Category Archives: Ministry

“Jeremiah: God’s Prophet to a Nation on the Brink of Judgment” (Jeremiah 1-3)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 1-3

Our chronological Bible reading schedule brings us to the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, and marks the 219th Scripture reading assignment of 2020. For the sake of brevity, today’s devotional commentary will serve as an introduction to the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah and focus solely on Jeremiah 1.

The book of Jeremiah is biographical and prophetic, chronicling the life and experience of a man of God who stood alone in his day. Written by the prophet whose name it bears, the Book of Jeremiah accounts for the ministry of a faithful prophet. Fifty-two chapters long and spanning fifty-four years, from Judah’s revival years during the reign of King Josiah, to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple under the reign of King Zedekiah in 587 BC.

Jeremiah 1 – The Prophet of God

Jeremiah’s ministry was to a people who had turned from God. Israel had broken God’s covenant and disobeyed His commandments. It was for such a time the LORD called one man to stand in the gap and warn His people that should they not repent all would be lost.

Jeremiah’s ministry began during Josiah’s reign (est. 640 BC to 609 BC) and continued through the reigns of four wicked kings: Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah died (2 Kings 23-25; 2 Chronicles 36).

He was a Levite by birth. His father Hilkiah was a priest and he was a descendant of Aaron, the brother of Moses (1:1). Anathoth, his hometown, was only about three miles northeast of Jerusalem (1:1; Joshua 21:15-19), and there is little doubt Jeremiah was familiar with the politics of Jerusalem.

The LORD made a wonderful revelation when He called Jeremiah to be His prophet.

Jeremiah 1:4-5 – “Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 5  Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified [consecrated; set apart] thee, and I ordained [appointed] thee a prophet unto the nations.”

In the same way God knew Jeremiah from the moment of conception, He knows you. He knows your talents, gifts, and abilities. He knows your strengths and weaknesses.

Jeremiah protested, “LORD God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child” (1:6).

Jeremiah was not a child in the chronological sense, but he was a young inexperienced man. The thought of being God’s prophet in the midst of an ungodly nation was no doubt intimidating and overwhelming.

God answered Jeremiah’s objection with the assurance, “I am with thee” (1:8b).

Jeremiah 1:7-8 – “Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. 8  Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.”

The breadth of Jeremiah’s ministry and message was universal. (1:9-10)

Jeremiah 1:9b-10 – “The LORD said unto me [Jeremiah], Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. 10  See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.”

From heaven’s perspective, Jeremiah was a messenger of the LORD. From man’s perspective, he was a troublemaker, perhaps an antagonist, called “to root out [sin], and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant” (1:10).

We will see in our study of Jeremiah that he was a prophet who was hated and despised by his people. The LORD warned him, “they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee” (1:19).

What a wonderful encouragement to those God has called to teach and declare His Word! The LORD is with us!

Let us, in the words of the apostle Paul, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Millennial Reign of Jesus the Messiah (Isaiah 31-34)

Scripture Reading – Isaiah 31-34

We continue our Scripture reading in the Book of Isaiah with Israel, the northern ten tribes having fallen to Assyria and its armies now threatening Judah.

Isaiah 31

King Hezekiah’s attempt to appease Assyria’s king with gold and silver had failed. Receiving news of the fall of Samaria and the inhabitants of Israel taken captive, the king of Judah sent emissaries to Egypt to seek an alliance against Assyria (31:1). Isaiah condemned the king for his failure to turn to the LORD for help and declared, “Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit” (31:3).

In spite of the king’s failure to turn to God, the LORD promised He would “come down to fight for mount Zion” (31:4b) and “the LORD of hosts (would) defend Jerusalem” and “preserve it” (31:5). Isaiah called on the people to repent of their sins (31:6-7), and promised the LORD would come to their defense and “then shall the Assyrian fall with the sword” (31:8).

Isaiah 32

Isaiah 32 opens with a yet to be fulfilled promise of the coming of the Messiah who “shall reign in righteousness” (32:1). Who is the Messiah who will reign as King? Nathanael confessed that Jesus Christ is “the Son of God…the King of Israel” (John 1:49).

Jesus promised His followers He would come again (John 14:1-6) and the angels who were at His ascension promised His disciples, “this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

When Jesus Christ comes again, He will come as a conquering King and will sit in judgment over the nations of the earth. The apostle John wrote, “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen” (Revelation 1:7).

When Christ sits on His throne in Jerusalem the curse of sin that blights and scars the earth will be removed. The eyes of the blind will see, the deaf will hear, and stammering tongues will speak (32:3-4). The barren wilderness will become a fruitful garden (32:15). There will be righteous judgment in the land (32:16), and because righteousness rules, there will be “peace…quietness and assurance for ever” (32:17).

What a contrast to our world where there is no justice in the land. Where rioting and violence, sickness and death are perpetual threats.

Lesson – When righteousness rules, there is peace (32:17).

Isaiah 33

Isaiah 33 picks up the story of King Hezekiah’s failed attempt to appease Assyria, but the prophet warned that the destroyer (Assyria) would itself be destroyed (33:1).

Though the majority of Judah had rebelled and turned from the LORD, there were a few in Judah who prayed and God heard their prayers. The faithful few prayed, “O LORD, be gracious unto us; we have waited for thee: be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble” (33:2). God answered their prayers and promised to deliver Jerusalem by setting Himself against Assyria (33:10-12).

God fulfilled His promise of judgment and destroyed Assyria’s army. The defeat of Judah’s adversary was so complete that it struck fear in the hearts of the people (33:13-14).

A Messianic prophecy of Christ’s Second Coming is found in the closing verses of Isaiah 33. When Christ returns He will repel and destroy the armies of the nations of the earth that will be gathered against Jerusalem (33:17-24).

In the “New Jerusalem” where Christ will reign, there will be no sickness or sin (33:24).

Isaiah 34 speaks of God’s great and universal judgment of the nations of the world.

Isaiah 34 focuses on the “Day of the Lord’s Vengeance,” His final judgment of the nations of the world (34:8).

The nations of the world will be assembled (we know prophetically that this is the Battle of Armageddon, Revelation 19:11-21). Isaiah describes how God will pour out His wrath on the nations for how they mistreated and slaughtered His people (34:1-2). No nation will be spared the wrath of the LORD, and the earth and the heavens will be moved by God’s judgment (34:3-4).

The immediate focus of Isaiah’s prophecy was Edom (or Idumea) and its capital city “Bozrah” (34:6). Edom served as an example of what will become of the nations, when God takes vengeance on the world.

God’s judgment will be terrifying and complete: blood-soaked land, streams running dark, fire and smoke ascending, cities uninhabitable except for wild beasts (34:6-15).

Isaiah warned all the prophecies of the LORD would come to pass and “no one of these shall fail” (34:16).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God Orders the Starts and Stops! (Jonah 1-4)

Scripture reading Jonah 1-4

The Book of Jonah is today’s Scripture reading assignment. Though only four chapters in length, this historical drama is powerful and telling: Nineveh, a wicked, idolatrous city, unaware of the imminence of God’s judgment and the threat of annihilation. The LORD and Sovereign Creator is holy and just, but also merciful and loving toward sinners. Jonah, a reluctant, rebellious prophet, defied God’s command to warn Nineveh and call the people to repent of their sins.

Have you ever wanted to run?

You may remember a childhood tantrum that resulted in your threat to take your little red wagon and run away from home. To your chagrin, your mother pretended to take you up on your plan, and even offered to help you pack!  If you were strong willed, you might have even followed through with strong determination! Fortunately, for a child, minutes can seem like hours and a hundred yards like a mile. Upon returning home from your self-willed excursion, your mom probably greeted you, “Well, you’re back! Wash your hands and get ready for dinner!”

Two lessons come to the forefront of this scenario: The first, “What is best for you is not always what you think is best.”  The second, may not be realized until years later; although you could not see her, your mother never took her eyes off you!

Some 2800 years ago, a passionate, patriotic and popular preacher in Israel named Jonah received God’s command: “Arise, go to Nineveh…” (1:2). 

Nineveh was a great city with a population of 120,000 souls (Jonah 4:11). However, Nineveh was also a wicked city, the capital of the Assyrian empire, and a great adversary of Israel!

Possibly fearing his nation’s enemy or the rejection of His own people, Jonah refused to preach against Nineveh, later confessing he feared the LORD would spare that city from destruction!  Jonah resigned his calling as God’s prophet (Jonah 1:3), paid his fare, and took a ship for Tarshish, a city on the western most edge of the known world in his day (1:3).

In his flight from the LORD, Jonah soon found himself caught in a great storm and the sea threatening to take him and his fellow passengers to a watery grave (1:4-6).  Evidencing the callousness of a backslidden sinner, Jonah slept in the bottom of the ship until he was awakened by the sailors. Jonah confessed he was a prophet of the LORD and the storm was sent by God to chastise him. Fearing for their lives, the sailors reluctantly cast Jonah into the sea where he was swallowed by a great fish providentially provided by the LORD.

We read that Jonah confessed his sin and “prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly” (2:1) and “He heard me” (2:2). 

The prophet understood his miserable state was a watery grave unless the LORD delivered him (2:9-10).  The LORD mercifully answered Jonah’s prayer and “spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (2:10).

Jonah obeyed the LORD, went to Nineveh and began warning that great city, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4). 

Amazingly, the people of Nineveh believed the word of that reluctant prophet and repented (3:5-9).  Hearing Nineveh’s penitent cry, the LORD was moved with compassion and set aside His judgment (3:10).

Jonah 3:10 – “And God saw [looked;; beheld; perceived] their works [behavior; deeds], that they turned [turned back] from their evil [sinful; wicked] way; and God repented [reckoned; moved with compassion] of the evil [destruction; bad—not sin], that he had said that he would do [make; wrought; perform; accomplish] unto them; and he did it not.”

We would number Jonah among the greatest preachers and prophets of all time, if he had also longed to see Nineveh repent. Jonah, however, did not rejoice in the LORD’s compassion, or the city being spared His judgment. We read:

Jonah 4:1-2 – “But it displeased [so angry he trembled] Jonah exceedingly [overcome with anger], and he was very angry [incensed; burned with anger]. 2 And he prayed unto the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal God], and said [charged], I pray thee [lit. “Ah, now!”], O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country [northern Israel]? Therefore I fled [ran away; bolted] before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious [showing favor] God, and merciful [full of compassion], slow [patient; longsuffering] to anger, and of great [many; abundant] kindness [mercy], and repentest [moved with compassion] thee of the evil [judgment].”

Jonah was angry that God had spared a city that was the enemy of Israel. Jonah then left Nineveh, built a temporary dwelling outside the city, and sat down and waited to see if God would destroy the city (Jonah 4:5).

Here we find a characteristic of men who abandon their calling…they are more interested in temporal comforts than they are in lost souls (4:6). 

Jonah 4:6 – “And the LORD God prepared [appointed; told] a gourd, and made it to come up [ascend; mount up]over Jonah, that it might be a shadow [shade] over his head, to deliver [preserve; recover; escape] him from his grief [lit. sin; evil; wickedness; distress; misery]. So Jonah was exceeding glad [rejoicing; joyful; cheered up] of the gourd.”

Jonah became angry and despaired of life when the LORD destroyed the gourd and its leafy vine. “God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry [incensed; burn with anger] for the gourd? And he said, I do well [good; please; better] to be angry, even unto death” (4:9).

God then challenged Jonah to consider his priorities, along with his foolish, self-centered attitude.

Jonah 4:10 – “Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity [to regard; have compassion] on the gourd, for the which thou hast not labored [ie. severe, hard work], neither madest it grow [to nourish; promote growth]; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:”

This brief biography of Jonah’s life ends with a question:

Jonah 4:11 “And should not I spare [show compassion; regard; pity] Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand [120,000] persons that cannot discern [know; understand] between their right hand and their left hand; and also much [plenty; great] cattle?”

There may be someone reading this devotion who has quit on God and taken a ship to your own Tarshish. 

I understand the temptation that comes with hard times, difficult people, harsh criticisms and little encouragement. To quit is appealing in the midst of disappointments, especially when a “gourd” promises you rest and comfort. However, such a path comes at the sacrifice of the best part…the will of the LORD.

Take a lesson from Jonah’s life: God orders the starts and stops, not man! 

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Power of Prayer and the Faith of One Poor Widow (1 Kings 17-19)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 17-19

Today’s Scripture reading is both lengthy and rich in detail. I dare not attempt to write a thorough devotional commentary that covers 1 Kings 17, 18, and 19; however, I encourage you to read those chapters for the context of future devotions. I will limit my commentary to 1 Kings 17 and with the prospect of returning to 1 Kings 18-19 in the future.

In his speech titled Man in the Arena, President Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States described a man of rare courage, as one who “strives valiantly…who spends himself in a worthy cause…and who at the worse, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Such a man was Elijah!

1 Kings 17 – The Prophet Elijah, Man of Prayer

Absent of any fanfare, we are suddenly introduced to one of the great prophets of the Old Testament, “Elijah the Tishbite” (17:1). Remembering the sins and wickedness of Israel’s King Ahab, and his Queen Jezebel as our backdrop, we find one man in all Israel who confronted Ahab and warned him that his sins had provoked the wrath of God. As a result, Israel would be punished with drought as God withheld rain from the land (17:1; Deuteronomy 11:16-17; 28:23-24).

James 5:17-18 reminds us that the drought Israel experienced was a testimony of the power of one man’s prayer, Elijah (i.e. Elias).

James 5:17-18 – “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. 18  And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”

While Israel suffered drought and a scarcity of food, God directed Elijah to retreat to a brook named Cherith where He promised to provide him water and ravens would bring him food to eat in the morning and evening (17:2-7).

When the brook dried up, the LORD commanded Elijah to go to Zarephath, a Phoenician city, located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. There the prophet would find a widow, a woman of faith, whom the LORD would use to provide him food and water throughout the balance of the drought in Israel (17:8-16).

Elijah found the poor widow suffering the dearth of the drought and his request for water and food was first rejected on rational grounds, for she had no cake and only enough food and oil for one last meal (17:12).

The prophet answered the widow’s despair, promising if she would believe the word of the LORD and obey, saying, “The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth” (17:14). God did indeed respond to the widow’s faith and the barrel of flour and the cruse of oil were miraculously replenished every meal (17:15-16).

Later tragedy struck the widow’s household when her son died (17:17). Fearing her son’s death was God’s judgment for sin, she pled with Elijah, “What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son” (17:18).

Elijah, taking up the son’s dead body, went to the loft of the house where he prayed to the LORD, “O LORD my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?” (17:20).

Three times Elijah stretched his body over the lifeless body of the boy and pleading, “O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child’s soul come into him again” (17:21). God answered Elijah’s prayer and “the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived” (17:22).

I close today’s devotional commentary inviting you to notice the testimony of the widow’s faith: “Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth” (17:24).

In verse 18 the widow recognized Elijah was a “man of God.” In verse 24 she confessed the prophet was not only a “man of God,” but that “the word of the LORD” was in his mouth.

To state the fact of the widow’s faith in another way: She not only heard the TRUTH, she believed the words of the prophet was the very Word of God.

Such was then, and is today the way of true salvation, for “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Temple: A Great House for a Great God (1 Kings 5-6; 2 Chronicles 2-3)

Scripture Reading – 1 Kings 5-6; 2 Chronicles 2-3

1 Kings 5

Fulfilling his father’s dream and honoring his legacy (5:2-4), Solomon set about acquiring the building materials necessary for constructing the Temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 5).

Requesting the assistance of his father’s friend, Hiram king of Tyre, Solomon ordered cedars from Lebanon and requested skilled laborers “to hew timber” (5:6).  Hiram agreed to supply cedar and fir timbers for the Temple, floating them on the Mediterranean Sea to Joppa, a port designated by Solomon (5:7-10; 2 Chronicles 2:16).

In turn, Solomon contracted with Hiram to provide sustenance consisting of wheat and pure oil (5:11-12).  The size and scope of the Temple project is revealed in the tens of thousands of alien laborers that were employed in acquiring construction materials (5:13-18).

1 Kings 6

The date Solomon began construction on the Temple was revealed as 480 years after Israel’s exodus from Egypt (6:1).

Details of the exterior dimensions and size of the interior chambers are recorded (6:2-10). Assuming a cubit was 21 inches, the outside of the Temple was 90 feet high, 30 feet wide, and 45 feet high (6:2). On the front of the Temple was a porch described as 30 feet wide and 15 feet deep (6:3). The Temple had window openings allowing natural light to penetrate the interior of the Temple (6:4). There were also interior chambers or vestries for Temple utensils and the robes and dress rooms for the priests (6:5-6). The beams of the Temple rested on the walls of the building (6:6).

The skill of the laborers is revealed in that the large stones of the Temple were pre-cut away from the building site and no tool was to be used in the building that would disturb the peace and quiet of the place that would be a house of worship (6:7-10).

In the midst of the construction, the LORD renewed the covenant he had first established with David. God assured the young king that, if he would walk in His statutes and keep His commandments, He would fulfill all He had promised (6:11-12) and would dwell in the midst of Israel (6:13).

The “oracle” (6:19), the innermost sanctuary where the Ark of the Covenant was located (also known as the “Holy of Holies” or the “holy place”) was a perfect cube with dimensions that were 30 feet wide, 30 feet long, and 30 feet high (6:20). Concealed by a beautifully embroidered curtain, the oracle was a place of exquisite beauty with ceiling, floor, and walls paneled in cedar that was engraved and overlaid with a veneer of pure gold (6:15-30).

2 Chronicles 2-3 – A Record of the Temple for Babylonian Exiles

As a reminder, the Chronicles were written for those Jews who were exiled from Israel and living in Babylon. There are some additional details regarding the Temple that are offered here, but I particularly want to invite you to consider 2 Chronicles 2:4-6 where Solomon addressed the purpose of the Temple (2:4) and the greatness of the LORD (2:5-6).

For Israel, the Temple was the place of worship (2 Chronicles 2:5-6). The inner sanctuary where the Ark of the Covenant was located, was representative of the throne of God in the midst of His people.

How great is our God? Can a building made by men contain Him? Of course not!

2 Chronicles 2:5-6a5  And the house which I build is great: for great is our God above all gods. 6  But who is able to build him an house, seeing the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain him?”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

I’ve Got Happiness! How ‘bout You? (Psalms 111-118)

Scripture Reading – Psalms 111-118

Today’s Scripture reading entails eight glorious chapters in the Book of Psalms; however, I will limit this devotional commentary to Psalm 111 and Psalm 112.

Psalm 111 – Getting Wisdom

Three of today’s psalms begin with the same theme and call to worship: “Praise ye the LORD”(Psalms 111:1; 112:1; 113:1).

In essence, “Praise ye the LORD” is an expression of thanksgiving that boasts in the LORD Who is the Eternal, Self-existent God of creation. The psalmist asserts he will “Praise the LORD” with his “whole heart” – his mind, thoughts, and understanding undivided and focused on Him (111:1).

His praise and thanksgiving will be declared not only in the midst of those who are numbered among the “upright” (meaning those who obey the LORD’S Law and Commandments), but also in the midst of all the people (“the congregation” – 111:1).

In what will the psalmist praise the LORD? His meditations are on His works, the wonder and expanse of His creation (111:2) and “His righteousness”— for He is just, and “is gracious and full of compassion” (111:4b).

Believer, do you want to be numbered among the wise? Do you desire to be a man or woman of discernment and understanding? Remember this principle:

Psalm 111:10 – The fear [reverence; awe that begets righteous behavior] of the LORD is the beginning [is fundamental; foundational; most important thing] of wisdom: a good understanding [discretion; ] have all they that do [make; perform] his commandments: his praise [giving thanks] endureth [stands; is established] for ever [eternity].

Psalm 112 – Four Qualities of a “Blessed” Man

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).

Notice there are four essential characteristics 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).

A man is happy and blessed because he recognizes he is the object of God’s grace (i.e. unmerited favor). 

Why is he the object of God’s grace?  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 that righteous man’s life magnifies his influence (112:2) and blessed state (should his children follow his righteous path).

Secondly, a man is happy and “blessed” when he is “upright,” meaning just, righteous, a man who fears and reveres the LORD (112:4). 

God’s people are not spared from dark days, for they too suffer sickness, death of loved ones, disappointments, betrayals and broken promises. The righteous, however, have an assurance: “there ariseth light in the darkness” (112:4a).  David observed the same, writing, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

Believers are not spared dark days; however, they are assured the light of the LORD will pierce the darkness. What a precious promise! When we find we are “in the darkness,” the LORD promises He is “gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous” (112:4b).

Another quality of a “Happy” man is that he is a “good man” (112:5). 

We notice four traits evidenced in a “good” man’s character (112:5-6).

He is gracious in his demeanor (pleasant and pleasing – 112:5a). He is generous (he lendeth to those in need – 112:5b). He exercises “good sense,” guiding “his affairs with discretion” (112:5). He is well “grounded,” for a good man “shall not be moved for ever” (112:6a).

Lastly, a “Happy” man is “righteous” (112:7-9). 

We find three qualities of this righteous man in verses 7-9. He is fearless, “he shall not be afraid of evil tidings” (112:7a), for he has a settled confidence in the LORD.  His heart is firm, “fixed, trusting in the LORD” (112:7b), and “shall not be afraid” (112:8b). He is freehearted, generous and giving to the poor (112:9). A righteous man is not a hoarder of riches, but a steward of God’s blessings and a conduit for ministering to those in need.

I conclude today’s devotional inviting you to take note of the wicked man’s response to the Happy man who is Blessed, Upright, Good and Righteous:

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

Envy! The joy and happiness of the righteous is a grief, a sorrow to the wicked who grind their teeth like rabid dogs and “melt away,” defeated and consumed by their envy (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 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Wise Pour Themselves into Those Who Will Eventually Succeed Them (2 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles 21-22; Psalm 30)

Scripture Reading – 2 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles 21-22; Psalm 30

Today’s Scripture reading brings us to the conclusion of our study in 2 Samuel and is a parallel of the same events recorded in 1 Chronicles 21-22. (The record in the chronicles gives us additional details.)

2 Samuel 24

We find David as an old man, and the shepherd boy of Bethlehem was only a memory. The king is now in the latter years of his life and reign as the king of Israel.

The opening verses of 2 Samuel 24 will no doubt challenge some to wonder why the LORD would be angry with Israel, move David to take a census of his army, and then turn about and be angry with David for doing so (24:1-10). Remember the LORD never tempts man to sin (James 1:13), but He does use the natural inclination of a man’s heart to providentially accomplish His will and purpose.

General Joab, the captain of David’s army, cautiously questioned the king’s motive, “Why doth my lord the king delight in this thing?” (24:3) Joab knew the king’s command for a census was an act of pride that might prove to be a provocation of God’s judgment.

As soon as the sum of the fighting men of Israel was delivered, David’s heart was convicted, and he confessed, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly” (24:10). God is just, and the consequences of David’s sin would not be dismissed by the LORD. We read, “the word of the LORD came unto the prophet Gad, David’s seer” (24:11).

Gad was given a message that demanded the king choose one of three judgments that would come upon Israel because of David’s sin: seven years of famine, three months pf being overrun and pursued by adversaries, or three days pestilence (24:12-13). David chose three days of pestilence, reasoning he would rather trust in God’s mercies than be pursued by an enemy (24:14).

2 Samuel 24:15 – “So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men.”

Seventy thousand were dead, but had the LORD not been restrained by His mercy, even Jerusalem would have suffered His wrath (24:16). David had prayed as the angel of the LORD approached Jerusalem and made intercession for his people praying, “Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father’s house” (24:17).

Bearing the weight of his guilt and realizing the consequences of his sin had befallen the nation, David interceded and asked for God’s judgment to fall upon him and his household rather than His people (24:17).

The prophet Gad returned with a message from the LORD instructing David to buy the “threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite (the Jebusites being the original inhabitants of Jerusalem)” and build an altar there (24:18). [Note – 1 Chronicles 21:18 names one “Ornan” as the owner of the threshingfloor; they are the same man.]

Seeing the king and hearing his desire to buy his threshingfloor, Araunah offered not only the land, but also his oxen and threshing instruments as a gift to David (24:20-23).

The king refused Araunah’s offer and confessed, “I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing” (24:24).

David purchased the threshing floor of Araunah, and sacrificed to the LORD the oxen he had purchased. According to 1 Chronicles 21:26, the LORD sent fire from heaven and consumed the oxen as a sign David’s offering was accepted and God’s wrath was satisfied (1 Chronicles 21:26).

You might wonder what became of the land David purchased. The threshingfloor of Araunah was the same place where Abraham had offered his son Isaac (Genesis 22). It would also be where Solomon will build the Temple (1 Chronicles 22:1; 2 Chronicles 3:1).

1 Chronicles 22

David, knowing the years of his life were drawing to a close, devoted himself to preparing workmen and materials that would be required for Solomon to build the Temple (1 Chronicles 22:1-19). David instructed Solomon and imparted to his son his duty to embrace God’s promises and build the Temple in Jerusalem (22:6-16).

Leaving no doubt who should be his heir and the next king, David “made Solomon his son king over Israel” (23:1) and set forward an organization of the priests and Levites who were to serve in the Temple (23:2-32; 24:1-31).

There are many lessons we can take from today’s study; however, I will leave you with one:

David had accepted that his earthly life would soon be passed, and not only  prepared his son to be king, but also charged Solomon with the privilege for which God had chosen him… “build an house for the LORD God of Israel” (1 Chronicles 22:6-11).

Psalm 90:10 – “The days of our years are threescore years and ten [70 years]; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years [80 years], yet is their strength [i.e. pride] labour [toil; grief; misery] and sorrow [mourning]; for it is soon [i.e. hurry; too soon] cut off [passed], and we fly away [i.e. our years take flight].”

Wise men and women pour their lives into those who will eventually succeed them!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Life of a Blessed Man (Psalms 1-2, 15, 22-24, 47, 68)

Daily reading assignment: Psalms 1-2, 15, 22-24, 47, 68

Today’s scripture reading consists of eight psalms. Our devotional commentary will focus on Psalm 1:1-3.

Psalm 1

Psalm 1 is the first recorded Beatitude in the Bible and offers a contrast of two lives: the “blessed” man (Psalm 1:1-3) who walks in the way of God’s Law and prospers and the “ungodly” who defy God, oppose His Law and “shall perish” (Psalm 1:4-6).

Before we study this beautiful psalm of promise and instruction, let us first consider what it means to be “blessed” (1:1).

In essence, the word “blessed” means happy or prosperous. Men often seek happiness in all the wrong places. They pursue pleasure, only to find it fleeting. They seek riches, but find money cannot buy happiness. They look for fulfillment in relationships, only to be disappointed.

So, what is this “blessed” state of the Psalm 1 man?

It is more than fleeting happiness. It is an enduring satisfaction, a contentment not rooted in or based upon one’s circumstances. The “blessed” man finds his joy in the LORD, His Word and His promises. In other words, he is blessed because his trust is in the LORD and not in man or favorable circumstances (Deuteronomy 33:29; 2 Chronicles 9:7; Psalm 34:8; Proverbs 8:32; 29:18).

David begins Psalm 1 advising us where the “blessed” man will not find happiness. Happiness will not be found in the counsel of the ungodly…in the way of sinners, [or]…in the seat of the scornful” (1:1).

A blessed man does not seek thecounsel of the ungodly whose philosophy is “eat, drink and be merry” (Luke 12:19).

A blessed man does not abide in the “way of sinners” whose spiritual GPS is set on a destination of wickedness and “shall perish” (Psalm 1:6).

A blessed man does not lift up his voice in chorus with “the scornful,” for they disdain God and His Law (Psalm 14:1).

What is the source of the blessed man’s contentment?

His joy and “delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (1:2).

I invite you to contemplate two reflections on the blessed man’s life. The first, he delights, meaning he values and finds pleasure in, “the law of the LORD” (the Commandments, Laws, principles, and precepts of God’s Word).

The second quality we find in the blessed man is his discipline: He meditates [ponders; mulls it over; lit. “chews the cud”] in the Law of the LORD “day and night” (1:2). He saturates his heart and thoughts with the eternal, immutable truths of God’s Word.

Such a man is “like a tree planted by the rivers [stream] of water, that bringeth forth [deliver; give]his fruit in his season [time; appointed time]; his leaf [foliage; branch] also shall not wither [fade away; drop down]; and whatsoever he doeth [make; wrought; commit] shall prosper [succeed; be profitable] (1:3).

The blessed man is “planted” (1:3a). He is not a wild volunteer sapling. No, this man has chosen to cultivate his heart in God’s Word, and his life is a testimony of spiritual fruit.

What is his “fruit in his season?” (1:3b) While not identified, I believe it is the “fruit of the Spirit” Paul identifies as “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith. 23 Meekness, temperance…” (Galatians 5:22-23).

This tree, symbolic of the blessed man’s life, has leaves that “shall not wither” (1:3c). The foliage of a natural tree is an indicator of its health and wellbeing. So it is with the blessed man; his life evidences the spiritual health and vibrancy of a man who lives and walks in the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:25).

Lastly, “whatsoever he [the blessed man] doeth shall prosper” (1:3d). Remember, we are focusing on the inner, not outward man. The “blessed” man’s focus is eternal and not limited to immediate, visible fruit. The legacy of a blessed man is not only the immediate fruit borne by his life and works, but also the seeds he plants that will live long after his earthly sojourn has ended.

What about you? Where are you planted?

Someone has observed, “A Bible that’s falling apart probably belongs to someone who isn’t.” —Christian Johnson. Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 1.; Today’s Best Illustrations.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The End May Not Justify the Means. (1 Chronicles 13-16)

Scripture Reading – 1 Chronicles 13-16

While our Scripture reading covers four chapters, today’s devotional commentary will focus on only one, 1 Chronicles 13.

1 Chronicles 13 – A Great Celebration Goes Terribly Wrong

Heralding a call for revival, David commanded the “Ark of God” (also known as the Ark of the Covenant) be brought to Jerusalem, for the nation had “enquired not at it in the days of Saul” (13:2-3).  What a sad commentary on the reign of King Saul! The Ark, representing the heavenly Throne of God on earth and in the midst of Israel, had not been consulted nor a central point of worship in Israel for some seventy years.

Thirty thousand men of Israel (2 Samuel 6:1) had come to celebrate the Ark’s journey to Jerusalem; however, the joyous occasion was cut short when a man named Uzza “put forth his hand to hold (or steady) the ark” that was being carried on a cart pulled by oxen (13:7-10). Unfortunately for Uzza, neither David nor the Levites had consulted the scriptures on the God-appointed means and method for transporting the Ark (13:7-10).

“WHY?” becomes a question we should address. 

Why would God punish Uzza whose impulse to steady the Ark on the cart was not only instinctive, but also arguably innocent (13:9-10)? After all, was it not a good thing that the desire of David and the elders of Israel was to have the Ark, the symbol of God’s presence, in Jerusalem the capital city?

David’s response to God’s swiftly striking Uzza reminds us that the king was quite human. We read, “David was displeased” (13:11), meaning angry or burning with anger.  Frustrated and fearing God, David asked, “How shall I bring the ark of God home to me?” (13:12)

Is that not like you and me? Have you ever committed yourself to something, but then realized you failed to pray?  The question David asked after Uzza was struck down was the one he should have asked before attempting to bring the Ark to Jerusalem.

Uzza was not struck down because he was insincere or impassionate in his desire to see the Ark moved to Jerusalem.  He died because the manner in which the Ark was transported violated God’s instructions.  The Ark was to be carried by means of staves or poles (Numbers 4).  Touching the sacred Ark, the symbol of God’s heavenly Throne (which is holy), defied God’s instructions and defiled what God declared to be holy and sanctified for Himself (Numbers 1:51; 4:15, 20).

Regardless of how well-meaning or pious the motive was for moving the Ark to Jerusalem, employing any means other than that the LORD commanded was inevitably going to lead to a tragic end.

“It is never right to do wrong to get a chance to do right.”  (Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.)

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Passing the Torch: Lessons in Leadership Succession (2 Samuel 1-4)

Daily reading assignment: 2 Samuel 1-4

As we open our Bibles to 2 Samuel, we find David and Israel entering a new era.  King Saul and his son Jonathan have been slain in battle against the Philistines (1 Samuel 31).

An Amalekite soldier fabricated a claim that he had slain Saul in an act of mercy to spare him the indignity of falling into the hands of the Philistines (2 Samuel 1:1-10).  The truth was, Saul had fallen upon his own sword (1 Samuel 31:4).

Rather than rejoicing in the death of Saul, David mourned his death and ordered the man who claimed to have slain him put to death (1:11-16). Three times David lamented the deaths of King Saul and his sons (1:19, 25, 27).

The closing verses of 2 Samuel 1 express in poetic tones the grievous loss of Jonathan, David’s confidant and friend (1:25-27). 

Some have tried to paint David’s lament for the death of his friend as a twisted validation of sodomy…it is not!  Not only is sodomy condemned in God’s Law (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Deuteronomy 23:17; Romans 1:26-27); it would never be rendered in a song for the people to sing.  David’s love for Jonathan was one of mutual trust; such a friend is rare indeed!

2 Samuel 2

David has waited more than a decade to be king.  With Saul dead, David turned to the LORD for wisdom, asking, “Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?”  (2:1).  With the LORD’s blessing, David went up to Hebron and was crowned king by the men of the tribe of Judah (2:2-4).

David immediately faced opposition from Abner, Saul’s nephew who moved to make Ishbosheth, a surviving son of Saul, king (2:9-10).  Abner’s opposition to David, coupled with Ishbosheth’s weak character, plunged the nation into a civil war (2:10-11) that would last over 7 years.

2 Samuel 3 – Three Principles for Leadership Succession

In spite of opposition, God blessed David and he “waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker” (3:1). Three principles are evident in David’s patience in the midst of conflict.

The first: Time is always on the side of the righteous.  The prophet Isaiah assured God’s people:

Isaiah 54:17 – “No weapon that is formed [fashioned; made] against thee shall prosper [succeed]; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn [show to be in the wrong]. This [triumph of righteousness] is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness [vindication; victory; success] is of me, saith the LORD.”

The second: Truth will triumph!  Men like Abner and Ishbosheth play the fool and are doomed when they oppose the will of the LORD.

The third: The lust for power, position, and influence is self-destructive in politics, business, and ministry. 

It seems to me that three manner of men rise to power and position in our world: the weak who, like Ishbosheth have connections; the strong who, like Abner are driven by greed and manipulate others to promote themselves; the third, God’s anointed who, like David are called, equipped, and dependent on God for promotion.

I have found churches, Bible colleges, and other religious institutions tend to fall prey to the same fallacies for a succession of leadership.

Some believe bloodlines (family) and relationships (friendships, peers, colleagues) will somehow assure success.

Churches, pulpit committees, and boards of institutions look for flashy, well-spoken, charismatic leaders and learn too late they chose the proverbial “flash in the pan” and failed to choose God’s anointed.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith