Category Archives: Love

Four Traits of a Happy Man

September 20, 2017

Scripture Reading – Psalms 111-113

The psalms in today’s scripture reading begin with the same opening theme and call to worship— “Praise ye the LORD” (Psalms 111:1; 112:1; 113:1).  In essence, to “Praise ye the LORD” is to boast of Him; glory in Him; celebrate the LORD for He is Yahweh, Jehovah, God Eternal!

Psalm 111 begins with a vow to “…praise [give thanks] the LORD with my whole heart…” (111:1b).  Sincere praise of the LORD arises from a trusting, undivided heart.  The psalmist’s meditations on the LORD reflected on His works…the wonder and expanse of His creation (111:2), “His righteousness”— He is just, and “is gracious and full of compassion” (111:4b).

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

We find four traits of a “Happy” man in Psalm 112.   A “Happy” man is Blessed (112:1), Upright (112:4), Good (112:5-6a) and Righteous (112:7-9).

He is Blessed because he is the object of God’s grace (i.e. unmerited favor).

Because he “feareth the LORD” (lit. reveres the name and rejoices in the character of the LORD) and “delighteth greatly in His commandments” (112:1c), such a man finds the Law and Commandments of the LORD a delight (Psalm 1:1-2) and the overflow of God’s grace in His life affects his family (112:2).

Secondly, a “Happy” man is “Upright”, meaning just, righteous, a man who fears and reveres the LORD (112:4).  The “upright” are not exempt from dark days: they suffer sickness, deaths of loved ones, disappointments, betrayal of friends and broken promises; however, they have the assurance: “there ariseth light in the darkness” (112:4a).   David wrote from his experience, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

Believers go through dark times; however, they have assurance the light of the LORD will pierce the darkness.  Having experienced darkness and God’s grace, believers are “gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous” (112:4b).   Why are the upright inclined to be “gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous”?  Because they reflect the character of the God they love and serve!

Psalm 111:4 – “He [the LORD] hath made His wonderful works to be remembered: the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.”

Because they have known God’s light in the midst of darkness, the upright are gracious….kind to the needy and forgiving; full of compassion…merciful and tender.

Thirdly, a “Happy” man is a “good man” (112:5).

We notice four things about a “good” man’s character:  1) He is gracious in demeanor (pleasant and pleasing);  2) He is generous (“lendeth” to those in need);  3) He exercises “good sense”, guiding “his affairs with discretion” (112:5);  4) He is well “grounded” for “he [good man] shall not be moved for ever” (112:6).

The fourth and final trait of a “Happy” man is he is “righteous” (112:7-9).  Consider three qualities of this righteous man:

1) He is fearless… “he shall not be afraid of evil tidings” (112:7a) for he has a settled confidence in the LORD.

2) His heart is firm… “fixed, trusting in the LORD’ (112:7b) and “he shall not be afraid” (112:8b).

3) He is freehearted, generous, giving to the poor (112:9); he is not a hoarder of riches, but a steward of God’s blessings and a conduit ministering to those in need.

What is the response of the wicked to a man who is Blessed, Upright, Good and RighteousEnvy!

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

What do the wicked see in the “Blessed” man that provokes anger and grieves them?  Their joy! The joy and happiness of the godly is a grief to the wicked who grind their teeth like rabid dogs and “melt away”… consumed by their anger (112:10c).

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

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Lonely? The LORD is Waiting

August 30, 2017

Scripture Reading – Psalms 102-104

Our scripture reading today is three psalms, Psalm 102, Psalm 103 and Psalm 104.

Psalm 102 is a psalm of confession and repentance.  Although the author is not known, sincere believers will readily identify with his cry of repentance and the blessed promise the LORD hears our confession, forgives sin and restores His child to fellowship (Psalm 102:1-4).

In a series of vignettes (portraits), the psalmist paints for us the sorrows and afflictions he felt when he looked honestly at the spiritual, physical and emotional toll sin had taken on his life.   His days were like a puff of smoke, empty and void (102:3).   Like grass withering in the midday sun, his heart was dried up (102:4).   His flesh was gaunt and wasted, like a dead man walking (102:5).   “Like a pelican of the wilderness… an owl of the desert… a sparrow alone upon the house top”, he felt alone in his misery (102:6-7).   Summing up his miserable state, the psalmist declared his life was “like a shadow that declineth…[and] withered like grass” (102:11).

Notice the psalmist’s despair turned to hope when his focus moved from his sin to the LORD (Psalm 102:12-28). 

Psalm 102:12 – “But thou, O LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God]], shalt endure [dwell; abide; sit enthroned] for ever [eternity]; and thy remembrance [memorial] unto all generations [evermore].

The psalmist’s emphasis on “Zion” (the mount upon which Jerusalem is built) most likely places this psalm toward the end of the Babylonian captivity when the LORD promised Israel would be restored to her land as a nation (102:13-21).

With eyes of faith, the psalmist takes comfort knowing the LORD reigned in heaven and had not forgotten His people (102:17-20).   Longing to see Israel restored before his death, the psalmist prayed that his life would not be cut short (102:23-24).

Psalm 102 concludes with the focus upon the character of the LORD.  The writer of Hebrews quotes Psalm 102:25-28 and identifies Jesus Christ as the subject (Hebrews 1:10-12) revealing the Lord is Creator (102:25), Enduring (102:26), Immutable (102:27a), Eternal (102:27b) and Faithful (102:28).

I have no way of knowing the challenges we may face today; however, be confident of this…we are secure in the LORD (Psalm 102:28).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Joy Thief!

August 29, 2017

Scripture Reading – 1 Chronicles 15-19

I discussed in an earlier commentary the well-meaning desire of David to move the Ark of God to Jerusalem.   The employment of an ox drawn cart for that purpose; however, was a violation of God’s command and ended in tragedy when Uzza touched the Ark to steady it (Numbers 13:9-10).  David’s first response to God striking down Uzza is insightful– “David was displeased [angry; grieved], because the LORD had made a breach upon Uzza” (13:11).  David’s anger was soon followed by a righteous response, “David was afraid [reverential fear; in awe] of God that day” (13:12).

Our scripture reading begins with David’s second attempt to move the Ark of God to Jerusalem; however, this time he was wiser and made sure the Ark would be transported as God directed (1 Chronicles 15).

1 Chronicles 15:2 – Then David said, None ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites: for them hath the LORD chosen to carry the ark of God, and to minister unto him for ever.

Knowing the Ark represented the presence of the LORD in Israel, David commanded the elders of the tribe of Levi to “sanctify yourselves…that ye may bring up the Ark of the LORD God of Israel” (15:12).   Skilled singers and musicians led the celebration as the Ark was carried to Jerusalem (15:16-24).

With the Ark of God in the place David had prepared, the shepherd king and poet delivered to “Asaph and his brethren” a psalm of praise and thanksgiving (1 Chronicles 16:7-36).  When the celebration ended, David entrusted the daily ministry of worship and sacrifices to “Asaph and his brethren” (16:37-42).  With his heart filled with joy, “David returned to bless his house” (16:43).

1 Chronicles 17 introduces us to the prophet Nathan who will have a major role in David’s life and reign in the years ahead.   No doubt in a reflective mood in the comfort of his palace, David’s thoughts turned to building a temple for Israel to come to Jerusalem and worship the LORD (1 Chronicles 17:1-9).  Nathan gave his blessing to David’s desire (17:2); however, that same night the LORD revealed to the prophet that the king would not be permitted to build a temple; however, his son and successor would build a temple (17:3-12).

We find two covenant promises expressed to David in 1 Chronicles 17.  The first, that God would bless David, subduing his enemies and establishing his lineage on Israel’s throne forever (17:7-11).   The second promise, that David’s son and successor would not only build a house of worship to the LORD, but his throne “shall be established for evermore” (17:14); a promise fulfilled in the Messiah Jesus Christ.  The balance of 1 Chronicles 17 is a record of David’s praise and thanksgiving for God’s covenant promises (17:16-27).

1 Chronicles 18 memorializes David’s battles and the spoils of victory.

Acting as a statesman on behalf of Israel, David sent ambassadors from Israel to the Ammonites to express his sympathy to Hanun who succeeded to the throne of Ammon after his father’s death (19:1-2).   Younger counselors (“princes of the children of Ammon”) convinced the new king David’s ambassadors had come as spies (19:3).   In an act of provacation, Hanun shamed David’s servants shaving their beards and cutting off their robes to humiliate them, David and Israel (19:4).

Realizing their ill-treatment of David’s delegation was an offense, Hanun hired Syrian mercenaries to wage war with Ammon against Israel (19:6-7).  David sent Joab, his veteran general, to battle against the Ammonites and the Syrian mercenaries fled from Israel’s army (19:8-14).   When the Ammonites realized the Syrians had abandoned the battle they also fled from Israel’s army (19:15-17).   Receiving news from the battlefront, David personally led the armies against Syria (19:18-19).

In closing, permit me to draw your attention to 1 Chronicles 15 and an incident recorded at the close of the day of rejoicing when the Ark of the God arrived in Jerusalem.  While David and all Israel celebrated the arrival of the Ark, there was one contrary spirit…David’s wife (1 Chronicles 15:19; 2 Samuel 6:15-16, 20-23).  We read:

1 Chronicles 15:29 – “And it came to pass, as the ark of the covenant of the LORD came to the city of David, that Michal the daughter of Saul looking out at a window saw king David dancing [leaping for joy] and playing [rejoicing]: and she despised [had contempt; distain] him in her heart [mind and thoughts].”

David returned to the palace rejoicing, desiring to bless his home; however, he was greeted by a bitter wife who mocked and reproved him (2 Samuel 6:20).  The catalyst for Michal’s resentment in the hour of David’s joy is not stated; however, she may have resented David criticizing her father’s neglect of the Ark (1 Chronicles 13:3).

Friend, after 38 years of ministry I have learned some in the midst of the saints will not share my times of joy, rejoicing or vision irrespective of the evidences of God’s providences, blessings and leading.  Some will harbor a root of bitterness and poison others with their venom (Hebrews 12:15).  Some are proud and hold on to offenses, refusing to allow love to cover the sins of others (1 Peter 4:8).

Be forewarned friend, carnal saints and sinners are joy thieves who, at the height of your joy, will strike a blow to your soul!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Cherish the Best Things”

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 17-18

Today’s scripture reading is Proverbs 17 and Proverbs 18.  The following devotional commentary, originally written January 17, 2014, is an exposition and application of the “Better…than” principle found in Proverbs 17:1.

Proverbs 17:1 – Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife.

Americans have become a money-hungry, pleasure-seeking, self-indulgent people.  I believe the entitlement attitude that divides our nation and is turning us into a socialist-welfare state has its roots in my generation—the baby-boomers.   Our Depression/World War II era parents and grandparents lived through two decades of sacrifice, hardship and war, and determined to give their children “everything they never had”.   That they did, but at the sacrifice of something more important…instilling character, discipline and an appreciation for hard work and sacrifice in their children.

The “baby-boomers” have perpetuated the aspiration of their parents and instilled in their children (Generations X, Y, and the Millenniums) a spirit of indolence, self-gratification and entitlement that has brought our society to the brink of economic collapse.   Our homes are bigger, our possessions are greater; we have more time for recreation and self-indulgence than any generation before us; however, unhappiness, disappointment and family conflict abounds.

Solomon taught his son a “Better…than” principle we would be wise to heed. The king illustrated in a brief proverb the hollowness of riches and possessions when a family is torn by strife:

Proverbs 17:1 – “Better is a dry morsel [parched piece of bread], and quietness [peace; security] therewith, than an house [family] full of sacrifices [feastings] with strife [quarrels; hostilities].”

Application: It is Better to be poor, enjoy a quiet, simple life nourished by nothing more than a piece of dry crusty bread, than dwell in a home of plenty that is filled with hostility.  That proverb echoes a similar sentiment found in Proverbs 15:17.

Proverbs 15:17 – “Better is a dinner of herbs [green leafy vegetables] where love is, than a stalled ox [fat and ready for slaughter] and hatred therewith.”

Putting that verse in a modern context: It is better to enjoy a plate of greens and vegetables at Cracker Barrel with those you love, than dine on Prime Rib at Ruth Chris Steak House with family and friends who are the source of strife in your life!

Friend, money and possessions might buy you temporal joy and satisfaction, but lasting peace and joy cannot be purchased at any price! Be content with the simple life; cherish family and friends who genuinely love you.   Life is too short to chase passions that leave you empty and frustrated.

1 Timothy 6:6-8 – “But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“The Hand that Rocks the Cradle is the Hand that Rules the World”

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 14-15

Today’s scripture reading is Proverbs 14 and Proverbs 15. I encourage you to read both chapters and remind you my devotional commentary for the Book of Proverbs is found on my website, HeartofAShepherd.com. For today’s devotional, I will reprise one written January 14, 2014.

Proverbs 14:1 – “Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.”

The feminist movement of the 20th century, sometimes referred to as the “Women’s Liberation Movement”, did much to seek equality in areas that were justified [i.e. a woman’s right to vote; equal pay for equal work—are two of the major issues I applaud as right and just].   However, the diminishing of the role of wife and mother by the same movement has hastened the decay of marriage, family and our nation.  In an effort to break what they viewed as the constraints of traditional marriage and home, feminist have attacked and distorted God’s design for man and woman (Genesis 2:18, 21-25).

The Biblical role of a husband to his wife is that of provider, protector, lover and friend; after all, God’s observation was that “It is not good that the man should be alone”  (Genesis 2:18).   The woman’s role is that of “help meet” to her husband (Genesis 2:18) and “nurturing” mother to her sons and daughters (Proverbs 31).  Sadly, it is the very essence of womanhood and the powerful influence that women have in their traditional roles that feminist have distorted and nearly destroyed.

The powerful influence of the women in our lives and homes is the theme of the opening verse in Proverbs 14.  Solomon draws a contrast between the influence of a woman of wisdom and a foolish woman.

Proverbs 14:1 – “Every wise woman buildeth [establish; construct; manufacture] her house: but the foolish [woman who rejects wisdom and instruction] plucketh it down [beat down; break down; destroy] with her hands.”

wise woman builds her family (14:1a). The quality of wisdom implied is more than a “love of knowledge”; the implication is that she loves the Lord and His commandments. She is wise because she is spiritually minded and exercises spiritual discernment.

Prov 1:7 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

By contrast, a foolish woman (14:1b) destroys her family; she “plucketh it down with her hands”. She is a rebel…rejecting her God-given role, refusing instruction and bristling at correction. She is not spiritually minded, lacks discernment and destroys those closest to her.

For those who have been so blessed, thank God for godly wives and nurturing mothers. Pray for the women in your life, family and church—the responsibility of being a wise woman has never been greater or more needed.  Encourage them; thank them; and praise them.

 [P.S. On a personal note: Every day there are scores of readers from all over the world who find their way to my devotionals on Proverbs. I aspire to edit and one day publish my practical ponderings in Proverbs in a devotional book and e-book format; unfortunately, unpublished authors have to “self-publish”!]

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Count Your Days and Your Blessings!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 90-92

Today’s reading in Psalms, Psalms 90, 91 and 92, are among my favorite in the Book of Psalms; however, for the sake of brevity and application, my focus will rest upon the first.

Psalms 90 is a prayer and song of praise authored by Moses and is therefore the oldest of the psalms.   The eternality of God as Creator (90:2) and the temporalness of man’s earthly life (90:3) are contrasted in the opening verses of Psalm 90.

When I was young I did not grasp fully the meaning of Psalm 90:4 – “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night”; however, I have come to know all to well the fleeting of days, months, years and life itself.

When I was younger and anticipating milestones of life and achievement, time seemed to stand still; however, now that I am older, I realize a lifetime might pass and seem “as a watch in the night” (90:4) and our life “is soon cut off, and we fly away” (90:10).

Less someone be tempted to wallow in self-pity and sorrow for the years that are past and cannot be reclaimed, Moses sets forth a principle that should guide our future:

So teach [help us to know and understand] us to number [make them count] our days [time; whether our youth or old age], that we may apply [give; attain] our hearts [understanding; i.e. thoughts] unto wisdom [discernment; i.e. wise in decisions and choices] (Psalm 90:12).

How different our lives might be if we knew the day God has appointed for us to die!   No doubt there are many things we treat as critical and consume us that in the scheme of life are insignificant at best.   The same is true of moments and opportunities we give little thought to and treat as trivial that should be treasured.   Whether we are young or old, every day is a gift of God’s loving grace and to be numbered and treasured.

Friend, let us set aside pettiness and treasure the life and opportunities God will give us this day.  Let us love the LORD and love our neighbor. Let us express by our words and actions, “This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

God’s Call to Holiness

Monday, July 17, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 16-18

After addressing the issue of leprosy (Leviticus 13-14), the opening verse of Leviticus 16 reminds us of a tragedy that occurred in the priesthood when two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, “offered strange [foreign] fire before the LORD, which He commanded [charged] them not” (Leviticus 10:1) and were slain for their sin against the LORD (Leviticus 10:2).

Reminding us the office of high priest was a holy office and Aaron’s ministry before the LORD on behalf of the people was a sacred duty; the LORD instructs Moses the high priest was only to enter the holy place, the “holy of holies”, once a year (16:2) on “the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month” (16:29).   The Day of Atonement, known as “Yom Kippur” and the “Sabbath of Sabbaths”, is the most holy day on the Jewish calendar and was the day the high priest offered sacrifices for nation’s sins against God.

The pattern of blood sacrifices was necessary to remind all sinners the penalty of sin is death and there is no forgiveness of sins apart from the shedding of blood, for “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).

Once a year and every year, the high priest offered sacrifices for the sins of the people.  Under the new covenant, this annual ritual is no longer needed following Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross for sin, His burial and resurrection from the dead. We read in the Book of Hebrews,

Hebrews 9:24-28 – “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
25  Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
26  For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
27  And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
28  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.”

Leviticus 17 continues the LORD’s instructions to Moses concerning sacrifices the priests were to offer for the people before the door of the tabernacle.   Thirteen times in chapter 17 the centrality of blood sacrifices for sin is mentioned and explicit instructions are given regarding the offerings to the LORD, including the prohibition regarding the consumption of blood (17:10-14).   For those curious regarding the meaning of “Kosher” meats; they are meats derived from animals slaughtered and the blood drained according to Biblical guidelines.

Morality and the sanctity of marriage is the subject of Leviticus 18:1-30 and one that should be a subject of teaching in the 21st century church.   Several moral issues are addressed including the prohibition of incest (18:6-19), adultery (18:20; Exodus 20:14), homosexuality (18:22), and bestiality (18:23).

The wicked immoral practices the people might remember from Egypt and the immorality that might observe in the new land were prohibited.  In other words, the world was not to be the standard of God’s people in conduct and lifestyle.  Israel was to not follow in the ways of Egypt and Canaan (Leviticus 18:3; 24-29).  The LORD commanded His people, “Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God” (18:4).  Excommunication from fellowship and living among the people was the judgment against any who chose to walk contrary to the law and commandments (18:29).

Friend, there was a time the church and God’s people set the moral standard for these United States and defined a godly lifestyle according God’s Word, law and commandments.   It troubles me to observe the average Christian home in America has an appetite for the world and looks to society, politicians, judges, and liberal media for their moral judgments.  Our homes, churches and schools will not be blessed until we allow our consciences to be disciplined by God’s Word, law and commandments (18:30).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith