Category Archives: Morality

“The Wise Man and His Relationships”

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 11-12

Today’s devotional reading is Proverbs 11 and Proverbs 12.  My focus today will be Proverbs 11:1; however, I invite you to refer to my devotional commentaries in the Book of Proverbs on my “Heart of a Shepherd” website to amplify individual verses in today’s scripture reading.

Like many chapters in the Book of Proverbs, chapter 11 reads like a shotgun scatters pellets…a plethora of truths that stand individually on their own without the necessity of being one coherent progression of thought.  Our focus will be one proverb, Proverbs 11:1 which addresses the manner of people God would have us to be.

Proverbs 11:1- A false balance [deceit or crookedness] is abomination [shameful] to the LORD: but a just [right and honest] weight [having and exercising integrity] is his delight.

The subject of verse 1 is Integrity [adhering to a moral code or absolute standard]. In our day, government agencies certify weights and volume in goods and services. One agency certifies when you purchase a gallon of gas you get a gallon of gas.  Another agency certifies when you purchase food items at the grocery store you are getting the weight and volume stated on the packaging.

For the sake of illustration, let’s put the setting of verse 1 in a butcher shop where meat is cut, weighed, wrapped and stamped with a description that certifies the cut and price of the meat based upon weight.

The use of unjust or inaccurate weights by dishonest shop owners has been the pattern of many down through the centuries. In our butcher shop analogy, a butcher, using a “false balance”, misleads a customer by presenting a cut of meat as weighing more than it really does…an act that is “abomination to the Lord”.  Solomon reminds his son that God delights in men of integrity…men who commit to being honest; men whose word is as binding as a signed contract.

The application of verse 1 goes beyond the matter of weights and balances —at issue is the character of the whole man [after all, the literal meaning of “integrity” is completeness or wholeness].

Lesson – Dishonesty in word and action is an abomination to the Lord. He accepts nothing less than truth and sincerity.

Are you honest, sincere and forthright in business? Are you a person of your word?

God is delighted when His people walk with honesty and integrity.  I challenge you—be that man! 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Don’t Be a Fool: Character Does Matter!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Kings 11-15

My first memory of a public debate over the importance of a man’s character in public office dates to 1992 when President Bill Clinton was first running for President of the United States.  Twenty-five years later, I am still stunned the obvious would be a matter of debate.

The moral values rooted in the heart of a man define his character and drive his disciplines in thought and deed.  Character is the compass that charts a man’s course in conduct and life and a leader’s character profoundly affects his sphere of influence. A man’s character will either bless or curse his home, marriage, ministry, business and public office.

The opening verses of 2 Kings 11 are illustrative of the matter of character and indicative of the depths of depravity a soul will descend when driven by a covetous heart set upon power, position and possessions.   Athaliah, a murderous wench and the mother of Ahaziah king of Judah, seeing her son was dead, (2 Kings 8:25-26; 9:27), directed the murder of her grandchildren so she might succeed her son to the throne of Judah (2 Kings 11:1).

In spite of his grandmother’s murderous rampage, Joash, the infant son of king Ahaziah was spared when his aunt hid he and his nurse in her house for six years (2 Kings 11:2-3).   In the seventh year of queen Athaliah’s reign, Jehoiada, a commander of Judah’s army revealed a son of the late king Ahaziah had survived the slaughter of the king’s sons (11:4-11).   Swearing allegiance to Joash, the military leaders crowned him king of Judah (11:12) and executed queen Athaliah  (11:13-16; 2 Chronicles 23:12-15).

Following the death of Athaliah, the nation of Judah enjoyed a season of spiritual revival (2 Kings 11:17-21).   Jehoiada, the high priest, renewed the nation’s covenant with the LORD “that they should be the LORD’S people” (11:17) and directed the destruction of the altars of Baal (11:18).   Although only seven years old (11:21); Jehoash (i.e. Joash), was profoundly influenced by the high priest and “all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was in quiet” (11:20).

The revival in Judah was far reaching and “Jehoash did that which was right in the sight of the LORD all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him” (2 Kings 12:2).   The king directed renovation of the Temple that had fallen into disrepair; however, when Jehoiada died, the king neglected the Temple and apostasy once again took root in Judah (2 Chronicles 24:15-22).

Sadly, the life of Jehoash ends tragically in 2 Kings 12:17-21.   Without his godly mentor, Jehoash evidenced shallowness in both his faith and character.   When the king of Syria threatened Judah, rather than look to the LORD, Jehoash bribed the heathen king of Syria by giving him the tithes and offerings in the Temple treasuries.   Soon after, two servants assassinated Jehoash.

Does a man (or woman’s) character matter? I will allow the Word of God to answer that question.

Proverbs 29:2 – When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

God’s Call to Holiness

Monday, July 17, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Leviticus 16-18

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

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

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

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

Hebrews 9:24-28 – “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
25  Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
26  For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
27  And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
28  So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Idle Hands Are The Devil’s Workshop”

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 10

The following study is taken in part from my devotional commentary post on the Book of Proverbs dated December 10, 2014.

Today’s study in proverbs features what I will call three “stand alone proverbs” – three proverbial statements of “Uncommon Common Sense” communicating three distinct observations.

Proverbs 10:15  “The rich man’s wealth [property; possessions; savings] is his strong city [a fortified city]: the destruction [ruin; dismay; terror] of the poor [needy; helpless] is their poverty.”

“You didn’t build that!”, was an adage employed by liberal politicians in the 2012 election cycle in the United States.   Hoping to stir up class envy, the statement taunted the successful while dismissing the sacrifices and risks taken by employers and business owners.  I accept the statement if the intent is to acknowledge divine providence; however, an ideology that taunts hardworking entrepreneurs, spawns an expansive welfare state, inevitably makes citizens debtors and slaves of big government.   How tragic!   While excoriating the successful, the poor are left weak, dependent and one crisis from destitution!

Proverbs 10:15 is a statement of fact—a rich man finds comfort and security in his wealth.   In the same way citizens of a medieval city found refuge behind the walls of a city, a rich man finds security in riches providentially provided to him by God.   By contrast, the working poor are often a crisis away from desperation (an incentive to be a “saver” and not a “spender” or “debtor”).

Proverbs 10:16 – “The labour  [wages; reward] of the righteous [just; law-abiding] tendeth to life [strength; satisfaction]: the fruit [result; reaping] of the wicked [ungodly; guilty] to sin [punishment; i.e. leads to greater sin].”

Though the curse of sin left man laboring for food by the sweat of his brow (Genesis 3:19),  the reward of an honest day’s labor brings its own satisfaction.   I am not sure who to credit with the quote, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”; however, there is a lot of truth in that statement.   The prevalence of depression in our society is, I believe, directly related to the gross amount of leisure time we enjoy as a society.  Too few of us come to the end of a day and enjoy the reward of having accomplished anything that is lasting!

Proverbs 10:17 – “He is in the way [path] of life that keepeth [heeds] instruction: but he that refuseth reproof [refuses to hear and heed correction] erreth.”

Solomon continues a common theme in verse 17—God blesses a man who heeds correction and rebuke; however, a rebel will inevitably follow a path to his own destruction.

As Solomon challenged his son to take the path of righteousness, it is the duty and responsibility of parents and spiritual leaders to challenge men and women with the same enduring truths from God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:2)!

Two questions to ponder: What path are you taking?  Is your heart open to correction? 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: God is the Final Judge and Justice Will Prevail!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalm 81-83

We continue in our reading and study of the Book of the Psalms each Wednesday and today our assignment is Psalms 81, 82 and 83.   Of course, these psalms are hymns of praise Israel would sing as they worshipped the LORD in His Temple.

Psalm 81 calls the people together to worship, reminding them of the LORD’s love and providential care for Israel.  The occasion is a Jewish holiday (81:3); however, the exact holiday is not stated.   I believe it might have been the Passover since the psalm makes reference to Israel’s sojourn in Egypt (81:5-6) and the nation’s journey out of Egypt and in the wilderness (81:7-10).

Psalm 82 focuses on the failure of judges  to exercise righteous judgments in the affairs and disputes arising among the people.   The psalmist reminds the judges and others in positions of leadership, God is the final judge (82:1); “How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?” (82:2).

Reminding us nothing has changed concerning the hearts of sinners, the leaders and judges in Israel were apparently accepting bribes and granting favors to the wicked, at the sacrifice of the good and well-being of the “poor, fatherless, and needy” (82:3-4).   The psalmist admonishes the judges; “do justice to the afflicted and needy… rid them out of the hand of the wicked” (82:3b, 4b).

Psalm 82:5 reminds us when the balances of justice are weighed in favor of the wicked, darkness prevails (82:5a) and the principles of truth and righteousness are “out of course” (82:5b).

On a personal note: Though founded upon spiritual principles that are foundationally Biblical, it is my observation America’s judicial system is skewed by unjust politicians, lawyers and judges who too often rule in favor of the wicked.   Sadly, justice is for sale to the highest bidder in some courts and the poor, needy, and middle class suffer injustices.

Psalm 82:6 reminds those who judge (and I believe this is applicable not only in civil courts, but also when judgment is required of the church in matters of discipline) they are to weigh judicial matters of law and justice as God’s earthly representatives (“…all of you are children of the most High” – 82:6).

Let all who are in authority and bear the trust of God and the people in civil, academic and spiritual matters be reminded God is the final judge and all will be held accountable for their sphere of influence and judgments (82:7-8).

Romans 14:11-12 – For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12  So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Divorce: Don’t Do It!

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Luke 15-16

Today’s devotional reading is from the Gospel of Luke, chapters 15-16 and contains some of the most beloved parables taught by our LORD:  The Lost Sheep (15:4-10); The Prodigal Son (15:11-32); The Unfaithful Servant (16:1-13); and The Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-31).  The latter is believed by some to not fall into the category of a parable because it uses a man’s proper name, Lazarus.

In the midst of Luke 16 we come to five verses that seem an interruption in the passage until we remember they come as a response to the Pharisees (16:14) who were adversaries of the LORD and often used occasions He taught the people in public to confront Him.   Having listened to the parable of “The Unjust Steward” (16:1-13), the Pharisees “who were covetous” (16:14) chose the occasion to “deride” the LORD (i.e. to openly mock, sneer, scoff).

Rather than retreat, the LORD answered the derision of the Pharisees using the occasion to expose their hypocrisy.  Accusing them of aspiring for men’s venerations, Jesus unmasked the hypocrisy God knew was in their hearts (16:15).

Having rebuked the Pharisees who considered themselves experts in the law of God, I believe Jesus turned His focus to His audience and said, 16  The law and the prophets were until John [the Baptist]: since that time the kingdom of God is preached [marked by the coming of Jesus Christ], and every man presseth [pushes by force; forcing his own way] into it. 17  And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle [small stroke of a pen] of the law to fail” (Luke 16:16-17).

After addressing the transition between the Old Testament Law bridged by John the Baptist to the LORD’s ministry and His preaching concerning the gospel of “the kingdom of God” (16:16-17), Jesus addressed an issue of Old Testament law the Pharisees had distorted… marriage and divorce (16:18).

Luke 16:18 “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.”

Rather than being strong advocates of the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman as God designed (Genesis 2:21-24; Matthew 5:31-32; 19:4-10; Ephesians 5:28-33), the Pharisees misinterpreted Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and gave liberty for men to divorce their wives for the silliest of reasons.

I close with a few parting thoughts on marriage, divorce and remarriage.  The first, there is no doubt God’s will and design is that marriage is a lifetime covenant between one man and one woman.  The second, God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16 – “For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away”).

Finally, although there is heated debate over this point, I believe the only grounds for divorce is unrepentant adultery and I cite three passages of scripture for my authority in this matter.

Matthew 5:31-32 “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32  But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”

Matthew 19:9 “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”

1 Corinthians 7:15 – “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.”

Some might ask, “What if my adulterous spouse claims to be a believer, does 1 Corinthians 7:15 apply?”  My answer is, “Yes”; but you must be a member of a church that is willing to address the sins of its members biblically and follow the guidelines for restoration found in Matthew 18:15-17.  When a professing believer refuses to repent after repeated attempts for restoration, the church is to declare that one “an heathen”, an unbeliever.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Who You Gonna Blame? (a version of today’s post and title for this Sunday’s sermon)

Dear Hillsdale family and Heart of a Shepherd Readers,

One of my joys in writing daily devotional commentaries has been my edification from the disciplined readings and meditations in God’s Word.   A fruit of that discipline has been the opportunity of sometimes preaching on a current topic that has an ancient parallel; today’s devotional is such an example.

The subject and context of Ezekiel 18, part of today’s scripture reading, is as current as news headlines in this morning’s newspaper (and a lot more truthful)!   In fact, I have decided to make Ezekiel 18 the topic for this Sunday morning’s patriotic sermon.

As I read and meditated on Ezekiel 18 and observed how the youth in Israel blamed their troubles on their fathers, I realized the “victimhood” complaints of today’s millennial generation, their demands for “entitlements” and practice of blame shifting are a mirror of the depravity that has been in the heart of man since the fall.

I look forward to preaching, “Who You Gonna Blame?” this July 2, 2017 Sunday morning.  I conclude this post with an excerpt from my unabridged post for today.

There was no debate over the question of God judging Israel for sin; however, a question of responsibility for the calamities facing the nation rose among the people.

The younger population said,  “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?” (18:2).  In other words, some were blaming the nation’s troubles and miseries on the sins of their forefathers.  In our day when “blame shifting” is epidemic and everyone is a victim, Ezekiel 18 is applicable to the homes of believers and non-believers .

The universality of man’s wickedness and the inevitable consequences of sin are declared by the LORD: Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (18:4).  While all have sinned, nevertheless, the LORD is just and His judgments are right and He blesses the man who chooses righteousness and obeys His statues and judgments (18:5-9).

Herein is a spiritual lesson for us all: Every generation bears responsibility for its sins and God does not hold a father accountable for the sins of his son (18:10-13) no more than he holds a son accountable for the sins of his father.   When a son see his father’s sins, but chooses the way of righteousness, that son will not bear his father’s guilt (18:14-17); however, the father will be punished for his own sins (18:18-20).

So, who you gonna blame for your troubles?

I close with a challenge to parents who, though not perfect parents, are loving parents but find themselves burdened with an adult child that is a sorrow to their hearts.  Guard your heart against false guilt!  Don’t allow a child wallowing in the mire of self-pity give you cause to despair.  No man or woman has the privilege to blame others for the consequences of their own sinful choices.

God is just and He judges every man and woman “according to his ways” (18:30).   A family will suffer consequences for a family member’s sinful choices; however, the key is in how you respond to those troubles and sorrows.

Remember:  “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20). 

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith