Category Archives: Ministry

The Majesty of God, the Eternal Judge (1 Chronicles 18; Psalm 50)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 18; Psalm 50

Today’s Scripture reading comprises Psalm 50, and 1 Chronicles 18. You should be familiar with the narrative of the latter, for it chronicles events we considered in a prior study of 2 Samuel 8. Psalm 50, therefore, is the focus of today’s devotional.

Psalm 50

The title of Psalm 50, “A Psalm of Asaph,” introduces a song writer who was a chief musician during the reign of David (1 Chronicles 6:39; 16:7). This is one of twelve psalms attributed to Asaph. The occasion for the writing of the psalm is not given; however, it rejoices in the LORD as a righteous judge (50:1-6), encourages the saints of God in their worship (50:7-15), and admonishes the wicked for their sin (50:16-21).

God, the Righteous Judge (50:1-6)

Knowing the names of God define His character, consider what we can learn of Him in the introductory verse: The mighty God [El Elohim – Mighty Ruler; Great God; Supreme], even the Lord [Yahweh; SELF-EXISTENT ONE], hath spoken, and called [summoned] the earth [all inhabitants] from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof” (50:1).

Psalm 50:2 declares the majesty of God: “2Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined;” while Psalm 50:3 announces He is coming: “3Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: A fire shall devour before him, And it shall be very tempestuous round about him.”

I believe it is the Second Coming of Christ that is described here, for the LORD is pictured as one coming in judgment [like a fire], and mankind is admonished to prepare for His judgment (50:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 10:27).  The saints of God will be gathered, and the judgment of God will be righteous (50:5-6).

God’s Message to the Saints of Israel (50:7-15)

I notice three major truths regarding the LORD summoning His people to come before Him. The first, He is God, and therefore He has the right to judge Israel (50:7). God is pictured as pondering His judgment of the people, and acknowledges they had brought before Him sacrifices and burnt offerings continually (50:8). Nevertheless, the people were reminded that in offering bullocks and goats to the LORD, they were giving only that which was His (50:9). All that has life, and breath is the LORD’S (50:10-11).

In a wonderful reminder of God’s Sovereignty as Creator and LORD, He challenged the people, “If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: For the world is mine, and the fulness thereof” (50:12).

Stop for a moment, and consider that last statement! There is nothing you and I can give the LORD, that is not already His, for all the world is His! We own nothing, but we are chosen to be stewards of possessions that are the LORD’S. Not only what we possess, but our very being is the LORD’S. In this, God has the right and authority to command us to “present [our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is [our] reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).

Lesson – How might we honor and glorify the LORD? By giving ourselves to Him out of a heart of gratitude, and present to Him all that is due (50:14). When we come to the LORD with a heart of gratitude, He promises: “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me” (50:15).

God’s Message to the Wicked (50:16-21)

The focus of Psalm 50 then turns from the saints, to God’s judgment of the wicked (50:16). Consider the hypocrisy of the wicked: Externally they acknowledge the statutes of the LORD (His Law and Commandments), and worship Him with sacrifices and offerings; however, God knows their hearts. He admonished the wicked, for they hated to be instructed in the way of righteousness, and had contempt for the Word of God (50:17). They violate His commandments, and fail to rebuke the thief (50:18a; Exodus 20:15). They observe the adulterer, but fail to condemn his adultery (50:18b; Exodus 20:14). The wicked lie and slander others (50:19-20; Exodus 20:16).

Notice in Psalm 50:21 how the threat of God’s judgment rose to a crescendo (50:21a), as He warned the wicked that they had abused His silence, His patience, and their day of judgment was coming (50:21b).

Conclusion: A Warning and a Promise (50:22-23)

The Warning: Fail to obey the LORD, and express gratitude of His blessings and longsuffering, and He will “tear you in pieces” and none can deliver you out of His fury (50:22).

The Promise: It is a heart of praise and thanksgiving that glorifies the LORD (50:23). When a sinner sincerely seeks the LORD, He promises to show him the way of “the salvation of God.” What is the way of salvation, and the forgiveness of sin?

Ephesians 2:8–108For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Primer in Congregational Worship (Psalm 33; Psalm 36)

Scripture reading – Psalm 33; Psalm 36

Worship in the 21st century Church is far from the reverential worship you would have known and experienced had you worshiped the LORD in the courtyard of the Tabernacle or at the Temple in Solomon’s day. Like all of the psalms, Psalm 33 has the LORD as its central focus, and its theme is a contemplation of God’s majesty as Creator, Almighty, Jehovah, Eternal God. * Today’s devotional will be taken from Psalm 33. As in earlier devotions, I have taken liberty to amplify word meanings in brackets.

A Study in Congregational Worship (33:1-5)

Psalm 33:1 – “Rejoice [sing; shout for joy] in the LORD, O ye righteous [just; lawful; innocent; blameless]: for praise is comely [beautiful; suitable; fitting] for the upright [righteous; right].

Psalm 33:1 emphasizes the DUTY of believers (the righteous and the upright) to worship the LORD. Old Testament saints understood to be righteous in the sight of the LORD, required obedience to His laws and commandments in both spirit and practice. The righteous have both cause and duty to “Rejoice in the LORD” and praise Him (33:1).

Psalm 33:2-3Praise [give thanks] the LORD with harp [lyre]: sing [sing praise] unto him with the psaltery [lute] and an instrument of ten strings [ten string instrument]3 Sing unto him a new song; play [make music]skillfully [well; good; pleasing; beautiful] with a loud noise [shout; i.e. like the sound of a trumpet].

The Father also desires His people to worship Him out of a heart of DEVOTION. With both instrument and voice, the righteous are able to express their love and devotion in congregational music and song (33:2). The psalmist called upon the congregation to sing a “new song” (33:3a), and “play skillfully with a loud noise” (33:3b).

While “a loud noise” might be an apt description of some 21st century “praise music,” it falls short of the message portrayed by the psalmist. As an explanation: Often overlooked in the phrase is the word “skillfully,” meaning beautiful and well-pleasing; and something that cannot be achieved apart from years of disciplined practice. The “loud noise” implies the sound of wind instruments, such as a trumpet.

DECLARATION is another word that describes congregational worship. Believers are to declare in their music and song the majesty of the LORD who is worthy of praise and worship (33:4-5).

Psalm 33:4-54 For the word [spoken word; discourse] of the LORD is right [righteous; just]; and all his works [acts; deeds] are done in truth [faith; faithfulness]. 5 He [the LORD] loveth righteousness [justice] and judgment [right]: the earth [land] is full [filled; overflow] of the goodness [mercy; kindness] of the LORD.

God’s glory is also revealed in His Word and works. His Word is right, and His works are honest and true (33:4). He is holy, just, loving, faithful and good (33:4-5), and if we look, we can see the LORD’S loving and faithful hand in the world around us, and hopefully reflected in us.

An Affirmation of the Character of the LORD (33:5-19)

Remembering Psalm 33 is a song, notice the focus of the verses is upon the divine character and attributes of the LORD (33:5-19). The LORD is righteous (33:5a), good (33:5b), omnipotent (33:6-9), omniscient (33:10), and His counsel (Word) is eternal and immutable (33:11).

The LORD is vigilant, and He “looketh from heaven; He beholdeth all the sons of men” (33:13). He knows what lies within the hearts of men, and “He fashioneth their hearts alike; He considereth all their works” (33:15). The LORD is sovereign over all nations (33:16-17), and He is the protector and provider for them who fear and revere Him (33:18-19).

Three Benefits That Come to Those Who Worship the LORD (33:20-22)

Psalm 33 concludes with a doxology, that boasts of the LORD’s care for His children, and the benefits that come to them when they worship the LORD. When worship, and song focuses on the character of the LORD, believers who worship Him in Truth acquire three virtues: They learn patience, for they “waiteth for the LORD” (33:20). Their faith is increased, for they “have trusted in His holy name” (33:21). Finally, because they know the LORD is merciful, they are never without hope, for they “hope in [the LORD]” (33:22).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Accepting When God Says “No,” Will Open the Way for a Greater Blessing (2 Samuel 7)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 7

Today’s Scripture reading parallels events that are also recorded by the historian in 1 Chronicles 17. The events unfolding in 2 Samuel 7 follow sometime after the arrival of the Ark of God in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6).

David’s Passion to Build a Temple (7:1-3)

The early years of David’s reign were indeed, “golden years.” In the opening verses of today’s study, we find the king enjoying a time of rest, and reflection (7:1). The great warrior had earned a well-deserved reprieve, though it would be short-lived. 2 Samuel 8 records a string of battles David would soon face, but at this time “the LORD had given him rest round about from all his enemies” (7:1).

Resting, and contemplating the rich appointments of his cedar palace, the king confided to the prophet Nathan of his discomfort. He was troubled that while he enjoyed the luxury of his palace, the “Ark of God dwelleth within curtains” (for that was the tent David had prepared for the Ark (7:2). Neither approving or affirming David’s desire to build a temple, Nathan encouraged the king, “Go, do all that is in thine heart; for the Lord is with thee” (7:3).

God Prohibited David Building a Temple (7:4-17)

The LORD came to Nathan, and commanded His prophet to reason with David, and forbad him building a Temple, noting He had not commanded nor expressed a desire for “an house for me to dwell in” (7:4-5). The LORD had fashioned a tabernacle that had sheltered the Ark during the wilderness years, and throughout the era of the Judges (7:6-7).

Nathan was commanded to go to the king, and remind him he was a servant of the LORD. He was to remember what the Lord had said concerning his beginning: “I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel” (7:8). Though he was king and his name and fame were growing, he was reminded his success had come from the LORD (7:9-10).

In contrast to David’s desire to build a house for the Ark, God promised the king, “the Lord telleth thee that he will make thee an house” (7:11). The verses that follow prove this was not a house made with hands, and formed out of cedar and stone, but was a royal lineage, a dynasty of kings (7:12). David was promised that his son [Solomon] would build a house, a temple to the LORD (7:13). God promised he would love him like a father loves a son (7:14), and would bestow His mercy upon him.

A far-reaching messianic prophecy is found in this passage, and it was one that would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. God promised the king, “I will stablish the throne of his [David’s] kingdom for ever” (7:13). The promise is repeated in 2 Samuel 7:16 where we read, “thy throne shall be established for ever” (7:16).

A faithful prophet, Nathan fulfilled God’s command and “according to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David” (7:17).

David’s Response to the Prophecy (7:18-29)

Rather than dwell upon the denial of his desire to build a house for the LORD, David embraced the prophecy that his throne and kingdom would be forever (though not fully understanding the breadth of its fulfillment). Humbled by the LORD’s promises, I believe David rose from his throne, and made his way to the Tabernacle where he “sat before the Lord, and he said, Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?” (7:18).

He had been reminded that he was a lowly shepherd when the LORD chose him to be king (7:8), and it was God that had given him fame and power over his enemies (7:19). David asked a profoundly humble question: “20And what can David say more unto thee? for thou, Lord God, knowest thy servant” (7:20).

Think about that statement: LORD, you know me, and that I am a lowly servant in the presence of a God Who is great, and there is no god like Thee (7:22). God is indeed great in mercy, grace, power, and deeds. Israel’s history was a testimony of the greatness of God, for He had chosen them, and redeemed them out of the slavery of Egypt (7:23-24).

David believed God (7:25-29). Instead of the king building a temple for the LORD, God promised to build through David’s seed a perpetual dynasty. Trusting God’s grace, David’s prayer concluded rejoicing in God’s goodness (7:28), and requesting His divine blessings on himself, and his seed (7:29).

Closing thought – God’s way is always best. David had a good heart, and his desire to build a temple for the Ark was a righteous one; however, he accepted that responsibility and privilege would belong to his son and heir.

Nevertheless, by accepting the LORD’S prohibition, David inherited a far greater promise: His name, throne, and kingdom would be established by the LORD forever. That promise would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ: “16And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever” (7:16).

Lesson – Trust God, after all, His Way is Perfect! (2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 18:30)

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Guiding Principles for Life and Friendships (Psalm 101; Psalm 105)

Scripture reading – Psalm 101; Psalm 105

Singing and thanksgiving remain our theme as we continue in the Book of Psalms for the Scripture reading. Psalm 101 is ascribed to David as the author. Although the writer of Psalm 105 is unnamed, many believe it may also be attributed to David. Today’s devotional will focus on Psalm 101.

Psalm 101 – A Resolution of Thanksgiving and Dedication

Imagine living under a ruler whose passion was not his career or legacy, but foremost his love and gratitude for the LORD. Such were the “golden years” of David’s reign in Jerusalem. The date and setting of this psalm is not known, but I believe it was in the early years, if not the beginning of the king’s reign over Israel.

While the purpose and overriding theme of Psalm 101 is a song of praise for the “mercy and judgment” of the LORD (101:1), you will notice the assertions of the king concerning his personal life and choices (101:2-8). There are nine assertive “I will” statements, and six “shall” statements.

David Purposed to Live a Righteous Life (101:2-3)

David determined as a matter of conviction that he would act in a “perfect way” [blameless], and conduct his life with a “perfect [innocent] heart” (101:3). The king set for himself an intolerance for observing or tolerating a “wicked thing before [his] eyes.” He was resolute, saying, he would “hate” the sins he observed in others (101:3).

Think about it: How much would your life and family change if you dedicated yourself to David’s standard of personal holiness and righteousness? Will you set your heart to walk a higher moral road, even if it means walking alone? Remember, what you tolerate, and the influences others have, will inevitably affect your life choices.

David Adopted Guiding Principles and Convictions (101:4-5, 7)

Though penned 3,000 years ago, the guiding principles we observe in the king’s psalm should resonate in the hearts of all believers. David’s “I will” and “I shall” statements leave no room for ambiguity. David was a man of conviction, and as king, there were always those who desired his favor and sought for power and position in his administration. David realized those closest to him would influence him with their counsel, and their character.

Psalm 101:4-5, 7 lists the manner of men the king would not tolerate in his emissaries. The following were cause for disqualification in the king’s court: “A froward [crooked, deceitful] heart,” and a “wicked [evil] person” (101:4). Slander [gossip], and proud and self-indulgent servants had no place in his household (101:5). Liars and deceivers were also unwelcomed in the king’s court (101:7).

Spiritual Qualifications for Servants to the King (101:6)

The psalm has so far focused on qualities the king determined were undesirable, and cause for disqualification. Psalm 101:6 states two qualities the king required in his servants: “6 Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me.”

The men David desired in his fellowship and company were faithful, tried and true men of conviction. He required men “that walketh in a perfect way” (101:6) to serve him and the people. The word “walketh” in the King James Bible gives an accurate insight into the character of those who served the king. Regardless of a man’s talents, none would serve the king who fell short of a blameless testimony when measured by God’s laws and judgment.

Closing thoughts – It was not enough for the king to declare the qualifications and disqualifications of those closest to him. He determined he would actively oppose wickedness: “8 I will early destroy [silence] all the wicked of the land; that I may cut off [exterminate] all wicked doers from the city of the LORD” (101:8).

An invitation: Guiding principles and convictions must be weighed, and determined for our lives and families. If you follow David’s pattern, you must establish and state your personal convictions (101:3). Will you determine to live a blameless life, and keep your heart pure and innocent?

You must also decide the influences in your life (101:4-5, 7). The king determined he would not tolerate liars, gossips, the proud, or deceivers. In fact, he stated he would actively oppose the sin and wickedness of evil men.

He also set a spiritual standard for the character of those closest to him (101:6). They were to be faithful: faithful to the LORD, to His Law and Commandments. Their lives were to be a “perfect” testimony.

An application – Have you adopted guiding principles for your friendships? I encourage you to examine your personal convictions (“I will” and “I shall”), and the character of those closest to you. What manner of people are your friends?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Let All the Earth Praise the LORD! (1 Chronicles 16)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 16

The celebration of the arrival of the Ark of God in Jerusalem continued in 1 Chronicles 16. David had prepared a new tent for the Ark, while the original tabernacle from the days of Moses remained in Gibeon, a city north of Jerusalem, and located in the midst of the territory of the tribe of Benjamin.

The Ark’s return, and the restoration of sacrificial offerings (16:1-2) was cause for a national celebration. David did not usurp the role of the Levites; however, as king he placed himself at the forefront of the celebration. After blessing the people in the name of the Lord” (16:2), we read that “every man and woman [was given] a loaf of bread, and a good piece of flesh [possibly a serving of meat], and a flagon [clay jar] of wine” (16:3).

David had re-established, and set in order the service of the Levites and priests (16:4). He appointed singers and musicians to lead in daily worship (16:4-6), thus reminding us of the prominent role music and singing has always held when believers worship the God of heaven. A poet and musician himself, David had prepared a special psalm of thanksgiving for the occasion (16:7-36), and entrusted it to Asaph, one of three chief musicians (16:7).

A Festive Song, A Psalm of Thanksgiving (16:8-36)

David’s psalm heralded a new day, and a new beginning for the people. Calling upon all Israel to worship and give thanks to the LORD, David invited the congregation to sing: “9Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, Talk ye of all his wondrous works” (16:9). Boast of the LORD, and “10Glory ye in his holy name: Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord” (16:10).

Three times the song called upon the people to “seek the LORD” (16:10-11). What did it mean to “seek the LORD?” It meant to diligently seek Him; call upon Him as one wholly dependent on Him (16:10).

Not only were the people to glory in the LORD, and seek Him, but they were to remember all He had done for them as a nation (16:12). Abraham, and Jacob were dead, but the covenant promises of the LORD had not failed (16:13-17). All He had promised He had fulfilled, for He had given Israel “the land of Canaan” for their inheritance (16:18). Though Israel had been small among the nations of the world, the LORD had protected His people from the heathen. He had warned the kings of the earth, “touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” (16:22).

The focus of the song turned to rejoicing as the people were reminded that the LORD is King and Sovereign of the earth (16:23-33). All the world was encouraged to “sing unto the LORD,” for every day declares His salvation, and His glory is not hid from the eyes of the heathen” (16:23-24). Fools look to the heavens and declare, “No God” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1), but the heavens themselves declare the glory of their Creator (16:25). He is great, and “is to be feared above all gods. 26For all the gods of the people are idols: but the Lord made the heavens” (16:25-26).

How should believers respond when they realize the glory and majesty of the LORD? With hearts of thanksgiving and rejoicing, we are to bring to the LORD our offerings, and worship Him who is holy (16:27-29). Though all about us seems in turmoil, we should not forget that God sustains the earth, and “the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved” (16:30).

All nature should rejoice, for “The LORD reigneth” (16:31). 32Let the sea roar…let the fields rejoice…the trees of the wood sing out at the presence of the Lord” (16:32-33a). Why all this rejoicing? For David, like all the faithful saints of the Old Testament, was looking for the coming of the LORD. The psalm declares, the LORD “cometh to judge the earth” (16:33b).

A Doxology of Praise (16:34-36)

David’s psalm concluded with a prayer for deliverance, and a doxology of thanksgiving. I can hear the crescendo of voices and instruments, as the people sang, “34O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever” (16:34). Acknowledging that salvation is from God (16:35), the song fell silent with the last refrain: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel for ever and ever” (16:36). The voices of the people thundered in response, “Amen, and praised the Lord” (16:36).

1 Chronicles 16 concluded with a register of Levites that had been assigned to minister before the Ark in Jerusalem (16:37-38), and the names of men assigned to attend the altar and sacrifices in Gibeon, where the tabernacle of Moses remained (16:39-40). As in Jerusalem, so it was in Gibeon, that musicians accompanied the worship of the LORD (16:41-42).

Closing thoughts – With the celebration ended, David and all Israel returned to their houses (16:43). Though the episode with Michal, the daughter of Saul, and the first wife of David was unwarranted and disheartening (15:29), the past was the past and David and the nation looked forward to the blessings of the LORD (1 Chronicles 17).

I encourage you to do the same! Be willing to forgive, and leave the past in the past. We too often stumble over trifles, make minor issues major, and fail to recognize the blessings of the LORD. Take a moment and count your blessings, and then pause and meditate on the greatness of God displayed in His Creation, and in your salvation.

Let all the earth rejoice, and praise the LORD.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

God is just: He rewards faithfulness! (1 Chronicles 14-15)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 14-15

* For those following my two-year “Read through the Bible” schedule, you may notice the reading for today was limited to 1 Chronicles 14. Given the brevity of 1 Chronicles 14, and the fact it is also a parallel of an earlier study of the same events (2 Samuel 5) I am taking liberty to include 1 Chronicles 15 in today’s devotional commentary (which happens to be a parallel of 2 Samuel 6).

1 Chronicles 14 – The LORD Blessed David’s Reign

Having conquered and claimed Jerusalem as his capital city, it follows that David should build a palace in that historic city that would reflect his reign as king (14:1-2). The names of the sons of David that were born in Jerusalem are given, as is the mention that the king also had daughters, though they are not named in this passage (14:3-7).

As we noticed in 2 Samuel 5, the Philistines were the first to test David as the king of a united Israel, and they were soundly defeated (14:8-16). However, just as important as the battles, was David’s preparation for them.

We read, “David inquired of God, saying, Shall I go up against the Philistines? and wilt thou deliver them into mine hand? And the Lord said unto him, Go up; for I will deliver them into thine hand” (14:10). For the second battle, David inquired again of God” (14:14). Interestingly, the LORD’S strategy for the second battle was unlike the first (14:14b-15); however, because David sought the LORD’s will, God gave Israel the victory (14:16). More than the victories, was the fact that David had become an international figure in the ancient world. “The fame of David went out into all lands; and the Lord brought the fear of him upon all nations” (14:17).

1 Chronicles 15 – The Ark is Brought to Jerusalem

David’s first attempt to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem had ended in tragedy. Failing to consult the method or means of transporting the Ark, had cost Uzza his life (1 Chronicles 13:9-10). Displeased, angry, and frustrated, David had complained to the LORD, How shall I bring the ark of God home to me?” (13:12)

David’s second attempt to bring the Ark to Jerusalem was a success. He had not only learned from his failure, but he had sought the mind and the will of God, therefore, he commanded the Levites to bring the Ark to his capital. The king confessed, “13For because ye [the Levites] did it not at the first, the Lord our God made a breach [sudden judgment] upon us, for that we sought him [the LORD] not after the due order [failed to seek the way of the LORD]” (15:13). Rather than a cart, David commanded the Levites bear the Ark upon their shoulders, using gold-gilded staves (poles) to carry it, “as Moses commanded according to the word of the LORD” (15:14-15).

We have an important register of Levite families recorded in 1 Chronicles 15 (15:4-11). I especially invite you to consider the important role of singers, and musicians in worship (15:16-24). We have various classes of musicians named, including the principal composers, “Heman the son of Joel; and of his brethren, Asaph the son of Berechiah; and of the sons of Merari their brethren, Ethan the son of Kushaiah” (15:17).

The musicians were all from the tribe of Levi. The LORD had set apart the Levites to serve Him, and there were some who were not only skilled in singing, but also in various instruments that were employed in worship. Cymbals of brass, psalteries (lute), harps, and trumpets accompanied the choirs that lifted their voices in singing the psalms (15:19-24). In the midst were “doorkeepers” who acted as guards and gatekeepers (15:23-24).

Our study of 1 Chronicles 15 concludes with the national celebration that greeted the arrival of the Ark in Jerusalem (15:25-29). “A robe of linen” was the dress for the Levites, and the king draped himself in the same. Setting aside his royal apparel, David wore a simple “ephod of linen” (15:27). The arrival of the Ark in the capital city of Jerusalem was a cause for celebration, and David was ecstatic with joy (15:28-29).

Tragically, 1 Chronicles 15 concluded with a foreboding of sorrow. David’s first wife, “Michal the daughter of Saul looking out at a window saw king David dancing and playing: and she despised [had contempt] him in her heart” (15:29; 2 Samuel 6:15-19).

Closing thoughts – 2 Samuel 6:15-19 amplifies Michal’s spirit toward her husband, the king.

Consider the moment: at the end of a day of celebration, David walked into the palace, still wearing his fine linen robe (15:27), and his heart filled with joy. Rather than delight in her husband’s triumph, Michal, the daughter of Saul, despised and condemned David (2 Samuel 6:20). David answered her contempt, and unashamedly identified himself as the man whom God had chosen to rule His people (2 Samuel 6:21).

As I look back over decades of ministry, I cannot remember a time that a moment of rejoicing was not threatened by an adversary. There will always be someone who is ready to dampen your enthusiasm to serve the LORD, and steal your joy. When those times occur, and they will, remember that God is just, and He rewards faithfulness, and punishes sin.

By the way, what became of Michal after she despised her husband? She went to her grave childless, for she “had no child unto the day of her death” (2 Samuel 6:23).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Don’t Worry, Our God Changes Not! (Psalm 102)

Scripture reading – Psalm 102

The author of Psalm 102 is not known; however, the title of this psalm may offer insight into the period in which it may have been composed. The title reads, A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord.” Speculative on my part, but I am in agreement with some scholars who suggest its author may have been one of the children of Israel who was living in Babylon during the captivity.

A Cry of Lamentation (Psalm 102:1-11)

Assuming the psalm was penned by an exile, I understand the pitiful cry of its author who has earnestly prayed, and longed for the LORD to lend a sympathetic ear and answer his prayer (102:1-2). Reflecting on his miseries, the psalmist painted his physical and emotional state (102:3-8).

He felt his life was passing, and his bones were wasting away (102:3). His heart was depressed, and his appetite lost (102:4). Physically, he had been reduced to skin and bones (102:5). Like a sparrow that had lost its mate, he moaned there was no one to comfort him (102:6-7).

The psalmist did not identify his adversary; but his enemy had been unrelenting in his attacks (102:8). He had become inconsolable. He could not hide his sorrows, and his tears flowed till they ran into his drink (102:9). Like a fading shadow, or grass that withers in the heat of the sun, he felt he was perishing (102:11).

A Confession of Faith, Hope, and Trust (Psalm 102:12-22)

In the midst of his darkest hour, the psalmist looked past this mortal, temporal life, and prayed, 12But thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever; And thy remembrance unto all generations” (102:12). With his hope renewed, he confessed his confidence that the LORD had appointed a time when He would “have mercy upon Zion” (Zion was a reference to the mountain range upon which Jerusalem and the Temple had been built, 102:13). Knowing the LORD would not forsake Israel forever, the author believed He had set the time He would renew His favor, and Jerusalem would be rebuilt (102:14-16).

Looking beyond sorrows, the psalmist was confident, though God was enthroned in heaven, His eye was always upon His people, and He heard their groanings (102:19-20). Stirring hope anew, our author looked forward to the time the LORD’S name would be declared in His city, and the people would worship, and serve Him (102:21-22).

The Majesty of God Overshadows Human Frailty (Psalm 102:23-28)

Have you ever been through dark times? Do you recall how you felt as though you were riding a rollercoaster, and experiencing the physical, emotional, and spiritual ups and downs of life?

Our psalmist began Psalm 102 with a prayer and cry for sympathy, but then his faith carried him to spiritual heights, and he believed the LORD had heard, and would answer his prayers. Yet, from a pinnacle of rejoicing, the present realities of his sorrows suddenly plunged him into a sensation that his strength would fail him (102:23a), his life would be shortened (102:23b), and he would not live to see Israel restored to her homeland (102:24).

Then, the psalmist remembered. He remembered God had revealed Himself as the Creator (Genesis 1), and He had “laid the foundation of the earth: And the heavens [were] the work of [God’s] hands” (102:25). He foresaw the temporal nature of the earth, the stars, and the planets, and that they would all “perish…[and] wax old like a garment” (10:26; Luke 21:33). He believed the LORD would change the earth and the heavens like you and I change our clothes (102:26; 2 Peter 3:13).

I believe our author was familiar with Isaiah’s prophecies, for the LORD had revealed to that prophet, “17For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: And the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind” (Isaiah 65:17). He surely knew the LORD had promised Israel, “22For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, Shall remain before me, saith the Lord, So shall your seed [Israel] and your name remain” (Isaiah 66:22).

Closing thoughts – The earth and the heavens are temporal, and the days of a man’s life pass “like a shadow” (102:11); however, the LORD is immutable and eternal, for His “years shall have no end” (102:27).

Be confident! Every promise of God is backed up by His divine character, and He is immutable, and eternal!(102:28)

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Timeless Lessons in History (1 Chronicles 9-10)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 9-10

1 Chronicles 9 – Post-Exilic Jerusalem

Our study of genealogies in 1 Chronicles began with Adam (1:1), the sons of Noah and their ancestries (1:5-26), to Abraham and Isaac (1:27-34), and the sons of Jacob, who were the fathers of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (2:1-8:40).

We read in 1 Chronicles 9:1, “1So all Israel were reckoned by genealogies; and, behold, they were written in the book of the kings of Israel and Judah, who were carried away to Babylon for their transgression.”

With those words, our study of the history of Israel has carried us forward in time beyond the reigns of kings in Israel, and Judah, to Israel’s return from Babylonian captivity. 1 Chronicles 9 is the genealogical record of the children of Israel who returned from Babylonian exile to resettle, and rebuild Jerusalem (9:4-34). Accepting the decree of Cyrus, king of Persia, we find the names of those families and heads of households who set their hearts to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-2).

Five tribes were represented in the families that repopulated Jerusalem: Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh (9:3). (The mention of Ephraim and Manasseh is notable, for they were among the ten tribes of northern Israel that had been taken captive by Assyria).

The Levites were among those who returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity, and 1 Chronicles 9:10-34 gives us the names of their families and heads of households. Briefly, among the Levites who returned to Jerusalem were the priests (9:10-13), musicians (9:14-16; Nehemiah 11:15-18; 12:28-29), and porters who are also identified as “keepers of the gates of the tabernacle” (9:17-23). The porters, or gatekeepers, were supervisors of the Temple chambers and treasuries (9:24-32). There were Levites who were trustees of Temple vessels, and the preparations of elements used in worship and offering sacrifices (9:28-32). Singers are specifically identified in 1 Chronicles 9:33.

Once again, the historian gives us a record of King Saul’s genealogy (9:35-44; 8:29-40).

1 Chronicles 10 – King Saul’s Death, and the Rise of David to the Throne

Rolling the calendar back from the repopulation of Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity, our study in 1 Chronicles returns to an event that will be familiar to those who have followed my devotionals in 1 Samuel. The writer of 1 Chronicles returned to the Philistines’ victory over Israel (10:1-2), and the deaths of King Saul and his sons (10:1-6). Perhaps to explain the end of the house and lineage of Saul, and the rise of the Davidic line, we are reminded that Saul fell upon his own sword, and died (10:5-6). Great humiliation followed when the bodies of Saul and his sons were found. The Philistines stripped Saul and his sons of their armor (10:9a), and after beheading Saul (10:9b), they placed his head and armor in the temple of Dagon, the fish god (10:10). Learning of the humiliation that had befallen their king, the men of Jabeshgilead “arose, all the valiant men, and took away the body of Saul, and the bodies of his sons, and brought them to Jabesh, and buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh, and fasted seven days” (10:12).

Closing thoughts: Consider with me three reasons for King Saul’s death, and the end of his dynasty (10:13-14).

We read, “Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord” (10:13a). Though his failures were many, most likely the transgression that is to be noted here was his failure to kill Agag, the king of the Amaelities, and his sparing the best of the spoils for himself, contrary to God’s command that all were to be killed (1 Samuel 15). We also remember how Saul had disobeyed the law of the LORD, and sought “counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to inquire of it (10:13b; 1 Samuel 28:5-10). Finally, Saul died because he “inquired not of the Lord: therefore he slew him” (10:14a).

Thus, the dynasty of Saul was ended, and the LORD “turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse” (10:14).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Season of Sorrow, But the End is Rejoicing (Psalm 88, 92)

A word from the author: My purpose for writing these daily devotions is to give a historical context, an explanation when necessary, and application of spiritual truths I often label as “closing thoughts.” I pray my effort proves to be a blessing to you and your families. With the heart of a shepherd, Pastor Travis D. Smith – HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

Two chapters in the Book of Psalms are the subject of our Scripture reading and today’s devotional. Psalm 88 is a psalm by “Heman the Ezrahite,” and was an appeal to the LORD for mercy and grace, in the midst of sorrows and troubles. Psalm 92 is described in its title as “A Psalm or Song for the Sabbath Day.”

Psalm 88 – “A Psalm of Lamentation”

What troubles and sorrows the author was facing is not revealed in the verses of the psalm; however, it was certainly a time of great trial for the author who appealed to the LORD, calling upon the “God of my salvation” (88:1). The cry and prayer of the psalmist was “day and night” (88:1), as he poured out his heart to the LORD (88:2).

Heman felt as though he would die if the LORD did not relieve him of the burdens of his troubles (88:3-6). Adding to his grief, he felt he was oppressed by God’s anger (88:7), and complained of loneliness, writing, “8Thou hast put away mine acquaintance [friend; kindred spirit] far from me; Thou hast made me an abomination [detestable] unto them: I am shut up [restrained; confined], and I cannot come forth” (88:8). (Some who have had COVID, or been quarantined because of it, have faced this loneliness.)

Overcome with tears, the psalmist wrote, “I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee” (88:9). He pled with the LORD to spare his life, for should he die, he would be unable to give testimony of the LORD’S character (88:10). In the grave, he could not share the mercies of the LORD, or tell others of His faithfulness and love (88:11-12).

The reason for Heman’s trials, and troubles is not known, but his plea that he might be heard was insistent (88:13). He felt abandoned by God, and prayed, “14Lord, why castest [reject; expel] thou off my soul? Why hidest thou thy face from me?” (88:14) Exhausted from his afflictions (88:15), overwhelmed by his sorrows, he confessed, “15I am afflicted [crushed] and ready to die from my youth up” (88:15). He felt he had suffered his whole life, even from his youth. The psalm concludes finding Heman in a dark place. He confessed he felt abandoned by those who loved him, and it seemed as though only darkness was his friend (88:18).

Closing thought: If not yet, you will one day suffer disappointments in this earthly life. In fact, you may find yourself in a similar dark place where we found Heman. He was a spiritual leader, a musician in the LORD’S sanctuary, nevertheless, though he prayed his focus was on himself…his sorrows, physical sufferings, and loneliness.

A dark place indeed. It is in such an hour, that we are challenged to bow our hearts to the will of the LORD, and accept He is sovereign. May we be like Job of old, and trust God knowing he is faithful (Job 42:10, 17).

Psalm 92 – “A Psalm or Song for the Sabbath Day”

We find the author of Psalm 92 rejoicing in the LORD on the Sabbath. The psalmist rehearses five things that were good: It was good “to give thanks,” and good “to sing praises,” It was good to begin the day praising the LORD for his kindness, and end the day reflecting on His faithfulness (92:1-2). It was also good to worship the LORD in song, and meditate upon Him with a “solemn sound” (92:3).

We saw in Psalm 88 that there are seasons of life that are filled with sorrows, and the author of Psalm 92 reminds us that there is also a cause for rejoicing in the LORD (92:4-5). Believers are privileged to know what the “brutish” men of this world cannot know (92:6). While the wicked appear to spring up, and flourish like weeds, the psalmist reminds us the justice of God will demand their everlasting judgment (92:7-9).

The author of Psalm 92 anticipated God’s loving favor. Like the “horn” that was a sign of strength among beasts, the psalmist was confident the LORD would strengthen him. Although the wicked seemed to prosper, the psalmist foresaw they would suffer judgment, and the righteous would “flourish like the palm tree…[and] grow like a cedar in Lebanon” (92:12, the palm flourishes in drought, and the cedar of Lebanon was a picture of strength).

Psalm 92 concludes with an amazing promise to those who have lived righteous lives: “14They shall still bring forth fruit [be fruit bearers] in old age; They shall be fat [healthy; lit. full of sap] and flourishing [i.e. evergreen]; 15To shew that the Lord is upright [faithful]: He is my rock [security], and there is no unrighteousness in him [the LORD]” (92:14-15).

Closing thought: Psalm 92:14-15 promises all that a person could ask: to live to a ripe old age, and your life be a testimony of fruitfulness, healthy, and flourishing. What a great promise, but remember that promise is only for the righteous whose faith and hope is in the LORD. You cannot be righteous in the sight of God, without knowing Christ as Savior. Turn from your sinful ways, trust Christ as your Savior\Redeemer, and accept God’s offer of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“They forgot!” (1 Chronicles 6; Psalm 78)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 6; Psalm 78

Today’s Scripture reading consists of two lengthy chapters. 1 Chronicles 6 continues our study of the genealogy of the Twelve Tribes of Israel that began with 1 Chronicles 1 and will conclude with 1 Chronicles 8. Psalm 78continues our study in the Book of Psalms.

1 Chronicles 6 – The Genealogy of the Tribe of Levi

1 Chronicles 6 gives the ancestral record of the priestly tribe of Levi. Prominent at the outset are “the children of Amram; Aaron (the first high priest), and Moses (the prophet who led Israel out of Egypt), and Miriam (the sister of Aaron and Moses). The sons also of Aaron; Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar (6:3).

Eleazar, the son of Aaron, succeeded his father as high priest. 1 Chronicles 6:4-15 records the line of high priests to the time of the Babylonian captivity. Other Levite families are noted (6:16-30), for they assisted the high priests in their duties, especially in the care of the Tabernacle and its implements.

Musicians had a prominent role in Israel’s worship, and the lineage of singers, composers, and those who led in congregational worship is recorded (6:31-47). Three notable musicians and their lineage are indicated:Heman, who penned Psalm 88, and was the grandson of the prophet Samuel (6:33-38; 1 Samuel 8:2,3). Asaph, whose name we have noted on several occasions in the psalms (6:39-43). Also, 2 Chronicles 29:30 identified Asaph as a “seer,” a prophet. Finally, there was also Ethan, who was the author of Psalms 89.

While the priests were charged with handling the sacrificial offerings, and only the high priests were permitted to enter the Holy of Holies (6:49; Hebrews 9), there were Levites who assisted the priests in what is described as “all manner of service of the Tabernacle of the house of God” (6:48). Though their tasks may be considered menial, nevertheless, they were necessary for the service of the LORD, and the worship of His people (6:48). They would have assisted the priests in killing, flaying, and boiling sacrifices, providing water and wood, and carrying away the ashes.

1 Chronicles 6:54-81 accounts the names of Levite cities. Unlike the other tribes, the Levites did not receive a territorial inheritance; however, forty-eight cities in the midst of the tribes of Israel were designated to them, including six cities of refuge (Numbers 18:20; Joshua 20:1-9; 21:1-42).

Psalm 78A Challenge to Heed the Lessons of the Past

Psalm 78 is titled, “Maschil of Asaph,” meaning a psalm of instruction, and is a study in the history of Israel, and God’s faithful, providential dealings with His people. I suggest Psalm 78 can be summed up in two words, “They forgot.”

Philosopher George Santayana observed, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Santayana’s reflection is certainly evidenced in Psalm 78.  The psalmist presents in seventy verses a panorama of Israel’s history, marked by the tragic failure to hear, remember, and heed the spiritual lessons of God’s providences and dealings with His people. God had chosen Israel to be the custodians of His Law, and Commandments. He had blessed, and entrusted the Hebrews with His Word.  Each generation was challenged with “shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, And his wonderful works that he hath done” (78:4).

Fathers and mothers were charged with the responsibility of not only remembering, but also teaching their children. In turn, each generation was to teach every successive generation not only that nation’s history, but God’s providential care of His people (78:3-8).

Tragically, Israel forgot! They broke their covenant with the LORD (78:10), and forgot His works, miracles, and all that He had done for Israel when He brought them out of Egypt (78:11-12). They forgot how He divided the Red Sea (78:13), and led them through the wilderness (78:14). They forgot that He had provided them water, manna, and meat (78:15-28). They forgot how they murmured against the LORD, and made a pretense of repentance only to turn back to their sinful ways (78:29-39).

They had forgotten how the LORD had delivered them out of slavery, and sent the plagues upon Egypt (78:43-55). They forgot how He brought them to the Promised Land, but they had rebelled, failed to trust God, and turned back to wander in the wilderness until that generation was dead, except for Joshua and Caleb (78:53-58). They forgot how they provoked Him to anger by their wickedness, and when the Ark had fallen into the hand of the Philistines, their priests, Hophni and Phineas, were slain (78:58-64).

Nevertheless, when the time came, God remembered His people, and He “chose the tribe of Judah,” and Mount Zion for his presence in Israel (78:67-69). The LORD also chose David to be king, and to shepherd His people (78:70-72).

A closing thought: Israel forgot the LORD, but the LORD never forgot, nor forsook His people!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith