Category Archives: Law

The Procurement of Wisdom Requires Hard Work and Sacrifice (Job 27; Job 28)

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

Scripture reading – Job 27; Job 28

Bildad had concluded his final discourse with Job (Job 25), and reminded him no man can be justified in the sight of God (25:4). Job’s response initiated his lengthiest speech in the book, beginning with Job 26:1 and concluding with Job 31:40. Our examination of Job’s response continues with today’s Scripture reading, Job 27-28.

Job 27 – Job’s Parable

Verse 1 described Job’s response to Bildad as a “parable,” or a wise saying. Appealing to God as Creator, Job complained the LORD had denied him justice and “vexed” or embittered his soul (27:1-2). Interestingly, though the Book of Genesis was not yet penned by Moses, he understood the uniqueness of man’s creation, and confessed, the “spirit of God is in my nostrils” (27:3; Genesis 2:7).

Job friends had argued his troubles were a consequence of sins, yet, he declared his innocence, and said, “My lips shall not speak wickedness, Nor my tongue utter deceit [lies]. 5God forbid that I should justify you [agree with their false accusations]: Till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me” (27:4-5). This ancient of men refused to compromise his integrity to pacify the men who assailed him. He accepted the disdain of his “friends,” rather than the weight of a guilty conscience (27:6).

The Family of the Wicked Often Pay for Their Transgressions. (27:11-23)

Job acknowledged the wicked are not always punished according to their sins, but he was confident God’s judgment was inevitable (27:11-23). They may enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season (Hebrews 11:25), but their children often bear the consequences of their transgressions. In Job’s reflections, the children of the wicked are destined “for the sword” (often die early deaths), and never “satisfied with bread” (never happy or content, 27:14). Even the wives of the wicked become embittered by their pernicious ways, as the Scripture says they “shall not weep” for their husbands when they die (27:15).

The wicked enrich themselves at the sacrifice of others, but when they die their possessions are sometimes divided among the just and innocent (27:16-17). Their households are unstable, and as fragile as the cocoon of a moth (27:18). Regardless their boasting, the wicked go to the grave, and the honors heaped upon them perish with them (27:19). When the terror of death, and the wrath of God comes upon them (27:20), they will not find mercy (27:22).

Job 28 – The Search for Wisdom

Drawing an analogy where men mine for silver and refine gold (28:1), Job described the great lengths men must go to find wisdom.

The intense labor of a miner (Job 28:3-11)

The miner digs a shaft into the earth, and brings light into the darkness in search of ore (“stones of darkness,” 28:3). As he excavates the earth brings forth “sapphires…[and] dust of gold” (28:6). The miner lays his hand to the rocks, and overturns mountains seeking rich ore (28:9). He cuts channels in the rock (“rivers among the rocks”), and prevents waters from flowing into the mine shaft (28:10-11).

“Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?” (28:12-22)

Unlike “book learning,” wisdom is not something that can be acquired in a classroom. True wisdom, the wisdom only God can impart to a man, is priceless (28:13a). Wisdom cannot be mined out of the earth, nor found by exploring the depths of the sea (28:14). Wisdom cannot be purchased with gold or silver (28:15), and the purest gold is not to be compared with it (28:16-19). Then, if wisdom is so valuable, and rare, “Whence then cometh wisdom?” (28:20). Wisdom is “hid from the eyes” of man and “the fowls of the air” (28:21). One cannot find wisdom, though it is sought among the dead who have passed from this life (28:22).

God Alone is the Source of Wisdom (28:23-28)

Man can only know wisdom by God’s revelation: He is omniscient, and “understandeth the way thereof, And He knoweth the place thereof” (28:23). He is omnipresent, and sees and knows all things, “For he looketh to the ends of the earth, And seeth under the whole heaven” (28:24). Because He is Creator and Sustainer of the earth, the LORD even knows the weight of the winds and the water, and regulates the rain and the “way for the lightning” (28:25-26).

Closing thoughts (28:27-28) – Where might a man acquire wisdom? Job answered:

“The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; And to depart from evil is understanding” (28:28). The “fear of the LORD” is more than an emotional response; it is a practical response that obeys the Law of the LORD, and forsakes the way of sin (“to depart from evil is understanding” – 28:28b).  Moses commanded Israel to keep the statutes and judgments of God, “for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations” (Deuteronomy 4:5-6).  Hebrew fathers and mothers instructed their sons and daughters in the statutes and judgments of God, that they might “learn to fear” the LORD (Deuteronomy 4:10).

Tragically, the 21st century has given rise to a generation of pastors, teachers, and preachers who purport “Grace” and “Liberty,” and have neglected to teach and instruct our sons and daughters in the statutes and judgments of God. The result is a culture of pride and carnality that is a cancer in our homes and churches.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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Love, Marriage and Money (Hebrews 13; 2 Timothy 1)

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Scripture reading – Hebrews 13; 2 Timothy 1

Our journey through the Epistle to the Hebrews concludes with today’s Scripture reading, Hebrews 13. The author has reminded the believers of the saving faith of their forefathers (naming many of the great patriarchs in Israel’s history; Hebrews 11). In chapter 12, he challenged the saints to keep the faith (12:1) and focus upon Christ, “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (12:2). The believers were exhorted to accept God’s chastening, for like a loving earthly father, the Lord chastens His people that their lives might yield “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (12:11). With a reminder, “God is a consuming fire” (12:29), the writer of Hebrews closed chapter 12 by urging believers to revere the Lord and fear His displeasure.

Today’s devotional is taken from Hebrews 13:1-6.

Hebrews 13

In the closing verses of his letter, the author addressed several topics that are personal and practical in nature.

The Believer’s Relationship with the Congregation (13:1-3)

The first topic was the believer’s conduct within the congregation and was addressed in three exhortations: “Let brotherly love continue” (13:1); in other words, love is the bond that binds us as brothers and sisters in Christ. The second exhortation regarded the ministry of hospitality (13:2). Believers are not only to love one another; we are also to show hospitality and love for strangers. Imagine, there may come a time when, like Abraham in Genesis 19, you will serve “angels unawares” (13:2). Lastly, believers are to love those in prison (remember, seasons of persecution would see many confined to prisons, 13:3).

An Exhortation to Purity and Contentment (13:4-6)

“Marriage is Honourable” (13:4)

Roman society in the first century was not much different from our own. Believers who read this epistle were confronted by gross immorality. Sexual promiscuity and sodomy were ever present in the Roman world. Sadly, 21st century society has followed the same path of moral erosion, and attacked marriage as an institution. Liberal judges and politicians have impaled our homes with the whims of political correctness, and introduced a moral decadence that now threatens to destroy not only our families, but our nation.

The author admonished believers, 4Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (13:4). While society has changed, be forewarned, God has not changed. Our Creator founded and established marriage as a sacred institution between one woman and one man (Genesis 2:23-24), and none dare defile it by sexual immorality without risking the wrath and judgment of God (13:3).

Be Content (13:5-6)

Covetousness was another sin addressed by the writer (13:5). Understanding the word “conversation” implied one’s conduct or way of life, we read: “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have” (13:5a). While the world of 1st century believers was different than our own, the problem of a covetous, money-loving nature was the same. In his letter to Timothy, Paul observed, “they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Timothy 6:9). The apostle continued, “For the love of money is the root of all evil,” warning many had coveted, and were “pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10).

Closing thoughts – Rather than trust in riches that take wings and fly away (Proverbs 23:5), we should place our faith in the Lord, who has said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (13:5b). Only then might we face the world, and “boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (13:6).

If only believers would learn, happiness will never be found in money or possessions.

* 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.

Salvation: Faith in the Sufficiency of Christ’s Sacrifice (Hebrews 10)

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Scripture reading – Hebrews 10

Our study of the Epistle to the Hebrews continues with chapter 10. The writer of the letter appealed to his brethren to consider the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice to the sacrifices required by the law. After warning his brethren, “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (9:27), the author declared the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice, writing: “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (9:28).

Hebrews 10

The Insufficiency of Animal Sacrifices (10:1-4)

Perhaps some who professed to be followers of Christ, were considering returning to the sacrifices of the Temple. The writer reminded his readers, “the law …can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect” (10:1).

Why offer animal sacrifices year after year, when they could not “make the comers [sinners] thereunto perfect” (whole or guiltless in God’s judgment)? (10:1) Answer—the sacrifices were “a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things” (10:1a). In other words, animal sacrifices were a type, a picture of Christ, and served as a constant reminder of man’s need to be forgiven and restored to God (10:3-4).

God’s Plan – Christ Offered His Body for Man’s Sin (10:5-10)

Why did Christ come “into the world?” (10:5) To answer that question, the writer of Hebrews quoted a psalm of David that read, “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 6In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure” (10:5-6; Psalm 40:6). The words recorded by David in Psalm 40:6-8 were the words of Christ, placed in the heart of the king, and penned under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21).

David acknowledged, and the writer of Hebrews confirmed, only the sacrifice of Christ, whose body the Lord had prepared for Him (10:5b), was sufficient to atone for man’s sin. Therefore, Christ declared, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God” (10:8; Psalm 40:8). To what end did Christ come? That He might take “away the first [the pattern of animal sacrifices], that he may establish the second. 10By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (10:9b-10).

Christ Sat Down (10:11-14)

The priests were continually standing and offering sacrifices for sins, which could “never take away sins” (10:11). Christ, however, “offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God” (10:12). In an earlier devotion I explained what it meant when Christ “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). Sitting down beside the throne of God the Father implied Christ’s sacrifice and death satisfied God’s judgment and demand for justice. Understanding “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a), only one thing could satisfy God’s judgment…the shedding of blood and death (9:22, 28).

After His resurrection, Jesus Christ sits enthroned in heaven, and awaits the day His enemies will be defeated and “made His footstool” (10:13; Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 1:13; 2:8). For believers, there is nothing lacking in our salvation, “for by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (10:14).

Closing thoughts – Our redemption and forgiveness of sins is “perfect,” complete, finished, and lacks for nothing. There is nothing we can add to Christ’s sacrifice and grace…our sins are forgiven, our sin debt to God has been marked, “Paid in Full,” by the blood of Christ. We are in the sight of God, “sanctified,” and we are to be holy, and righteous. What the sacrifices of the Old Testament could not do, Christ completed because He took upon Him the guilt of our sin, and bore God’s judgment.

A closing observation: When the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). Have you made that decision? Won’t you believe, and trust Christ as your Savior?

* 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.

 

What is in Your Heart? (Hebrews 8; Hebrews 9)

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Scripture reading – Hebrews 8; Hebrews 9

We continue our study of the Epistle to the Hebrews (chapters 8 and 9), and are reminded of the twofold focus of this passage: Christ, the believer’s High Priest; and the New Covenant which He established.

The writer in Hebrews 7 observed how Jesus was “made a surety of a better testament” (7:22). The word “testament,” was a legal term that described a covenant. For example, you might draw up a “Last Will and Testament,” that is effectively a covenant. Such a document is a binding legal agreement between two parties. The purpose of a “Last Will and Testament” is to direct your intentions (plan) for distributing your possessions upon your death. (Unfortunately, greedy relatives and crooked lawyers seemed to have embraced the lawless spirit of our day, and have little respect for wills, testaments, or covenants.)

Fortunately, God is not only the Lawgiver, He is also a just Judge, and forgiving High Priest. We read of Christ, “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Christ is more than our intercessor (7:24-25), He is our Savior and Redeemer. While the priests of the Old Covenant offered sacrifices for their sins and the people, Christ “offered up Himself” (7:27), and established a New Covenant (Hebrews 8).

Hebrews 8

A Superior High Priest, and A New Covenant (8:1-2)

The New Covenant is the subject of chapter 8, and continued the revelation that Christ is our High Priest, and “is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (8:1). Earthly priests were types or symbols of the superior High Priest, Jesus Christ. Because of His sacrificial, substitutionary death, and resurrection from the dead, Jesus is our priest, and ministers in the heavenly, “true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man” (8:2).

An Inferior Tabernacle (8:3-5)

We find a contrast between the earthly tabernacle built by Moses, and the heavenly, eternal sanctuary where Christ is the believer’s High Priest. Because Christ was not of the tribe of Levi, He would not have served as an earthly priest. The priests of Levi offered the blood of sacrifices during Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness. Once a year, only the high priest might enter the “Holy of holies,” and then only with the blood of sacrifice “which he offered for himself” (9:7). Though Moses directed the construction of the tabernacle, according to the patterns God gave him (8:5b), that which was provided was a “type,” an “example and shadow of heavenly things” (8:5).

Israel Broke the Old Covenant (8:6-9)

Notice the adjectives “excellent” and “better” in verse 6. The writer of Hebrews, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, described the ministry of Christ as “a more excellent [surpassing, stronger] ministry.” As our High Priest, Christ “is the mediator of a better [stronger] covenant, which was established upon better [stronger] promises” (8:6). Earthly priests were inferior to Christ, who offered Himself as the perfect, sufficient sacrifice for sins. The weakness or “fault” of the “old covenant” (8:7) was not the covenant, but the sinfulness of men (including the priests).

Lesson – A covenant is only good when both parties keep their vows. For instance, when a man and woman marry, they bind themselves in a “marriage covenant.” God and others present are witnesses of their vows (promises), and the couple exchange rings as a token of their covenant. Tragically, more than 50% of marriage covenants are eventually broken because either the husband or wife fail to keep covenant, not only with their spouse, but with God and those who witnessed their exchange of vows.

The prophet Jeremiah, quoted in Hebrews 8:8-11, observed how the children of Israel had broken covenant with God (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Like a wife who betrays her vows and breaks her marriage covenant, Israel had failed to keep her covenant with God. In Jeremiah’s day, Israel had become not only a divided nation, but her idolatry and failure to keep the Law and Commandments, had robbed the nation of God’s blessings (Deuteronomy 28; Exodus 31).

The Promise of a New Covenant (8:10-13)

If men had kept the first covenant, there would have been no need for a second covenant (8:7b). However, because Israel had not kept her covenant with the LORD, and disregarded His Law, God foresaw the need to establish a “Covenant,” and Christ serve as the everlasting High Priest(8:10).

The first covenant required external obedience, keeping the written law and offering sacrifices. The Lord promised under the “New Covenant,” He would “put [His] laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people” (which will be fulfilled in the Millennial Kingdom, 8:10). In other words, motivated by their love and communion with the Lord, believers should keep covenant with God. The old covenant depended on earthly priests offering sacrifices, and acting as mediators between God and man (8:11a). Under the “New Covenant,” every believer will come before the Lord, “for all shall know [Him], from the least to the greatest” (8:11).

Closing thoughts (8:12-13) – While the old covenant pictured forgiveness through blood sacrifices, the “New Covenant” promised God’s mercy and forgiveness of sins (8:12). Therefore, knowing Christ has established a “Covenant” by His blood, we are confident He is our High Priest and Mediator, and sits “on the right hand of the throne.” Understanding the “New Covenant” has replaced the old (8:13), believers should delight in obeying the principles and precepts of God’s Word, trusting in His grace and promises.

Only as you study and meditate in God’s Word, will His truths rule your heart. What is in your heart?

* 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.

Who was Melchisedec, and does it matter? (Hebrews 7)

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Scripture reading – Hebrews 7

Today’s devotional is taken from Hebrews 7, and continues with the focus upon Melchisedec, the king and high priest of Salem (the ancient name of Jerusalem, 7:1). The writer of Hebrews introduced us to Melchisedec in chapter 5, where Christ was described as “a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (5:6). In the same chapter we read, Christ was the “author of eternal salvation” (5:9), and “called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec” (5:10). The final verse of chapter 6 concluded the same, saying, “Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (6:20).

Who was Melchisedec? (7:1-3)

If you followed this “Heart of a Shepherd” over the course of the past two years, you may recall a man named Melchizedek (the same, though the spelling differs) in our study of the life of Abraham in Genesis 14. Abraham overcame raiders that had captured his nephew Lot’s household, and taken his family and possessions as spoils of war (Genesis 14:10-12). Returning victorious from battle, Abraham was greeted by “Melchizedek king of Salem”(7:1; Genesis 14:18). Of Melchizedek we read, he was “the priest of the most high God” (Genesis 14:18). He pronounced a blessing on Abraham, who in turn rewarded Melchizedek with a tithe, a tenth of the spoils taken in battle (7:2; Genesis 14:19-20).

Besides being a man renown in the Scriptures for his righteousness, Melchizedek was named as king of ancient Jerusalem (Genesis 14:18a), and a priest of Jehovah, “the most high God” (Genesis 14:18b). This Melchizedek was no ordinary king and priest, for he was described as eternal, and “without father, without mother, without descent [human lineage], having neither beginning of days, nor end of life” (7:3).

While I cannot say with certainty who Melchizedek was, we do know: As king and priest, he served as a “type” or picture of Christ who existed before His incarnation, being the Son of God.

Like Melchisedec, Christ is King and High Priest. (7:4-10)

The evidence Melchisedec was a greater priest than Abraham, is that the father of the Hebrews offered a tithe to him (notice the tithe predated the Mosaic Law, 7:4).

The discussion concerning Levi (7:5-10), whose sons were chosen as the priestly order, is an interesting one, because Levi was a son of Jacob, the grandson of Isaac, and the great grandson of Abraham. When Abraham offered a tithe to Melchisedec, he acknowledged that ancient king and priest of Jehovah was greater than himself. Therefore, we can conclude the ancient king and priest was greater than all his lineage, including the priests of Levi (7:5-10).

Closing thoughts – The Priesthood of Jesus Christ (7:11-14)

The balance of chapter 7 continued the parallel drawn between Melchisedec and Jesus Christ (7:11-28). However, I conclude today’s study with Hebrew 7:11-14, hoping to return to this chapter in another year.

Why did Jesus Christ assume the role as High Priest? Answer – Because the Levitical priesthood did not suffice for addressing man’s sin (7:11). The priests were mere men, and had to offer sacrifices for their sins and that of the people. Jesus Christ, however, was like Melchisedec and not of Levi or the Aaronic priesthood. We read, Christ came, not “after the order of Aaron” (7:11), but after “another tribe” (7:13). What was the other tribe? “[Jesus Christ] sprang out of Juda [the tribe of Judah]; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.”

Summary – In the same way Melchisedec was “king of Salem, [and] priest of the most high God” (7:1), Jesus Christ is our King, and “a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (7:17). Unlike the priest of Levi, who continually offered sacrifices for their sins, Christ offered Himself “once, when He offered up Himself” (7:27).

What a Savior! What a great High Priest!

* 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.

A Failure to Thrive: A Tragic Case of Spiritual Undernourishment (Hebrews 5; Hebrews 6)

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Scripture reading – Hebrews 5; Hebrews 6

Our study of the Epistle to the Hebrews continues with Hebrews 5 and 6. After a review, our devotional will be taken from Hebrews 5.

The writer of Hebrews had challenged believers regarding the preeminence of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1). Understanding the majesty of Christ gave cause for 1st century saints to be stirred in their spirit, knowing all He suffered for their sins. Jesus is the Son of God, yet, He set aside the outward manifestation of His heavenly glory, and “was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death” (2:9). By His death on the Cross, He tasted “death for every man” (2:9b), and by His resurrection from the dead, He became the “captain [and author] of salvation” (2:10).

Hebrews 3 warned the Hebrews to realize the danger of unbelief, and hardening their hearts (3:7-19). With the challenge, “exhort one another daily” (3:13), sinners were urged to believe, or they would never find rest for their souls (3:18). We were reminded there are three requisites for peace and rest: The first was to fear and revere God (4:1). Secondly, hear the Gospel (4:2), believe, and come to the Lord by faith (4:2-11). Finally, to find rest for the soul, a believer must fight, literally labor diligently in the Scriptures: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (4:12).

Because Christ is the believer’s “high priest” (4:15), the writer of Hebrews urged, “Let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (4:16). On what grounds might we enter into God’s presence with our petitions? Not on the basis of our works (for “our righteousness are as filthy rags,” Isaiah 64:6), but on the grounds of Christ’s righteousness being credited to our account, and paying our sin debt in full! Hallelujah, what a great Savior and high priest.

Hebrews 5

Hebrews 5 offered a contrast between the high priest “ordained for men” and the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ (5:1). Even the most dedicated, conscientious high priests dared not approach God without offering a sacrifice for his sins (5:2-3). While the high priest was chosen among men, God declared of Christ, “Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee…Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Melchisedec had been a king and priest of ancient Jerusalem, and a type or example of Christ, 5:5-6).

If you remember Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, before He was betrayed and arrested, you will understand Hebrews 5:7-10. In the Garden, Jesus prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (meaning the cup of suffering He would soon face, Matthew 26:39). He prayed a second time, “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done” (Matthew 26:42). It is that agony we find portrayed in Hebrews 5, when we read: “he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; 8Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” (5:7-8).

Christ obeyed His Father’s will, and suffered the penalty of our sins (5:8), and being the perfect sinless sacrifice. “He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (obedience implying one’s faith, proven by works, 5:9).

Closing thoughts (5:11-14) – Our study of Hebrews 5 concludes with a case of spiritual undernourishment. In a mournful, regrettable tone, the writer observed in the 1st century congregation a spiritual tragedy that is mirrored in the 21st century church: A failure to thrive spiritually. As today, there were some who professed salvation, but whose lives were spiritually anemic. They evidenced little to no spiritual appetite, and the diagnosis was summed up in this: “ye are dull of hearing” (5:11).

Rather than be teachers of the word, they were content with elementary doctrines, and “first principles of the oracles of God” (5:12). They had failed the Lord, and His people, for they remained in the spiritual nursery (5:13), and unable to delight in the advanced doctrines and studies of the Word (5:14). Their spiritual immaturity had left them vulnerable and unable to “discern both good and evil” (5:14).

Tragically, is that not the sad portrait of many 21st century believers and churches?

* 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 Greater the Light, the Greater the Judgment! (Hebrews 1; Hebrews 2)

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Scripture reading – Hebrews 1; Hebrews 2

Continuing our countdown to the conclusion of our two-year chronological Scriptures’ reading schedule, today’s devotional introduces the Epistle to the Hebrews.

The Author of Hebrews

Many have supposed the Epistle to the Hebrews was written by the apostle Paul; however, I feel that is conjecture at best. If Paul was the author, he neglected to identify himself in the opening salutation as was his manner in his other epistles (Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1; and so on). Rather than speculate on the human author, let us content ourselves in accepting the Epistle to the Hebrews, like all Scripture: divinely inspired and its author the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:15; 2 Peter 1:20-21).

The Date of the Epistle to the Hebrews

The date for the writing of Hebrews is uncertain; however, it seems most scholars agree it was composed for Hebrew believers before A.D. 70, when the Roman general Titus besieged Jerusalem, and the city and Temple were destroyed. Before that date, persecution and imprisonment were widespread in the Roman empire, and Hebrews 13:23 indicates that Timothy, Paul’s “son in the faith” (2 Timothy 1:2), had himself been imprisoned, and was expected to soon be “set at liberty” (Hebrews 13:23).

The Recipients of the Epistle to the Hebrews

As stated in its title, Hebrews was addressed to those from a Hebrew background, and no doubt gave many of Judaism pause to consider Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament messianic prophecies.  For others, sufferings and persecution of the 1st century might have caused some to doubt their faith in Christ, and return to the Temple and sacrificial offerings (Hebrews 10:1-11). To them, the Holy Spirit, through a human author, declared the supremacy of Jesus Christ in all things (Hebrews 1:1-4; 10:12-13).

Setting the date of Hebrews to the mid to late 60’s A.D., many readers were probably second-generation believers of Hebrew ancestry. Tragically, the author takes them to task for their spiritual immaturity, and described them as “dull of hearing” (5:11), and in need of teachers when they should have been teaching (5:12).

A brief outline of Hebrews 1 and 2 will need to suffice for our study.

Hebrews 1 – The Supremacy of Jesus Christ

Down through the centuries, God sent His prophets to Israel to reveal His person and declare His Word (1:1). Yet, the purpose in the coming of the prophets was to prepare the way for the coming of the ultimate revelation of God…His Son (1:2). The prophets and writers of Scripture not only pointed to creation as a demonstration of the handiwork of God (Psalm 19:1; 97:6), but they declared His revelation in word and writing as His Spirit moved them (2 Timothy 3:15; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Yet, the work of the prophets was partial.

The coming of Jesus Christ fulfilled not only the promises of a coming Messiah-Redeemer (Isaiah 53; Luke 19:10), but He revealed in His incarnation (human flesh) the glory of God the Father (1:2-3). Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is revealed as “heir of all things,” and the Creator (1:2b). He was the “brightness” of God’s glory (1:3a), the image of God veiled in human flesh (1:3b; Colossians 1:15; Philippians 2:6, 9), and the Sustainer (the upholder of “all things,” 1:3c). By the shedding of His blood and death on the cross, Jesus “purged our sins,” as Redeemer (1:3d), and then “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high [God the Father]” (1:3e). Christ is exalted as Lord and Mediator of sinners (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 10:12).

The balance of Hebrews 1 declared Christ’s preeminence over angels (1:4-7), and His person as Eternal God, and Sovereign of Creation (1:7-14).

Hebrews 2 – The Danger of Neglecting One’s Salvation

Hebrews 2 warned, God holds men accountable for the truths they have been taught (2:1-3). Christ taught, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48). Stating the same truth in another way: The greater the light, the greater the judgment!

The Hebrews had the privilege of the Old Testament Scriptures, and the word of prophets. God then sent His Son, Jesus to Israel, to declare God’s love and the Gospel of His grace. The author reasoned: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord?” (2:3).

Closing thoughts – So much more could be considered, but I conclude our study inviting you to consider Hebrews 2:1, where we read: “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip” (2:1).

Understanding those words were penned to Hebrews who had extensive knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures, we understand the urgency to not only hear the Word of God, but heed its Truth. Surely that same warning might be declared to 21st century believers. Warning: There is a grave danger for those who have been privileged to grow up hearing the Word of God preached and the Gospel declared. It is the danger of hearing, and not heeding Truth. The writer warned, “lest at any time we should let them slip” (2:1). Some who professed to be followers of Christ, had slipped, failed to heed the Truth, and were drifting away (backsliding) from their spiritual moorings (doctrine).

What about you? Are you anchored to God’s Word, or have you slipped away and are spiritually adrift? Have you allowed popularity, pleasures, lusts, busyness, sinful pride, or laziness cause you to slip? Won’t you turn from your sin, and return to the Lord?

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Relational Dynamics: Children and Parents; Employees and Employers (Ephesians 6)

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Scripture reading – Ephesians 6; Philippians 1

Today’s Scripture reading concludes Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, and introduces his letter to the believers of Philippi. This is the first of two devotions, and is taken from Ephesians 6.

Ephesians 5 challenged believers to live and walk in a manner that was worthy of the Lord (5:1-5). Paul urged the saints to manifest a spirit of humility and submission, “in the fear of God” (5:21), and remember marriage between a husband and wife is a portrait of Christ’s love for His church (5:22-33). The apostle commanded: “Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord…[and] 25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (5:22, 25).

Ephesians 6

Having addressed the institution and sanctity of marriage (5:22-33), Paul’s focus turned to the believer’s family and household. Ephesians 6 presented a portrait of the spiritual dynamics between children and their parents (6:1-4), and servants and their masters (6:5-9).

The Believer’s Family (6:1-4)

Though the majority of Galatian believers were of Greco-Roman ancestry, they were not exempt from the implications and applications of the Commandments of the Lord (Exodus 20). Knowing the 5th commandment, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12), Paul wrote to the sons and daughters of Galatia:

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise” (6:1-2). And what was the promise to those who obeyed and honored their parents? “That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (6:3).

If you ponder why our society and 21st century world is troubled, you need look no further than the tragic consequences of violating the 5th commandment. It is not well with our families, communities, societies and nation. Disrespect and rebellion in the home has spilled over into our schools and communities, and is a cancer that is destroying our nation and world.

Of course, parents, particularly fathers, must bear the weight and responsibility for the failure of the family. Paul urged fathers, “provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (6:4). “Provoke not,” carried the inference of actions and attitudes that were unreasonable and incited resentment in the heart of a child. Provocations might arise from being overly protective, unreasonable in expectations, failing to affirm, or abuse (verbal or physical). Paul exhorted fathers to nurture and admonish their children (6:4b). Nurturing a child requires instruction and correction, while admonishing obliges warning, rebuking, and discipline (Proverbs 29:15, 17). How different our homes and churches would be if children honored and obeyed their parents, and fathers and mothers nurtured and admonished their children in the Lord!

The Household: Servants and their Masters (6:5-9)

The New Testament has a lot to say regarding the dynamics between the servant (slave) and his master. Servitude and oppression have been a perpetual human dynamic since the fall of man. Rather than address the question of the morality of slavery, Paul focused upon the responsibility of the servant to his master, and the relationship of the master to his servant. Because Roman culture allowed slaves to enjoy some liberties, including religion, the Galatian church would have had a membership of slaves and masters. Of course, the application to our culture is the dynamic of the employee and his employer.

The Attitude and Testimony of a Servant

Servants were commanded to be “obedient,” and to respect and serve their masters with a heart that was single in motive: “as unto Christ… as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (6:5-6). Whether a slave or a free man, a believer was to do his work, no matter how menial the task, knowing the Lord was the rewarder (6:7-8). Finally, the duty of masters, as it is with employers, was to neither threaten or abuse their servants. Instead, the master was to treat his servants fairly, according to the Law, knowing God is the rewarder, and an impartial judge (6:9).

Closing thoughts – So much more might be gleaned from this chapter, but I will leave that for a later time. For now, I encourage you to examine your relationships, and whether or not you are honoring to the Lord. Whether a child or parent, an employee or an employer, you should guard your heart and live your life above reproach.

Remember: What you sow you will reap, and God is a righteous judge.

* 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 Tyranny of the Majority – “Democracy is on the Ballot” – (Romans 13-14)

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Scripture reading – Romans 13; Romans 14

Today’s Scripture reading touches upon many important subjects that are both doctrinal and practical. For instance, Romans 13 introduced the question of the believer and his relationship with civil government and human authority (13:1-7). Paul then addressed debt (“owe no man anything,” 13:8a), and emphasized the overriding command to “love one another” (the sum of the commandments, 13:8-10).

Romans 14 continued the practical application of the Scriptures to one’s daily life and walk, and focused on the believer’s liberty, deportment and influence on other believers (14:1-2, 7-9, 16-23). In the matter of a critical, judgmental spirit (14:3-4, 10-15), Paul warned, “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (14:12).

The balance of today’s devotional may seem political, but it is taken from Romans 13:1-7 and addresses the believer’s citizenship and relationship with civil authority.

Democracy vs. Republic: Is there a difference?

If you live in the United States, you are aware we have an opportunity to exercise our civic duty in the next few days, and vote for those who represent us in government. “Democracy is on the ballot,” is the relentless theme of the Democratic party, and the implication is the candidates of the other party (Republican) are a threat to Democracy.

The government of the United States is a Republic, not a Democracy.

A republic is a form of government that represents “We the People.” The elected leaders rule by consent of the people, and function as representatives of the people for the common good. In a republic, there is no hierarchy or upper tier of leadership; the power of government rests with individual citizens, who delegate to leaders their authority.

The statement, “Democracy is on the ballot,” should be a grave concern to every American. Though the nature of a democracy is dependent upon the will of the people, it poses a frightening danger I will describe as “the tyranny of the majority.” An individual citizen has protected rights and a voice in a republican form of government. A democracy, on the other hand, has a tendency to evolve into the rule of the majority at the oppression and sacrifice of the individual.

When the virtuous character of a society deteriorates, so does its tolerance for the individual and individual rights. For instance, Adolf Hitler rose to power in the German Weimar Republic. In a void of leadership, Hitler and the Nazi party (representing Democratic Socialist policies) slowly gained a following of the majority of the German people. With the majority in power, a campaign of intimidation began to attack and silence political opponents. Concentration camps were opened and political opponents were arrested. Finally, when all opposition political parties were outlawed, a campaign to exterminate the Jewish people began, and the freedom of the press and speech were revoked.

As a Bible believer, whether you identify as a Democrat, Republican, or Independent…there is one thing that cannot be on the ballot—our submission to King Jesus. Paul’s letter to believers in Rome was addressed to citizens of that empire who knew all too well the tyranny of a dictator. No doubt the apostle, who was himself a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37), had been questioned concerning the relationship and obligation believers had to those in authority. Romans 13:1-6 addressed in very specific terms the moral obligation believers have to all human authorities.

In his first letter to the early church, Peter commanded believers to “Honour the king” (1 Peter 2:17c). While there was much about a king’s character that was not honorable, there was nevertheless a responsibility for believers to treat the ruler with dignity, regarding his office and authority. Yet, believers are not only to honor those in authority, but recognize human authority as delegated by God (13:1). While the governed are to submit to authority, government has a responsibility to protect and ensure the safety and security of the citizens (13:2-4).

Closing thoughts – Whether a republic, democracy, or monarchy, leaders are accountable to God, and are to rule understanding their role is that of a “minister (servant) of God” (13:4a). Believers are to revere leaders as the servants of God for good (13:4a), and the wicked should fear the judgment of the same (13:4b). The inherent sinfulness of man (Romans 3:10, 12, 23) requires a government that is ready “to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (13:4c).

Finally, believers have a moral obligation to be subject to the laws of man (Romans 13:1-2; 1 Peter 2:13-17)—with one exception: When the laws of the land violate God’s law. When the apostles faced authorities who forbade them to preach the Gospel (Acts 5:17-29), they answered, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were commanded by Nebuchadnezzar to worship his idol or die, they respectfully answered, “be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:16-18). When king Darius commanded that no man was to pray to his God for thirty days, Daniel went home, “kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” (Daniel 6:9-10). God, not government, is the believer’s highest authority.

When you cast your vote, consider: Which candidate aspires to be the “minister (servant) of God” for good?

* 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.

Pray for the Peace and Salvation of Israel (Romans 10; Romans 11)

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Scripture reading – Romans 10; Romans 11

Our study of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans continues as we come to chapters 10 and 11.

Romans 10

Although writing to all believers, Paul appeared to address in particular believers of Jewish ancestry when he wrote: Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved” (10:1). King David wrote the same longing when he wrote, Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: They shall prosper that love thee” (Psalm 122:6). Of course, Israel as a nation, and Jerusalem as her capital have not known peace, for the Jews rejected Jesus Christ, the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Sadly, rather than praying for Israel to be saved, a spirit of “Antisemitism,” a hatred or prejudice for Jewish people, is on the rise within and without the churches. In my opinion, a major contributing factor for an increase in discrimination and hostility toward the Jews is a misunderstanding of Israel as a nation and people. The Israel of the 21st century is a nation with a secular government. Not all, but many in current day Israel identify as Hebrew or Jew, while a host of others are secular in faith and practice.

Nevertheless, as believers and followers of Christ, there should arise within our hearts an affection for God’s chosen people. Though a majority of believers are not of Abraham’s physical lineage; we are of his spiritual lineage (by faith in God’s covenant promises made to him and fulfilled in Jesus Christ, Genesis 12:1-3). We are also debtors to the Hebrew people, for they were chosen to be caretakers of His Holy Scriptures.

While praying for the salvation of Israel as a people, Paul observed the Jews were religiously zealous, but “not according to knowledge” (10:2). I am afraid they were like a lot of religious people of our day, “ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (10:3). They were self-righteous, and in their zeal to prove themselves righteous, were blind to the reality they had violated God’s Law and Commandments. They failed to submit “themselves unto the righteousness of God” (that is a righteousness that may only be found by yielding to God’s plan for redemption (10:3c).

What is God’s plan for salvation? It is to accept by faith that Christ, by His death and resurrection, fulfilled all the law demanded. He “is the end [the completer] of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (10:4). Notice the last phrase: “every one that believeth” (10:4b). A sinner is not saved by his works, or religious fervor. We are saved by confessing and acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord (10:9a), and believing in our “heart that God hath raised Him from the dead (10:9b).

How important is faith? What a man believes regarding Christ determines his eternal destiny: “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (10:10).

* 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.