Category Archives: Love

Seek the LORD, for His Ways are Not Your Ways! (Isaiah 54; Isaiah 55)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 54; Isaiah 55

Following the prophetic portrait of a rejected, suffering, and dying Savior in Isaiah 53, we read a call for Israel to “break forth into singing” in Isaiah 54.

Isaiah 54

Once again, the portrait of a husband and wife was given – the barren wife being Israel, and the LORD, the loving husband. In the immediate, the setting was Israel’s future restoration to the land after the Babylonian captivity. Yet, there are also elements in this chapter that will only be fulfilled when Christ returns to reign in His Millennial Kingdom (54:11-17).

The LORD of Salvation (54:2-3)

With her years of captivity fulfilled, Israel would be invited by the LORD to return to Him, and be restored to their land. Isaiah prophesied the blessings of the LORD would be so great, the people would have to enlarge their tents, and make room for an exploding population (54:2-3). Some Gentiles, coming by faith, would be numbered among the nation as believers.

The Sustaining God (54:4-10)

With the assuring exhortation, “Fear not” (54:4), Isaiah prophesied Israel would put her captivity and years of humiliation behind her, and that nation would have no cause for fear, and no reason for shame (54:4).

Why such confidence that all would be forgiven? Isaiah reminded the people who their God was: “Thy Maker[Creator] is thine husband; The Lord of hosts is his name [He is the God of War]; And thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The [Sovereign] God of the whole earth shall he be called” (54:5).

The LORD assured Israel of His unconditional love (54:6-10). Though the nation had forsaken Him, God promised He would never forsake His people (54:6-8). Like a loving father (Hebrews 12:5-11), the LORD had chastened Israel for a season, but Isaiah assured them He would restore them to their land. As certainly as He kept His promise to never again destroy the earth with flood waters, the LORD would keep His covenant with Israel. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills moved out of their places, the LORD’s kindness and mercies toward Israel would never be removed (54:10).

The Promise of a Glorious Future: The Millennial Kingdom (54:11-17)

Israel was promised that the nation would be restored to her homeland, and the city of Jerusalem be rebuilt (54:11-12). Yet, the city described here, whose foundations the LORD would lay is, in my opinion, New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-21 describes the beauty of that heavenly city).

In the Millennial Kingdom, the people will come and “be taught of the Lord; And great shall be the peace of thy children” (54:13). They will walk in righteousness, and there will be nothing to fear (54:14). The LORD will be the protector of His people, and any who might oppose them will fail (54:15).

Closing thoughts – The LORD created men who engineer and make weapons of war, and He has used their war machines to execute His judgment upon nations (54:16).

Isaiah 55

Isaiah 55 began with a glorious invitation: “Ho [Listen], every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, And he that hath no money; Come ye, buy, and eat; Yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (55:1).

The spiritually thirsty and poor were invited to come to the LORD, but not with money. The LORD’s invitation was to come, and submit to His offer of salvation, executed by His grace. The salvation offered by the LORD is offered to all by God’s grace and loving favor (Romans 3:23-24; 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9).

What did the LORD promise to those who would come with a spiritual thirst? He promised life (eternal life), “an everlasting covenant[security], and “mercy” (55:3).

Isaiah 55:6-13 is one of the great invitations in the Scriptures: “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, Call ye upon him while he is near” (55:6). Repent, “let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD” (55:7).

The LORD promised mercy and forgiveness to all who repent, but warned: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord (55:8-9).

Closing thoughts – Consider with me the emphasis on the preeminence of the Word of God.

Isaiah 55:11 – “So shall my word [truth; revelation] be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void [ineffectual; empty; i.e. having no effect], but it shall accomplish [do; make] that which I please [take pleasure or delight in], and it shall prosper [succeed] in the thing whereto I sent it.

God’s Word convicts, and brings forth the fruit of repentance and redemption. The LORD promises, His Word will fulfill its purpose. Whether you are a preacher, teacher, or student of the Bible, take heart: God has promised His Word is powerful, and it will accomplish His purpose!

Hebrews 4:1212For 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.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

God is Greater than Your Fears (Psalm 76)

Scripture reading – Psalm 76

Continuing our chronological study of the Scriptures, we take a detour from the prophecies of Isaiah to Psalm 76. This psalm is believed to have been penned on the occasion of the LORD delivering king Hezekiah, and Jerusalem from the Assyrian siege (2 Kings 18-19; Isaiah 37-38).

Psalm 76 is titled, “To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm or Song of Asaph.”

“Neginoth” was a stringed instrument. Thus, Psalm 76 was written by a son of the lineage of Asaph (a Levite musician who had been a contemporary of king David), and was to be accompanied on a string instrument. I invite you to consider three major components of the psalm.

A Song of Praise to God (76:1-6)

The psalmist reminded Judah and Israel how the LORD had chosen to dwell in their midst. We read, “1In Judah is God known: His name is great in Israel” (76:1). The LORD had revealed Himself in the Scriptures, and His prophets had declared His Word to the people. His “name,” the sum of Who He is in His person and attributes, was “great in Israel” (76:1).

His “tabernacle” was in Salem (ancient Jerusalem), and He dwelt in Zion (76:2). This “tabernacle” was not the same word as the place where the Ark of the Covenant was placed during Israel’s wilderness wanderings. In fact, the tabernacle recorded in Psalm 76:2 is the word for a “lair,” a den or dwelling place of a lion. Remembering the setting of this psalm is the celebration that followed the angel of the LORD slaying 185,000 Assyrian soldiers, it’s appropriate the LORD would be described in the terms of a lion in its den, whose “dwelling place [was] in Zion” (76:2).

The LORD had slain the Assyrian soldiers in the night, and in the morning the citizens of Jerusalem awoke, and looked upon a battlefield strewn with broken “arrows of the bow, the shield, and the sword” (76:3).

The words of the psalm break into praising the LORD, declaring He is “more glorious” (He is the illuminator, the giver of light), and “excellent” (majestic and powerful, 76:4). The LORD had “spoiled” (plundered) the valiant men of Assyria while they “slept their sleep” (for they had been slain in their sleep, 76:5)., and the “chariot and horse” had been “cast into a dead sleep,” and were destroyed in the night (76:6).

Fear and Revere the LORD (76:7-10)

No man can stand before the LORD when He is angry (76:7), and when the sound of His judgment was “heard from heaven,” all the earth feared, and was still” (76:8). Why did the LORD destroy the Assyrian army? Why did He drive king Sennacherib and his soldiers out of Judah to their land? I invite you to consider three reasons God intervened on behalf of His people.

The first, God is just, and He “arose to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth” (76:9). In the Scriptures, the “meek” are not a portrait of weakness, but of strength that is under control, harnessed, and reined in. The meek are strong because their faith is strong in the LORD! Of the meek, Christ declared, “they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

Another reason the LORD destroyed soldiers of Assyria, was to turn “the wrath of man,” and give cause for His people to praise Him (76:10a). Finally, because the earth had heard the God of Judah had destroyed the army of Assyria, it served as a warning to others (especially the soldiers who survived the slaughter) to restrain their wrath, and refrain from evil (76:10b).

An Invitation to Renew Your Promises to the LORD (76:11-12)

Psalm 76 concludes with an invitation for God’s people to renew their faith and commitment to the LORD: “Vow, and pay unto the Lord your God: Let all that be round about him bring presents unto him that ought to be feared” (76:11). Notice three invitations recorded in verse 11: 1) Recommit your life to the LORD; 2) In gratitude, bring gifts and offerings of praise; 3) Fear and revere the LORD (76:11).

Closing thoughts – Our study concludes encouraging us to realize our God will “cut off the spirit of princes: He is terrible to the kings of the earth” (76:12). The LORD will break the spirit of evil men, and wicked leaders have reason to fear Him, because “He is terrible” and the mighty fall at His pleasure (76:12b).

Is there someone who terrifies or torments you? Do you feel overwhelmed, or afraid? Remember, “The fear of man bringeth a snare: But whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25).

If you love the LORD, and trust Him, you have no cause for worry or fear; for “perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18a).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“An Amazing Story of Grace, Forgiveness, and Enduring Love” (Hosea 1)

Scripture reading – Hosea 1

Hosea was the first of the minor prophets (minor in the sense that their books are not as lengthy as those of the major prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel). He was God’s prophet to Israel (the northern ten tribes), and was a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah (whose ministry focused primarily on Judah).

Scholars believe his ministry would have spanned sixty or more years, for he was prophet during “the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel” (1:1). Hosea’s ministry concluded about the time Assyria conquered Israel and led the people away into captivity.

The Book of Hosea chronicles the ministry of one man who courageously, and faithfully warned God’s people that their wickedness and rebellion had provoked the wrath of God, and His judgment was imminent.

Hosea 1 – Romancing an Unfaithful Wife

The Command (1:1-2)

The book of Hosea opens with a startling command: “The Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord” (1:2).

Hosea was probably a young man when the LORD commanded him to take a wife. As a prophet, he would have had a testimony that was honoring to the LORD and worthy of His calling. Yet, the LORD commanded Hosea to take a wife who would bring shame and dishonor to his life and ministry. Some may debate if “Gomer” (1:3) was a harlot when he took her as his wife, and if not, then she would soon evidence the bent of the “children of whoredoms” (1:2).

The children of Israel had broken their covenant with the LORD, and played the spiritual harlot. Even so, Hosea was to marry a woman who would break the marriage covenant and bring heartache and disgrace to his ministry (1:2).

The Children (1:3-9)

Hosea “took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim” (1:3), and she conceived and gave birth to three children. Her firstborn was a son, whom the LORD commanded Hosea to name “Jezreel” (1:4) meaning “God sows” or “God scatters.” His name foretold the scattering of Israel as a people among the nations of the earth.

Gomer then gave birth to a daughter, whom God commanded be named, “Lo-ruhamah” (1:6), implying “Love withdrawn” or “Not Loved.” The LORD had determined He would no longer “have mercy upon the house of Israel” and would “take them away” (1:6-7). Lo-ruhamah’s name was a reminder the LORD’S love for Israel was unconditional; however, the people had broken their covenant with Him and disobeyed His law and commandments. The LORD would therefore withdraw His loving protection of them as a nation.

Hosea’s third born was a son whom he named, “Loammi” that interpreted meant, “not my people” (1:9). As a nation, Israel had committed spiritual adultery, and the LORD had determined He would divorce them as His people.

The Comfort (1:10-11)

Hosea 1 ends with the LORD promising, though Israel had forsaken Him, He would not altogether reject them. Affirming His love and covenant with the people, “the children of Israel would grow as a people, and their number would “be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered” (1:10). Though in the immediate, they would be displaced from their homes and land as a nation, Hosea prophesied there would come the day when the LORD would declare, “Ye are the sons of the living God” (1:10).

Hosea 1:11 has not been fulfilled to date, and the remnant of Jews in the modern nation of Israel are much like Gomer, for they are spiritual adulterers with the world. There is a day coming when “the children of Judah and the children of Israel [will] be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head” (1:11). Who will rule Israel? The LORD Jesus Christ when He comes as Judge and King.

Closing thoughtsHosea, whose name means “Deliverer or Savior,” was a model of the LORD, and his wife Gomer was a dramatic reminder that Israel had broken her covenant with the LORD, and had turned to serve and worship idols. Israel’s spiritual adultery demanded God’s judgment, but His love would not forget, or cast them aside forever (Zechariah 10:9).

What a wonderful, loving, and longsuffering God we serve! Great is His faithfulness!

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“The Hand that Rocks the Cradle” (Proverbs 31, 1 Kings 12)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 31, 1 Kings 12

The “virtuous woman” is the subject of Proverbs 31, perhaps the most beloved of all the Proverbs because it addresses the most central figure in life apart from our Creator—one’s mother. Like chapter 30, the authorship of Proverbs 31 has been debated down through the centuries; however, I feel there is much about this chapter that commends itself to having been authored by King Solomon. [Author’s note – A separate devotional for 1 Kings 12 is available at www.HeartofAShepherd.com]

Proverbs 31:1 – “The words [discourse; law] of king Lemuel, the prophecy [burden; tribute] that his mother taught him [instructed; discipline; chasten].”

There is no record of a king named Lemuel in ancient Israel or Judah, and many scholars believe Lemuel might have been a nickname Bathsheba gave to her son Solomon. Having lost her firstborn son in infancy, the one conceived in an act of adultery with David; one can understand why Bathsheba would dedicate Solomon to God, and in her heart, name him Lemuel (the literal meaning of Lemuel is “unto God” –lit. dedicated to God). For the sake of our devotional studies in Proverbs, I propose we view this chapter as Solomon’s memorial to his mother.

Verse 2 of Proverbs 31 records the Queen mother’s appeal to her son in a three-fold question:

Proverbs 31:2 – “What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows [dedication to God; binding covenant between mother and God]?”

Allow me to probe the meaning of the three questions proposed by the king’s mother.

1) “What my son?” (31:2a) – i.e. – What more can I say to you my son and king?

2) “What, the son of my womb?” (31:2a) – She reminds the king that she knew him in her womb; before he drew his first breath. She gave him life, and loves him as no one else could love him.

3) “What, the son of my vows?” (31:2a) – Like Hannah dedicated her son Samuel (1 Samuel 1:11), Bathsheba dedicated her son while he was in her womb. She remembers the first stirring of life and how she prayed for him. She had dedicated him to serve the Lord!

We are not told what moved Bathsheba to make an impassioned plea to her son. Perhaps her motherly instincts sensed the moral dangers Solomon would face. She knew all too well the temptations that beset a man of power, possessions, and popularity. The plea of the Queen mother resonated in her son’s heart, and he memorialized her virtuous qualities as an example for all women.

Someone has said: “The greatest moral power in the world is that exercised by a mother over her child.”

John Quincy Adams, the 6th president of the United States said concerning his mother, “All that I am, or ever have been, in this world, I owe, under God, to my mother.”

Closing thoughts – Read the entirety of Proverbs 31 today. It is my prayer the king’s praise of his mother will move husbands, sons and daughters to thank the LORD for loving mothers, and encourage them with words of affirmation and thanksgiving. Finally, in a day that is desperate for a moral compass, I pray there will be mothers who have been inspired from the king’s praise of his mother, to aspire to the qualities of a virtuous woman.

To the two mothers in my life, thank you for your loving sacrifices, and examples of Christ-like, unconditional love. (Proverbs 31:28-31)

[Author’s note – A separate devotional for 1 Kings 12 is available at www.HeartofAShepherd.com]

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Four Principles for a Rewarding Life (Ecclesiastes 11)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 11

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

Be Charitable. (11:1-4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Spiritual Benefits of Biblical Discipline” (Proverbs 23)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 23

Proverbs 23 is today’s Scripture reading, and as you will see, it is rich in metaphors that illustrate spiritual principles for life and daily living. Solomon is training his son, the future king of Israel, and instilling in him life lessons. He cautions his son concerning the enticements of the rich and powerful (23:1-3), and the enslaving sin of covetousness (23:4-5). He admonished him to not fall into the company of “big bellies and booze” (23:19-21), and urged him to treasure truth, wisdom, instruction and understanding (23:23).

Today’s devotional will consider Proverbs 23:12-16 , and the subject is the spiritual benefits of Biblical discipline.

Remembering the Book of Proverbs is a compilation of a father’s loving instructions to his son, we feel Solomon’s passion for his son to respond to loving discipline with a humble, teachable spirit.

Proverbs 23:12 “Apply [take; set] thine heart [mind, thoughts; emotions] unto instruction [warning; discipline; reproof], and thine ears to the words [speech; sayings] of knowledge [i.e., knowledge of good and evil].”  

Proverbs 23:12 places the responsibility of a right response to correction and discipline upon the child. We live in a permissive society that absolves its youth of personal responsibility, and condemns parents who determine to balance loving instruction with authoritative discipline. It is that misguided, unbiblical approach to parenting that has encouraged an undisciplined, lawless spirit in the youth of this generation.

Solomon challenged his son to harmonize his heart, thoughts, and emotions with what he had been taught from a child. Because we sin by nature, it follows that the bent of every son and daughter is to sin. Temperaments differ, and the degree or choice of sin are not the same; however, the spiritual reality is: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15).

Proverbs 23:13  “Withhold [keep back; deny; refrain] not correction [instruction; chastisement; discipline] from the child: for if thou beatest [strike; punish; smite] him with the rod [staff; stick; family scepter], he shall not die.” 

Solomon is not encouraging physical abuse, nor commending a parent who vents their anger and frustration on a child. Still, contrary to societal norms of the 21st century, the Word of God exhorts loving parents to recognize the bent of a child’s heart, and administer loving discipline.

Proverbs 23:14  “Thou shalt beat [strike; punish; smite] him with the rod, and shalt deliver [rescue; save; preserve] his soul [life; being; spirit] from hell.” 

To avoid confusion: Solomon was not calling for, or suggesting physical abuse. He was stating a principle that is the desire of every parent who longs to see their child turn from sin and follow righteousness.

Truth–The temporal pain of physical discipline is not comparable to an unbridled, undisciplined spirit that may drive a child to an early grave, and send his soul to the punishment of eternal hell.

Proverbs 23:15-16  “My son, if thine heart [thoughts; feelings; emotions] be wise [sound; restrained from acting in an evil manner], my heart shall rejoice [be joyful; extremely happy; glad], even mine.    
16 Yea, my reins [figurative of the mind] shall rejoice [jump for joy; exult; shout], when thy lips [language; speech] speak [say; declare] right things [upright; honest].”

A wise son or daughter is a delight to a parent’s heart! When a child chooses good over evil, and speaks words that are true, honest and sincere, the heart of the father swells with joy and pride.

I close with a promise for every son and daughter that will embrace wisdom, and follow the path of a godly parent’s loving instructions:

Ephesians 6:1-3  – “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2  Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) 3  That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

Copyright© 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Sovereign God, and A Lesson in Parenting (Proverbs 21-22)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 21; Proverbs 22

Proverbs 21

The Lord is Sovereign of His Creation (Proverbs 21:1-3)

We are once again reminded that God is Sovereign! He is the Ruler of His creation, and has all power and authority. He is involved in the affairs of man, and is working all things together according to His purpose, and for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28-29). He does not approve of the sinful actions and decisions of men; however, He is sovereign and is able to direct choices contrary to His will, to the end of accomplishing His eternal purpose (notice Joseph’s affirmation of that truth in Genesis 50:20).

Proverbs 21:1-3 is an exposition of the Sovereignty of God, and the authority of man.

Proverbs 21:1 “The king’s heart [mind; thoughts; will] is in the hand [under the authority and dominion] of the LORD, as the rivers [channels; canals; streams] of water: he turneth [bends; turns aside] it whithersoever he will [pleasure; desire; favor].”

All human authority is subservient to the authority of God. Men are not robots; however, they cannot act independent of God. God can, and does guide men’s choices to accomplish His plan and purpose. The LORD is sovereign, and like a farmer directs water through irrigation channels to his crops, He directs and channels the heart of a king where He wills (21:1b).  [Example of Pharoah in Exodus 10:1-2.]

Proverbs 21:2 – “Every way [road; journey; course of life] of a man is right in his own eyes [opinion]: but the LORD pondereth [weighs; measures] the hearts [mind; understanding].”

Proverbs 21:2 reminds us that God knows the heart, motives, and purpose in man. It is the bent of the human heart to perceive ourselves better than we are; however, God weighs and knows what lies within the hearts of men.

Finally, we are reminded that God’s focus is on the heart of man, and not his outward form or ritual (21:3).

Proverbs 21:3 – “To do [accomplish] justice and judgment [righteousness; conform to an ethical or moral standard] is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice [offerings].

Outward ritual, without inward devotion is hypocrisy. Though hypocrites offer sacrifices of money, service and outward conformity (1 Samuel 16:7), it is the heart of the righteous to obey the Lord.

Closing thoughts – God’s hand rests upon every human authority in your life. Look past the personalities, flaws, and failures of those in authority, and be confident: God is able to turn the hearts of men to accomplish His best for your life. Trust the Lord, and pray for those in authority! (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Proverbs 22

Parenting: A Lesson for the Fainthearted (Proverbs 22:6)

Proverbs 22:66Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Thousands of books and articles have been written on child rearing. Psychologists, psychiatrists, educators, counselors, pastors, neighbors, friends, and family, all have their opinions on how you should train and discipline your child. Yet, it has been my observation that most everyone is an expert on child training, until they have children of their own!

Proverbs 22:6 is one of the best known, and most quoted verses in Proverbs.  It has been the inspiration of godly parents, and a club of discouragement for parents wrestling with the will and path of a rebel. Allow me to amplify Solomon’s proverb with my own clarification in brackets.

Proverbs 22:6  “Train up [initiate; inaugurate; dedicate; consecrate] a child in the way [road; path; journey] he should go: and when he is old [aged; “hair on the chin”], he will not depart [turn aside; withdraw] from it.”

Many parents languish in the throes of discouragement when a child rebels, and turns from his parents. They might have embraced Proverbs 22:6, and believed it afforded them an absolute guarantee of a “happily ever-after ending.” Yet, when a son rejects his parents’ counsel, and goes his own way, godly parents often wrestle with guilt until they are driven to despair (too often heaped upon them by the judgments of others). Even the rebel might throw the responsibility of his wicked choices onto his parents, and other authorities in his life.

The problem: A proverb is a proverbial expression, a wise saying and a general truth. It is not a guarantee. In other words, Proverbs 22:6 is not a “parenting guarantee,” because it is subject to a child’s individual free will. Every child will choose to embrace, or reject parental instructions and commands. “Train up” carried in its original meaning, the practice of a mother chewing food for a suckling child, and then placing the chewed food on her child’s palate. Why? She was encouraging her child to develop a taste for solid food as he or she matures.

It is the prayer of godly parents that their children will have a taste, and desire for righteousness. Nevertheless, I remind you that Adam and Eve had a perfect Creator/Father, and He placed them in a perfect environment (the Garden of Eden). Yet, the first man and woman rebelled and chose to sin (Genesis 3:6-7).

Closing thought – The wicked influences of this sinful world, and its philosophies, are fighting for the heart of every child. There are no perfect parents; and every child has a will of their own. Nonetheless, I urge you to do all you can to set a godly example, teach your children the truths of God’s Word, expose them to godly influences, and insulate them from the ways and wiles of sin. Then, pray earnestly!

You may email the author at: HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Stingy Soul, and A Virtuous Woman (Proverbs 11-12)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 11; Proverbs 12

We are continuing to mine for golden nuggets of spiritual truth in the Book of Proverbs. I encourage you to study and meditate on today’s Scripture reading, but time and space allow only a summary of three verses in Proverbs 11, and one verse in Proverbs 12.

Proverbs 11

“You Poor, Stingy Old Soul” (Proverbs 11:24-26)

Proverbs 11:24-26 challenges us with a familiar spiritual principle, “Sowing and Reaping” (Galatians 6:7).  To state that principle in a common analogy: We not only reap what we sow, we also reap in proportion to how much we sow!

Proverbs 11:24  “There is that scattereth [disperses], and yet increaseth [adds to; surpasses]; and there is that withholdeth [keeps back; refrain; reserves for oneself] more than is meet [right; upright; due], but it tendeth to poverty [want; need].”

Consider an illustration of that proverb. In springtime, a farmer has some very important decisions to make. He must decide the crops he will plant in light of the harvest he plans to reap. He also must consider how much he hopes to gather and store up for winter. In other words, he must determine the amount of seed to plant in order to reach his harvest goal.

By contrast, a foolish farmer might hoard seed, and fail to value the potential of life and multiplication represented in one seed (insects and mold are always a threat to seeds stored in bins). For a farmer to withhold, and reserve seed which has the potential of life does indeed tend to poverty!

What is the application for believers? A believer who hoards his talents and gifts, and fails to be a steward of God’s grace and blessings, is like a farmer who hoards seed.

Two arenas come to mind: Financial stewardship, and the stewardship of ministry, talents and opportunities. There are believers who hoard wealth, and are blind to their responsibility to invest in God’s work and ministry. Some leave a great inheritance to their children, but enter heaven as little more than spiritual paupers. What a tragedy: To have the means to be a blessing, but elect to withhold from the Lord, His church and servants “more than is meet” (11:24)!

Solomon continued his lesson on stewardship by stating a proverb that is full of promise (11:25).

Proverbs 11:25 – “The liberal [blessed; prosperous] soul [life; person; heart] shall be made fat [satisfied; prosperous]: and he that watereth [satisfy; fill; quench the thirst of another] shall be watered [rain; flow as water; moisten] also himself.”

Joy and satisfaction come to the man who is generous with what God has entrusted to him. Remember: God’s people are merely conduits of His blessings, and when we give the overflow of our lives to the LORD (our time, talents, and gifts), He promises we will never want.

Proverbs 11:26  He that withholdeth [keep back; deny] corn [grain; i.e., wheat], the people [nation; community] shall curse [blaspheme; pierce] him: but blessing [prosperity] shall be upon the head [chief; top; ruler] of him that selleth [buy and sell grain] it.”

I have often wondered why men and women of wealth wait until their deaths to be a blessing to others. Why withhold a blessing when it is in your ability to give? Why hoard more than you need, when you have it in your power to be a blessing? Why watch your church and other ministries struggle, when you have been blessed with the means to be a source of joy and satisfaction?

Warning: A stingy soul will be cursed!
Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Proverbs 12

Womanhood Extols the Best, and the Worst of Human Character (Proverbs 12:4)

Proverbs 12:4 – “A virtuous woman [morally pure; good] is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones [like a cancer to the bones].”

The Scriptures address various kinds of women throughout its pages.  From Eve, the mother of humanity who entertained the beauty of forbidden fruit (Genesis 3), to the Virgin Mary who, though of humble means, was chosen as the mother of Jesus, God’s Only begotten Son (Luke 1:26-38).

Womanhood extols the best and the worst of human kind.

Our culture tends to idolize women who personify infamous qualities that a half-century ago would have been scandalous. Sadly, women who epitomize the best character qualities are seldom noted or praised, by family or peers.

A virtuous woman is one of godly character. She is morally upright, faithful to her husband, and worthy of the praise of her family and friends (Proverbs 31).  She brings out the best in her husband (Proverbs 31:11, 23), and is a joy and delight to her children (Proverbs 31:28).

Closing thoughts – Have you set your heart to love the Lord, and aspire to the highest virtues?  What is your reputation at school, work, in your neighborhood, and church?

Proverbs 12:4 is a lesson every man should note, and every woman should heed.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Hatred Reveals What Love Forgives” (Proverbs 10)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 10

We are considering Proverbs 10 for today’s Scripture reading. Our devotional will consider Proverbs 10:12, and Proverbs 10:31-32.

“Hatred Exploits What Love Conceals” (Proverbs 10:12)

Proverbs 10:12 – “Hatred [an attitude that detests, despises] stirreth up [awakens] strifes [discords; contentions]: but love [genuine, sincere love of a friend] covereth [conceals; hides; passes over] all sins [transgression; rebellion; guilt].”

Have you ever wondered why there is so much strife and discord in the world? Solomon diagnosed the root cause of a pervasive, contentious spirit, and stated simply: “Hatred stirreth up strifes” (10:12a). To state the same judgment in a different way: Hatred, not love, disrupts, denigrates, damages, and devastates all whose life it touches. Hatred provokes strife in marriages, families, friendships, and congregations.

Paul identified pride as the root cause of envy and strife in his letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:4).  John wrote concerning Diotrephes, who was a cause of grief and a source of discord in the early church: Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence [ambitious, and striving to be first] among them, receiveth us not (3 John 1:9). Some will dress up strife in a garb of religious piety; however, the presence of unresolved conflict is indicative of an unforgiving spirit. Such a spirit, if unchecked, will become antagonistic, and destroy friendships, families and fellowships.

A second principle from Proverbs 10:12 is, “love covereth all sins” (10:12b).

Biblical love does not overlook sin, for that would contradict the ways of the LORD, (Proverbs 3:11-12), and the Scriptures. After all, believers are commanded to lovingly, and meekly address sin in each other’s life (Matthew 18:15-17; Galatians 6:1). What does it mean, “love covereth all sins?”

Sincere, genuine love longs to forgive, and will not unnecessarily expose the sins, failures, and shortcomings of one who is loved. Biblical, Christ-like love is longsuffering, kind, gracious, and forgiving (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).

Closing thought – In his letter to believers in the 1st century, Peter wrote: And above all things have fervent charity [self-sacrificing love] among yourselves: for charity shall cover [forgives; overlooks] the multitude of sins [personal offenses]” (1 Peter 4:8).

You and I should not be surprised that hatred stirs up strife; however, we should be concerned that some who profess to love others, readily entertain and expose their failures.

Hatred reveals, what love conceals; hatred exploits, what love forgives (Ephesians 4:31-32).

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Careful: Your Lips Will Reveal Your Heart (Proverbs 10:31-32)

Proverbs 10:31 The mouth [speech; utterance] of the just [righteous; lawful] bringeth forth [utters; bears the fruit of] wisdom [shrewdness; skillful use of knowledge]: but the froward [perverse; swearing] tongue [speech; evil speaker] shall be cut out [cut down; destroyed; punished]. 

The tongue was a frequent subject of Solomon’s proverbs, and the Scriptures abound with examples of its use, and misuse. James wrote, “the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things…6  And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity…8 the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:5-6, 8).

Controlling one’s tongue is a challenge; however, it is not the small member in our mouth that is the trouble. The problem is the heart.

The words and conversations of the God-fearing righteous will evidence grace, godly wisdom and discernment. By contrast, the tongue of the wicked is perverse, and will be known for lies, and speaking evil of others. Jesus taught His disciples, “those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart…For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:18-19).

Proverbs 10:3232The lips [language; speech] of the righteous [just; lawful] know [perceive; understand; acknowledge; observe] what is acceptable [desired; delightful; pleasing]: but the mouth [speech; utterance] of the wicked [ungodly; lawless] speaketh forwardness [perverse; is obstinate].”

Listen to a man’s conversation long enough, and you can discern his character. We would do well to understand that words matter, and they are a window into the soul. The substance and character of a man will be revealed in his words. A good, just man will encourage the soul with words that edify, and are pleasing. A righteous man understands the power of a well-spoken word (Psalm 37:30). The wicked, however, are proud and their words cut, and conversations are perverse.

Closing thoughts – What do your words and conversations reveal about your character?

Be careful how you answer that question. The true measure of your inner man is revealed in your words and conversations. Understanding the power of a spoken word, we would do well to embrace Paul’s challenge to believers of the church in Colosse:

Colossians 4:66 Let your speech [word; conversation] be alway [ever] with grace [acceptable; favor; kindness], seasoned [i.e. spiced; prepared] with salt [purifying; a natural preservative], that ye may know how ye ought [should] to answer [respond] every man.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“A Cancer Called Adultery” (Proverbs 7)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 7

Proverbs 7 continues Solomon’s warnings concerning the devastating consequences of immorality (a theme you find throughout the book of Proverbs). I encourage you to read all of today’s assignment, but for the sake of brevity, my focus will be Proverbs 7:1-7. [Words and phrases in brackets are the amplifications and applications of the author.]

A Preamble (7:1-3)

Proverbs 7:1-3 – “My son, keep [preserve; observe] my words [sayings; speeches], and lay up [treasure] my commandments [i.e., do’s and don’ts] with thee.
Keep my commandments, and live; and my law [instructions; teaching] as the apple [pupil] of thine eye.
3 Bind [tie] them upon thy fingers [note – Deuteronomy 6], write [record; engrave] them upon the table of thine heart.”

Solomon was concerned that his son not be led astray by sexual lusts. He had witnessed the sorrow and tragedy caused by his mother and father’s adultery. Unfortunately, he walked the same kind of path, and it was one that neither his parents, nor his God would condone! The king fell into a practice often shared by 21st century fathers; he modeled the parenting philosophy: “Do as I say, Not as I do.” We read, “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father” (1 Kings 11:4).

Embracing the wisdom embodied in Proverbs 7:1-3, consider the following two-pronged application: 1) Parents must call their sons and daughters to moral purity, and address the moral character of their children by their words and example. 2) Wise sons and daughters are under obligation to cherish their parent’s instructions, and recall them to heart when temptations arise.

The Subtlety of Flattering Lips (7:4-5)

Proverbs 7:4-5 – “Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman [friend]:
5 That they [wisdom and understanding] may keep [preserve; be a hedge] thee from the strange [immoral] woman, from the stranger which flattereth [smooth; i.e., she leads him away] with her words.”

Concerned with the enticements of a “strange woman” [an immoral woman], Solomon urged his son to love wisdom as a sister, and understanding [discernment; insight] as an intimate friend (7:4). Tragically, it was not what Solomon taught, but what he practiced that became his son’s moral guide.

A Father’s Haunting Failure (Genesis 13:10-1319:1)

No parent can afford the luxury of failing to address the sexual perils of a deviant society. Yet, some fathers and mothers follow the reckless path of Lot (Genesis 13:10-1319:1), who moved his family from the company and influence of uncle Abraham (Genesis 13:11), into Sodom, an ancient city known for its perversity and unrestrained wickedness (Genesis 14:12; 19:1).

Lot failed to teach and admonish his children to fear the LORD, and when he learned God’s judgment was imminent, he made a futile attempt to cause them to flee the city. Tragically, his sons-in-law refused his warning, for he appeared to them as “one that mocked” (Genesis 19:14).

Closing thoughts – Solomon urged his son to hear, and remember his words, and to engrave his instructions upon his heart to serve as a moral compass (7:5). Instead, it was what he modeled, not what he taught that influenced his son’s life.

Are you vigilant regarding the dangers posed by an immoral culture? Are you modeling and guiding your children to take the high road in moral choices? Are you leading your family to seek the company and friendship of the godly?

Remember: Sexual immorality is a moral cancer to life, career, marriage, and family!

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith