Category Archives: Peace

Tie a Knot and Hang On…God is Working! (Genesis 41-42)

Today’s Bible Reading and Devotional is Genesis 41-42.

The LORD continued to prosper Joseph as he served faithfully in Pharaoh’s prison. Two years passed before the butler remembered Joseph, the man who brought him comfort and interpreted his dream in prison (41:1a).

In God’s providence, dreams disturbed Pharaoh’s sleep which he feared were omens of bad things that would befall him and his kingdom (41:1-8).  Setting the stage, the butler remembered Joseph and Pharaoh commanded he be brought from prison before him (41:9-32).

Joseph credited his skill to interpret dreams to His God  (41:16) and his faithfulness was rewarded as Pharaoh appointed him to serve Egypt, second only to himself (41:33-44).  Promoted when he was only thirty years old (41:46), Pharaoh entrusted Joseph with the granaries of Egypt as the nation prepared for seven years of famine followed by seven years of plenty (41:45-57).  Genesis 41 closes with the revelation; “all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands” (41:57).

God sovereignly and providentially set the stage for Joseph’s brothers to come to Egypt seeking food for their households.  No doubt believing the brother they betrayed was either dead or toiling away as a slave, they did not know their fate would rest in the hands of the brother they sold as a slave (42:1-20).

Joseph recognized his brothers, but wisely concealed his identity.  Through an interpreter he questioned them to learn not only know the fate of his father Jacob, but also his brother Benjamin.  Joseph no doubt wondered if his brothers regretted their sins committed against him (42:21-23).  Speaking in Hebrew among themselves, his brothers did not know the man they presumed was a powerful Egyptian was their brother and understood their remorseful confessions (42:23). Rather than bitterness and vengeance, Joseph “turned himself about from them, and wept” (42:24).

Genesis 42 closes with a dramatic scene as Joseph set in motion a plan to force his brothers to return to Egypt with his brother Benjamin.

Joseph ordered Simeon, the second oldest brother (Reuben being the eldest), be bound, led away, and demanded they not return to Egypt without their youngest brother.  Unable to intervene, they began their journey home and were overcome with grief when they found the money they used to purchase grain in their grain sacks.  Sharing all that befell them in Egypt, their father Jacob was overcome with grief (42:29-38).

We conclude today’s devotional with Joseph beginning to understand not only that God rewards faithfulness, but He also orchestrates events in our lives for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28-29).  Joseph faithfully served the LORD…as a slave, a steward, a prisoner, and as a powerful man of wealth and position.  He was providentially in the place of God’s choosing where he would save and shelter his father, brethren and their families from famine.

I close wondering if someone reading this devotional might find themselves like Joseph, far from the place you might have chosen and wondering what God is doing.  Remember, God is faithful and protection and promotion come from Him.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Like a Father, the LORD Loves the Righteous (Psalm 11)

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 29-30, Psalm 11, and Matthew 11. Today’s devotional is from Psalm 11.

We are uncertain of the historical context of Psalm 11; however, we know king David was facing the threats of an enemy and weighing the counsel of advisers who urged him to flee.

There are times retreat from confrontation is a wise choice.  David fled from the presence of Saul when the king attacked him. David fled Jerusalem after his son Absalom stole the people’s affections and led an insurrection against the king.  However, as we learn in our study of Psalm 11, there are times we face adversaries and the LORD would have us stand fast and trust Him.

We do not know if the foe David faced was within or without his kingdom; however, the threat was significant and the king’s counselors advised him to flee (11:1b-2).  David answered his frightened counselors,

Psalm 11:1 – “In the LORD put I my trust [confide; flee for protection; make refuge]: how say [speak; command] ye to my soul [life; person; mind], Flee [disappear; remove] as a bird to your mountain?

The counselors answered their king, reminding him the plot of the wicked was to destroy the just and upright (11:2) and as king, he was the moral pillar, the foundation of the nation (11:3).

Psalm 11:2-3 – “For, lo, the wicked  [ungodly; immoral; guilty] bend their bow, they make ready [prepare; set up; fix] their arrow upon the string, that they may privily [secretly] shoot at the upright [right; just; righteous] in heart [mind].  3 If the foundations [purpose; support; moral pillars] be destroyed [thrown down; broken in pieces], what can the righteous [just] do?”

David’s counselors reasoned, not only was his life at risk, but so also were the lives of the people and the future of the nation (11:3b).  In other words, what will become of the righteous should the king fall?

We find David’s response in Psalm 11:4-7.

Psalm 11:4-5 – “The LORD is in his holy [sacred; hallowed] temple, the LORD’S throne [seat] is in heaven: his eyes behold [perceive; look; gaze], his eyelids try [examine; prove], the children of men. 5 The LORD trieth [proves; examines] the righteous [just; law-abiding]: but the wicked [ungodly; immoral; guilty] and him that loveth violence [injustice] his soul hateth [as a foe].”

What a great reminder…regardless the threats of an enemy or his demands we compromise our integrity, the LORD has not abdicated the throne of heaven and He is Just!  The ways of the righteous will not go unrewarded and the ways of the wicked will surely be punished!

Our devotion ends with the assurance, “the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.”(Psalm 11:7)

What a great thought!  The righteous are the objects of the LORD’s love!  Like a father looks adoringly at his children, the LORD looks upon the righteous.

My friend, perhaps there is an enemy that haunts your life with threats, maligning gossip, or with disapproving gazes.  Take confidence in this…the LORD loves the righteous and He is just. Trust the LORD!

Isaiah 40:31 – “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

The Life of a Blessed Man! (Psalm 1)

Happy New Year, friends and followers of www.HeartofaShepherd.com!

I invite you to join me this New Year as I begin a new daily Bible Reading Schedulethat will take us through God’s Word in one year.  You will find the Bible Reading Schedule at the previous link and by going to www.HillsdaleBaptist.orgPlease notice the daily readings include three categories: Old Testament, Poetry, and New Testament. 

I plan to post regular devotionals on a portion of each day’s reading assignment.  Rather than a comprehensive commentary, my goal is a practical application of a portion of the daily reading.  For example, the Bible reading for January 1, 2019 is Genesis 1-2, Psalm 1, and Matthew 1.  The focus of today’s devotional is Psalm 1.

Psalm 1 is the first recorded Beatitude in the Bible and offers a contrast of two manner of men; the “blessed” who walk in the way of God’s Law and the “ungodly” who oppose God.  King David writes,

Psalm 1:1-3 – “Blessed [happy and content] is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2  But his [the blessed man] delight isin the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3  And he [the blessed man whose delight and meditations on the Word of God are night and day]shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”

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

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

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

3) The blessed man does notlift up his voice in chorus with“the scornful”, for they disdain God and His Law  (Psalm 14:1).

What is the source of the blessed man’s happiness and contentment? His joy and “delight isin the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2).

Two observations regarding the blessed man’s life: 1) His “delight”, passion, and desire is the Word of God.  2) His discipline is to “meditate”upon the principles and precepts of God’s Law.  “Day and night” he saturates his heart and thoughts with the eternal, immutable truths of God’s Word.

Here’s a thought for the day:

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

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

PRAYER: God’s Prescription for Troubles

Wednesday, December 12, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 143-145

King David is the author of the three psalms assigned for today’s scripture reading, Psalms 143, 144, and 145.  Psalm 143 is a penitential, sorrowful psalm; Psalm 144 and Psalm 145 are psalms of worship and praise.  Although not the last of the psalms, Psalm 145 is the last of the psalms attributed to King David.

For the sake of brevity, my focus for this devotional commentary is Psalm 143.

We have seen a pattern and practice of prayer throughout David’s life.  When assailed by enemies, he prayed (Psalm 13:2; 61:3).  When trials came and troubles threatened to overwhelm him, he prayed (Psalm 120:1).  When faced with the scourge of his own sinfulness, David called upon the Lord, confident God would hear and answer his penitent prayer (Psalm 51).

Psalm 143 continues David’s habit of prayer.  Psalm 143:1-6, he prays for God’s grace in judgment (143:2) and, remembering the LORD’s works in the past (143:5), he asks Him to quench the thirst in his soul for the LORD’s presence (143:6).

Notice the personal, intimate petition of David’s prayer.  The king prayed to the LORD, “Hear me (143:7)…Deliver me (143:9)…Teach me…Lead me (143:10)…Quicken me (143:11)”.

I am not sure what “trouble” David was in when he prayed, “bring my soul out of trouble” (143:11); however, he knew the only place he could go to have his soul delivered from sorrows was to the LORD (143:11b).

Perhaps you are where David was spiritually and emotionally when he prayed, “Quicken me” (143:11).  Too many believers fail to follow David’s example when they are troubled.  The word “Quicken” was an entreaty for the LORD to encourage, revive and restore his joy.

Friend, don’t allow your troubles to mount up and you become so overwhelm you resort to counselors, doctors, psychologists, prescription drugs, vices, and amusements… turn to the LORD, claim His promises, and pray, “Hear me (143:7)…Deliver me (143:9)…Teach me…Lead me (143:10)…Quicken me (143:11)”; after all, the LORD is jealous for His servants (143:12).

I close with promises that were David’s meditations in his final psalm (Psalm 145:18-21).

Psalm 145:18-20 –18  The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.
19  He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them.
20  The LORD preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy.”

What a great God we serve!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

God is With You in The Midst of Trials

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ezra 1-5

The setting of the Book of Ezra, a contemporary of Haggai, is the end of the 70-year Babylonian captivity.  Remembering, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Proverbs 21:1), the opening verses of Ezra serve as notice the God of Israel is the Sovereign God of heaven and earth (Ezra 1:1-2).

Having conquered Babylon, the Persian king Cyrus, declared the God of heaven moved his heart to build His Temple in Jerusalem (1:1-2).  Fulfilling the LORD’S promise to restore Israel as a nation, Cyrus granted the Jews liberty to return to their land (Ezra 1:3).

The hardships that laid before the remnant that returned to Judah would be formidable.  The city of Jerusalem was in ruins, its walls reduced to rubble, and the Temple destroyed.  After seventy years in captivity, many of God’s people had embraced the Babylonian culture and only a small minority were willing to accept the challenge of returning to Jerusalem and rebuilding the Temple (Ezra 2).

Under Ezra’s leadership, the people rebuilt the altar (3:1-6), laid the Temple foundation (3:7-9), and paused to celebrate and praise the LORD as a free people (3:10-11).

Consider three qualities God’s people share when they set aside personal agendas in favor of the will and purpose of the LORD (Ezra 3).

The first shared quality is a mutual purpose; “they gathered…as one man to Jerusalem (3:1).  The second, they shared a spirit of mutual sacrifice as they “gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters”, meat from their livestock, wine from their vineyards, and oil refined from their olive groves (3:7).  The third is a satisfaction of mutual joy; when the foundation was laid, “all the people shouted with a great shout” (3:11).

Unfortunately, in the midst of those celebrating the newly laid Temple foundation, were some who did not share the joy of those rebuilding the Temple (3:12-13).  A discordant sound arose from the “ancient men”, the elderly who were living in the past instead of celebrating in the moment (3:12-13).

Ezra 3:12-13 – “But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy:  13  So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.”

The “ancient men” remembered Solomon’s Temple, the one destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, and comparing the glory of that Temple to the foundation of the new one, became critical and scoffed at the work being done.  Through Zechariah, the LORD confronted the ancients asking, “For who hath despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:9-10).  The prophet Haggai echoed Zechariah’s question asking, “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory?and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” (Haggai 2:3).

Friend, the second Temple would not match the physical splendor and beauty of Solomon’s Temple; however, it would be greater than the first for the LORD Jesus Christ, would grace it with His physical presence as the incarnate Son of God.  Of the new Temple, Haggai prophesied:

Haggai 2:9 – The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.

I close on a personal note drawing upon my experiences as the Senior Pastor of Hillsdale Baptist Church these past 22 years.

Today’s scripture reading brings back memories of a series I preached in the Book of Ezra in the spring of 2004.  At the time, Hillsdale Baptist Church was in the midst of a relocation and building program that commenced with the purchase of land at our current location in 1999, followed by the design and preparation of architectural blueprints, and the sale of our old facilities February 2003.  From groundbreaking to completion, the timeline for our new facility was to be ten months.

Hillsdale’s pastoral leaders and deacons prepared the church for what was supposed to be a temporary inconvenience of renting a public school auditorium for Sunday worship services while our new home was under construction.  Unforeseen by any of our leadership was an adversarial spirit evidenced by the contractor soon after groundbreaking.

A lack of performance forced the church to terminate the contractor and subcontractors, and embroiled the church in a prolonged legal battle with the surety bond company that, using various legal maneuvers, attempted to exhaust the will of the church and its leaders.  A ten month construction project ended up taking thirty months to complete, followed by legal battles that continued another five years costing Hillsdale hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Late July 2005, Hillsdale Baptist Church experienced the joy of holding our first services in our new home; a joy tempered by a sorrow for some who did not persevere with us to the dedication of our new home.  In the fall of 2010, the surety company and contractors were forced to settle with the church.

The toll on the church was great; however, those who persevered have been richly blessed and God glorified.  Being reminded God is Sovereign, Hillsdale’s adversaries paid a far greater price.  The contractor died in a tragic accident the very day the financial settlement for the church was under deliberation; the construction firm and the majority of subcontractors were either forced into bankruptcy or dissolved.

I close with a verse that carried me through much adversity.

1 Corinthians 10:13 – “There hath no temptation [test or trials] taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer [allow] you to be tempted [tested or tried] above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape [provide you the strength and means to pass through], that ye may be able to bear it [endure].”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Take Time to Be Holy

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ecclesiastes 5-6

When I was young and with a lifetime ahead of me, reading the Book of Ecclesiastes was a chore.   I confess; I read its verses, but did not relish its truths.  The ponderings of Solomon, his youth spent and his heart laden with the weight of sin, was depressing.

Solomon’s counsel in his old age stands out in sad contrast to the proverbs of wisdom he taught his sons when they were young.  Rather than exhortations of wisdom and cautions to walk in the way of the LORD, Ecclesiastes calls to mind the counsel of foolish parents who say, “Do as I say, not as I do.”  Such is the counsel of too many fathers and mothers in our day.

Ecclesiastes, the Book I found discouraging in my youth, has become a challenge for me to examine my walk with the LORD and walk in wisdom.  I hope you will find today’s reading, Ecclesiastes 5-6, will be the same for you.

Solomon stated his counsels in Ecclesiastes 5 so clearly there is little commentary you need from this country parson to grasp and apply them to your life.  Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 instructs us regarding the preparations of our heart and attitude when worshipping the LORD.

Permit me to suggest four ways we offend God when we worship Him.

The first, we offend the LORD when we open our checkbook before we open our heart to Him (5:1).  

Ecclesiastes 5:1 – “Keep [guard; watch] thy foot [i.e. be careful] when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear [listen; obey], than to give the sacrifice of fools [silliness]: for they [fools] consider not that they do [commit] evil [sin; wickedness].

The definition and practice of “worship” in American churches has changed dramatically in the past 30 years.  What was once a deliberate act of solemnity, conscious a holy God “looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b) and knows our thoughts and motives (Jeremiah 17:10), has become raucous entertainment with “worshippers” dancing to the beat of drums and the blare of deafening music.  Oh how far we have strayed from the call to, Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

Secondly, we offend the LORD when we speak before we think (5:2).

Ecclesiastes 5:2 – “Be not rash [hasty; eager] with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty [swift; quick] to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.”

God may seem distant; however, He hears every word!  Too many of us are so busy making requests and “doing ministry” we fail to take time to be quiet and listen to the soft voice of God’s Spirit.

Saying one thing and doing another is a third offence committed by those who worship the LORD in haste with little thought of heart preparation (5:4-7a).

Ecclesiastes 5:4-7 – “When thou vowest [promise] a vow unto God, defer not [dont be slack] to pay [perform] it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay [render] that which thou hast vowed.
5  Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
6  Suffer not [do not allow or permit] thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel [i.e. a messenger or servant of God], that it was an error [mistake]: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work [labor] of thine hands?   7  For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities [meaningless; no purpose]: but fear thou God.”

God remembers every prayer, every vow, and every thought.  Before you open your mouth and make a vow, remember, God will not forget the vows you make.  Jesus taught His disciples:

Matthew 12:36-37  – But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Finally, we offend God when we fail to revere and worship Him in humility and sincerity.  We read, “but fear thou God” (5:7b).

When you come before the LORD to worship Him, whether in the quietness of your daily devotions or in the congregation of His saints on Sunday, slow down, take time to be quiet, weigh every word, and humble yourself before Him.

Psalm 46:10Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Home Sweet Home: A Family Portrait

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 128-130

Today’s scripture reading consists of three brief songs of worship in the Book of Psalms, chapters 128, 129 and 130.  As noted in previous devotions, we are in the midst of a set of Psalms known as, “A Song of Degrees” (Psalms 120-134) and believed to have been psalms pilgrims sang as they approached Jerusalem and the Temple for feasts days celebrated by the Hebrews.  My focus for today’s commentary is Psalm 128.

Psalm 128 is a song of rejoicing in the LORD for His many blessings.  The central focus of the psalm is the LORD’S blessings on the household of the man who fears and walks in the ways of the LORD (128:1).

What does it mean to fear the LORD?

The fear of the LORD is not a fear that, like Adam, flees or cowers in God’s presence (Genesis 3:8-9).  It is a reverential fear; a fear that moves a man to conduct himself in a manner that is upright, honest and just.  Such a man is “blessed” (i.e. happy; joyful; satisfied) because he “walketh in His ways” (the ways of the LORD’S commandments).

Drawing upon a picture that is rural and agricultural (128:2-3); the man who fears the LORD is promised he will enjoy success in his labor, be happy in his pursuits, and fare well in life (128:2).

Wow; what a picture of a rewarding, satisfying life!  However, it gets even better!  It is one thing to be well-off, have money in savings and enjoy material success; however, it is quite another to have family in whom you take pleasure.

The world might say such a man lives a “charmed life”; however, nothing could be further from the truth!  He is not lucky; he is blessed because he fears the LORD and walks in His ways!

Unlike the wicked whose lives are cursed with the ways of sin that never satisfy, the life of a man who fears the LORD and walks in His ways is not choked with the weeds of ungodliness.  God blesses his labor (128:2) and his household enjoys the fruit of God’s blessings upon his life (128:3).

His wife is “a fruitful vine” and finds her strength in him and his children are “like olive plants”, a source of joy to his soul.  Leaving us no doubt the way of the LORD is blessed, the psalmist repeats his assertion, the man be blessed that feareth the LORD (128:4).

The closing verses of Psalm 128 serve as a benediction for those who fear the LORD and walk in His ways (128:5-6).

Psalm 128:5-6 – “The LORD shall bless thee out of Zion: and thou shalt see the good of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. 6  Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel.”

We have seen the family portraits of three generations in this psalmThe first is a portrait of a young man and his wife who, under the shadow of her husband’s love and piety (128:1-3a), is like “a fruitful vine” …a source of joy and blessing to her household.

The second portrait is that of the man’s children who, sitting around his table, are trained and cultivated to grow up “like olive plants” and prosper (128:3).

The third portrait is one of contentment (128:5-6) and was taken in the latter years of the godly man’s life.  He is old, his back stooped in age; however, his heart aspires to see God bless his nation (128:5).  He rejoices in seeing his “children’s children”, and prays for peace (128:6).

Many reading this devotional aspire to the same.  We long for success and to be a blessing to our spouse and children.  We pray for God to pour out His blessings on our nation and, when we are old, to grant us the joy of seeing and loving our grandchildren.

My friend, those are admirable goals; however, they are the blessings of those who fear the LORD and walk in His ways.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith