Category Archives: Peace

Closing Thoughts on Life’s Trials, Fair-weather Friends, and the LORD’s Unfailing Grace (Job 40-42)

Daily reading assignment: Job 40-42

The LORD continues His interrogation of Job in chapter 40; however, he is now given an opportunity to respond  (40:3-5).  The first words from Job’s lips confessed his unworthiness (“Behold I am vile” – 40:4).  Humbled and at a loss for words, he is silent (40:4-5).

The LORD responds to Job, speaking to the man from the midst of the storm, Job is asked why he questioned His dealings as anything less than just (40:6-8). To summarize the LORD’s questions to Job in a modern context, “Who do you think you are to question me?” (40:9-14).

The beast described as the “behemoth” (40:15) is highly debated among scholars. Given the early writing of the book of Job, it is possible a dinosaur is described. Others suggest the behemoth was a hippopotamus, elephant or perhaps a water buffalo.

The LORD continues to question Job in chapter 41 and invites him to consider the “leviathan” (Job 41:1).  The identity of this great creature is also uncertain; however, some suggest it to be a giant saltwater crocodile.  Perhaps a giant creature of the sea that is extinct, but whose remains are identified today as those of a dinosaur.

Either way, the analogy is meant to draw Job to conclude that man is foolish to question his Creator when he pales in size and strength to the majestic beasts of His creation (41:1-9). The Lord challenged Job, if man cannot tame a “leviathan,” he has no right to question God (41:10-34).

Having heard the LORD’s revelations of Himself and pondered the evidences of His power and might as sovereign of creation, Job confessed, I abhor [despise] myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).

Accepting Job’s humble confession and repentance, the LORD turned the focus of His wrath upon Job’s “friends” (42:7-9) and commands “Eliphaz the Temanite” (perhaps the elder of the friends) to go to Job with sacrifices, humble themselves, and ask the very man they had condemned to pray for them (42:8-9).  [An additional observation: It is interesting that Elihu, the youngest “friend” of Job’s friends, is not named among those who went to Job in humility.  Elihu had been the most vociferous of Job’s judges; however, he fails to be named among those who sought to be restored to his fellowship].

Evidencing the grace and humility of a sincere repentant man of God, Job “prayed for his “friends” and God blessed him with “twice as much as he had before” (42:10).

Consider with me a few closing thoughts on “Fair-Weather Friends”:

Job 42:11 Then[i.e. the trials now passed and God having prospered Job “twice as much”] came there unto him all his brethren [kindred], and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance [i.e. friends and neighbors] before [before Job’s trials], and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned [i.e. showed sympathy] him, and comforted [pitied] him over all the evil [troubles] that the LORD had brought [i.e. allowed to enter] upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold.”

Where were these “brethren” and “sisters” when Job lost everything?  Where were Job’s acquaintances when he lost his sons and daughters, servants, home, physical health and possessions?  Why appear now to show sympathy and comfort?  Why wait to bring Job “a piece of money” and gold earrings after the LORD has begun to pour out his blessings on him and he has need of nothing?

I close our study of Job’s life rejoicing in how the LORD blessed him and he lived another “one hundred and forty years.” Job lived to witness the birth of “his sons, and his sons’ sons, even four generations” and“died, being old and full [satisfied] of days” (Job 42:10, 16-17).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Remember the Good Old Days? – part 1 (Job 29-31)

Today’s devotional reading assignment is Job 29-31.

Do you remember the “Good Old Days”?   You know, the days when you were young, strong, carefree, deluded and naïve?  Remember what life was like before you learned how much life could hurt?

In today’s scripture reading (Job 29-31), Job continues his defense against his “friends” insinuations that his sorrows and losses are indicative of unconfessed sins. Job began his defense in chapter 27 and continues his sad monologue through chapters 29, 30 and 31. (Note – I will address the length of today’s Bible reading assignment in two devotional thoughts).

Preacher and author Warren Wiersbe writes of Job’s defense:

He “climaxed his speech with sixteen ‘if I have…’ statements and put himself under oath, challenging God either to condemn him or vindicate him. It was as though Job were saying, “We’ve talked long enough! I really don’t care what you three men think, because God is my Judge; and I rest my case with Him. Now, let Him settle the matter one way or another, once and for all.”  [The Bible Exposition Commentary – Wisdom and Poetry].

Like many who grow frail in age or because of trials, Job began to reflect on “the good old days”.  He recalled the blessings and joys he had taken for granted before trials and troubles robbed him of his family, possessions and health. He remembered his youth and how God had favored him (29:2-4a).   He considered the fellowship he had with God and the joy his children brought to his life (29:4b-5).

He looked back on the standing he once had in life; how young men retired from his presence, old men stood to honor him (29:5-8), and nobles weighed his counsel with gravity (29:9-11, 20-25).  He cherished the opportunities he had to bless those less fortunate (29:12-16).

Job 30 marks a decided turn from cherished reflections of his past to the horrid reality of his present circumstances.  Though his character had remained unaltered, he had lost everything that once defined his outward man.   Job confronted the choice we might all face… live in the past and entertain bitterness or honestly and humbly assess his present condition.

Job’s life had become the fodder of fools. He encountered derision from men who once honored him (30:1-15).  He had been charitable to many, but now faced his own poverty (30:16-25).  In need of pity and compassion (30:26-31), sorrows threatened to drowned Job’s soul in tears (30:27-29). He was well-nigh hopeless.

Hopelessness is an intolerable place; for when hope is lost, all seems lost.

Paul challenged believers in Rome, be “fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope” (Romans 12:11-12a).  To believers in Corinth, Paul wrote, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20  But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept”  (1 Corinthians 15:19-20).

Believer, never lose hope!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“A Heart Tried in Trials is Precious as Gold” (Job 21-23)

Daily reading assignment: Job 21-23

Job has answered the slanderous judgments of “friends” who imply his trials must be attributable to some sin he has not confessed (Job 20:4-29).  Job answers Zophar’s false declarations in chapter 21, contradicting his “friend’s” assertions that the path of the wicked is marked by suffering, sorrows, and a life cut short.

Job contends the way of sinners appears to succeed in this sinful world.  The wicked seem to prosper, grow old and, in spite of their sins (21:7-21), their deaths differ little from that of other men (21:22-34).

I have observed the same as Job: Liars, cheats, and swindlers appear to prosper in this world, while their victims languish in the wake of their path of deceit and destruction.  I have witnessed single moms impoverished and naïve men deceived by wicked men who evidence no guilt of conscience or visible consequences for their sins.  In fact, the wicked often appear to prosper while the righteous are impoverished!

Caution: All is not what it seems and a day of judgment is appointed for sinners. 

God is “longsuffering…not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9) and His patience exceeds our own; however, He is just and sin demands its payday. Job observes,

Job 21:30-3230  That the wicked is reserved [spared] to the day of destruction? they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath [God’s wrath; fury]. 31  Who shall declare his way to his face [face of the wicked]? and who shall repay him what he hath done? 32  Yet shall he [the wicked] be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb.

Eliphaz continues his assault on Job’s noble character in chapter 22. Refusing to accept his protest of innocence, Eliphaz suggests Job has committed some wickedness and God has judged him.  Eliphaz states a litany of sins Job might have committed to invite God’s wrath (22:6-20) and urges him to confess his sin and turn to God (22:21-30).

Weary of protesting his innocence, Job expresses his longing to seek God’s presence and plead his cause knowing He is just and never changes (Job 23).  Job declares with conviction,

“But he knoweth [perceives and understands] the way [path; journey] that I take: when he hath tried [test; proved; examined] me, I shall come forth as gold [i.e. pure and refined by the fire of testing] (Job 23:10).

What is true of gold is true of the heart…the more it is fired the purer, softer, and more valuable it is.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

At the End of Your Rope? Tie a Knot and Trust God! (Job 17-20)

Daily reading assignment: Job 17-20

As a reminder to the readers of http://www.HeartofaShepherd.com; the daily devotionals posted on this site are written by Pastor Travis D. Smith and follow a chronological plan for reading through the Bible in one year. Chronological Bible Reading PlanSometimes the reading assignments can become heavy and repetitive…as with our study of the Book of Job. I encourage you to be patient and persevere in this discipline knowing every word in the original transcripts were God-breathed… “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21).

We continue our study of the Book of Job with the man responding to his friends’ suggestions that he has suffered sorrow and loss because of some sin he has yet to face and confess.  In chapter 16, Job began to reprove his accusers and plea for mercy and compassion.  We will notice in chapter 17 that his focus turns from his accusers to God.

Believing he could not continue to bear the sorrows and losses he has suffered, Job felt the end of his own life was at hand (Job 17:1); the betrayal of friends (17:5) and the stress of loss and disappointments had all but consumed him (17:7).

The young, strong, and untried are often self-deceived by a certain invincibility.  In contrast, the old, weak and feeble wrestle with the peril of self-absorption, anxiety and despondency.  Wrestling with the latter, Job cried to the LORD, Mine eye also is dim [dark; weak; faint] by reason of sorrow [grief; anger], and all my members [strength] are as a shadow [deep darkness; i.e. shadow of death] (Job 17:7).

Nowhere is there a hint that Job was considering suicide; however, he was so overwhelmed with sorrows it seemed death might bring a welcome relief (Job 17:11).  After hearing Job’s pitiful plea for mercy, one would think a friend would have compassion and encourage him; however, that was not the case.  The whole of Job 18 records Bildad’s words of reproof, insisting Job’s troubles are evidence of God’s judgment on the man’s wickedness.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” 

Do you remember that foolish childhood retort to the taunts of a bully?  Alas, sticks and stones leave scars that will heal and bones that will mend; however, the cutting words of a friend pierce the heart with sorrows that follow some to their graves.

The cruel judgments and piercing accusations of Job’s friends have left him wounded and despairing of life (19:1-4).  While he is a victim of unfounded criticisms and unmerciful condemnations; Job has nevertheless fallen victim to an ill-advised practice of some who have been wounded…keeping tally of the wrong’s others have inflicted on him.

Job rightfully asks, How long will ye vex my soul, and break me in pieces with words?” (Job 19:2); however, his observation, “These ten times have ye reproached me” (Job 19:3) suggests his focus was on his accusers and not the LORD.

Job 19:5-20 paints a pitiful portrait of Job wallowing in the mire of his sorrows and deprivations.   He is trapped with no means of escape (19:6).  Encircled by “friends” who judge and condemn him; Job cries for help (19:8-20), but finds no justice (19:7).

Loneliness and hopelessness have become Job’s companions (19:13-19). Disappointments and despair have overwhelmed him. 

Herein we see a danger…the temptation to nurse our wounds, lament our losses, and retreat into our misery.  It is here we take a page from Job’s life and listen as his heart and thoughts turn to the LORD:

For I know [with certainty and confidence] that my Redeemer [i.e. Kinsman Redeemer; Avenger] liveth, and that he shall stand [abide; endure] at the latter day upon the earth” (Job 19:25).

In the midst of sorrows, Job’s thoughts turn to the LORD and his hope is renewed.  He expresses confidence his “Redeemer” will deliver his soul from trouble in the same way a “kinsman redeemer” would purchase a loved one out of a debtor’s sentence.

In his distress, Job is forced to answer the judgments of “friends” who, like Zophar’s statements in Job 20, imply his sorrows and losses must be attributable to some wickedness he has not confessed to God (Job 20:4-29).

Some reading today’s devotional might be struggling with anxiety, fear and loss.  While your trials might pale in comparison to Job’s, nevertheless, your pain, sorrow, and disappointments are real.  You might fear one more disappointment…one more crisis…one more trial…one more attack on your character…and you will be broken.

Might I suggest that broken…broken in will and broken in spirit may be where God wants you! Broken; at the “end of your rope,” but wholly dependent on Him.

The prophet Isaiah exhorted God’s people: “Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength” (Isaiah 26:4).

Struggling with fear and anxiety?  I encourage you to confess, give them to the Lord, and trust Him!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Clock is Running Down…Are You Ready? (Job 14-16)

Daily reading assignment: Job 14-16

Reflecting on the temporal nature of this earthly life, Job declared man’s life is “of few days, and full of trouble” (14:1). Like the bloom of a flower that is soon cut down, the bloom and strength of one’s youth fades and we are no more (14:2).  Job reminds us that God has numbered the days, months, and years of man (Job 14:5)!   

No wonder anxiety and depression are epidemic today!

While our world is dominated by amusements (things that divert our thoughts), reminders life is temporal abound.  The sound of a siren racing to an accident; the presence of a roadside cross memorializing the site where a loved one perished; a procession of mourners behind a hearse…all remind us our days are numbered (Psalm 90:12and our lives are like a vapor (James 4:14).  

Job pondered that a tree that is cut down will often spring forth into life and new growth (14:7-9). What about man?  Is there life for man beyond the grave (14:10-12)?   

While we have the privilege of the written words of God’s revelation, death and the resurrection were mysteries to Job. In spite of his limited knowledge, he believed God was merciful and gracious and would remember him in death (14:14-15).

Although they purported to comfort him, Job’s friends have served as his prosecutors, judges, and jury…condemning the man though he was already stricken by his losses and wretchedness.  One of Job’s three “friends”, Eliphaz the Temanite, once again takes up his dispute with Job accusing him of pride (Job 15:5-6), hypocrisy (15:34-35) and warning him all he had suffered was a consequence of sin (15:17-35).  

Job’s response to Eliphaz is recorded in three pleas in chapters 16-17. 

The first plea is for mercy. Rather than comfort him; Job’s friends were unsympathetic to his plight and their words only added to his misery (16:1-14).  Reproving them, he postulated if they had suffered the sorrows and losses that had befallen him their words would be tempered with sympathy  and understanding (16:4-5).  

An old adage asserts, “Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes.”  

It is tempting to be an insensitive, callous critic when we have not borne the pain, sorrow and disappointments of another. For example, I have known some who supposed themselves parenting experts and in their rush to judgment failed to moderate their criticisms; that is…until they grappled with their own teenagers. 

It is easy to dole out self-righteous opinions until we suffer pains and disappointments. Christ taught in His Sermon on the Mount:  “Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:1-2).  

The knowledge we will face the judgment of a just God should incite caution when we are tempted to judge others.  How much better to heed Paul’s exhortation: Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 16  Be of the same mind one toward another…” (Romans 12:15-16a).   

In the words of Job, “my witness [recorded testimony] is in heaven, and my record [Advocate; i.e. Jesus Christ] is on high” (Job 16:19b1 John 2:1-2).

Copyright 2020 by Travis D. Smith

“Thou art the man!” (Psalm 51; 2 Samuel 12:7-13)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 21-22 and Psalm 51. Our devotional is from Psalm 51.

Psalm 51 is a prayer of brokenness, confession, repentance, and a plea for restoration.

Written after the prophet Nathan’s dramatic confrontation with king David (2 Samuel 12:7-13), Psalm 51 introduces us to a man brought low by sin. David’s adultery with Bathsheba, her conception of his illegitimate son, and his failed attempt to conceal his sin had led to the murder of her husband Uriah the Hittite on the battlefield.  David’s hush-hush sins were secret no more and the king’s disgrace was exposed in his court.

Many a great man and woman have found themselves in the unenviable position we find king David…at the pinnacle of success and power and unaccountable to any who might mercifully and lovingly warn, “Thou art the man!”  (2 Samuel 12:7).

Late 19th century British historian Lord Acton made the observation, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”   Such is true, not only of monarchs, politicians, business leaders, teachers, and pastors; but also, men and women who, in their own little fiefdoms have roles that go unchecked.

One should ponder how David falls from the innocence of a boy tending sheep in his teens, a national hero in his young-adult years (1 Samuel 18:7; 21:11), crowned king by age 30, but at 50 years of age descends to become an adulterer and murderer.

Be forewarned: Given the right provocation, the potential of such egregious sins lies within us all.   David acknowledged the nature and bent of sin within us when he writes, “I was shapen in inquity: and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).  Indeed, the inclination for sin is within the heart of all, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).

Even more disconcerting, while in the throes of sin David continued to act as judge in other men’s matters while tolerating the curse and burden of his own sins.  One wonders how long David might have continued his charade if God had not commanded his prophet to confront the king.  Remembering oriental monarchs like David held absolute authority and the power of life and death rested with them, we appreciate the tenuous position Nathan found himself.

The words, “Thou art the man!”(2 Samuel 12:7) echoed in the king’s judgment hall and resonated in David’s heart who cried out to the Lord, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness… 2  Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3  For I acknowledge my transgressions…4  Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done thisevil in thy sight…”(Psalm 51:1-4a).

David prayed, “10Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me… 12  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (Psalm 51:10, 12a).

I find three failures in David’s life that are the haunt of men and women. 

The first, David entertained unbridled passions that inevitably led to a neglect of his duties and responsibilities as husband, father and king. The second, David’s role as king had insulated him from accountability.  His moral failure occurred when he was alone.  Finally, until confronted by Nathan, David was too proud to confess his sins and humbly accept the consequences (2 Samuel 11:6-22).

Friend, if you are concealing sin, be forewarned: You are living on borrowed time before the consequences catch up with you and your loved ones (Galatians 6:8; Psalm 32:3-4).

I invite you to humble yourself before God knowing He has promised, “whoso confesseth and forsaketh [his sins] shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Life Got You Down? (Psalm 43)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 27, Psalm 43, and Mark 15. Our devotional is from Psalm 43.

Heavy heart, cast down soul, melancholy, and depression are terms men employ to define what the Scriptures describe as a “weary” soul (Job 10:1) and a broken spirit (Proverbs 17:22). 

While words defining depression have evolved, no one denies it afflicts men’s souls.  Robert Burton, the 17th century Oxford scholar and author of The Anatomy of Melancholy, wrote: “If there be a hell upon earth, it is to be found in the melancholy [of] man’s heart.”

Let’s take a page out of King David’s life and learn how he not only identified the loneliness of depression, but also the one place he could turn for deliverance. David writes.

Psalm 43:1-2– “1Judge [vindicate] me, O God, and plead [argue] my cause against an ungodly [unmerciful] nation: O deliver [preserve] me from the deceitful [dishonest; deceptive] and unjust [wicked; unrighteous] man.  2For thou art the God of my strength [place of safety]: why dost thou cast me off [forsake]? why go I mourning because of the oppression [distress; affliction] of the enemy [adversary]?”

David does not name his enemy; however, the tactics of his enemy were the same as those you and I face in our day.  Lies, libel, slander, threats, and attacks on one’s integrity are the modus operandi of the enemies of God, His Church and His people.

Rallying his heart, David states what he knows, “God is my strength”(43:2); literally, my fortress, stronghold and refuge.  David struggled that his knowledge of the LORD and His promises was at odds with his feelings and state of mind.  The king knew God was faithful; however, he confessed he felt forsaken, alone and overcome by adversaries (43:2).

Psalm 43:3-4– “O send out [stretch forth] thy light [illumination] and thy truth: let them lead [guide] me; let them [God’s light and truth] bring me unto thy holy [sacred] hill [mount], and to thy tabernacles [place representing the presence of God]4 Then will I go unto the altar [place of sacrifice] of God, unto God my exceeding joy [gladness]: yea, upon the harp [string instrument] will I praise [give thanks; worship] thee, O God my God.”

Turning his heart and thoughts from his despair, David looked to the LORD in the same manner the captain of a ship peers through the fog and darkness for the piercing beam of a lighthouse.  David appealed to God to illuminate his way and guide him with His Truth to the safe haven of God’s “holy hill” and the “tabernacles” where the saints of God gather to worship (43:3).

Though despairing, the king rallied his heart to look past his sorrows and set his heart upon the joy of once again offering sacrifices to the LORD and singing His praises (43:4).

Psalm 43:5– “Why art thou cast down [depressed], O my soul [life; heart]? and why art thou disquieted [troubled] within me? hope [wait; trust ] in God: for I shall yet praise [give thanks; worship] him, who is the health [deliverer; salvation] of my countenance [face], and my God.”

David counseled his soul with two questions (43:5a): Why are you depressed?  Why are you so troubled?

Realizing the error of his fear, David counseled his heart, “hope in God” (43:5b)! 

Resetting his spiritual compass from the delusion of self-pity to trust and faith in the LORD, David took courage and declared, “I shall yet praise Him [the LORD], who is the health of my countenance [face], and my God” (43:5c).

My friend, I do not know what fears and doubts haunt your soul, but I challenge you to pass through this time of trouble by turning your thoughts from self-pity to trust in the LORD!

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

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith