Category Archives: Prayer

A Lesson in LAW and GRACE (Genesis 22-24)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 22-24

Genesis 22 puts the faith of Abraham to the test as God proves his faith by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac, the son of God’s covenant promise.  Isaac’s question, “Where is the Lamb?” (22:7) is answered 2,000 years later when John the Baptist says concerning Jesus, “Behold the Lamb” (John 1:29, 36).

Reminding us God’s people are sojourners in this world of sin, we read, “Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2  And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her” (Genesis 23:1-2).

I close this historical crossroads in Abraham’s life inviting you to consider spiritual lessons concerning Law and Grace illustrated in the births of Ishmael and Isaac (Galatians 4:21-31). 

Ishmael, born a slave of a slave woman, was the fruit of Abraham’s effort to have a son and heir apart from God (Galatians 4:22a, 23a).   Isaac, born a free man of a free woman, was the son of promise whose birth was miraculous and the work of God (Galatians 4:22b, 23b).

The mothers, Hagar and Sarah, represent two covenants: Hagar, the LAW, the covenant between God and man (Galatians 4:24-25) reminding us the impossibility of man fulfilling the demands of the Law (Romans 3:19-20).  Sarah, represents God’s covenant of GRACE, His provision and unmerited favor (Galatians 4:26-27) extended to man.

Ishmael’s birth is a tragic reminder of man attempting in his own efforts to do and fulfill what only God can do.  Isaac’s birth, fulfilling God’s covenant promise to Abraham and Sarah, is a portrait of GRACE, God doing what only He could do.

My friend, that is why salvation is not by works that merit God’s favor, but is an act of God’s grace alone.

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

My theme for Genesis 24 is “Here Comes the Bride”.   Following the death of his beloved Sarah (23:1-2), Abraham was burdened that Isaac, his son and heir of God’s covenant promises, should have a fitting wife.

Fearing Isaac might be tempted to take a wife of the heathen tribes that dwelled in Canaan, Abraham determined to send his “eldest servant”  (24:2-4) to his kindred residing in “Ur of the Chaldees” (11:27-31).  Reflecting the faith of his master, Abraham’s servant prayed for the LORD to make His will clear in choosing the young woman who would become Isaac’s wife  (24:12-14).

God heard and answered the servant’s prayer even as he was praying (24:15-26).  In a prayer of praise that should comfort all who call upon and desire the will of the LORD, the servant prayed, I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren” (24:27).

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

Ever Wonder Why God Allows His People to Suffer? (Job 10-13)

Daily reading assignment: Job 10-13

In Job 10 we find Job attempting to make sense out of all he has suffered.  While he declares his confidence that God is just; he is nevertheless left wondering why calamity has come upon him.

Some reading this devotional can identify with Job’s sorrows.  You find yourself wrestling with some of the same questions, trying to make sense out of the trials that have befallen you. While you are confident God is sovereign and good, you wonder, “Why [God] ‘contendest [strive] with me?’” (10:2).

Job wondered, why are destroying me? “Wherefore then hast thou brought me forth out of the womb?” (10:18).  In essence, “Why was I born?”

Had Job known all he was suffering was in response to Satan assailing his character, he might not have agonized so; however, that was not for Job to know.  God had purposed for him to pass through fiery trials to the end he would one day say, “But He [God] knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

With friends like these, who needs enemies? (Job 11)

Having heard the judgment and condemnation of two “friends”, Eliphaz and Bildad, Job finds himself suffering the observations and criticisms of yet another, the Naamathite named Zophar (11:1).

Rather than pity and compassion, Zophar “goes for the kill” with cutting words, accusing poor Job of being a mocker and scoffer (11:3).  Filled with pride, Zophar indicted Job suggesting he was spiritually shallow, ignorant of God (11:5-12), and too stubborn to repent (11:13-20).

Job’s response to his accusers, specifically Zophar’s judgments, is recorded in chapters 12-14.

Job 12:2 seems to imply that Job’s friends were older than he and therefore presumed themselves to be wiser by the course of years.  Job, however, reminded his friends that the source of wisdom is God (12:12-13), not man. In other words, youth does not have the market on foolishness.  Indeed, one might just as easily be an old fool as a young fool.

While not knowing why so much suffering had befallen him, Job nevertheless declared the sovereignty of God over nature and man (12:14-25).

Job’s defense continues in chapter 13 as he asserts his innocence and reproves his “friends” for their hypocrisy (13:1-12).  Job rebukes them for daring to speak for God apart from His revelations (13:7-11).

His sons and daughters are dead; his home, servants, possessions, and flocks lost; his body is afflicted with sores; his wife taunts him to “curse God”, and his “friends” condemn him…yet, Job declares an amazing statement of faith:

“Though He [the LORD] slay me [kill; put to death], yet will I trust [hope; wait] in Him” (13:15).

Copyright 2020 – 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

Unforgiveness: A Bitter Fruit that Steals Your Joy and Saps Your Soul (Mark 11:22-26)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 15-16, Psalm 39, and Mark 11. Our devotional is from Mark 11.

Mark 11 records the beginning of the final week of Christ’s earthly life . Tradition states Christ’s “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem occurred on Sunday (Mark 11:1-11); however, there are many who believe it likely occurred on Monday.  Christ’s cursing the fig tree that bore nothing but leaves and driving the money-changers out of the Temple are both recorded in Mark 11:12-21.

Faith” and “Forgiveness” is the focus of our devotional and the subject of Mark 11:22-26.

Following a challenge on faith and prayer, Jesus admonished: “if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:26).

Forty years in ministry has taught me there are many believers who bear a spirit of bitterness in their souls.  In fact, one of the most besetting sins in the 21stcentury church is an unwillingness to deal with offenses in a biblical manner motivated by love for God and love for others.  Many allow bitterness to fester in their souls and, like cancer in the body, spread until family, friendships, and fellowships are spiritually, emotionally, and physically infected.

The writer of Hebrews warns the same: Looking diligently [intently; be watching] lest any man fail of [fall short of] the grace [favor and blessing] of God; lest any root of bitterness [i.e. hatred or resentment] springing up [sprouting up] trouble you, and thereby many [i.e. perhaps the majority] be defiled [tainted; i.e. like one diseased](Hebrews 12:15).

Friend, have you lost your joy because bitterness festers in your soul?  Do you harbor bitterness toward parents for what you perceive as slights of your youth? Are you a parent who struggles with forgiving a child who has disgraced your home with foolish, sinful actions?   Have callous words and broken vows embittered your marriage?  Have you allowed slights and offenses to embitter you toward fellow believers and pastors?

An unwillingness to forgive others is indicative of a soul who has not entered into the joy of God’s forgiveness (Matthew 18:23-35).

Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” is the LORD’s will (Ephesians 4:32) and when you grasp the magnitude of the sins God has forgiven you, you will find no reason to be unwilling to forgive others!

Harbor an unforgiving spirit and you do so at the sacrifice of joy and unanswered prayers.

Psalm 66:18 – “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith