Category Archives: Prayer

A National Missionary Worthy of Your Support: Yaovi Kpogno, Hillsdale’s Missionary Appointee to Togo

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Reader,

Greetings from Hillsdale Baptist Church!  I have enjoyed a reprieve from the pressure of writing daily devotional posts in recent months.  During this season of rest, I am enjoying an in-depth study of the Gospel of John as I prepare for my Sunday morning series, “Reflections on Compassion and Grace”.  I plan to begin regular posts in the near future and once again enjoy the privilege of ministering to saints around the world.

The purpose of this letter is to introduce you to a young man Hillsdale Baptist Church has come to love and appreciate.  Mr. Yaovi Kpogno is a national of Togo, West Africa.  I had the opportunity of meeting and interviewing Yaovi a year ago and my heart was touched and challenged as I listened to his testimony of salvation and God’s calling on his life to return to Togo as a church-planting missionary pastor.

Yaovi was born in a small village in Togo and raised by his mother in a hut where she continues to live today.  In fact, one of Yaovi’s goals when he returns to Togo in July, 2018 is to build a small concrete home for his mother.  

Yaovi accepted Christ as His Savior in August 1996 and publicly dedicated his life to serve the Lord in 2002.  Yaovi moved to Lome’, the capital of Togo, in 2005 to begin his formal education and ministered in Bible Baptist Church of Adakpame until he came to the United States to attend Bible College.

 Yaovi has earned four college degrees from The Crown College of the Bible while working full-time and paying his way through Bible college.  His hard work and dedication has paid off and his long-awaited return to Togo as a church-planting missionary has arrived.  Yaovi has purchased tickets to return to Togo this July 2018 and will begin his ministry in Lome’.

That brings me to the purpose of this letter.  Unlike American missionaries who travel for 3-5 years raising support, go to language school for another year, and require thousands of dollars in support each month, Yaovi is returning to Togo determined to live by faith, believing God will meet his financial needs through the giving of His people.

After completing four months of his five months missions internship, Hillsdale Baptist Church voted this past Sunday to be Yaovi’s supporting and stateside sending church.  We have estimated Yaovi needs a minimum monthly support of $2,500.  This amount includes not only his personal support funds, but also ministry funds to support his evangelistic endeavors and eventually rent a meeting place for his church.   It is Hillsdale’s missions policy to commit to 20% of a missionary’s support when we are the “sending church”.  In keeping with our policy, Hillsdale will be supporting Yaovi for $500\month, leaving a balance of $2,000\month needed for support.

We estimate Yaovi will need at least $20,000-25,000 to fully fund his ministry as he returns to Togo.   This amount includes $15,000 to purchase a used truck to carry equipment for public evangelistic campaigns and to transport children for summer Vacation Bible Schools and Sunday School programs.

Yaovi will eventually have a means for support dollars to be designated to him through a missions agency; however, until that time you can make designations for “Yaovi Kpogno” to Hillsdale Baptist Church  and our Deacons will insure 100% of the designated funds will go for Yaovi’s ministry in Togo.  It is my prayer many who read this letter will take the initiative to support a young man who loves the LORD and returns to Togo determined to reach the souls of his countrymen with the Gospel.

Please note that Hillsdale and this pastor will serve as Yaovi’s accountability partners.  If you have questions, please contact me directly at pastorsmith@HillsdaleBaptist.org.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

“He’s Got the Whole World, In His Hands”

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Esther 6-10

I introduced the Book of Esther last week stating, “Divine providence is one of the overriding themes of the Book of Esther.”   That observation is illustrated in a hilarious and tragic way in today’s scripture reading, Esther 6-10.

The world call its, “Instant Karma”; derived from an ideology attributed to Buddhism and Hinduism.  “Karma” represents a principle we might define as “Cause and Effect” suggesting, whether disparaging or showing grace, you should anticipate “instant karma”, in other words…payback!

“Instant Karma”, suggests a fatalism that belies, even belittles the “Providence of God”… that He is sovereignly directing the course of humanity to His purpose and end.  The apostle Paul summed up the doctrine of God’s sovereignty writing, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Solomon taught his son the same; “The king’s heart is in the hand [power; rule; authority; under dominion] of the LORD, as the rivers [streams] of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will [pleasure; desire; favor] (Proverbs 21:1).

Esther 6 is a beautiful example of God working in the heart of a king.  King Ahasuerus (also known as Xerxes), finds himself in a place many of us have found ourselves…enduring a sleepless night.  We know by revelation the king’s insomnia (Esther 6:1) was used by God to direct the thoughts and the heart of the king to His divine end; however, from the king’s perspective, it was a sleepless night and he determined to have his servants read historical records chronicling his reign.

Providentially, the name of Mordecai, the uncle of Queen Esther, came to the king’s attention and how he had intervened to foil a plot to assassinate the king.  Recalling that event, the king wondered, “What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this?” (6:3).  Realizing the Jew named Mordecai had not been rewarded for his service, the king determined to immediately correct that slight and reward him for his service.

Providentially, in that very moment, Haman, the adversary of the Jews who successfully plotted to have the king sign a decree for the extermination of all the Jews, entered the king’s court to request that Mordecai be hanged from the gallows he had constructed in his courtyard (6:4-5).

In a wonderful twist of what some might call “Instant Karma”, Haman listened as the king sought his advice on the means of honoring a servant in “whom the king delighteth to honour” (6:6).  Haman, believing he was the man to be rewarded, suggested a very public honor, parading the servant in “royal apparel”, riding on the king’s horse, and wearing the “crown royal…set upon his head” (6:8-9).  Ah, the irony when Haman was commanded to be the one to honor Mordecai, the man whom he was plotting to hang (6:10-11)!

The balance of Esther 6 and the remaining chapters (Esther 7-10) give testimony to the sovereignty of God as He providentially directs the thoughts, plots and plans of men to His divine purpose and end.  Haman’s wicked designs to annihilate the Jews was not only foiled, but he falls himself victim to the gallows he constructed to hang Mordecai (Esther 7:7-10).

Friend, man is a free will agent and not a robot; however, God can and does steer the course of human choices to accomplish His plan and purpose.  King, president, governor, judge, sheriff, employer, teacher, parent, son or daughter…none are beyond the sovereign purpose and reach of God.

Remember: “He’s Got the Whole World, In His Hands!”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The Providence of God: The Hand Behind the Headlines

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Esther 1-5

“Divine providence” is one of the overriding themes of the Book of Esther.

Many great minds have attempted to define providence.  The 19th century clergyman T. Dewitt Talmage said: “Despots may plan and armies may march, and the congresses of nations may seem to think they are adjusting all the affairs of the world, but the mighty men of the earth are only the dust of the chariot wheels of God’s providence.”

American patriot Benjamin Franklin observed, “The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of man.”

Author and theologian J.I. Packer says of God’s providence, “He [God] knows, and foreknows, all things, and His foreknowledge is foreordination; He, therefore, will have the last word, both in world history and in the destiny of every man.”

What is divine providence?

I suggest, Providence is God’s sustaining oversight of creation and His direction of all things to His appointed end and purpose. The apostle Paul suggested the same in Romans 8:28-29, writing,

Romans 8:28-29 – “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

In summary, the providence of God is practical (“all things work together”), personal (to them that love God), and cannot be divorced from God’s divine purpose (“to them who are the called according to His purpose”)

The Book of Esther is best known as the only book in the Bible that never mentions God by name; however, the events recorded in the book make it clear Esther is a testimony of God’s providence in the life of a young Jewish maiden and His preservation of His chosen people by sovereignly guiding the affairs of mankind to fulfill His divine purpose and end.  Chronologically, the events recorded in the Book of Esther fall in the midst of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

Esther was a Jewish maiden living in Persia, today’s modern Iraq, around 480 B.C.  She was a descendant of the Jews taken captive to Babylon during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.  After conquering Babylon, the Persians gave the Jews liberty to return to Israel and rebuild the Temple and Jerusalem; however, many remained in Babylon; among them a Jewish man named Mordecai (2:5-7), the uncle of Esther who took her into his home after the deaths of her parents.

Esther 1 introduces us to Ahasuerus, the Persian king who was presiding over an empire at its peak, but facing the growing military presence of the Greek Empire.  Some scholars suggest Esther 1 follows Ahasuerus’ first defeat against the Greeks.  His impetuous demotion of Vashti, his beautiful queen, when she failed to obey his command to come to his drunken feast, sets in motion a series of events that will ultimately propel Esther from anonymity to the throne as the wife and queen of Ahasuerus.

Some seven years passed from Vashti’s expulsion as queen to the events occurring in Esther 2.  Historians believe Ahasuerus had suffered another defeat against a confederacy of Greek city-states and, returning to his palace, remembered “Vashti…what she had done” (Esther 2:1).  Knowing the loneliness of the king, his servants suggested he add to his harem, “fair young virgins” (2:3) and among them seek his queen (2:4).

It was the king’s decree that set in motion a series of events that providentially promoted Esther, who was “fair and beautiful” (2:7), to be named among the maidens “gathered together unto Shushan the palace” (2:8).  Following the advice of her uncle, Mordecai, Esther did not reveal she was Jewish (2:10).

A parade of young women entered the king’s bedchamber; however, none pleased the king until we read, “the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight…so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen” (2:17). Still, “Esther had not yet shewed her kindred nor her people” (2:20).

Esther 3 introduces us to Haman, a man promoted by king Ahasuerus “above all the princes” (3:1).  Haman hated the Jews and especially despised Mordecai (3:2).  Mordecai’s refusal to bow to Haman so infuriated the man he determined to use his position to exact revenge on all the Jews (3:1-6).  Pretending a concern for what was in the best interest of the king, Haman brought an evil report against all the Jews and influenced the king to give an edict to annihilate all Jews (3:7-15).

The Jews, receiving news of the edict, began mourning, “fasting, and weeping, and wailing” (4:1-3).  Queen Esther, sheltered in the royal palace, sought to comfort her uncle Mordecai who had “rent his clothes” (4:1); however, he refused her offer of new clothing (4:4).  When she sought to know the cause of the great mourning among the Jews, she learned of the king’s edict (4:5-11).

Mordecai warned Esther her office as queen would not spare her life when her Jewish lineage was divulged (4:12-14).  Giving testimony to divine providence, Mordecai appealed to Esther, “who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:14).

Putting her life at risk, for no one, not even the queen was allowed to enter the king’s court without his invitation; Esther came before the king.  Seeing his queen, Ahasuerus invited her to approach and offered to grant her whatever she requested (5:1-3).  Setting her plan in motion to save her people, Esther requested Haman be summoned for dinner with she and the king (5:4-8).   Receiving the invitation, Haman boasted he was given a private invitation to dinner with the king and queen (5:9-13).

I close today’s devotional commentary with this thought:

God could have chosen any means to save His people, however, Mordecai believed God chose Esther to be instrumental in that task (“for such a time as this” – 4:14).  Mordecai was confident in the sovereignty of God and had faith in God’s providential care of His people (4:13-14).

Friend, God will hold you accountable for your influence and opportunities of service. Bury your talents, refuse to employ your gifts, and the day will come when you give account to the LORD.  Fail to serve Him and the LORD will raise up another to serve in your place (Esther 4:14).

Luke 12:48“…For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

PRAYER: God’s Prescription for Troubles

Wednesday, December 12, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 143-145

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a great God we serve!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

For Servants of God, Quitting is Not An Option!

 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Nehemiah 1-4

Our “Read-Thru the Bible In a Year” schedule brings us today to the Book of Nehemiah, chapters 1-4.  Permit me an opportunity to give you some background on this book.

While the Book of Ezra recorded the decree of Cyrus king of Persia setting the Jews at liberty to return to their land and rebuild the Temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar 70 years earlier (Ezra 1); the Book of Nehemiah gives Nehemiah’s record of how the walls of Jerusalem were restored. Thus, the prophet and priest Ezra and Nehemiah were contemporaries; the elder Ezra being the first to return to Jerusalem for the purpose of rebuilding the Temple.

Who was Nehemiah?  He was “the king’s cupbearer” (Nehemiah 1:11).  Dwelling in the king’s palace, Nehemiah’s life was one of privilege.  He was more than his title implies; the role of the cupbearer was that of a king’s closest aide; his confidant and counselor.  The king entrusted his very life to his cupbearer who protected the king from assassination by first tasting the king’s food and sipping his wine.

In spite of the comforts and privileges he enjoyed as a cupbearer, Nehemiah’s heart was burdened for the remnant of Jews who returned to Jerusalem.  Visited by “men of Judah” (1:2), Nehemiah inquired concerning the welfare of his brethren and the state of things in Jerusalem.  The men of Judah reported the walls of the city laid in ruins and how the people suffered (1:3).  Hearing how his people suffered, Nehemiah wept, prayed, and sought opportunity to intervene (1:4-11).

Unable to mask his sorrow, Artaxerxes the king observed Nehemiah’s countenance and questioned the cause for his cupbearer’s sadness (2:1-2a).  Remembering the authority of ancient oriental kings was absolute and they held in their lands the power of life and death, Nehemiah confessed, “I was very sore afraid” (2:2b).

One great spiritual qualities found in Nehemiah’s life is he was a man of prayer. When he heard how the Jews suffered in Jerusalem, he wept and prayed (1:4-11).  When the king enquired why he was sad, Nehemiah prayed to God for wisdom (2:4) and requested the king send him to Jerusalem with letters granting him authority to acquire materials and permission to rebuild the walls of the city (2:5-8).

Nehemiah’s vision to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem was immediately met by opposition when he arrived in Jerusalem (2:10, 19-20).  On the third day after his arrival in the city, Nehemiah surveyed the state of the city at night and found the walls and gates of the city in ruin (2:11-15).  Exercising discretion, Nehemiah refrained from disclosing his business to the elders of the city (2:12,16).

Why such secrecy regarding the great vision he had for Jerusalem?  There are many reasons I might offer, but surely the foremost is he needed time to contemplate the task before him, seek the LORD’s direction, and set forward a plan of attack and the organization required for so great an undertaking.

Having assessed the task to rebuild the walls of the city, Nehemiah challenged the elders among the Jews that it was time to rebuild the walls and secure its inhabitants (2:17-18).  He encouraged the people with the courage of his own faith in God saying, “The God of heaven, He will prosper us” (2:20).

Nehemiah 3 gives the organization of the laborers and their assigned tasks on the walls and gates. Noblemen, priests, and households of common men labored side by side on the walls and gates of the city. As the work to restore the walls began, enemies of God’s people were provoked to anger and began mocking the workers and ridiculing their labor on the walls (4:1-6).

Seeing the walls and gates being restored, the enemies of the Jews “conspired all of them together” (4:4-8).  When the people were tempted to be discouraged (4:7-11), Nehemiah writes, “we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night” (4:9).

I observe two responses to opposition in this passage you and I are wise to emulate in our walk with the LORD.

The first response, Nehemiah encouraged the people to pray (4:4-5, 9).  The second, Nehemiah urged the people to arm themselves against their enemies and continue to work.

Neh. 4:17-18 – “They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon.  18 For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me.”

Friend, serving Christ is not predicated upon convenience, but upon conviction.  If you are going to serve the LORD, be prepared for opposition from without and within.  Ridicule, mocking, scorn are all tools the enemy uses to discourage us, cause us to doubt, and eventually quit.

For Nehemiah, quitting was not an option!  When he faced opposition, he prayed.  When he faced tasks that exhausted him and the people, he prayed…and continue to work!  Nehemiah gives us this testimony:

Nehemiah 4:23 – “So neither I, nor my brethren, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard which followed me, none of us put off our clothes, saving that every one put them off for washing.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Consider Your Ways!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Haggai 1-2

Only two chapters in length and easily overlooked in the pages of our Bibles, the Book of Haggai is a calling to God’s people of the day to “Get to Work!

The historic timeline of Haggai is, as the opening verses state, “In the second year of Darius the king [the king of Persia], in the sixth month, in the first day of the month” (Haggai 1:1).  Having toppled Babylon, Persia emerged as the dominant world empire under Cyrus king of Persia (Ezra 1:1). As a testimony of God’s sovereignty over men and nations, we read:

Ezra 1:2 – “Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and He hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.”

The 70 year Babylonian captivity ended (Ezra 1:3-4), a remnant of Jews answered the king Cyrus’ invitation to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.   Under the leadership of Zerubbabel, who served as governor of Judah, and Joshua the high priest (Ezra 2:1-2), the foundation of the new Temple was laid (Ezra 5:16).

After laying the Temple foundation, critics arose and the people’s focus moved from rebuilding the Temple to building their own homes  (Haggai 1:4).  When reminded the task of rebuilding the Temple was not complete, the people answered, “The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built’ (Haggai 1:2).

Does that remind you of someone you know?  Perhaps yourself?  You do not say “No!” outright; however, by your procrastination you justify not obeying the will of the LORD.  Are you in the throes of wrestling with the will of the LORD and when His Word convicts and His Spirit moves you say, “The time is not come”?

The LORD was longsuffering; however, the time of reckoning had come and He sent His prophet Haggai to rebuke the people for failing to build the Temple.  Haggai admonished, Consider you ways!(1:5, 7), and warned, the LORD was withholding His blessings and the labor of the people in the fields would be futile until they rebuilt the Temple (1:6-11).

Hearing the Word of the LORD spoken by the prophet, Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest, “obeyed the voice of the LORD their God…and the people did fear before the LORD” (1:12).  Because they responded with humility, the LORD encouraged the people, “I am with you, saith the LORD” (1:13).

Haggai 1:14 – “And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God,”

Criticism and opposition soon arose against those building the Temple and the LORD sent Haggai to remind the people He was with them and would bless their labor (Haggai 2:1-2).  The most verbal critics were the elders, those one would think should be the most ardent supporters for rebuilding the Temple.  The book of Ezra reveals there were “many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men”; remembering the first Temple, they bemoaned the superiority of that Temple compared to the one being built (Ezra 3:12-13).  [Remember the saying, “the good old days”?].  The LORD answered the critics of His people saying,

Haggai 2:4 – “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts:”

There were also enemies without who, on at least three occasions, attempted to disrupt and curtail the rebuilding of the Temple. Some made a pretense of assisting in building the Temple; however, Zerubbabel wisely refused their offer (Ezra 4:1-3).  Those same enemies later accused Judah’s leaders of sedition (Ezra 5:3-17).  After Darius became king of Persia, they attempted a third time to stop the work on the Temple accusing the Jews of lacking authority to build (Ezra 6).

I close with a few observations from this small prophetic book.

The first, those who labor in ministry ought always be ready for opposition.  Looking back over 38 years of ministry, the last 22 years as Senior Pastor at Hillsdale, my most vocal critics were among those I thought would be my most ardent supporters.  My friend, if you dedicate your life to live by faith and serve the LORD, expect criticism and opposition!

An inspirational lesson we take from today’s scripture reading is, when God’s people receive the Word of the Lord with humility and obey His will, a spirit of unity pervades the work and God blesses His people (Haggai1:13-14).

A third lesson concerns the sin of misplaced priorities and procrastination.  When confronted with the unfinished work on the Temple, the people said, “The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built.” (Haggai 1:2).

Some reading this commentary have made procrastination a lifestyle.  You don’t outright refuse to obey the LORD; however, your excuses and failure to “Do Right” and obey Him has become emblematic of squandered years and a wasted life!

Friend, putting off to tomorrow what God would have you do today is foolish!  Failure to obey the LORD today soon turns into weeks, months and years.  Before you realize it, a lifetime has passed!  An old gospel song captures the tragedy of procrastination.

Wasted Years

By Dallas Holm

1) Have you wandered along
On life’s pathway
Have you lived without love
A life of tears
Have you searched for that
Great hidden meaning
Or is your life
Filled with long wasted years

Chorus
Wasted years, wasted years
Oh, how foolish
As you walk on in darkness and fear
Turn around, turn around
God is calling
He’s calling you
From a life of wasted years

2) Search for wisdom and seek
Understanding
There is One who always cares
And understands

3) Give it up, give it up
The load you’re bearing
You can’t go on
With a life of wasted years

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Take Time to Be Holy

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ecclesiastes 5-6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith