Category Archives: Marriage

“Who is Teaching Johnny?” (The Four Be’s of Parenting) – this Sunday at Hillsdale.

You are invited to join me as I continue a brief, “politically incorrect” family-life series titled, “Who is Teaching Johnny?” this Sunday, May 15, 10:30am.

The morning worship service will be broadcast live at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org (Tampa, FL) and www.DailyTestify.com.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

“Who Is Teaching Johnny?” – The battle for your child’s soul.

* I am beginning a new Family-Parenting Series titled, “The Four Be’s of Parenting” for Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8, 2022. This article is the introduction to the first sermon of the series, and is titled “Who is Teaching Johnny?” 

We are living in a world that has been taken over by a liberal ideology that is anti-family, anti-God, and anti-America. From the White House to the local School Board, there is an assault on natural rights (freedoms given by God to man), and an erosion of Constitutional, civil liberties that is unprecedented.

Consider the words of the founding fathers of these United States of America: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” (Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776). Civil liberties are not granted by government to citizens, but are to restrain government from imposing its will on the governed. As Americans, we are not subjects of the government, but the government is subject to the will of “We the People.”

In 1980, pastor and author Tim LaHaye published The Battle For The Mind, and exposed the philosophy and goals of Humanism. LaHaye gave shocking examples of Humanism’s goals and encroachment into America’s public education system, and the goal of humanists to reshape American society. Forty years later, we are witnessing the effect of humanism as the United States has seen a cultural shift that is anti-God, anti-family, and anti-America.

Humanist have taken over government and judicial systems. Public education, entertainment, social media, and the flow of news are controlled by humanists. They are committed to reshaping the minds and values of our youth and undermining parental authority. Radicalized humanists have mobilized a coordinated assault on the unalienable rights of the human spirit. They are determined to enslave the world to a utopia ruled by an elite few.

Fortunately, this past year some parents were awakened by radicals usurping parental rights and using the public education system to drive a wedge between children and parents. Black Lives Matter, Antifa, anarchists, liberal educators and politicians (to name a few), were unmasked as they assaulted traditional family values. Under the guise of “Critical Race Theory” and WOKE (purportedly addressing societal injustices and racism), radicals are spurning common sense for their humanistic creed.

The erosive effect of humanism and its socialist philosophy is staggering. There has been a rejection of God and family values, and a desensitization to sin and moral depravity. Instead of utopia, the humanist’s ideology has eroded the traditional family, giving us a nation where, according to the 2022 United States Census Bureau, 23% of US children live in single parent households (more than 3 times the world’s rate), and over 40% of children born in the US are born to unmarried women (Centers for Disease Control – CDC – 2022).

The humanists’ utopia has given us modern day slavery, described as Human Trafficking and Sex Trafficking, with an estimated 20.1 million forced labor victims, and 4.8 million sex trafficking victims. The US State Departmentestimates there are 14,400 to 17,500 sex trafficking slaves in the US in 2022.

Contributing further to the erosion of our families and national future is the increased use of illicit drugs and alcohol among our youth. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse, in 2022 there are 2.08 million or 8.33% of 12- to 17-year-olds who have used drugs in the last month. Adding to the crisis is 60.2% of teens admit to binge drinking.

In spite of the demoralizing bad news, there is good news! Though the world has changed, the nature of man is constant from generation to generation. There is hope, for God’s Word has the answer to the crisis our homes, schools, churches, and nation are facing. If our nation and liberties are to be saved, it will begin in our homes as parents rise to the challenge.

Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Parents of the 21st century must shoulder the privilege and responsibility for teaching their children, including two fundamental concerns: Who is teaching Johnny? What is he being taught?

The founding fathers of the United States of America often spoke of “Republican Virtue,” the belief that self-government demands self-discipline. Of course, self-discipline implies the existence of boundaries between the acceptable and unacceptable. It was the conviction of that generation that moral values must be transmitted through moral indoctrination. In other words, the battlefield in the past and in our day is not political, but spiritual.

A battle is being waged for the minds and souls of our children, and the enemy is imbedded in our government, schools, and culture. The adversaries of the home are unwavering in their dogma, and determined to indoctrinate our children with a world-view that is anti-God, anti-family, and anti-America.

Lose the war with humanism, and we lose the hearts, minds and souls of our children.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com
Live broadcast @ www.HillsdaleBaptist.org

* The above is an introduction to the first message of my new family series titled, “The Four Be’s of Parenting.” This Sunday’s message, “Who is Teaching Johnny?” will be presented in the 10:30 AM worship service and broadcast live on www.HillsdaleBaptist.org.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Harden Not Your Heart (Jeremiah 2; Jeremiah 3)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 2; Jeremiah 3

Jeremiah 2 and 3 are not only historically rich in detail, but spiritually relevant for our day. Unfortunately, the length of our text dictates today’s focus center on Jeremiah 2. As you will see, the prophet employed a lot of symbolism to teach spiritual truths the LORD had instructed him to deliver to Judah.

The LORD Loved Israel as a Groom Loves His Bride (Jeremiah 2:1-3)

You will notice the analogy of God’s people behaving like an adulterer is found in both Jeremiah 2 and 3. Jeremiah was commanded to go to the city of Jerusalem, and remind the people how the LORD loved Israel as a young groom loves his bride (2:1-3).

Israel had been a bride to the LORD in the wilderness, and He had loved and cherished the people (2:2). Choosing Israel, the LORD set the nation apart from the heathen for Himself (2:3). He was the protector of His people. Yet, Israel had rejected the LORD, disobeyed His Law and Commandments, and broke their covenant with Him.

Ten Symbols of Israel Spiritual Adultery (Jeremiah 2:4-37)

1) Disloyal – Israel had become an adulterer (2:4-12)

Like an adulterer forsakes the love of her husband, Israel had forsaken the LORD (2:4-5). The LORD questioned, “What iniquity have your fathers found in me?” (2:5a) In other words, What have I done that you would break your covenant with me?

Jeremiah reminded the people how the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness. When they thirsted in the desert, He provided them water. He gave them “a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof” as their inheritance (2:7a). Yet, by their sins and idolatry, the people defiled the land God had given them for an inheritance (2:7). Like a loving, longsuffering husband, the LORD longed for wayward Israel to return to Him (2:9-12).

2) DepartedBroken Cisterns: Israel had departed. (2:13)

Cisterns are underground caves, dug out of stone to retain water. By plastering the inside of a cistern, the people were able to store drinkable water. Using the imagery of a cistern, the LORD declared Israel had “forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (2:13). In other words, Israel had rejected the LORD, broken covenant with Him, the sustainer of life, and “the fountain of living waters” (2:13a). The people had embraced error, and fashioned themselves idols. In effect, they contented themselves with cisterns that could “hold no water” (2:13b), nor satisfy a spiritual thirst. (Note – John 4:13-14where Jesus introduced Himself as the “well of water springing up into everlasting life,” John 4:14).

3) Disregarded – The LORD had declared, “Israel is my son” (Exodus 4:22), but the people had rejected Him and become slaves (2:14-19).

Seven Portraits of a Backslider (2:20-37)

4) Determined – Like a stubborn ox refuses a yoke, Israel refused to bear their covenant with the LORD (2:20).

5) Degenerate – Israel had become like a wild vine (2:21).

6) Defiled – Israel had committed iniquity, and no sacrifices could purge her sins (2:22).

7) Despairing – Israel was like wild animals, lost and wandering (2:23-25).

8) Disgraced – Israel’s idolatry was her humiliation, and shame; like the shame and humiliation a thief suffers when discovered (2:26-27).

9) Disobedient – Like rebellious children (2:30), the people continued in their disobedience, and though chastised, they refused to repent (2:30-35).

10) Despised – Judah would become captives, prisoners of war, for the LORD would reject them. They would bear the shame and sorrow they had witnessed when Israel was led away captive (2:36-37).

Closing thoughts – I conclude with three observations.

1) Any decisions you make apart from God’s leading, will eventually lead to bondage. Israel and Judah had broken covenant with the LORD, and took paths that left them enslaved to sin, and eventually slaves of Babylon.

2) Sins may have generational consequences (Exodus 20:5). The influence of one’s sinful choices may be carried forward for generations.

3) Hardening one’s heart, and rejecting the LORD’s forgiveness, can lead one to despair, “There is no hope” (2:25).

Hebrews 3:1515While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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What Love Is This?

Scripture reading – Hosea 2; Hosea 3

Hosea 1 introduced us to the prophet Hosea, and God’s command that he take a “wife of whoredoms” (1:2). That unequal marriage was purposed to serve as a vivid portrait of the spiritual adultery Israel had committed against the LORD. Like the harlot in this tragic tale, God’s people had broken covenant with Him, and worshipped and served idols.

Hosea 2

Hosea 2 opens with the plea of a heartbroken husband, for Gomer (Hosea’s wife and the mother of his three children) had left her marriage and abandoned her family (2:1). Hosea appealed to his younger children, Ammi(without the prefix “Lo,” rendering the youngest son’s name “my people,” 1:9; 2:1), and his daughter Ruhamah(again without the prefix “Lo,” thus meaning “loved,” 1:6; 2:1), “Plead with your mother…let her therefore put away her whoredoms” (2:2).

Drawing a parallel with Gomer’s adultery and Hosea’s sorrow as her husband, Israel had committed spiritual whoredom (2:3), and the LORD warned He would withhold His mercy and compassion they had taken for granted as a nation (2:4).

God’s Chastening (2:5b-13)

Like Israel, Hosea’s wife was guilty of ingratitude (2:5b-9). She took for granted her husband’s loving care, and foolishly turned to her lovers to meet her needs (2:5b).

Just as Gomer, Hosea’s wife, was unappreciative of her loving husband, so Israel took  for granted the LORD’S love for them. The nation “did not know that [the LORD] gave her corn, and wine, and oil, And multiplied her silver and gold, Which they prepared for Baal” (2:8). The LORD therefore, determined He would remove His blessing from the nation (2:9).

Although the people continued to celebrate the Lord’s feast days (2:11), their heart was far from God. They had forgotten the LORD, and He promised that their sins would inevitably bring them to an inglorious, humiliating end (2:12-13).

Redeeming Love (2:14-23; 3:1-5)

Compassion (2:14-23)

Hosea loved his wife, even as the LORD loved Israel. Reflecting God’s love for His wayward people, the prophet promised to restore Gomer as his wife. He promised to “allure her” and to meet her needs by giving “her her vineyards” (2:14-15).

Again, we read a parallel of Hosea’s love for Gomer in God’s promise to remove the idols where Israel had gone a whoring, and re-establish His covenant with them (2:18). In spite of the spiritual waywardness of the nation, God promised He would restore His people with “lovingkindness, and in mercy” (2:19).

Hosea 2:19-23 has not been fulfilled, but one day it will be fully realized when Jesus Christ reigns on David’s throne. Then the LORD will say “Ammi” of the children of Israel, “Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God” (2:23).

Command (3:1)

The prophet’s scandalous marriage to Gomer was the backdrop to a portrait of Israel’s unfaithfulness to the LORD. The nation had left the LORD, broke covenant with Him, and committed spiritual whoredom with the idols of the heathen nations. In that same way, Gomer played the harlot, broke her covenant of marriage, and rejected her husband’s love (3:1).

Cost (3:2-3)

In spite of her transgressions, and the shame Gomer had brought to her husband and household, God commanded Hosea to find his wife and restore her.  Hosea sought and found her…a broken, wasted woman, being sold in the slave market (3:2). There he purchased his wife for “fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley,” half the price of a household slave (3:2).

Yet, the prophet lovingly assured Gomer of his commitment, and invited her to abide with him. If she would set aside her adulterous ways, he would restore her as his wife (3:3).

Closing thoughts – Hosea’s love for Gomer was a portrait of God’s forgiving, unconditional love, and compassion for Israel (3:4-5). Hosea prophesied, though Israel had played a spiritual whore, the day would come when the LORD would restore His people (3:5).

I remind believers, the love the LORD expressed for wayward Israel is the same love He has for His church, and has commanded a husband to have for his wife. We read,

25Husbands, love your wives, even as [to the same degree] Christ also loved [sacrificially loved] the church, and gave himself for it.” (Ephesians 5:25)

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

An Invitation to the Great Feast (Isaiah 25)

Scripture reading –  Isaiah 25

As we have noted in earlier devotionals, the prophecies of the Old Testament often present Bible students with an imminent fulfillment, as well as, a far-reaching application. Isaiah 25 is no exception to that rule.

Recent Scripture readings (Isaiah 13-23) have been concerned with God’s judgment against the nations that were the enemies of His people. Isaiah had prophesied that Assyria would be used by the LORD to destroy neighboring nations for their wickedness, including the fall and captivity of the northern ten tribes of Israel. Yet, God did intervene for Judah (the southern kingdom whose capital was Jerusalem), and He spared that people for a brief season.

Isaiah 24 presented us with a portrait of God’s universal judgment of the earth during the Tribulation, and concluded with Christ’s reign over the nations of the earth at His Second Coming. In its imminent application, Isaiah 24 was most likely a revelation of Babylon’s overthrow of Jerusalem, and the seventy-year exile of the people of Judah.

Isaiah 25 transitions from God’s judgment (Isaiah 23-24) to His people rejoicing in anticipation that their captivity would be for a season. Knowing the prophetic vision of mighty Babylon’s fall, the prophet Isaiah rejoiced that the LORD is a refuge for His people, and gives strength and rest to the poor and needy (25:1-12).

A Song of Praise for Deliverance (25:1-5)

Worshipping the LORD in song, Isaiah declared regarding Babylon, “thou hast made of a city [Babylon] an heap [a pile of rubble]; Of a defenced [walled] city a ruin: A palace of strangers to be no city; It shall never be built” (25:2). Powerful rulers have aspired to rebuild ancient Babylon, but its ruins remain today as a testament of Isaiah’s prophecy.

The fall of Babylon would be sudden (Isaiah 13:19-22), and other nations would see in its destruction the sovereign hand of God, and would glorify and fear the LORD (25:3).

As a people, the Jews survived the Babylonian captivity, and their return to their homeland was a testimony of God’s care. The poor and needy of Judah would find the LORD was a “refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, When the blast of the terrible ones [enemies of Judah] is as a storm [i.e., nothing more than a thunderstorm]against the wall [of the city]” (25:4). Though the sounds of battle might rage [“noise of strangers”] (25:5a) and the heat of battle might afflict, the prophet foresaw how the LORD’S presence would be like “the shadow of a cloud” (25:5b).

The Millennial Kingdom: Rejoicing in the Bounty of God’s Care (25:6-8)

Isaiah prophesied of a day when believers would be gathered together “in this mountain” [Mount Zion, upon which Jerusalem was built], for a “feast of fat things” (25:6). This feast will bring together the nations of the world, who would gather at Jerusalem to worship the LORD.

The feast described here has not been fulfilled (25:6), but I believe it will be fulfilled at Christ’s Second Coming. The LORD will call believers from all nations and people, and invite them to gather with Him at a Great Feast (Matthew 22:1-14; Luke 14:15-24).

When Christ reigns, there will be a peace on the earth like humanity has never known, for the “vail” of sorrow that had been “spread over all nations” will be lifted (25:7). In that day, the LORD “will swallow up death in victory; And the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; And the rebuke [shame] of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: For the Lord hath spoken it” (notice those promises are repeated in Revelation 7:14; 21:4).

A Confession of Faith in the LORD (25:9)

“In that day,” when Christ reigns in Jerusalem, believers will confess, “Lo, this is our God; We have waited for him, and he will save us: This is the Lord; we have waited for him, We will be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (25:9).

Why Should God’s People Trust the LORD? (25:10-12)

The Jews will witness the sovereign hand of the LORD upon Jerusalem (25:10). They will confess in that day how the LORD had crushed Moab, and “trodden [trampled Moab] down for the dunghill [hill of manure]” (25:10b). The Moabites will attempt to flee [swim away] from God’s judgment, but the LORD “shall bring down their pride” [humbling, and humiliating them, 25:11]. The fortress and high walls of Israel’s enemies will afford them no safety, for the LORD will bring their walls “to the ground, even to the dust” (25:12).

Closing thoughts – Moab is a type representing the heathen nations of the world, and their pride, and false religions. Like Moab, there will be a day when the armies of the world will be crushed and humiliated (25:10-11). When that day comes, and Christ reigns on the earth, His enemies will be defeated, and there will be no death, no sorrows, and no tears (Revelation 21:1-4).

Only believers, clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, will be invited to the Great Feast of the LORD. Have you accepted your invitation? “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 24:14).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

The Shame and Sorrow of Compromise (2 Chronicles 19; 2 Chronicles 20)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 19; 2 Chronicles 20

Our Scripture reading for this final day of the year is 2 Chronicles 19 and 20.

The setting of 2 Chronicles 19 follows the bloody battle at Ramoth-Gilead (2 Chronicles 18), and the death of Israel’s king, Ahab. Jehoshaphat had returned home from the battle in peace (19:1), in spite of his foolish compromise with Ahab and the displeasure of the LORD (19:1).

As the king approached Jerusalem, he was met in the way by the prophet Jehu (he had been a prophet in Israel, but had moved to Judah 1 Kings 16:1-7). Jehu rebuked the king, saying, “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord” (19:2).

Though He had despised Jehoshaphat’s compromise with the wicked, idolater Ahab, the LORD, nevertheless spared, and blessed the king of Judah whose son had married Ahab’s daughter. Yet, as we will soon see, the effects of Jehoshaphat’s unequal yoke with Ahab will have dire consequences for the throne of David and God’s people (21:3-7). In spite of His displeasure, the LORD spared and blessed the king of Judah, because he had “taken away the groves out of the land, and [had] prepared [his] heart to seek God” (19:3).

Jehoshaphat was a gifted administrator, and one of his great accomplishments was the foresight to put in place judges who were charged with applying the law and commandments judiciously (19:5-11). We read, the king “set judges in the land [in the walled cities]6And said to the judges, Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for man, but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgment” (19:5-6).

Imagine how different our world would be if judges in our day were committed to judging matters according to the will and the Word of the LORD. Jehoshaphat charged the judges to fear and revere the LORD for He is righteous, and to have no “respect of persons, nor taking of gifts [accept no bribes]” (19:7).

The king also assigned judges (Levites, priests, and the high priest) who were charged with judging matters in Jerusalem, and settling controversies and conflicts that would arise in the capital city (19:8). Jehoshaphat admonished the judges to rule according to “law and commandment, statutes and judgments,” and “warn [the people] that they trespass not against the Lord” lest they suffer His wrath (19:10). The matter of the law and judges concluded with a distinction being drawn between rulings in spiritual matters, which were the responsibility of the high priest, and civic matters, which fell upon “Zebadiah, the son of Ishmael” (19:11).

2 Chronicles 20

Time and space prevent a thorough study of 2 Chronicles 20; however, it is a chapter that begins with Jehoshaphat and Judah enjoying the blessings and protection of the LORD. In this chapter, God blessed His people for their faith, and rewarded them with a great victory over their enemies, without the soldiers of Judah lifting a sword or spear (20:1-21).

The LORD caused Judah’s enemies, the Ammonites, and Moabites, to turn, and destroy each other’s army (20:22-23). When the army of Judah came upon the battlefield, they saw a landscape littered with the bodies of their enemies, and a spoil so great it took three days to strip the bodies of the precious jewels that were on them (20:24-28). Sadly, the godly legacy of Jehoshaphat ended with yet another compromise with a heathen king (20:31-37).

Closing thoughts – Jehoshaphat will die (21:1-7), and tragically, Jehoram his son will not follow in his father’s godly legacy. Influenced by his wife’s family, the son of Jehoshaphat, will walk “in the way of the kings of Israel…for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife” (21:6).

In the words of the apostle Paul, Be not deceived: evil communications [companions] corrupt good manners [morals] (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Copyright © 2021 – 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

Five Strangers That Consume Happiness and Three Things that Never Satisfy (Ecclesiastes 6)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 6

Our study in the Book of Ecclesiastes continues with King Solomon echoing a sentiment I suggest can be summed up in three words: Life is not fair! Writing from his observations of men’s lives, we read:

Ecclesiastes 6:1–21There is an evil [depravity; distress] which I have seen under the sun, and it is common [great] among men: 2A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour [abundance; glory], so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power [control] to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it [feeds upon; consumes]: this is vanity [empty], and it is an evil [bad; displeasing] disease [grief].

What had Solomon concluded was an injustice, and therefore not fair? It was that men labor, store up riches, wealth, and possessions, only to leave it all to others. The king concluded; it is a grief that is common, an universal experience. Men spend their lives becoming rich, acquiring possessions, obtaining honors, only to leave all to those who come after them.

I suggest five “strangers” that enter uninvited into a family’s life, and steal their happiness, and wealth.  (Ecclesiastes 6:1–2)

Disease: Sickness consumes not only a man’s strength and vitality, but may leave him physically wasted and financially ruined. Divorce is another stranger; it not only destroys a family, but legal proceedings plunder a family of its home, possessions, and savings. Disobedience: rebellious children rob parents not only of their joy, but can bring financial woes upon the parent that enable a child’s rebellion. A fourth stranger is represented in  Disasters, such as natural calamities (hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, earthquakes, drought), and human calamities (war, and the danger of living in a violent society) can destroy a family’s wealth. Of course, the greatest “stranger” that will inevitably come knocking is Death: The death of a spouse, child, or the reality of one’s own mortality.

Three Things That Do Not Satisfy (6:3-8)

Solomon proposed three things men pursue, but do not bring happiness and fulfillment. The first is found in multiples: The man who begets many children, and lives many years (6:3-6). Solomon had observed children more concerned with their rights of inheritance, than they were in honoring their parents. He concluded, it would be better to be stillborn, than live to a ripe old age, and your children neither love or honor you (6:3-6).

Secondly, some men believe if they work harder, and longer hours, they will achieve success and happiness (6:7). Yet, a man might climb the ladder of success, earn titles, and gain fame, but die a miserable soul.

Lastly, some men pursue knowledge, believing academic achievement is the path to happiness (6:8). Still, having one’s name engraved on a “Who’s Who” plaque, or earning the applause and admiration of men, will not satisfy the hunger of an eternal soul.

What, then, satisfies the soul of man? (6:9-12)

Having a right perspective, and outlook on life is the path to happiness (6:9). It is better to be satisfied with what you see, than it is to be driven about by lusts for temporal possessions and vain pleasures (6:10). You see, God is eternal, and His purposes are “named already” (6:11). Did you know that nothing surprises God? He is sovereign, and we dare not “contend with Him,” for He is not only mightier, but also wiser than we (6:10).

Closing thoughts – “Many things” might attract our affections for a season. We might also increase in goods and honors, but in the end all is vain (6:11). God is loving and benevolent (6:12), and only those who trust Him will be satisfied.

Isaiah 45:9 – “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!”

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