Category Archives: Prayer

A Nagging Wife, a Hen-pecked Husband, and the Birth of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Genesis 16)

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Today’s Bible reading brings us to a crisis of faith and a spiritual crossroads in Abram’s (Abraham) life (Genesis 16). Sadly, this passage reveals evidence of how one man’s failure to trust God carried consequences that shadow our world today, 4,000 years after Abram’s sojourn.

Years passed, and Abram’s longing for a son was unmet (Genesis 12:2-3). So he complained to the LORD, “I go childless…to me thou hast given no seed” (15:2-3). God responded to Abram’s complaint and graciously assured him that the offspring of his lineage would one day be in number as the stars of heaven (15:5).

Genesis 16 – “Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children.” (16:1)

Childlessness in Abram and Sarai’s culture was a matter of shame and considered a judgment of God. Children were essential to a family, and their presence in the home was viewed as a testament to God’s love and blessing. If a wife were childless and unable to bear a son, it was the practice in ancient cultures for her to present her maid to bear children to her husband.

Yet, despite God’s promises and assurances, a crisis of faith took hold of Abram’s heart, as his wife Sarai murmured, “Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai” (16:2).

Abram was eighty-six years old (16:16), and Sarai seventy-six, when his faith waned under the pressure of her grumbling (the word “voice” indicates a loud, thundering sound, like the bleating of a flock of sheep, 16:2). Sarai was barren and despondent; contrary to God’s will, she pressed Abram to abandon his faith in God’s promise. Instead, she sought to fulfill God’s promise through the methods of the culture and have a son by proxy through Hagar, her Egyptian maid (16:3).

Foolishly, Abram yielded to Sarai’s plea and went in unto her servant. When Hagar conceived (16:4), instead of the expected joy for which she yearned, both women were at odds with the other provoking jealousy and a perpetual division in the household (16:4). Eventually, Sarai’s unhappy spirit affected every part of her life, until finally she “said unto Abram, My wrong [sin] be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised [cursed; contemptible] in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee” (16:5).

Sarai’s reasoning reflected an easy escape from taking responsibility for her faithless cultural judgment: she blamed her husband, who was ultimately accountable for family decisions. Sarai even determined that God would see things her way because Abram had taken them to Egypt in the first place. Lacking faith in God’s covenant promise, Abram and Sarai sinned. They failed to trust God, defiled the sanctity of their marriage, and entangled Hagar in an intimate area of their relationship, resulting in a dilemma they could never reverse (16:5).

Refusing to accept any further blame, Abram sought to remove himself from the trouble altogether and allowed Sarai to mistreat Hagar (16:6b). Seeking to escape Sarai’s harshness, Hagar fled south into the desert (16:6b), and stopped at “Shur,” a region on the border of northeastern Egypt (16:7). There, we read, “the angel of the LORD found [Hagar]” and said to her, “Return to thy mistress, and submit [humble; be the lesser] thyself under her hands” (16:9), and “I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered [counted] for multitude [abundance; i.e., too great to be counted]” (16:10).

“And the angel of the LORD said [commanded] unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael [lit, God will hear]; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction” (16:10-11). (Note, Genesis 16:7 is the first mention of the “angel of the LORD” in Scripture, and I believe it was a theophany, a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ.)

Ishmael was the forefather of the Ishmaelites and a branch of today’s Arabic people. His ancestors have been nomads of the desert for four millennia.

Closing thoughts – The nature and character of Ishmael and his progeny were described as “a wild man [lit. “wild donkey”]; his hand [power; strength] will be against every man [i.e., a man of hostility], and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren” (16:12).

In that statement, we find the nature and cause of today’s conflict in the Middle East. The Jews and those identifying Abraham and Ishmael as their forefathers are perpetual enemies.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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God is Faithful, and His Promises Are Sure (Genesis 12-13)

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Scripture reading – Genesis 12-13

After a lengthy study of the life and afflictions of Job, our chronological reading of the Scriptures returns to the Book of Genesis, chapters 12-13. Remember, Genesis 11 concluded with a focus on the lineage of Shem, and the bloodline through whom Abram (i.e. Abraham) was born (11:26). Abram is not only a central figure in the Scriptures, but he is also one of the pivotal men in human history. Three of the world’s great religions, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, consider Abram to be a foundational character in their faith.

Genesis 12 – God’s Covenant with Abram and His Lineage

The LORD came to Abram in Genesis 12 and commanded him to separate from his country, his kindred (relatives), and the influence of his extended family (12:1).  God promised Abram, if he obeyed, He would establish a covenant with him consisting of seven promises (12:2-3).  Although he was elderly (75 years old, 12:4) and childless, God promised to bless Abram with a son, make him great, his name famous, and through his lineage “all families of the earth [would] be blessed” (a promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ, 12:3).

Abram believed and obeyed God, and traveled from Haran to Canaan, the land he was promised as his inheritance (12:5-6). Characteristic of his enduring faith, when the LORD appeared to Abram in Canaan and rehearsed His covenant promises, Abram “builded an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him” (12:7). Then, Abram continued his sojourn in Canaan, and arrived at Bethel, where he once again “builded an altar unto the LORD” and worshipped Him (12:8).

A Crisis of Faith (Genesis 12:10-20)

Abram’s resolve to obey the LORD was soon tested when “there was a famine in the land” (12:10). Unfortunately, he abandoned his trust in God to provide and keep His promises, and left Canaan. Abram then journeyed to Egypt, putting all of God’s covenant promises in jeopardy, including the promise to give him and his wife Sarai a son in their old age (12:10-13).

We read that Sarai was a beautiful woman, and Abram feared she would be taken from him, and he be put to death. Rather than trust the LORD, he requested Sarai would tell others she was his sister and not his wife (12:11-13). When her beauty came to Pharaoh’s attention (12:14), he took her into his harem to become one of his wives (12:15) and thereby risked God’s promise that she would bear a son and heir to Abram.

Despite Abram’s faithlessness, God intervened and spared Sarai, and sent a plague of judgment on Pharaoh’s household. In doing so, God revealed Abram’s deception to the king of Egypt, (12:17-19). Providentially, Pharaoh had not harmed Sarai, and sent her, Abram, and their household out of Egypt (12:20).

Genesis 13 – “A Lot to Remember”

Abram and Lot were exceedingly wealthy.

With their families and servants of their households, the entourage that accompanied Abram and Lot most likely consisted of hundreds of men, women, and children. (For example, when Lot’s family and possessions were taken in Genesis 14:14, Abram took 318 armed men from his household to pursue and rescue Lot’s family. If we assume those men had wives and children, the members of Abram’s household alone would have numbered more than a thousand souls.)

With that number, it was a major undertaking when Abram and Lot moved their flocks and herds to new pastures. Indeed, the caravan formed by their households would have stretched far into the distance. When they encamped, hundreds of tents would have dotted the valley and hillsides near where Abram and Lot pitched their tents.

Two Very Different Views of Life (13:8-18)

Abram desired to avoid further conflict between himself and Lot and suggested they separate from one another, and divide their households. Evidencing humility, the elderly Abram graciously offered his nephew the first choice of the land (13:8-9).

Lot evidenced his covetous spirit, and failed to defer to his uncle. He contemplated the land before him, and then chose the best of the land for himself (13:10). His decision would prove a fateful one, for it included the cities in the plain, and among them the wicked city of Sodom (13:10-13). After Lot departed, God again renewed His covenant promises with Abram (13:14-18).

Closing thoughts – As we close, I invite you to consider some critical distinctions between Abram and Lot.For instance, Abram’s love for the LORD was incompatible with Lot’s love for the world. Another difference was Abram’s affections were eternal, and God-centered, while Lot’s affections were earthly and self-centered. Unlike his uncle, there is no mention in the Scriptures of Lot building altars for worship, or offering sacrifices to the LORD.

Tragically, as we shall see in future devotions, Lot will continue to move closer to Sodom [a symbol of the world, and a city indicative of gross wickedness in the Scriptures], and further away from Abram and the LORD.

Take a moment and consider two personal questions: Which way is your life moving? Are you moving toward the LORD, or closer to the world?

1 John 2:15–1715 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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THE END: “Job Died Old, and Full of Days” (Job 42)

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Scripture reading – Job 42

Job had remained silent since he confessed, “I am vile” (40:4). Being reminded of the majesty of God, he “answered the Lord, and said, 2I know that thou canst do every thing, And that no thought can be withholden from thee” (42:1-2). He had complained, but now he resigned himself to God’s sovereignty. He acknowledged he had spoken in ignorance (42:3), and accepted the LORD was not obligated to answer his questions.

In a wonderful expression of humility, Job confessed, 5I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: But now mine eye seeth thee(42:5). Though dreadful to have experienced the afflictions, the trials, troubles, and sorrows moved Job from a theoretical knowledge of God (“hearing of the ear”), to a personal and practical familiarity (“now mine eye seeth thee”) of his God and Creator. Job confessed, 6Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes (42:6).

God Rewards Faithfulness (Job 42:7-10)

Having accepted Job’s penitence, the LORD turned His focus to his foolish “friends” (42:7-9). “Eliphaz the Temanite” had been the first to challenge Job, and “the Lord said to [him], My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath” (42:7).

Then, God commanded Eliphaz and his peers saying, “take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering” (42:8a). The man whom they scorned, now served God as their priest, and the LORD assured Job’s friends, “My servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job” (42:8).

What an astonishing turn of events! Job had been the object of his friends’ scorn and judgments. Their unkindness, and false arguments had so provoked the LORD, He commanded them to humble themselves, and appeal to Job to intercede for them.

Evidencing the grace of a humble, godly man, Job “prayed for his friends,” and the LORD rewarded him with “twice as much as he had before” (42:10). 

Closing Thoughts (42:11-17) – We have studied 42 chapters in the life of Job. With the exception of his wife (who suggested he curse God and die), and four “friends” who proposed to be counselors but became critics, Job’s acquaintances have been strangely absent. With the hard times past, and Job enjoying God’s blessings and financial prosperity, we read:

Then came there unto him [Job] 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]” (42:11). I ask, where were those “brethren” and “sisters” when he lost everything?  Where were his acquaintances when he suffered the loss of his sons and daughters, servants, home, possessions, and health?  Why did they wait until Job had been vindicated to empathize with him? Why bring Job “a piece of money” and gold earrings, when he had need of nothing? (42:12-15)

As we conclude our study of the life of Job, we can learn many lessons from this man who lived centuries before us. Though he had suffered much, God prospered Job, and he “died, being old and full [satisfied] of days” (Job 42:10, 17). When he humbled himself before God, he was restored to His favor, and died very old, and content with his life (42:17).

Is that not what we all want? To not only live a long life, but be content, and satisfied when we draw our last breath!

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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

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Remember the Good Old Days? (Job 29)

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Scripture reading – Job 29

Job’s answer to Bildad’s accusations (Job 25) is continued in today’s Scripture reading. Unable to find reprieve from his sorrows, and bearing the disappointment of friends who assailed him, Job reflected on what we might label, “the good old days.” He remembered better days, and happier times.

Job 29

Job’s Complaint (29:1-6)

Having lost everything, the sting of feeling abandoned by God pierced Job’s soul day and night. He was grieved by friends who alleged he must be guilty of some wickedness. He felt God was turned against him, and bemoaned that his dreadful state had given cause for others to ridicule and scorn him.

Job then remembered the security and communion he once enjoyed with his Creator (29:2-6). He said, Oh that I were as in months past, As in the days when God preserved me [watched over him] (29:2). He had lived what some call in our day, “the charmed life.” As a young man, he enjoyed the light of God’s favor (29:3). Comforted by the “secret of God” (His friendship and fellowship, 29:4), and the presence of his children (29:5), Job’s life had overflowed with plenty (29:6).

Job’s Prominence in Former Days (29:7-17)

There had been a day when he was esteemed in all quarters of his realm (29:7-17). He was numbered above the elders and judges of the city (29:7). When he passed in the streets, young men shied from him, and aged men rose in his presence out of respect (29:8). When he spoke, men listened and none questioned his wisdom (29:9-11). Contrary to the charges of his friends, Job had been beloved for his charity and compassion for the less fortunate (29:12-13).

Job’s Reputation (29:14-17)

He was hailed for his character and good deeds, and distinguished as a righteous judge (29:14). His charity for the less fortunate was known among his neighbors, for he served as eyes for the blind, and feet for those unable to walk (29:15). To the needy, he had been a father (29:16), and a foe of the wicked when men sought justice (29:17).

Job’s Delusion (29:18-23)

Like some in our day, Job had believed his prosperity would last forever. He supposed God would favor him for his righteous deeds, for he reasoned the days of the righteous are multiplied (29:18-19). He relished the approval of his peers, and they valued his counsel (29:20-21). When he spoke, lesser men were silent. To those who sought his counsel, his words were like dry soil that opens its “mouth wide” for spring showers (29:22-23).

Closing thoughts (29:24-25) 

For Job, times had changed, and he was left with only memories of better days. He remembered when he was much-loved, and all men sought his company (29:24-25). He had not been proud, or haughty as he was accused (29:24). Though he had been chief and sovereign in his realm, he was a comfort to those overcome with sorrows.

Friend, the day may come when you will be embroiled in trials and troubles. When sorrows come, remember God’s grace and favor is the only solace in your darkest hour. I close with a promise that has sustained believers down through the centuries:

2 Corinthians 1:3–4 – “3Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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

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Keep Hope Alive: God Knows You! (Job 22; Job 23)

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Scripture reading – Job 22; Job 23

Continuing our two-year chronological study of the Scriptures, we are in the midst of the Book of Job. What a powerful book and reminder that no one is spared the troubles and trials of this earthly life. Job served as a memorable example of a spiritual man who faced not only the hardships of catastrophic losses, but the erroneous, harsh judgments of some who purported to be his friends.

Yet, we should remember Job was not aware his afflictions were a consequence, not of God’s judgment, but His confidence there was “none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil” (1:8). The LORD gave Satan liberty to assail Job, and spared only the man’s life, from that evil one’s assault. In spite of his sorrows, Job’s faith did not falter, even as the evil insinuations of his friends increased.

After listening to Job maintain his innocence, and refute the allegations that he had committed some sin that warranted God’s judgment (Job 21), Eliphaz, obviously offended, spoke up.

Job 22 – Eliphaz’s Rebuke of Job

Eliphaz the Temanite disputed Job for his third and final time (his first two challenges were recorded in Job 4-5, and Job 15). Though claiming to be Job’s friend, Eliphaz accused him of supposing he was righteous, and God was obligated to him (22:1-4).

Impatient with Job’s pleas of innocence, Eliphaz unleashed a torrent of accusations against the man whom God said, “there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man” (1:8). He alleged Job had exploited the poor (22:6), refused water to the thirsty, and denied bread to the hungry (22:7). He suggested he had taken advantage of the most vulnerable, sent widows away wanting (22:9a), and crushed orphans (22:9b). Eliphaz dared suggest Job thought God must be blind to his wicked ways, and warned all the troubles that had befallen Job was God’s punishment (22:12-14).

Eliphaz’s diatribe (22:15-30) against Job’s character continued through the balance of Job 22, as he recapped for Job concerning the wicked, and God’s judgment (22:15). Understanding the Book of Job is believed to be the most ancient of the books of the Bible, we are not surprised to find the worldwide flood still fresh in the minds of the men of Job’s day (22:16). Eliphaz reminded Job how the wicked were destroyed in the flood, for they had rejected the LORD (22:17). Yet, men in Noah’s day, as in our day, enjoyed God’s common grace, and their houses were “filled…with good things” (22:18).

Then, Eliphaz proved the callous, heartless man he was and boasted the righteous rejoice when the wicked are afflicted (22:19), and the righteous are “not cut down” (22:20). Once again, the implication was only the wicked suffer in the manner Job was afflicted, and called upon Job to repent and “return to the Almighty” (22:21-23). Perhaps the first to preach a “prosperity gospel,” Eliphaz promised God would prosper Job (22:26), and answer his prayers if he confessed his sin and repented (22:27-30).

Job 23 – Job’s Appeal for God to Hear His Plea

Job’s reply to Eliphaz’s harsh inferences was recorded in Job 23 and Job 24; however, today’s devotional will conclude focusing solely on Job 23.

Once again, Job employed the scene of a heavenly courtroom, and God being his judge and he the victim advocating for compassion and understanding (23:1-2). Job complained it seemed God was distant, and were he to find Him, he would come to His throne and petition the LORD to hear his appeal (23:3-4). Knowing the LORD to be just, Job confessed, “I would know the words which He would answer me, And understand what He would say unto me” (23:5). He believed God would not only hear his cause, but would favor him in His judgment (23:6-7). Job complained, he searched everywhere for the LORD, but felt he was abandoned by Him (if only he had known, God was ever watching and attentive to him (23:8-9).

Closing thoughts (23:10-17) – Our devotion concludes with Job giving us a wonderful truth regarding God’s omniscience, mercy, and providences. Job 23:10 presents us with one of the great statements of faith in God’s providences: “He knoweth the way that I take: When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (23:10).

Though his friends misjudged him, Job was comforted knowing the LORD knew his ways and motives (23:11-12). Though men are given to urges, Job knew the LORD was immutable, and not given to whims. Our God is of “one mind” and does as He pleases, and His plan will be accomplished in our lives (23:13-14).

Job was confident, regardless the accusations brought against him by others, he was sure God knew him to be a man of integrity. While friends slandered and misjudged him, he believed God’s judgment was righteous and perfect.

Take comfort and trust in God: The LORD is not given to whims, for “He is one mind…and what His soul desireth, even that He doeth” (23:13).

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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

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The Tragic Consequences of Generational Sins (Job 20; Job 21)

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Scripture reading – Job 20; Job 21

Our study of the trials and troubles of Job continues with today’s Scripture reading (Job 20-21). Admittedly, the text is dark, but the insights we gain from our study are illuminating. The chapters before us are lengthy, and at best, time and space permit only a brief commentary. As you read chapter 20, remember Zophar (the third of Job’s friends) is coming from an earthly, human vantage. His purpose was not to impart spiritual wisdom, but to assert that Job’s afflictions were the reward of the wicked.

Job 20

Job 20 is the record of the second and final response of Zophar the Naamathite (his first speech was recorded in Job 11). Zophar was offended by Job’s admonition in the closing verses of chapter 19. Job had maintained his innocence, and warned his “friends” would face God’s wrath for their harsh judgments (19:28-29). Zophar’s rebuke came swift and furious (20:1-3).

Job 20:4-29 – The Fate of the Wicked

Like his friends, Zophar inferred Job’s afflictions were to be expected by those who are wicked. His contentions revealed three erroneous opinions concerning the state and reward of the wicked.

First error: The wicked always come to destruction. (20:4-11)

Zophar suggested the rejoicing of the wicked is brief (20:4), the honors bestowed on them perishes with them, and they are soon forgotten (20:5-8). Neither of those statements are necessarily true. In fact, the wicked often live out their lives enjoying ill acquired wealth, and their funerals and tombs are often grand spectacles to behold.

Second error: The wicked do not prosper. (20:12-23)

Continuing his erroneous observations, Zophar suggested the prosperity of the wicked is brief (20:12), inevitably bites like a poisonous viper (20:13-16), and he dies in want.

The error in Zophar’s observations is evident when we remember the LORD’s parable of a rich fool (Luke 12:16-21). Beguiled with the pleasures of his riches, the rich man ordered his barns be torn down to build greater barns, and said to his soul, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:19). Rather than die in want, the rich fool died as he lived, enjoying his wealth until he heard in eternity that he was the poorest of men: “20But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20–21).

Third error: Only the wicked suffer devastating sorrows, and catastrophic losses. (20:24-29)

Zophar maintained the wicked are struck down (20:24-25), and all he has is destroyed (20:26).  He declared the wicked feels everything is against him, until his riches are consumed by God’s wrath (20:27-28). (While it may be argued how the wicked often suffer loss; I suggest it is more often true they are rewarded by the system of this fallen world, and hailed for their ill-gotten gains, John 15:19a).

Of course, the implication of Zophar’s argument was that Job’s sorrows were a wicked man’s afflictions, and such is the lot or “heritage” God has “appointed” for the wicked (20:29).

Job 21 – Rather than Suffer, the Wicked Prosper

Job 21 recorded Job’s response to Zophar’s fallacies. He demanded his friends be silent that he might speak, and challenged them, sarcastically, after he had spoken, “mock on” (21:1-2). Job confessed his struggle was with God, and not with men (21:3-6).

Contrary to Zophar’s assertions, he observed the wicked and their children often live long lives, and enjoy prosperity (21:7-13). He contended the riches of the wicked cause their hearts to be calloused, and “they say unto God, Depart from us; For we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. 15What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? And what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?” (21:14-15) The wicked fail to acknowledge they deserve nothing. Indeed,  all they have is a testimony of God’s grace and longsuffering, and the prosperity of the wicked moves them to reject God (21:16).

Closing thoughts (21:17-34) – Warning: Do not assume the wicked go unpunished.

The consequences of sin are inevitable, and the wicked are “as stubble before the wind, And as chaff that the storm carrieth away. 19God layeth up his [the wicked’s] iniquity for his children: He rewardeth him, and he shall know it” (21:18-19).

Generational Sins: Children are not punished for the sins of their parents; however, they often suffer the influence of their sins (Jeremiah 31:29-30; Deuteronomy 24:16). Three times the Law stated: “The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” (Numbers 14:18; Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9).

Warning: The consequences of your sins may be borne by your children.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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“Overcoming Bitterness: I Know that My Redeemer Liveth” (Job 19)

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Scripture reading – Job 19

The sad drama between Job and his friends continued in Job 19, as he responded to the callous, unloving reproofs of Bildad the Shuhite (Job 18). Though Job might have anticipated his friends’ arrival would bring some comfort and pity, he soon realized they had come with one opinion – that Job’s afflictions were characteristic of the troubles that befall wicked men.

With that fabricated premise, Bildad assailed Job for being long-winded in his protests (18:2), and too proud to receive counsel (18:3). According to his estimation, the wicked have a hard life, characterized by calamity (18:5-18), and go to their graves with none remembering them (18:16-20). The implication was that Job’s troubles were such as should be expected of the wicked (18:21).

Job 19

An old English adage reads, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” Alas, life experiences teach us that sticks can leave scars, and stones may indeed break bones; but eventually the body will mend and heal. However, the effect of cutting words from a loved one, or friend, sometimes result in sorrows that follow us to the grave. Such is the protest we read from Job in chapter 19.

Job’s Complaint Against His Friends (Job 19:1-5)

Job answered the scorn of his friends, and challenged them, saying, “How long will ye vex my soul, And break me in pieces with words?(19:2) The harsh judgments of his friends had left Job wounded and despairing of life. He protested, they had treated him reproachfully, and should be ashamed of how they humiliated him while in the throes of sorrows (19:3). Though wronged by groundless judgments, Job fell into the well-worn rut commonly found among the embittered: He kept a tally of the wrongs committed against him. Job declared, “These ten times have ye reproached me (19:3). His heart was turned from the LORD, to those who wronged and accused him. Frustrated by meddling, Job suggested if he was wrong, let it be his business, and his alone (19:4).

“Not Fair!” – Job’s Complaint Against God (19:6-12)

Job then raised a complaint against the LORD, for he believed he was unfairly entangled with sorrows exceeding his failures (19:6). He cried to the LORD, but it seemed heaven was silent (19:7). He felt entrapped (19:8), humiliated (19:9), and his world destroyed (19:10). He complained, it seemed the LORD had become his enemy, and his life under siege (19:11-12).

A Crisis of Alienation (Job 19:13-20)

God’s Word gives us an insight into the human psyche, for in Job’s afflictions, he retreated into the seclusion often sought by those who suffer. If you have known rejection, endured personal attacks, or been dealt a setback, you might have known the temptation to retreat into solitude like a wounded soul.

Job had experienced the alienation of family and friends. He wrote, “[God] hath put my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me” (19:13). He understood God was author of his troubles, but the response of his family, friends, and acquaintances wounded him. Job felt alone, forsaken by family (19:14a), and forgotten by friends (19:14b). Even the servants of his household dishonored him (19:15-16), and his wife abhorred his “breath [life, spirit]” (19:17). “Young children,” the picture of innocence, disdained him (19:18), and his most intimate friends turned against him (19:19).

A Plea for Pity and Vindication (Job 19:20-25)

His body physically wasted (19:20), Job turned his thoughts from self-pity, and plead with his friends for pity and understanding. He asked, “Why do ye persecute me as God, and are not satisfied with my flesh?” (19:21-22). He begged for the vindication of his innocence to be recorded for future generations to consider, and pity him (19:23-24). Though he was overwhelmed by sorrows, and did not know the cause of his afflictions, Job declared his faith saying, 25For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth”(19:25).

Closing thoughts (19:26-29) – Though he was looking through the lens of inexplicable sorrows and losses, Job’s faith remained unshaken. He was confident the LORD was his Advocate and Redeemer, and believed He would rescue and ransom him out of trials. Job reasoned, even if his afflictions ended in death, and worms destroyed his body, he believed his Redeemer would raise him from the dead, and he would see God (19:26-27). Job’s rebuttal of Bildad concluded with a warning we should all consider: God is the final judge, and the day of his judgment will come (19:28-29; 42:7-9).

A word of invitation – Don’t be guilty of keeping a tally of wrongs committed against you (19:3). An angry, unforgiving spirit will eat at your soul and make you a slave to bitterness! Follow Job’s example, answer your enemies (Proverbs 10:12; 1 Peter 4:8), and turn to the LORD (Ephesians 4:30-32).

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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

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Be Thankful, God is Longsuffering (Job 17; Job 18)

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Scripture reading – Job 17; Job 18

Eliphaz, one of Job’s friends, contended only the wicked “travaileth with pain all his days” (15:20a). Of course, the implication was that Job’s troubles were a consequence of sins he had been unwilling to address with God. Job’s answer and rebuttal of Eliphaz’s judgment began in chapter 16, and continued with today’s Scripture reading (Job 17).

Job 17

In chapter 16, Job refuted Eliphaz’s charges of wrongdoing, and appealed for compassion. He then turned his focus from man to God, and lamented, My breath [lit. life; spirit] is corrupt [spent], My days are extinct, the graves are ready for me (17:1). Job longed to be free of his “friends” whom he described as “mockers” (17:2), and free of their foolish counsel. They came pretending to have wisdom, but Job complained God had “hid their heart from understanding,” and such men would never be exalted by Him (17:4).

Though Job was a man living in a day far different from our own, there is a lesson we should take regarding the physical toll of trials and sorrows. Job confessed, 7Mine eye also is dim by reason of sorrow [perhaps because of weeping], And all my members are as a shadow” (17:7). We know little of Job’s physical state before he became victim of catastrophic losses, but he confessed he was but “a shadow” of the man he had been (17:7b).

Job had listened to his friends’ counsel, and was offended by their observations. He pondered their words, and honestly rebuked them, saying, “I cannot find one wise man among you” (17:10b).

Once again, Job returned to his belief that death alone was his hope of deliverance from his sorrows (17:11-16). His longing for better days was faded (17:11), and he confessed his thoughts troubled him night and day (17:12). Tragically, Job resolved his death was imminent, and then rest would come (17:13-16).

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.  Chapter 18 opened with Bildad reproving, rather comforting Job (Job 18).

Job 18 – Bildad’s Second Speech in Response to Job’s Mournful Defense

Then, Bildad, the second of Job’s friends, employed a series of proverbs in response to Job’s forlorn answer (a proverb being a brief, practical truth that is so evident it needs no debate or discussion). As you read chapter 18, reflect on Bildad’s pride, and his impatience with Job, whom he accused of long-winded protests (18:2).

Bildad took the initiative, and accused Job of counting his friends’ counsel as little more than the advice of dumb beasts (18:3). In fact, he accused Job of acting like a madman (“he teareth himself in his anger,” 18:4), and supposing God would suspend natural laws to accommodate him (18:4b). He then returned to the opinion voiced by the others, and asserted Job’s afflictions were the natural course of God’s judgment on the wicked (18:5-21). Beginning with a wrong assumption (that only the wicked suffer sorrows in life for their sins), Bildad arrived at the wrong conclusion—that Job’s sorrows were the consequence of his sins.

Closing thoughts – Remember, when you read Job 18:5-21, the proverbs recorded there originated with a man (Bildad) whose heart was proud, and spirit was unloving. Much of what Bildad concluded was true. Yet, know that God is longsuffering and His patience with sinners seems tireless. Nevertheless, He is just, and His justice is sure.

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization.

Mailing Address:
Heart of A Shepherd Inc
7853 Gunn Hwy
#131
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You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

God is with us in joys, and in sorrows. (Job 16)

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Scripture reading – Job 16

Eliphaz had made no allowance for Job to be anything less than guilty of some great wickedness. After all, he reasoned, “the wicked man travaileth with pain all his days” (15:20a).  Having begun with that false premise, Eliphaz wrongly concluded God was punishing Job. Job’s response was recorded in three pleas in chapters 16-17.  The first was a plea for mercy, rather than comfort.

Job’s Response to Eliphaz (Job 16:1-6)

The introductory verses of Job 16 reflect the heart of a man who was weary of accusations, brought by men who came under the pretense of showing compassion. Instead of comfort, Eliphaz had wounded and offended Job. He and his friends were, in Job’s words, “miserable comforters” (16:2). Job rebuked Eliphaz , and said, “Shall vain words have an end? Or what emboldeneth thee that thou answerest?” In 21st century vernacular, Job essentially said, “Stop Talking! What makes you think you have anything worth saying?”

Job’s friends were unsympathetic to his plight, and their words only added to his misery (16:1-14).  Job contemplated, if he were he in Eliphaz’s place, he would be able to heap upon him similar judgments (16:4). Yet, had they born his sorrows, they would have empathy (16:4-5).

Job’s Complaint Against God (Job 16:7-22)

Turning from his friends, I count at least seventeen complaints Job confessed to God in Job 16:7-22. I will not take the time to list all of his complaints, but I remind you they reflect the anguish of a hurting, troubled man. Job believed his trials were from the LORD, but he did not know their cause. His complaints; however, shed light on the plight and emotions that afflict believers when we go through hard times.

Closing thoughts – Take a few moments and consider Job’s grievances. Grief had left him physically, and emotionally exhausted (16:7). Sorrow wrinkled his countenance, and his body was physically wasted (16:8). Yet, rather than pity, his “friends,” attacked him like a lion seizes its prey (16:9). Instead of compassion, they scorned and looked upon him with disdain (16:10-11), leaving him a broken, wounded soul (16:12).

Job was crushed under the weight and sorrows of his troubles (16:13-15). His face was swollen from weeping, and the dark circles under his eyes were like “the shadow of death” (16:16). Still, Job argued his innocence (16:17a), confessed his devotion to God (“my prayer is pure,” 16:17b), and maintained he had harmed no man (16:18). While his friends scorned him, and added to his sorrows (16:19-20a), Job held out hope God would vindicate him before he died (16:20b-22).

I close with a common adage for those who feel life is hanging by a thread:

TIE A KNOT, HANG ON, AND TRUST GOD!

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization.

Mailing Address:
Heart of A Shepherd Inc
7853 Gunn Hwy
#131
Tampa, FL 33626-1611

You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Troubles are Inevitable, in a World Cursed by Sin. (Job 14; Job 15)

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Scripture reading – Job 14; Job 15

Job 14 brings us to the third chapter that served as Job’s reply to Zophar (Job 11). Unlike Eliphaz, Zophar made no pretense of comforting his suffering friend (11:1-3). Instead, he charged Job with concealing sin, and declared he believed the man was suffering God’s judgment (11:4-6).

Job’s reply to Zophar began in chapter 12, and continued through chapter 14. Though wearied by the sorrows of his afflictions, Job nevertheless derided his friends’ assertions that they had greater wisdom into the ways of God than he (12:1-4). Reserving the right to test and examine the “counsel” of his three friends (12:11), Job contended they had spoken much, and said nothing (13:1-2). In fact, he condemned them as “forgers of lies” (13:4), and stated his unshaken faith in God’s providence. Job declared, “though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (13:15).

Job 14 – An Elegy to Death

Continuing his response to Zophar, Job stated the tragic universal experience of man: 1Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble” (14:1). There are many joyful days in a man’s earthly sojourn; however, there is no escaping the common experience of man—trouble.

Job disputed his friends’ contentions that troubles were the afflictions of the wicked. He asserted the universality of troubles, trials, sorrows, and death, and declared they were inevitable for sinner and saint alike. Job went on to observe, man’s life is like a flower that is soon cut down and perishes. Man days are like a shadow, soon gone when light is extinguished (14:2). Man’s “days are determined” by God (14:5a), and no man will live beyond the “bounds” He has numbered (14:5b). In other words, God orders both the day of your birth, and the day of your death.

No wonder anxiety is epidemic in our day!  Our world is dominated by amusements, yet, everywhere we turn there are reminders life is temporal and death is coming. The sound of a siren racing, the solitary marker of a roadside cross, or the gathering of solemn mourners standing quietly at a grave, all remind us our days are numbered (Psalm 90:12) and our lives are like a vapor (James 4:14).

Wise men are conscious, “man dieth, and wasteth away: Yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? …12So man lieth down, and riseth not” (14:10-12a). Desiring to escape his afflictions and sorrows, Job pled with God, “hide me in the grave…keep me secret, until thy wrath be past…set a time, and remember me” (14:13).

He was a man of ancient times, and did not have the privilege of God’s written Word; however, Job was confident physical death was not annihilation. Asking and answering the question of death, Job proposed, “If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, Till my change come” (14:14). On what was Job waiting? The Resurrection! He affirmed to the LORD, “15Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee” (14:15a).

Job 15 – The Second of Three Speeches by Eliphaz (Job 4-5; Job 22)

Although they purported to comfort him, Job’s friends served as prosecutors, judges, and jury. They condemned the wretched man, already stricken by losses and overcome by sorrows. Eliphaz the Temanite once again took up his dispute with Job, and accused him of pride (Job 15:5-6) and hypocrisy (15:34-35). He warned, all Job suffered was a consequence of sin (15:17-35).

Eliphaz, whom I suggested was the elder of Job’s three friends (for he was the first to speak, Job 4-5), avowed that man’s troubles were indicative of the suffering of the wicked. Rejecting Job’s pleas of innocence (15:1-3), he charged him with folly, and accused him of turning from God (15:4-6). Eliphaz began with a false premise, and stated, 20The wicked man travaileth with pain all his days” (15:20a).

Rather than prove his assertion, Eliphaz continued his lie, and claimed the prosperity of the wicked eventually comes to destruction (15:21). He charged, the wicked will be overcome by trouble (15:24), and “shall not be rich, neither shall his substance continue” (15:29).

Closing thoughts – Eliphaz’s conclusions were untrue. In fact, the wicked often prosper, and many die surrounded by wealth, and the praise of their peers. Like many of this world who profess wisdom, he lacked understanding and godly discernment. Eliphaz only added to Job’s sorrows.

Lesson – Don’t assume your sorrows are a consequence of some wrongdoing; after all, troubles are inevitable in a world that bears the curse of sin.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization.

Mailing Address:
Heart of A Shepherd Inc
7853 Gunn Hwy
#131
Tampa, FL 33626-1611

You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.