Category Archives: Peace

“When the Wicked Beareth Rule, the People Mourn.” (2 Chronicles 23)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 23

The drama in today’s Scripture reading is rich and vivid. Keeping all the names in order is a challenge, even for some who have been immersed in the Scriptures for years. Yet, more important than remembering all the names, is the reminder that God is sovereign. We must never forget the LORD is Almighty, and we can be assured His plans and purposes never fail.

The kingdom of Judah endured years of sorrows, for the kings of that nation had turned from the LORD, and followed in the wicked ways of the kings of Israel. When she learned her son king Ahaziah had been slain (22:8-10), Athaliah, the wife of Jehoram and the daughter of Ahab, moved to make herself queen. She secured the throne for herself, after slaying all of the “seed royal of the house of Judah” (22:10). Providentially, one son of the king survived the murderous rampage of the queen.

“Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king’s sons that were slain, and put him and his nurse in a bedchamber” (22:11). Joash was only an infant at the time, and he was hidden in the Temple for six years, while his wicked grandmother, “Athaliah reigned over the land” (22:12).

2 Chronicles 23

Athaliah ruled Judah for six years, not knowing Joash, the surviving son of Ahaziah and rightful heir to the throne, was hiding in the Temple, growing up under the care and tutelage of Jehoiada the high priest (22:1). In the seventh year of Athaliah’s reign, Jehoiada determined it was time to establish young Joash as king of Judah (23:1).

Jehoiada chose five centurions (“captains of hundreds”) to draft a trusted troop of men who would challenge the queen, and crown Joash as king (23:2). Those men went throughout Judah, inviting Levites, and leaders in the kingdom to gather in Jerusalem. With Jehoiada presiding, the leaders of Judah gathered, and “made a covenant,” recognizing Joash as the rightful king and heir to his father’s throne (23:3).

A Righteous Insurrection (23:4-9)

Gathering to crown Joash king were the Levites, representing the priestly order, fathers of households, and soldiers charged with securing the Temple, and protecting the young prince. Dividing into three groups, one third of the men were assigned to the Temple, a third to stand guard at the palace, and another third to guard the gate called the Foundation (23:4-5). The men were charged with protecting the king, insuring that no one who was hostile would be permitted to enter the Temple or be a threat to Joash (23:6). Bearing weapons, Levites encircled the king, were ordered to kill any who approached him (23:7). In verse 9 we learn there were “spears, and bucklers (i.e. large shields), and shields stored in the Temple that dated to the days of David (23:9).

The Crowning of a King (23:10-15)

With armed men staged at every approach of the Temple, (23:10), Joash was brought into a circle of Levites, where he was crowned and anointed as king of Judah (23:11). Hearing the shouts, “God save the king,” and the rejoicing of those who were “running and praising the king, Athaliah entered the Temple. “She looked, and behold the king stood at his pillar,” and the people were sounding trumpets and singing (23:13).

“Treason, Treason,” shouted the queen. Jehoiada ordered her removed from the Temple, and any who followed her were to be killed (23:14). “So they laid hands on [the queen]; and when she was come to the entering of the horse gate by the king’s house, they slew her there” (23:15).

A Revival in Judah (23:16-17)

With the wicked queen Athaliah dead, and the seven-year-old Joash crowned king (24:1), Jehoiada established a covenant with the LORD between himself, the people, and the king (23:16). The people then destroyed the temple to Baal, his altars, and images in Judah. They also “slew Mattan the priest of Baal” (23:17).

Returning to the Law and Commandments (23:18–21)

Jehoiada reinstituted the offices and orders of the priests, and revived the sacrifices and “offerings of the Lord, as it is written in the law of Moses” (23:18). Singers were appointed, and porters were assigned to guard the entrances to the Temple (23:18-19). Serving as the young king’s mentor and counselor, Jehoiada and the people brought Joash to the palace and sat him upon the throne of David (23:21).

Closing thoughtsDisobeying the LORD, and compromising with sin brings sorrow and distress. When King Jehoshaphat allowed his son (Jehoram) to marry Athaliah, a heathen, idol worshipping woman, he set in motion a series of events that brought trouble, sorrow, and death upon the nation. Only when the wicked were no longer in power, and the rightful heir was crowned king, did “the people of the land rejoice: and the city was quiet,” (23:21).

Proverbs 29:22When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: But when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 19; 2 Chronicles 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Chronicles 20

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“God is Sovereign, and The Battle is the Lord’s” (1 Kings 20) – A Bonus Devotional

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 20

Now, the LORD commanded the prophet Elijah to anoint three successors to be kings of Israel and Judah, and his own replacement (1 Kings 19:15-21). Hazael, he anointed to succeed Benhadad as king of Syria (19:15). Jehu was anointed to be king of Israel following Ahab (19:16). Finally, Elisha was chosen by the LORD to serve as Elijah’s disciple and his successor as prophet in Israel (19:16b, 19-21).

1 Kings 20 – The Failure of Ahab, and His Death Foretold

1 Kings 20 presents us with a record of how Benhadad, king of Syria, oppressed and impoverished Israel. With arrogance and impunity, he humiliated king Ahab (20:1-12) and demanded that king’s treasury of silver and gold. He abducted Ahab’s wives and took his children as hostages, along with the best of Israel’s population to serve as his slaves (1 Kings 20:2-3). When the king of Syria increased his demands, Ahab realized Benhadad’s demands were intolerable, and would never be appeased (1 Kings 20:5-6).

God in His grace, sent a prophet to encourage Ahab to be courageous and assured him the LORD was on his side (20:13). Promised victory in spite of the odds against him, Ahab withstood Benhadad in a series of three battles and God gave Israel a great victory (20:14-30).

Tragically, Ahab’s heart was lifted up with pride, and when Benhadad begged for his life to be spared, the king of Israel failed to consult the LORD. Ahab made a foolish, and fateful decision; not only did he spare Benhadad’s life, he honored him by setting him in his own chariot before the people (1 Kings 20:32-33). Sparing the enemy of Israel provoked the wrath of the LORD (20:31-34), and He sent a man to Ahab, one described as “of the sons of the prophets” (20:35). The young prophet confronted Ahab, and said:

1 Kings 20:42-43 – “Thus saith the Lord, Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people. 43And the king of Israel went to his house heavy and displeased, and came to Samaria.”

Closing thoughts – 1 Kings 20 was a spiritual crossroads for King Ahab, and true to his evil character, he made decisions independent of the LORD, and promoted his interests before that of the LORD’S.

Consider three spiritual lessons: The first, God is jealous of His glory and name (20:13). Ahab had surrendered to Benhadad’s demands and failed to seek the LORD, and in doing so, sacrificed God’s best for His people. God declared to Ahab, “thou shalt know that I am the LORD” (20:13).

We are also reminded that God is sovereign over all creation (20:23-28). The LORD is the God of the hills and the valleys. He is not the “god of many,” but the sovereign God of all, and turns the hearts of kings and rulers according to His will (Proverbs 21:1).

Lastly, God is just, and desires obedience (20:32-42). Ahab’s failure to kill his enemy invited the LORD’S judgment upon himself and Israel. Ahab will invite his own death, and Israel will suffer a humiliating defeat (1 Kings 21-22).

What about you? Do you seek the LORD and His will when making decisions? Do you put your faith in the wisdom of man, or in the LORD knowing He is sovereign, and He desires the best for His people?

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“If the foundations be destroyed, What can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)

Apprehension, anxiety, and discord are epidemic in our society. We are living in a chaotic, dangerous world that is torn by division and strife over a myriad of matters. There is a concerted and coordinated effort to excite aggression, and provoke division in our communities, churches, schools, and families. Government bureaucrats, politicians, media personalities, institutions, and corporate entities are diminishing our Constitutional liberties.

Unlawful mandates attack our individual right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” and are eroding the most fundamental and sacred rights of man. What our nation’s founders declared to be self-evident truths, “endowed by [our] Creator,” are being battered by an unrelenting socialist ideology that attacks “individual soul liberty.”

A Bible Challenge for 2022

More than ever, we need to “think biblically,” and exercise godly wisdom and discernment. In a world that questions and challenges the most basic, fundamental facts, we need a sure foundation, and that foundation is the LORD, and His immutable Word!

Heart of A Shepherd 2-Year Scripture Reading Schedule After listing an inventory of sins and wickedness that would characterize “the last days” (2 Timothy 3:1-7), Paul challenged Timothy: “Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of…16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

I challenge you to follow the Daily Bible Reading schedule for 2022, and subscribe to this pastor’s daily devotional posts at www.HeartofAShepehrd.com.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
https://dailytestify.com/index.php/pages/59/

Tragedy: Feeble, Fickle, Frightened Saints (2 Chronicles 13; 2 Chronicles 14)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 13; 2 Chronicles 14

Continuing our chronological Scripture reading and study of Bible history, we come to 2 Chronicles 13 and 14. This is a parallel of our reading in 1 Kings 15, but with some added detail and insight into the LORD’S dealings with both Judah and Israel.

There was a succession of kings of David’s bloodline in Judah, and two kings in particular are the subject of this devotional: Abijah, the son of Rehoboam, and Asa, the son of Abijah and therefore the great grandson of Solomon.

2 Chronicles 13 – The Brief Reign of Abijah

Though Abijah reigned for no more than three years over Judah, his rule marked a resurgence of the two Tribes in the South (Benjamin and Judah). King Jeroboam of Israel, no doubt believing the death of Rehoboam and the crowning of a new king afforded him a window of opportunity to wage war against Judah, mobilized an army of 800,000 soldiers. The men of Jeroboam’s army were described as “chosen men, being might men of valour” (13:3). Abijah, the king of Judah, mustered “an army of valiant men of war, even four hundred thousand chosen men” (13:3), leaving the new king facing an adversary whose number was far greater than his own.

Nevertheless, Abijah was undeterred from facing Jeroboam. Before the battle commenced, the king of Judah “stood up upon mount Zemaraim, which is in mount Ephraim” (13:4), and confronted Jeroboam and the men of Israel. He accused Israel of having failed to honor the LORD’S covenant with David and his lineage (13:5). Abijah did not shy from stating the insurrection led by Jeroboam was an act of rebellion (13:6).

Abijah upbraided the men that had followed Jeroboam as “vain men, the children of Belial,” meaning they were worthless, unprincipled men (13:7). He charged Jeroboam with having taken advantage of Rehoboam when he was a young, inexperienced king (13:7). They strengthened themselves against Rehoboam by coming against “the king of the LORD” with “golden calves, which Jeroboam made…for gods” (13:8). Jeroboam had also “cast out the priests of the LORD, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites” (13:9), and raised up priests like the heathen, for there was no discretion in whom was appointed to serve as priests “of them that are no gods [golden calves]” (13:9).

With faith, and courage, Abijah admonished Israel, stating how the LORD was on his side, for Judah had not forsaken the LORD, and the priests had continued to “minister unto the LORD” and offered sacrifices as the law demanded (13:10-11). With his voice resonating across the valley, Abijah proclaimed, “behold, God himself is with us for our captain…fight ye not against the Lord God of your fathers; for ye shall not prosper” (13:12).

As Abijah was speaking, Jeroboam had prepared an ambush of Judah’s army, and encircled them (13:13). Realizing they were ensnared, all Judah cried out to the LORD, “and the priests sounded with the trumpets” (13:14). With a shout, Judah’s soldiers charged Jeroboam and his army, and in response, the men of Israel fled the battlefield, leaving 500,000 men of the original 800,000 slain (13:15-17). Abijah and Judah had won the battle, “because they relied upon the Lord God of their fathers” (13:18).

Jeroboam was defeated, and with his strength failing, “the Lord struck him, and he died” (13:20). Abijah, king of Judah, went to his grave a mighty man, with wives, sons, and daughters (13:21; 14:1).

2 Chronicles 14 – A Revival and the Reign of Asa

After Jeroboam was defeated, and Abijah died, Judah enjoyed peace for ten years when Asa ascended the throne of (14:1). Asa, the son of Abijah, had the testimony of a man who loved the LORD, and he “did that which was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God” (14:2). Asa strengthened the defenses of Judah’s cities, and began purging idolatry and wickedness which had been allowed under Rehoboam and Abijah (14:3-6). Commanding the nation to “seek the LORD God…and do the law and the commandment” (14:4), the people of Judah enjoyed peace and prospered (14:5-7).

Asa’s army grew to 580,000 men (14:8), and the men of Judah were known for their shields and spears, while the men of Benjamin were skilled with their arrows and bows. They were all “mighty men of valour” (14:8).

When an army of Ethiopia invaded Judah, Asa led his soldiers to the battle, and “cried unto the Lord his God, and said, Lord, it is nothing with thee to help…help us, O Lord our God…let not man prevail against thee” (14:11). With the LORD on their side, Asa and Judah prevailed, and pursued the Ethiopians “unto Gerar” (a city of the Philistines). Judah took spoils of their cities (most likely the Philistines had joined Ethiopia in waging war against King Asa’s army, 14:12-15).

Closing thoughts – It has been sad, “To the victor go the spoils,” but I believe king Asa would have been swift to give credit and honor, not to himself, nor to his army, but to the LORD. “The Ethiopians were overthrown, that they could not recover themselves; for they were destroyed before the Lord, and before his host…for the fear of the LORD came upon them” (14:13-14).

Surely, the world looks at the present day church and sees a generation of weak, fickle, intimidated people. The LORD wants His people to be men and women of faith and courage. When we face danger, or see an enemy, let us call upon the LORD and say, “O LORD our God, let not man prevail against thee” (14:11).

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

There is No Fool Like an Old Fool (1 Kings 11, 2 Chronicles 9)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 11, 2 Chronicles 9

Having concluded our study of the Book of Ecclesiastes, our chronological study of the Scriptures brings us to the final years of Solomon, king of Israel, the son of David. You will notice 2 Chronicles 9 is a parallel account of 1 Kings 10. We are reminded that 1 Kings was recorded before the Babylonian captivity, and its parallel account in 1st and 2nd Chronicles was penned after Israel returned from captivity.

2 Chronicles 9 (1 Kings 10)

Once again, we read of the Queen of Sheba’s visit to Jerusalem (1 Kings 10:1), which details the purpose of her visit, describes the great caravan that accompanied her, and lists the special gifts she presented to Solomon (1 Kings 10:1-10; 2 Chronicles 9:12).

Solomon’s wisdom, and the vast wealth of his kingdom had gotten international fame. The Queen of Sheba, believed to have been a rich kingdom in the southern Arabian Peninsula, had “heard of the fame of Solomon” (9:1), and came to hear and see if the king was as great as the rumors she had heard of in her kingdom.  She came to “prove Solomon with hard questions,” and spoke of all that was on her heart (9:1; 1 Kings 10:1-3).

She tested Solomon, inspected “the house that he had built” (9:3; 1 Kings 10:4), saw the evidence of his administrative skills, and the rich apparel of those who assisted him (9:3; 1 Kings 10:5). The queen concluded, all she had heard of the king was not only true, but his wisdom exceeded his “fame” (9:6; 1 Kings 10:6). Moreover, all who served Solomon were “happy” (9:7; 1 Kings 10:8).

The balance of our reading in 2 Chronicles 9 parallels the record in 1 Kings 10. We have the gifts the Queen of Sheba presented to the king, and his gifts to her (9:9-12). The opulence of the king’s palace, including his throne of ivory covered in gold (9:17) is recorded. Also, the approach to Solomon’s throne was unlike any in the kingdoms of the world, being appointed with twelve lions (9:18-19). His wealth was so great that he displayed beaten shields of gold in his summer palace, known as “the forest of Lebanon” (9:15-16).

Although Solomon’s death is recorded in 2 Chronicles 9, the writer of that book did not give us the tragic commentary on the last years of his life. For that dreadful tale, we must turn our focus to 1 Kings 11.

1 Kings 11

After stating the fame of Solomon’s wisdom, and the vast wealth of his kingdom (10:14-29), we read how the king was disobedient in his last years, and the consequences of his sins (11:1-8). Following the pattern of heathen kings who seek alliances with other kingdoms by marriage, the king had taken into his palace “many strange women” (11:1), including “the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites” (11:1). Those women brought to Israel their own idols, and despite God’s warnings, Solomon gave his affections “and his wives turned away his heart after other gods…and Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD” (11:3,4,6).

Who were the gods of Solomon’s wives?Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians,” the Canaanite goddess of sex and war (11:5). “Milcom,” also known as Molech, to whom the Ammonites, and later Israel, sacrificed their children (2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 32:35). The king also built an “high place for Chemosh,” the god of the Moabites (10:7).

Rather than the blessing of the LORD, the latter years of Solomon’s reign provoked God’s wrath (11:9). Because the king had disobeyed the LORD, and “kept not that which the Lord commanded” (11:10), the peace of Israel was replaced with turmoil. God forewarned, the kingdom would be divided upon Solomon’s death (11:11-13).

The LORD raised up three adversaries against Solomon:Hadad the Edomite” (11:14-22), Rezon who “reigned over Syria” (11:23-25), and Jeroboam who fled to Egypt during Solomon’s reign (11:26-32). It was Jeroboam whom the LORD appointed to “rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon,” and his son would face the consequences of God’s judgment for his father’s wickedness (11:31). Upon Solomon’s death, Jeroboam would lead an uprising against Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and heir, and ten of the twelve tribes would follow him (11:31). The tribe of Judah would remain loyal to Solomon’s lineage (11:32), and the tribe of Benjamin which was incorporated within Judah’s territory.

Closing thoughts – Our study of Solomon’s life and his forty-year reign concludes with the revelation that he went the way of all men;  he died and “slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David his father: and Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead” (11:43; 2 Chronicles 9:29-31).

When Solomon was young, and his heart tender, he enjoyed the blessings of the LORD. Tragically, when he was old, the king made wicked, foolish choices that shadowed the final years of his life. The consequences of his sins brought ruin upon his family, and kingdom. Someone has said, “an old fool is the worst kind of fool…and there is no fool like an old fool.”

Whether young or old, the wise choose the path of the righteous, and fools choose the way of sin. What path are you following?

* Please remember to subscribe to www.HeartofAShepherd.com, and have daily devotionals sent to your email address. In the next year, there will be bonus devotionals only available to subscribers of www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith, Pastor

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Remember Thy Creator” (Ecclesiastes 12, 1 Kings 10)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 12, 1 Kings 10

We conclude our study of the Book of Ecclesiastes with a look into the final chapter,  Ecclesiastes 12, and consider a sobering challenge from Solomon. Remember the king commenced this short book by introducing himself as “the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem” (1:1), and brings it to an end by embracing the same title, “the preacher” (12:9, 10). Today’s Scripture reading also includes 1 Kings 10.

An Admonition (Ecclesiastes 12:1-2)

Ecclesiastes 12:1Remember now [Think of; have respect of] thy Creator in the days [years] of thy youth, while the evil days [adversity; troubles; distresses] come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure [delight; desire] in them;

Patterns of life are set in one’s youth, when hearts are generally soft and pliable, and before sins and adversities have given rise to spiritual callousness. Solomon urged his son, “Remember,” think of, meditate on your Creator when you are young. While you have your whole life before you, consider the ONE that made you in His likeness and image, and formed you when you were in your mother’s womb (Genesis 1:27; 2:7-8). Remember your Creator, before you face “evil days,” and adversities plague your life (12:1), that you have no more desire to live.

Ecclesiastes 12:3-7 paints a depressing picture of the future, and old age with its physical ailments and frailties.

Solomon described the coming of a season when the days of a man would be darkened (12:2). Men who were once strong, would shake and “tremble” (12:3a), and become stooped with old age. The picture Solomon painted was of an old man whose teeth (“grinders”) had failed, and whose eyesight was dimmed (“windows be darkened”).

Continuing his depressing description of old age, Solomon described the loneliness of the elderly. Their lives become like a village whose doors are shut (none are coming or going), and streets are silent (12:4a). The “grinding is low” (perhaps the grinding or milling of grain), and if not for the “voice [or crowing] of the bird,” there would be no reason to awaken, for work has ceased (12:4b). Where there was once the exuberance of daughters, there is silence instead (12:4c).

Fear takes hold of an old man apart from the LORD (12:5a). His “desire [appetite]” fails (12:5c), and mourners gather in expectation of his death, for he “goeth to his long [future] home” (12:5d). Bible scholars suggest Ecclesiastes 12:6 describes the physical decline of the elderly, the failure of their circulatory system, and the imminence of death. Solomon wrote, the “wheel is broken at the cistern” (and is no more), the lifeless body returns to “dust,” and the “spirit [of the man] shall return unto God who gave it” (12:7; Genesis 3:17-19).

The physical body of man goes to the grave until the resurrection of the dead, but the spirit of man is eternal. The spirit of lost sinners will be judged, and condemned to everlasting punishment (2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 20:11-15). The spirit of the saved shall dwell in the presence of the LORD forever (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 3:20-21). It is true, that apart from God, life is a vapor, and “all is vanity” (James 4:14; 12:8).

Did Solomon Repent in His Last Days? (12:8-12)

Though he strayed far from the LORD in his later years (1 Kings 11), it seems Solomon returned to his longing for the LORD, being mindful He would give account of his life. Solomon once again took up the mantle of the “preacher,” and “taught [instructed] the people knowledge…and set in order [set straight] many proverbs” (12:9). With urgency, the king studied, and “sought to find out acceptable words…even words of truth” (12:10). He comprehended “the words of the wise are as goads,” for they prick, and convict (12:11).

What were the “goads” that were as “nails fastened by the masters” (12:11)? They were the “words of truth” (12:10), being God’s Laws and Commandments (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and were “given from One Shepherd,” Who was the LORD Himself (12:11; Hebrews 13:20; John 10:3-4).

An Epilogue: “Fear God, and Keep His Commandments” (12:13-14)

Solomon concluded his ponderings, by summoning the attention of all who would hear:

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 – Let us hear [Listen; obey; publish] the conclusion [end] of the whole matter [account; speaking]: Fear [Revere] God, and keep [observe] His commandments [Laws; Precepts]: for this is the whole duty[purpose] of man.
14  For God shall bring every work [act; deed] into judgment, with every secret thing [hidden; concealed], whether it be good [right], or whether it be evil [sin; wickedness].

Closing thoughts – When youth are not guided by spiritual principles, they squander their lives on sinful indulgences that inevitably leave them with sorrow laden souls. To my youthful readers, I exhort: Enjoy your youth, remember your Creator, but know “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”(Hebrews 9:27).

To parents and grandparents: I urge you to remember, fear, and revere your Creator. Conform your life to the likeness of Christ, and reflect in your attitudes and actions His Laws and Commandments.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Four Principles for a Rewarding Life (Ecclesiastes 11)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 11

Remorse is a heavy burden to carry, but I have known many who, in their later years of life, were haunted by the sorrows of regret. Solomon understood that life holds many tendencies for regret, and wisely taught his son invaluable principles he had learned from years of experience. I invite you to consider Solomon’s wisdom found in Ecclesiastes 11.

Be Charitable. (11:1-4)

Ecclesiastes 11:1–21Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. 2Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.

The word, “cast” means to freely give, and “the waters” in the Scriptures is often a reference to mankind (i.e., the sea of humanity). The implication then is to “freely give” (in this case, bread) to others, for you cannot know what “evil” the days ahead might hold for you. A popular adage sums up a similar warning: “What goes around, comes around.” Solomon urged, while you have the power to give…GIVE, for the day may come when you will find yourself in want.

Illustrating the need to give while you are able, Solomon cited nature, using an illustration to which all could relate, writing, when “clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth” (11:3). In other words, like clouds that do not hoard their lifegiving moisture, we should not be misers with the bounty of that which God has entrusted to us.

Some put off the opportunity or inclination to be charitable, looking for a time when it is more convenient, or the economy more favorable. They are like the lazy farmer; he procrastinates tending his fields, always looking for perfect weather, and a more convenient time for his labor (11:4).

God Has a Plan and Purpose for Your Life. (11:5-6)

Solomon did not have the privilege of scientific research such as we have today. He understood the baby’s body was formed in its mother’s womb (11:5); however, he did not know the essence of DNA (genetics) that guided the formation of that little one from conception (Psalm 139:15-16). The king did not know, and neither do we, how God made us uniquely who we are, imparting to us an eternal spirit, distinctly like no other.

Know this: You are unique, and God has a plan, and purpose for your life (11:5c). He has numbered your days (Psalm 90:12), but you cannot know the number of your years on this earth (11:6). While you are young (“in the morning” of your life), you should “sow thy seed” (give of yourself and your means as you are blessed). “In the evening” of life, when you are old (11:6b), don’t restrain your hand from blessing others. Don’t presume you can put off till tomorrow the good that you should do this day. Whether you are young or old, Do Right!

Wise Men Enjoy the Good Times, But Plan for the Bad. (11:7-8)

The light of a sunrise is welcomed, and when you are young it promises a day that is “sweet, and a pleasant thing” (11:7). The sun of spring and summer brings warmth, and the promise of growth and harvest; however, look ahead, and know “the days of darkness [cometh], for they shall be many” (11:8). Live for today, and fail to plan for the failings and frailty of old age, and you will say, “All that cometh is vanity” (11:8c).

Rejoice in Your Youth, but Remember God will be Judge. (11:9-10)

 Ecclesiastes 11:9 – Rejoice [Be Glad; Joyful], O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.

“Rejoice,” be glad in the strength of your youth! Enjoy life, but remember, the sins of one’s youth are a draft on old age. “God will bring thee into judgment” (11:9b).

The foolish man counsels the young to, “sow their wild oats,” but fails to warn: the wild seeds planted in one’s youth will sprout weeds that will choke the joys from their future (11:9b).

“Therefore remove [depart] sorrow [anger; wrath] from thy heart, and put away [do away; remove] evil [sin; wickedness] from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity” (Ecclesiastes 11:10 )

Closing thoughts – The king urged youth to not mull over youthful grievances, nor allow them to become a flashpoint for anger and bitterness. The king challenged, “put away evil,” and give no place for the sins and lusts of the flesh.

The apostle Paul, in his letter to Timothy, wrote:  “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).

To put away sin, you must be fill the void with righteous choices, and godly attitudes. (Ephesians 4:22-32)

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Five Profound Truths for Life and Happiness (Ecclesiastes 7; Ecclesiastes 8)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 7; Ecclesiastes 8

You will find similarities between the Book of Ecclesiastes and the proverbs of Solomon from his earlier days. Time and space do not permit me to set forth a comprehensive study of both Ecclesiastes 7 and 8. This devotion will offer a summary of Ecclesiastes 7.

Ecclesiastes 7

Solomon returned to a comparative pattern we often observed in the Book of Proverbs. There he contrasted the choices of life with the comparative, “Better…Than” (7:1-10) statements found throughout the book. I invite you to consider five “better…than” truths recorded in the first five verses (7:1-5).

  • Better to have a “good name” and your integrity, than a man of wealth who affords the riches of a “precious ointment” (i.e., expensive perfume, 7:1).
  • The “day of [one’s] death” is “better than the day of one’s birth” [Solomon again reflecting on the trials and oppressions of this world] (7:1b).
  • Better to mourn at a funeral, than to gorge at a feast with fools (7:2).
  • Better to have a soul refined by fiery trials and sorrows, than a shallow life that knows only pleasures (7:3-4).
  • “Better to hear the rebuke of a wise” man, than be entertained by “the songs of fools” (7:5).

Five Profound Truths for Life and Happiness (7:11-22)

1) Riches are temporal, but wisdom endures (7:11-12). Wisdom and money give security and protection, but only wisdom gives life, lasting joy and prosperity.

2) No man can change what God has purposed (7:13). God is sovereign, and no man can divert Him from His plans and purpose. What God has determined will be crooked will be crooked, and what He has bent no man can straighten.

3) Adversity cannot deter God’s will, and in times of prosperity we should be joyful (7:14-15). God ordains the good, and the bad. Times of plenty, and times of famine are from the LORD. He is able to take the evil intent of men, and turn it for His good (Genesis 50:20; Psalm 91:10; Romans 8:28-29).

4) Be balanced and spiritually conscientious (7:16-18). Do not allow sinful pride to move you to become greedy to reign and rule over wealth or others (“Be not righteous over much” 7:16). Understand that unresolved conflicts, and unconfessed sin can send you to an early grave, and “thou die before thy time” (7:17-18).

5) Godly wisdom is powerful and influential. A man known for godly wisdom is stronger, and more influential than “ten mighty men” (7:19). Such wisdom is powerful, and prevails over the mightiest of men.

Closing thoughts – I leave you with a great challenge–GET WISDOM! Godly wisdom and wise counsel, though often spurned by men, are nevertheless powerful, convicting, and influential.

Examples – The wisdom of Joseph was valued by Pharaoh, and he became second only to the king of Egypt (Genesis 41:38-41). David, a mere shepherd boy, was a “man after [God’s] own heart,” and he became King of Israel (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). Daniel’s godly wisdom carried him from the role of a slave, to serving as counselor to the kings of Babylon (Daniel 5:11-12; 6:10). Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the king of Persia, but he was promoted to serve the king and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:4, 11).

Proverbs 22:29Seest thou a man diligent [prompt; skillful] in his business [labor; occupation]? he shall stand before kings [leaders will take note of him]; he shall not stand before mean men [wise men do not stand long in the shadow of foolish men].

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Time Marches On” (Ecclesiastes 3)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 3

The word “Ecclesiastes” is a word for a public assembly or congregation, and a record of the ponderings of the wisest of men, King Solomon. Rather than a book of happy reflections, Solomon bares his heart and gives us opportunity to consider the soul of a man whose lusts had taken him far from the LORD. In a statement of the obvious, Solomon writes,

Ecclesiastes 3:1 – “To every thing there is a season [a time appointed], and a time to every purpose [matter; pleasure] under the heaven [sky].”

As a youth, I could not grasp what old folks meant when they remarked, “time is flying.” I have come to realize time does indeed fly. Sometimes, I catch myself reflecting on former days, and seasons of life that have passed. Whether physically, or in my thoughts, I go back and visit places that held meaning when I was young. Familiar places hold precious, memories. The names of deceased loved ones still resonate in my heart. Familiar names and faces, long silenced by death, echo in my thoughts, and I am reminded, there is “a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted” (3:2).

Solomon drew several analogies in today’s text, and each began with “a time,” and all bring us to the conclusion that time is passing (3:3-8). And so, the king who had assessed life as “vanity and vexation of spirit” (2:26), asked his readers, 9What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?” (3:9).

Man’s life apart from God is aimless, and pointless. (3:10-11)

We might sum up Solomon’s observations with an exclamation, “What’s the use?” The king observed, “I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised [troubled] in it” (3:10). The king had seen the troubles, trials and travails that God allows to come upon men. Though He had created everything good, and beautiful (3:11), and set in man’s heart a longing for eternity, it was the entrance of sin into the world that brought the curse of God’s judgment upon man and creation (Genesis 3:17-19).

God has placed in man’s heart the reality of eternity, and a longing He alone can satisfy. (3:12-14)

Though born under the curse of sin, and therefore mortal, man longs for immortality (3:12; Romans 6:23a). That men are able to enjoy the fruits of their labors, is a testimony of God’s grace and favor (3:13); however, all that men build apart from God (wealth, fame, legacies, buildings, monuments) is temporal and passing. Only what God has ordered and blessed will endure. “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear [revere; be afraid] before him” (3:14).

God’s Sovereign Courtroom (3:15-17)

The preacher’s focus then turned to a courtroom where God presided as judge, and Solomon observed the LORD was judge of the wicked and the righteous (3:16). The New Testament reveals there will indeed be two judgments. Revelation 20:11-15 gives us God’s prophetic revelation of the Great White Throne, where the LORD will judge the lost who rejected Christ’s sacrifice for their sins by His death, burial and resurrection. The righteous, those who placed their faith in Christ’s substitutionary death for their sins, will be judged according to their works at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). Solomon understood there would be a day when all men would be judged by God (3:17).

The Destinies of Men and Beast (3:18-22)

I have been asked by some who were particularly fond of their pets, where their spirit might go after death. Many have had pets who were great companions, and it is only natural that the same soul that longs for eternal life, would also long for those they love to enjoy the same, even their pets.

Solomon observed that death eventually befalls man and beast (3:19-20). The curse of sin is death, and “we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together” (Romans 8:22). Man, and beast eventually go to the grave, for “all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again” (3:20).

But what about the spirit of man, and the spirit of the beast? Solomon writes, “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” (3:21) The spirit of man, and the spirit of beasts are not the same. The beasts of the earth were created by the spoken word of God (Genesis 1:25); however, God made man (Genesis 1:26-27), and “formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7).

Unlike beasts, the breath of God gave man life, and an eternal soul. When beasts die, they cease to exist and their spirit “goeth downward to the earth (3:21). When a man dies, his spirit “goeth upward” (3:21), and “shall return unto God who gave it” (12:7).

Closing thoughts – God who “made every thing beautiful in his time [season]” and put “the world [lit. eternity]in [our] heart [mind; thoughts] (3:11). Only God can satisfy the soul. Will you not turn from your sin, and trust the LORD’S provision of salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ? (1 John 5:13)

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Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith