Category Archives: Music

Warning: A Believer’s Liberty is No License to Sin! (1 Corinthians 8; 1 Corinthians 9)

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Scripture reading – 1 Corinthians 8; 1 Corinthians 9

Continuing our study of 1 Corinthians, we come to 1 Corinthians 8 and 9 and a subject that is championed by some, and vilified by others. “Christian Liberty” (as it is labeled and defined in the 21st century) has been a theme of sermon series, Bible studies, and celebrations for two decades. Under the mistaken notion of “FREEDOM” from the Law, church leaders have led their congregations and school bodies down a path that instead has led to a license to sin. Tragically, the emphasis on freedom has seen a rise in carnality that was predictable by any who know the Scriptures and rightly interpret the immutable Word of God.

What do the Scriptures teach on the matter of “Christian Liberty?” Today’s devotional is taken from 1 Corinthians 8, which is a central passage on the subject of Liberty.

“To Eat or Not to Eat?” (8:1-3)

Paul mentioned in 1 Corinthians 7:1 he had received a letter from believers in Corinth. In addition to their question on sexual morality, marriage, and divorce (1 Corinthians 7), it appeared they asked for Paul’s judgment on another topic: Eating meat (and other food items) that had been offered to idols (8:4). Before he tackled that subject, the apostle addressed a fundamental issue that provoked the question: Pride; in this case, pride prompted by one’s knowledge or understanding (8:1-3).

Isn’t interesting: The question of liberty arose within a church that wrestled with knowledge in the absence of love? (8:1) Regarding idols, Paul wrote, “we know that we all have knowledge” (8:1). Knowledge of what? The understanding that an idol is nothing! Believers understand there is One God, and He is God alone, and there is none other. Yet, that knowledge (that an idol is nothing), had given cause for some to be proud (“puffed up,” 8:1b). Then, Paul asserted, “charity edifieth” (8:1), meaning love in action builds up, and strengthens fellow-believers.

The problem with those believers who were championing their liberty is they were arrogant. While they boasted they had knowledge, they were missing the most fundamental doctrine—Charity (i.e., love; 8:2). Paul wrote later, without love, “I am nothing” (13:2). So, those who boasted in their liberty were guilty of being unloving to fellow-believers, and Paul judged those saying, “he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know (8:2). Loving God is evidence of our intimate knowledge of Him (8:3).

Regarding Eating Things Offered to Idols (8:4-8)

It is doubtful 21st century believers will face the question of eating meat offered to idols; however, it is important we grasp the spiritual principal Paul taught. There is evidence idol worshippers would sacrifice animals or other food items in temples, and heathen priests would sell the overflow of those sacrifices in a market attached to the temple. It is supposed such gave rise to the question: Do believers have liberty to purchase and eat meat or produce from a market, knowing it was offered to an idol.

Paul affirmed, believers have liberty to purchase and eat meat or any other food offered to an idol, for an “idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one” (8:4). Though a heathen worships his idol as a god (of which there were many, 8:5a), believers had knowledge “there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ (God who came in the person of Jesus), by whom are all things, and we by him” (8:6).

The question of eating anything offered to idols was a matter of liberty (whether to eat or not to eat); however, the issue was not a believer’s freedom, but the affect his liberty would have on other believers. Why? Because not every believer could eat anything offered to an idol with a clear conscience (8:8a). Rather than a question of liberty or freedom, it was an issue of one believer’s affect or influence on another. Eating or not eating meat offered to an idol was not an issue with God (8:8). Also, the Scriptures do not forbid eating meat offered to idols (Romans 14:14-15).

Brotherly love is concerned with how one’s liberty affects others. (8:9-13)

Rather than a defense of personal freedom, or an insistence on a believer’s right to exercise liberty, Paul’s tone was a warning: “Take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock [an offense] to them that are weak” (8:9). In other words, to insist on your right to do something when you know it offends others, is unloving. There were believers who chose to eat meat offered to idols, even though they understood it was an offense to other believers (8:9). In doing so, they became “a stumblingblock” (8:9).

Paul appealed to those with understanding, but had been unloving in their demands for liberty, and asked, “through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?” (8:11). What a tragedy! Though they understood there is only One God, and an idol is nothing; yet, they failed the love test and willfully imperiled the spiritual lives and walk of other believers.

Closing thoughts (8:12-13) – I fear some believers (fathers, mothers, pastors, teachers, deacons) may read this devotion, and are too proud to see the effect of their liberty on others. Are you guilty of flaunting liberty, even at the risk of offending fellow-believers? Paul warned, when a believer exercises liberty in areas that offend others, they not only sin “against the brethren,” they “sin against Christ” (8:12). In essence, a believer does not have liberty if his liberty offends. Modeling the spiritual mature believer, he was, Paul determined: “If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (8:13).

Warning: What some insist is their liberty, has become a license to sin. They not only sin against others, but against Christ (8:12). Such have become the unloving champions of “Christian Liberty.”

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Danger: Celebrity Preachers are the Curse of the Church (1 Corinthians 3; 1 Corinthians 4)

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Scripture reading – 1 Corinthians 3; 1 Corinthians 4

Our study of Paul’s first epistle to Corinth continues with today’s Scripture reading, 1 Corinthians 3 and 4. Our devotional will be taken from 1 Corinthians 3.

We noticed in the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 1, how Paul lovingly affirmed the congregation of believers in Corinth (1:1-10). Sadly, it was divisions and conflicts in the early church that prompted the letter, and became the primary focus of 1 Corinthians.

Remember, the first point of conflict Paul addressed was the factions that occurred as believers aligned themselves with dominant personalities of the early church. There were some who said, “I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ” (1:11-12). To that point, Paul asked, “13Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1:13) Paul picks up that same issue in 1 Corinthians 3.

1 Corinthians 3 – The Carnal Church

The opening verses of 1 Corinthians 3 are a wonderful reminder the Scriptures are timeless, and a sad reminder the sinfulness of man is the same from generation to generation. It may surprise you, but the sin that plagued the 1stcentury church is the sin that is the bane of the 21st century church—man-centered, rather than Christ-centered.

Passionate and honest, Paul was led by the Spirit to boldly identify the root cause of division and strife in the congregation –carnality (3:1-3).

What is carnality? It is an affection for the world rooted in the sinful flesh of man, and is constrained by sinful lust and passions. In other words, it is natural, and contrary to the Spirit of God and the likeness of Christ. Look at today’s church and you will observe a membership that professes to be followers of Christ, yet in reality evidences little desire for spiritual truth. Why? Paul diagnosed the problem in these words: I “could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2I have fed you with milk [Spiritual ABC’s], and not with meat [the appetite of mature believers]: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 3For ye are yet carnal” (3:1-3a).

The Manifestation of Carnality (3:3b-9)

How is carnality manifested in a congregation? Once again, Paul diagnosed the problem, writing, “there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions” (3:3). Before we rush on in our study, take a moment and reflect not only on your church, but on yourself, your family, and fellow-believers. Paul asked his readers, “Are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (3:3b). Might that be said of you?

Notice also how carnality was not only evidenced in the presence of conflict, but was manifested in polarizing around personalities. Paul continued, “4For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” (3:4)

A Spiritual Perspective for the Carnally-minded (3:5-9)

After addressing the root sin of believers (carnality), and the evidence of that sin in the congregation (turmoil that was provoked by following men, rather than Christ), Paul challenged the congregation to a spiritual perspective. The apostle asked, “5Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?” (3:5).

The spiritual perspective of those who are pastors is to remember they are ministers, servants whom the LORD appointed to their task. Though they are loved by their congregation, they are nevertheless servants, and each is gifted and called by the Lord to their task (1:5). Paul asserted, he had planted (the seed of the Gospel), and Apollos had followed him in Corinth and watered, “but God gave the increase” (3:6). Paul and Apollos had their callings (the former was an apostle, the latter a minister), but it is God that blesses and is the cause for spiritual growth.

A godly pastor will deflect praise to the Lord, for he will know he is nothing apart from God’s blessings (3:7). Indeed, the ministry of the church and growth of believers should be to the glory of the Lord. Those who minister ought to labor understanding that “every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour” (3:8). All who serve the Lord have their gifts, and place, and we would do well to remember “we are labourers together [fellow servants] with God: ye are God’s husbandry [garden; field], ye are God’s building” (3:9).

Closing thoughts – Let’s not make celebrities out of those who are nothing more than the servants of God. Pastors, evangelists, teachers, and missionaries have their place, and should be honored for their faithfulness. However, following a popular personality is detrimental to the spirit and unity of a congregation. To do so is carnal.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

What Does God Require? Cool or Holy Ministers? (Ezekiel 41; Ezekiel 42)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 41; Ezekiel 42

Our consideration of the new Temple of the Millennial Kingdom continues with a description of the outer and inner sanctuaries of the Temple (Ezekiel 41-42). Rather than belabor the dimensional details of the Temple (height, length, breadth), I will highlight the various aspects of the Temple grounds that includes the walls, doors, courtyards, buildings, and the Temple itself.

The Outer Sanctuary of the Millennial Temple (40:48-41:26)

The heavenly messenger led Ezekiel up the steps and through the portico of the Temple (40:48-49), and into the outer sanctuary (41:1-2) which measured 70 feet long and was 35 feet wide (41:2).

The Inner Sanctuary – “The Most Holy Place” (41:3-5)

The inner sanctuary was a perfect square that measured 35 feet by 35 feet. Unlike the Tabernacle and the earlier Temples (Solomon’s, and Zerubbabel’s built after the Babylonian captivity, and Herod’s Temple), the Millennial Temple did not have a veil that separated the inner sanctuary from the outer sanctuary.

Other Details of the Temple (41:6-26)

Ezekiel noticed there were side rooms of the Temple that stood three stories, with 30 rooms on each floor (41:6). Connecting the floors was a winding staircase that extended from the ground floor to the upper floors (41:7). The foundation of the Temple was elevated, and stood 10.5 feet high (41:8). There was a separate building at the west end of the Temple, but its use was not identified (41:12). The measurement of the Temple was 175 feet square (41:13-15).

The Décor of the Temple (41:16-21)

The walls, floor and ceiling of the Temple were covered with wood, as were the long, narrow windows (41:16-17). The walls of the Temple were of paneled wood (41:17), and were carved with an alternating pattern of cherubim and palm trees (41:18-20).

Before going further, let’s visit the subject of the missing veil. Beginning with the Tabernacle and continuing through the Temple era, a veil separated the outer court of the sanctuary from the innermost room of the Temple known as the Holy of Holies (also the “Holy Place” and the “Most Holy Place”). The veil represented a barrier of separation that was between sinful man and God who is holy. It served the purpose of preventing men from seeing or entering into the presence of God (Exodus 26:31-35). When Jesus Christ died on the Cross, the veil was torn from the top to the bottom, for His sacrifice removed the barrier between God and sinners (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45; Romans 5:1-2; Hebrews 10:19-23; 1 Peter 3:18).

The Furniture of the Temple (41:21-26)

The tabernacle and earlier Temples were furnished with the Ark of the Covenant and its Mercy Seat, upon which there were two cherubim that faced one another (all gold-plated, Exodus 25:10; 37:1-9). This was the place of God’s presence on earth. In the Temple of the Millennial Kingdom, only a wood altar (perhaps used for burning incense), 3.5 feet square, and standing 5.25 feet tall was found in the most holy place (41:22).  Double doors served as the panel between the outer and inner sanctuary (41:23-24).  Carved cherubim and palm trees decorated the panels of the doors, and the narrow windows were decorated with palm trees and wood overhangings (41:25-26).

Ezekiel 42 – Buildings for the Priests (note 40:44-46)

Located in the outer court of the Temple, and against the wall of the inner court, were buildings for priests. We are given the dimensions of the buildings (42:2-3), as well as the fact they stood three stories tall (42:3b). The upper floors of the buildings were narrower than the first, making room for walkways (42:4-6). A wall separated the priests’ building from the outer court (42:7-9). On the south side of the Temple was a second building for the priests, and its dimensions were identical to the first (42:10-12).

The Purpose of the Priests’ Buildings (42:13-14)

The buildings for the priests provided a place to prepare for their ministry in the Temple. They were described as “holy chambers” (42:13), for there the priests prepared to minister before the LORD. It was in the “holy chambers” that food offerings were stored, and to be eaten (42:13). This was also the place the priests were to change out of their priestly “garments wherein they minister; for they are holy; and shall put on other garments, and shall approach to those things which are for the people” (42:14). The priests were not to wear their priestly robes outside the Temple complex. Also, they were not to wear the clothes of their secular lives when ministering for the LORD in His holy Temple.

Closing thoughts (42:15-20) – Our study concludes with the angelic messenger leading Ezekiel out the east gate, where he measured the wall that surrounded the Temple area. It was perfectly squared, with the north, south, east, and west walls being 5,250 feet in length (42:15-20). The outer wall of the Temple complex provided a separation between the world, and God and His holy Temple.

The Holiness of God and the Doctrine of Separation – I suggest the overriding lesson from today’s study is the reminder God is Holy, and deserves and demands we be the same. Today’s churches advertise, “come as you are,” and even pastors have succumbed to being “cool” and wearing ripped jeans, and even shorts. While the clothes of the priests reminded everyone the LORD required holiness (Leviticus 20:7), it appears that preachers and believers of this generation are more interested in looking “cool” than they are in being holy.

1 Peter 1:15-16 – “15But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Praise Ye the LORD! (Psalm 135, Isaiah 49)

Scripture reading – Psalm 135, Isaiah 49

Our Scripture reading is Psalm 135 and Isaiah 49. While the author of Psalm 135 is unnamed, it is certainly an inspiring song with a call for God’s people to worship and praise the LORD. Isaiah 49 is both prophetic and a psalm of adoration (49:13-17). Today’s devotional will be taken from Psalm 135.

Psalm 135

Consider with me three questions that will serve as an outline for Psalm 135. The first question:

Who should praise the LORD?” (135:1-3)

In verse 1, the command to “praise” the LORD is stated three times; however, the first “praise,” is an exclamation that can be translated literally, “Hallelujah.” In praising the “name of the LORD,” we are to recall, boast, and admire Him for Who He is in His person and attributes (the focus of Psalm 135:4-14).

Who should praise the LORD? The first mentioned are the “servants of the LORD” (135:1c). The servants were those who ministered in the Temple. The priests, Levites, singers, musicians, were all “servants of the LORD.” A second group who were summoned to praise the LORD were the people standing “in the house of the LORD, [and] in the courts of the house [Temple] of our God” (135:2).

All who gathered in the outer courts of the Temple and recognized “the LORD is good,” were invited to worship, and Sing praises unto his name; for it is pleasant” (135:3). “Pleasant,” meaning lovely, joyful, melodious, and sweet. Unlike the loud, beating, boisterous music that is characteristic of today’s so-called church music, the character of the songs that were used in worshiping the LORD were “pleasant,” and pleasing to Him.

A second question we might consider in our study of Psalm 135 is stated:

Why praise the LORD?” (135:4-14)

Many reasons were given for praising the LORD, and high on the list affirms, He had “chosen Jacob unto himself, And Israel for his peculiar treasure” (135:4). God’s people were to praise the LORD because of His character and attributes: He is great, incomparable (“above all gods”), and Sovereign (having done whatsoever He pleased, 135:5-6). The LORD was worthy of praise because He is the Creator, and directs the rain, lightnings, and wind as a blessing to His people (135:7).

The LORD should be praised for He was the Deliverer of His people. He “smote the firstborn of Egypt,” and by ten plagues humbled Egypt and Pharaoh (135:8-9). He also slew the kings of the Amorites, Bashan, and Canaan (135:10-11). He kept His covenant with Israel, and gave them Canaan as “an heritage unto Israel His people” (135:12).

The LORD is worthy of praise for He is eternal, and His name “endureth for ever” (135:13). He should be praised because He is just, merciful, compassionate, and “will repent [forgive] himself concerning his servants” (135:14).

The third question in our outline of Psalm 135 is this:

“Why are idols unworthy of man’s worship?” (135:15-18)

The psalmist’s answer to that question is simple in its explanations, yet profound in its application. While the 21stcentury man might think of himself as too sophisticated to worship idols, there is much about Psalm 135:15-18 that should reverberate in the heart of men and women of all ages.

For instance, “the idols of the heathen [were] silver and gold, The work of men’s hands” (135:15), but the modern man is little different. We might not worship objects we have crafted out of silver and gold, but we certainly love, and lust after things we purchase with silver and gold.

The psalmist’s description of the idols of the heathen was both humorous and tragic (135:16-18). He worshipped as gods the vessels of his own invention (135:15); however, his gods were mute, blind, deaf, and lifeless (135:16-17). Indeed, those who worshipped such idols were as mute, blind, deaf, and lifeless as the objects they worshipped (135:18)!

Closing thoughts – Our study of Psalm 135 concludes appropriately with three verses of exhortation. The “house of Israel” (the Twelve Tribes), the “house of Aaron” (the high priests), the “house of Levi” (those who assisted the priests, and served as Temple musicians), and all “that fear [and revere] the LORD” were to praise Him (135:19-20).

Psalm 135:21 reminds us the LORD had chosen Zion, and the city of Jerusalem as the place where the Ark, representing God’s heavenly throne, was placed and served as a reminder He was in the midst of His chosen people.

Ending as it began, Psalm 135 concludes with an exhortation that should be the practice of all believers: “Praise ye the LORD!” (135:21)

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Four Probing Questions on the Matter of Praising the LORD (Psalm 150)

Scripture reading – Psalm 150

Psalm 150 completes our journey through the book of the Psalms for 2021.  We will return to this divinely inspired collection of worship songs in March 2022. Psalm 150 reminds us to not only praise the LORD, but reveals the central role music has had in the worship down through the centuries. Twelve times the psalmist calls on God’s people to “Praise the Lord!”

For our study, I suggest four questions to consider in the believer’s obligation to give praise to the LORD.

Where should believers praise the LORD? (150:1)

Psalm 150:11Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary [holy place]: Praise him in the firmament [breadth of the heavens] of his power.

The LORD is to be praised “in His sanctuary” (150:1a). What was His sanctuary? It was the Temple, and specifically the inner sanctum, the holy of holies. Though the heavens and the earth could not contain Him, He chose to bless the sanctuary in the midst of Israel with His presence.

Not only should the LORD be praised “in His sanctuary,” His power is displayed in the “firmament” of heaven, and gives all who look upon it cause to shout Hallelujah! “Praise ye the LORD” (150:1).

Why should believers praise the LORD? (150:2)

Psalm 150:22Praise him for his mighty acts [strength and mighty deeds]: Praise him according to his excellent[abundant] greatness [majesty].

God is worthy of our praise because of His mighty deeds, and the heavens and all creation reflect His majesty (150:2).

How (and with what) should believers praise the LORD? (150:3-5)

Psalm 150:3-53Praise him with the sound [blast] of the trumpet [horn; shofar or ram’s horn]: Praise him with the psaltery [lute or string instrument] and harp.
4Praise him with the timbrel [a hand drum or tambourine] and dance [a whirling around, circular dance]: Praise him with stringed instruments [played by plucking strings] and organs [wind instruments; flute or reed instrument].
5Praise him upon the loud cymbals [percussion instruments]: Praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.

Musical instruments have always been a part of congregational worship, and here the psalmist describes a virtual orchestra of instruments upon which musicians were to praise and worship the LORD. Horns, lute like string instruments, harps, percussion instruments consisting of tambourines, hand drums, cymbals, and wind instruments were all part of congregational worship. Accompanying the orchestra were those who praised the LORD in dance, with its whirling motions (150:4)

Who should praise the LORD? (150:6)

Psalm 150:66Let every thing [all living creatures, including man] that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.

Summing up the whole matter of worship and praising the LORD is the universal call to every creature, to praise the LORD. Let every man and woman, beast and birds of the air, and even the fish of the waters give praise to their Creator! “Praise ye the LORD” (150:6).

Closing thoughts – Believer, we live in a noisy world that overwhelms and drowns out the sweet sounds from the Lord. If we listen, we will find Him in the quiet and solitude of His creation and the gratifying meditation of His Word. Do you seek a daily time of quiet to read the Scriptures, and meditate on the LORD?

When you join other believers in public worship, do you consciously block out the noise and busyness of life, and focus on the LORD to praise Him? If you are a musician, think of the blessing you have to not only lift your voice to the LORD, but use your talent to worship, and encourage others to worship the LORD!

No matter our station in life, may we all follow the advice of the psalmist, and “Praise the LORD!”

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Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Praise the LORD, and Go to Bed Rejoicing! (Psalm 148; Psalm 149)

Scripture reading – Psalm 148; Psalm 149

Today’s Scripture reading consists of two psalms, and the theme of each may be summed up in three words: “Praise the LORD!” The call to praise and worship continues to be the subject of our study as we near the conclusion of our devotionals in the book of Psalms.  Both of our songs of praise resume the format we have noticed in earlier psalms: A call to worship, followed by the cause or reason for praising the LORD.

Psalm 148 is divided into two sections.

The first (148:1-6) begins with a call for the heavens to praise the LORD (148:1). The angels and the hosts of heaven are to offer praise to the LORD (148:2). The heavenly bodies are to praise to the LORD (sun, moon, stars), and the clouds in the heavens above are all to praise their Creator (148:3-5). The LORD is not only the Creator, but He has set in order His creation, and not a word of His decrees will fail (148:6).

The second portion (148:7-14) is a call for all that inhabit the earth to praise the LORD. The great creatures of the sea (i.e., “ye dragons”), the wonders of nature (fire, hail, snow, vapor, storms and wind, all reflect the glory of the Creator (148:8-9). The vegetation of the earth, the beasts of the fields, the birds of the air, and every creeping thing on the earth are to praise the LORD (148:10). All men and women have cause to praise the LORD (148:11-12).

Indeed, let all that have breath, praise the LORD, for His name alone is worthy of praise (148:13-14).

Psalm 149 continues the theme of praise, and is also divided into two sections.

The first section is a call to public or congregational worship (149:1-3), and we notice the praise and worship of spirit-filled believers is distinctive in both words and music. The psalmist writes:

Psalm 149:11Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, And his praise in the congregation of saints.

The words of the “new song” (renewed song) are focused upon the LORD, and refer to the songs that would have been sung by the priests in the Tabernacle and the Temple. King David, who was a poet and musician wrote: “[The LORD] hath put a new [fresh; renew] song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see [perceive; observe; discern] it, and fear [reverence], and shall trust in the LORD” (149:1).

The apostle John described the singing of the elders in heaven, writing, “9And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

Closing thoughts – Why should believers praise and worship the LORD? Not only because He is worthy of our praise, but because He takes pleasure in His people offering Him praises (149:5). When believers have an attitude of gratitude for the LORD, they go to bed happy, and “sing aloud upon their beds” (149:5).

Let all who have breath, sing and offer praises to the LORD!

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Dedication and a Celebration (1 Kings 8; 2 Chronicles 5)

Scripture Reading – 1 Kings 8; 2 Chronicles 5

1 Kings 8 – Dedication of the Temple

We have followed the building of the Temple from its inception in the heart of King David, to its construction fulfilled during the reign of his son, Solomon. The Temple having been completed, and all the necessary implements and utensils readied, the day came for dedicating the house of the LORD.

After the furnishings were placed in the Temple, the Ark of the Covenant was carried up by the priests from David’s palace complex (8:1-4). With sacrifices so great they could not be numbered, the Ark was placed in the oracle, meaning the inner sanctuary of the Temple we have identified as the “Holy of Holies” (8:5-6).  The Ark rested beneath the wings of the great cherubim that resided in the holy place (8:7-8). However, with the passing of centuries, all that would remain in the Ark were the treasured tablets upon which God had inscribed His Commandments (8:9).

We read, the glory of God so “filled the house of the LORD” that the “priests could not stand to minister” (8:10-11).  We would ask, why were the priests unable to minister in the Temple after the LORD’S glory filled His house?

Because the God of Heaven is a Holy, glorious God with whom mortal man dare not trifle.  His glory is “like devouring fire” (Exodus 24:17). He is “a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24). The LORD’S presence in His Temple was so powerful and convicting, the priests “could not stand to minister” (8:11a).

The dedication of the Temple continued with Solomon rehearsing how his father had longed to build the Temple, but was forbidden by God (2 Samuel 7:2, 12-13), and that privilege passed to Solomon, David’s son (8:12-21).  In the sight of all the people, Solomon prayed on his knees (8:54) and offered a prayer of thanksgiving, remembering God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises praying for the nation (8:22-30).

Knowing the justice of God, Solomon confessed the bent of man’s sinful heart was to depart from the Law and Commandments (8:31-32). The king prayed that when Israel sinned as a nation, the LORD would not forsake His people, but would hear their confession, and upon their repentance, would forgive their sin (8:33-36).

Knowing when the people disobeyed the LORD that troubles would befall the nation (famine, pestilence, and other afflictions arising from physical disasters and blights), Solomon petition the LORD to hear the prayers of every man (8:37-43).  Should the people go to war and fall captive, he prayed the LORD would hear the prayers of His people and restore them to their homeland (8:44-50).

Remembering the mercies of God in the past, Solomon concluded his prayer, reminding the LORD that He had chosen Israel, and had brought the people out of Egypt under Moses (8:51-53).

With the dedication of the Temple being ended, Solomon blessed the people, and led a celebration with sacrifices and offerings that continued fourteen days (8:54-66).

2 Chronicles 5 added an additional element to the celebration and dedication of the Temple, and that was the prominence of music in the worship of the LORD (5:12-13).

Closing thoughts – Though we will not see the visible presence of the LORD’S glory descending in a cloud upon today’s sanctuaries, we who love the LORD should revere and glorify Him in our private and public worship.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Worship Music and the Character of Worship Leaders (1 Chronicles 25)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 25

Twenty-four Orders of Levite Musicians

Continuing the census and organization of the men of the tribe of Levi that began in 1 Chronicles 23, “David and the captains of the host” arranged the musicians who would minister in the worship of the Temple. David was intimately involved in the music of the Tabernacle, and the organization of the music ministry in the Temple. As both a poet and musician, the king understood the important role music would have in worshipping the LORD.

Three primary Levitical families are identified (25:1): “the sons of Asaph (25:2), and of Heman (25:4-5), and of Jeduthun (25:3).” The sons of those families were described as “separated to the service…who should prophesy [i.e., inspire by song] with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals” (25:1).

David appointed the sons of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun to serve in the ministry of music (25:1). Heman stands out not only as a chief musician, but “God gave to [him] fourteen sons and three daughters” (25:5). Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, evidently were excellent musicians, passing their skills to their children who served under their father’s direction “in the house of the Lord, with cymbals, psalteries, and harps, for the service of the house of God” (25:6). Altogether, there were 288 musicians who were described as “instructed [taught] in the songs of the Lord, even all that were cunning [skilled]” (25:7).

Of course, as noted earlier, there were 4000 singers and musicians whom David appointed to “offer praises to the LORD (23:5). These were divided by lot into twenty-four companies who ministered in the Temple in the morning and evening (25:8-31)

Closing thoughtsWorshipping the LORD was central to Israel as a nation, and the music ministry had an essential role. The orchestra and choir consisted of Levites whose lives were dedicated to ministering daily in the Temple.

The 21st century church would be wise to return to that standard, and remember the responsibility of those who minister in music was to “prophesy,” literally to inspire by word and song.

Godly character and musicianship were essential for those who ministered in music before the LORD and His people.

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

Sing Unto the LORD! (Psalm 89; Psalm 96)

Scripture reading – Psalm 89; Psalm 96

Music has always been a central part of worshipping the LORD.  Had you been privileged to visit the Temple, you would have heard singers and musicians leading the congregation of Israel in worship. Their lives were dedicated to singing, playing, and composing songs of praise. Reading the psalms, you come to realize the deep, personal relationship the writers had with their subject…the LORD! Psalm 89 and Psalm 96 call upon the congregation to sing, sing unto the LORD!

Psalm 89 – The Person and Attributes of God

Psalm 89 was composed by “Ethan the Ezrahite,” and some scholars suggest he was also known as Jeduthun, a musician of David’s era. We can be certain he was a Levite, and his composition would have been sung in worship in the Temple. Time and space do not permit a thorough study of Psalm 89; however, I invite you to consider a few of God’s attributes detailed in the psalm.

A Call to Worship the LORD (Psalm 89:1-4)

God is merciful and faithful (89:1-2), and His promises never fail (89:3).

Divine Attributes (Psalm 89:5-18)

God is incomparable (Psalm 89:6-8), and He is to be feared and revered (89:7). He is strong and faithful (89:8). He is the Sovereign in nature, and the seas obey His will (89:9; Matthew 8:24-27). He is Sovereign of the nations, and He rules the “sea” of nations (89:10).

God is the Creator, and the mountains rejoice at His name (89:11-12). He is just, merciful, and to be trusted (89:14). He is righteous (89:16), and our protector (89:18). The LORD is “the Holy One of Israel, [and He] is our King (89:18).

God is Faithful, and No Promise of His Ever Fails. (89:19-52)

The LORD keeps covenant with His people, and He never forgets His promises (89:19-25). He is “my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation” (89:26). He is merciful (89:28), and just; and those who break His Covenant will not go unpunished (89:26-32). He is holy, and cannot lie (89:35). He is a righteous Judge, and sin will not go unpunished (89:38-45). He is just, and in Him is life, purpose, mercy, and forgiveness (89:46-51). He is worthy of praise, for He is “LORD for evermore” – eternal, perpetual, everlasting God (89:52).

Psalms 96 – “O SING unto the LORD a New Song!”

Psalm 96 is an evangelistic psalm of praise, a universal invitation to “all the earth” to worship and sing praises unto the LORD (96:1). Three times the psalmist invites worshippers to sing:  “1O sing unto the Lord a new song: Sing unto the Lord, all the earth. 2Sing unto the Lord, bless his name; Shew forth his salvation from day to day” (96:1-2).

What was this “new song?”  (96:1-2)

I believe it was a song of salvation, a song of redemption; and an invitation to all who worship the LORD to “shew forth His salvation” (96:2). The psalmist invites God’s people to, “Declare His glory among the heathen [all non-Hebrew people]” (96:3).

Not only are we to “sing unto the LORD,” we are also exhorted to “Give unto the LORD” (96:7-8). The psalm opened with a trifecta invitation to “Sing,” and now there is a triplicate invitation to Give: Give unto the Lord, O ye kindreds of the people, Give unto the Lord glory and strength. 8Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: Bring an offering, and come into his courts” (96:7–8).

The evangelistic thrust of Psalm 96 continued with an invitation to “worship the LORD” (96:9). Sincere worship acknowledges the holiness of God, and those who worship Him, fear and revere Him (96:9). We who worship the LORD are to declare to “the heathen that the Lord reigneth…and He shall judge the people righteously” (96:10).

Psalm 96 concludes with a doxology, reminding us the sin Adam thrust upon the world, the curse of sin, and its effect upon nature has been “that the whole creation groaneth [sorrows] and travaileth [agonizes] in pain [i.e. pangs of death]” (Romans 8:22).

However, the psalmist foresaw a day when there would be rejoicing in nature: “the heavens…the earth…the sea…the field… [and] the trees of the wood [will] rejoice (96:11-12). What was the cause for rejoicing in nature? When the LORD comes to “judge the earth: He shall judge the world with righteousness, And the people with his truth” (96:13).

Are you ready for His coming?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith