronged him in the past (2:5-9). He had failed to punish Joab for his treachery, and urged Solomon, “let not his hoar head (white hairs) go down to the grave in peace” (2:5-6). There was also Shimei, who had cursed David when he fled from his son Absalom.  Shimei had begged for his life, and was spared after Absalom’s rebellion, but David urged his son to execute him, and not risk him becoming a threat to the throne (2:8-9).

Following David’s death (2:10-11), Solomon moved swiftly to secure his kingdom (2:12). The first threat to his reign arose from his own family, his eldest brother, Adonijah (2:12-25). Playing upon Bathsheba’s compassion, Adonijah petitioned Solomon’s mother to intercede for him that he might take Abishag (1:3-4), David’s young virgin concubine, for his wife (2:13-18). Bathsheba, possibly out of pity for Adonijah, approached Solomon voicing his brother’s request (2:18-21). Solomon, possessing insight and wisdom far beyond his years, discerned his brother’s request to marry his father’s concubine was a ploy to legitimize Adonijah’s claim to the throne (2:19-24). Following his late father’s counsel, Solomon moved quickly to put down his brother’s threat to the throne, and commanded “Benaiah the son of Jehoiada” to slay Adonijah that same day (2:24-25).

Abiathar, the priest who had supported Adonijah’s illegitimate claim to the throne, was warned his traitorous actions were worthy of death, but he was spared because he had served with his father, the king (2:26-27).

When Joab heard Solomon was pursuing threats to his reign, and Adonijah was dead, he fled to the altar hoping to find grace (2:28). Solomon commanded Benaiah to slay Joab, but he hesitated when he refused to leave the altar. Knowing the law would not afford a murderer mercy, Solomon demanded Joab be slain for him having murdered two faithful servants of David: Abner (2 Samuel 3:27-39) and Amasa (2 Samuel 20:4-10).

David advised Solomon concerning one final enemy, Shimei, of whom he strongly warned: “hold him not guiltless: for thou art a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest to do unto him; but his hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood” (2:9). Solomon remembered the curses of Shimei against his father and three years later had him slain (2:39-46).

Closing thoughts – I close encouraging you to reflect on your own character, and the character of people of influence in your life.

True to form, Adonijah, Joab, and Shimei lacked integrity throughout their lives, and their violent deaths were justified. With few exceptions, apart from sincere repentance and genuine humility, most men will go to their graves exhibiting the strengths and weaknesses of character they have demonstrated throughout their lives. In other words, a liar is a liar; a thief is a thief; a traitor is a traitor; and an honest, faithful man is predictably just that…honest, faithful and trustworthy!

A wise man knows, and does not forget the character of his friends and enemies.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Praise Ye the Lord! (Psalm 117)

Scripture reading – Psalm 117

The beauty and simplicity of today’s Scripture reading needs little commentary. Psalm 117 is not only the briefest chapter of the Scriptures; it also falls, appropriately, at the center of the Bible.

The brevity of Psalm 117 has been a subject of conjecture among Bible students and scholars. Some propose the two verses were an ancient doxology, sung by worshippers in the Temple and the synagogues at the close of a worship service. Others suggest the two verses were a closing thought to other psalms of worship (although, I do not see the purpose that would have served). Whenever it might have been sung is not as important as the intent of the psalm: To sing “Hallelujah,” to the LORD!

A Universal Call to Praise the LORD: “O praise the Lord, all ye nations: Praise him, all ye people.” (117:1)

To “praise,” is to boast, celebrate, and sing “Hallelujah.” The psalm opens with a universal call for all Gentile nations to join with Israel in shouting praises to the LORD. In his letter to believers in Rome, Paul quoted Psalm 117:1, writing, “Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud [praise] him, all ye people” (Romans 15:11).

A Cause to Praise the LORD: 2For his merciful kindness [goodness; favor; loving-kindness] is great [superior]toward us: And the truth [trustworthiness; faithfulness] of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise ye the Lord” (117:2).

Once again, we are given a reason for praising the LORD. The LORD deserves our adoration and praise because He is good, and His loving-kindness is infinite. We who love the LORD will never have cause to be disappointed in His care of us.

We should praise the LORD not only for his “merciful kindness,” but also that He is “truth.” Not one of His promises will fail or fall short. What He has covenanted to do, He will do.

Closing thoughts – Believing the LORD is all He has revealed Himself to be, and He changes not; the psalm begins as it ended, and with no more to be said, than, “Praise ye the Lord” (117:2).

The LORD deserves the praise of all nations, and people. We who know the LORD should ever praise the LORD!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Majesty of God (Psalm 113-114)

Scripture reading – Psalm 113-114

Today’s Scripture reading continues our study in the Book of Psalms, and the collection of psalms known as the “Hallelujah Psalms.” Like Psalm 111 and Psalm 112, Psalm 113 and Psalm 114 begin with the phrase: “Praise ye the LORD” (112:1, 113:1, 114:1). Psalm 113 and Psalm 114 belong to a group of psalms identified as the “Hallel psalms” (Psalms 113-118). The “Hallel psalms” were worship psalms sung at three feasts: Feast of the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles.

Psalm 113 – A “Hallel” Psalm

The author of Psalm 113 is not identified; however, its opening verse sounds a call to worship for the congregation of Israel: “Praise ye the Lord. Praise, O ye servants of the Lord, Praise the name of the Lord” (113:1).

Let all who “serve,” and obey the LORD, sing Hallelujah to His name! Let the LORD’S name be “blessed” [praised]…for evermore” (113:2), and everywhere, from “the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same” (113:3).

Why should the LORD be praised? (113:4-9)

The LORD should be praised for His throne is “high above all nations,” thrones, kings, and authority (113:4). He is higher than the stars of heaven (113:4b), and there is none that compare to Him (113:5). Our God is so high above, that He must humble Himself to look upon heaven and earth (113:6).

The LORD deserves our praise because he lifts up the poor and needy (113:7), and is able to exalt them over rulers (113:8). It is the LORD that blesses the barren” woman, and she embraces the joy of motherhood (113:9). Hallelujah, “Praise ye the LORD!” (113:9b)

Psalm 114 – A Psalm of Reflection on Israel’s Exodus

Psalm 114 is also a “Hallel psalm.” Because it celebrated Israel’s exodus out of Egypt, it would have been a song heard during the Feast of Tabernacles (also known as the “Feast of Booths,” it commemorated Israel’s wandering in the desert; Exodus 23:14-17; Leviticus 23:33-36, 39-43; Deuteronomy 16:13-15).

The psalmist memorialized the works and ways of the LORD in His dealings with Israel. In Psalm 114:1, He brought Israel “out of Egypt, and the house of Jacob [the twelve tribes of Israel], from a people of a strange language” [for Israel had serve Egyptian masters]. The LORD was Priest to Israel, and ordained His house be built in Judah (Jerusalem), for He had chosen “Israel as His dominion” (114:2). He divided the Red Sea when He brought Israel out of Egypt, and drove the Jordan (River) back for the people to cross into Canaan (114:3, 5).

When Israel encamped at Mount Sinai, where the LORD gave Moses His Commandments and Law, His Spirit descended and the mountains and hills trembled at His presence (114:4, 6-7; Exodus 19:18).

The psalmist then called upon all the earth to tremble at the presence of the LORD, saying, “Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, At the presence of the God of Jacob” (114:7). In His presence, even the rocks were cleaved in half, and water gushed forth from its fissures (114:8).

Closing thoughts – If you are a novice to Bible studies, you may wonder what application, if any, a psalm about Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness has for 21st century believers.

Besides reminding us of the majesty and greatness of the LORD, we are also reminded that the record of historical events during Israel’s sojourn are instructive for believers of all ages. For instance, the rock from which water came forth to quench the thirst of the people in the wilderness, was a type or picture of Jesus Christ.

Paul writes, “And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock [literally a massive rock] that followed [came with, or behind] them: and that Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4). The cloud that led and shadowed Israel by day, and the pillar of fire that was with them by night, was Jesus Christ!

Truth – As the LORD was ever with Israel, so He is with all believers who come into His family and walk in His ways. He protects, sustains, and meets our needs just as He did in days of old. While all the earth will one day tremble at His presence, believers are comforted knowing they are never beyond His reach, tender love and care.

Deuteronomy 31:6 – “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith