Category Archives: Prayer

“Be sure your sin will find you out!” (2 Samuel 13)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 13

The prophet Nathan had admonished David for his adultery, and warned him that his hands were stained with the blood of Uriah (2 Samuel 12:7-9) saying, “10Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me…Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house” (2 Samuel 12:10-11). David repented of his sins, but only after he was publicly exposed (2 Samuel 12:13). Though the law demanded an adulterer’s death (Leviticus 20:10), the grace of God spared the king’s life (12:13b). Nevertheless, the consequences of David’s sins followed him to his grave.

Nathan had foretold, “by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme” (12:14). The immediate consequence of David’s sin was the death of the child borne by Bathsheba (12:14-15,18a); however, that was but the beginning of the sorrows David would face within his own household.

2 Samuel 13 begins with a familiar expression: “And it came to pass” (13:1).

What God declares will inevitably “come to pass,” and the king would not be able to escape the guilt that his own sins had become a pattern his sons would follow.

Tragic is an apt description of events that are recorded in 2 Samuel 13. We find here incest (Amnon, the eldest son of David entrapped and raped Tamar, his half-sister, who was the sister of Absalom, (13:1-14); murder (for Absalom sought revenge against Amnon, and ordered his servants to kill his brother (13:15-29); and irreconcilable sorrows (for not only was Amnon killed, but Absalom fled from Israel, leaving David to mourn not only the death of his eldest son, but also the loss of Absalom (13:31-39).

Closing thoughts from 2 Samuel 13

Many spiritual lessons are found in today’s Scripture reading. Amnon’s friendship with a crafty man provoked him to inconceivable wickedness. He had failed to put away wicked lusts (for incest is a grievous sin forbidden by the Law, Leviticus 18:9). When he was questioned by his cousin Jonadab, a man described as “a very subtil [crafty]man” (13:3), Amnon verbalized the wickedness in his heart, and thus breached a moral barrier to sin (13:4). You see, it is one thing to regard sin in your thoughts, but another to speak of it. Rather than reprove Amnon, Jonadab enticed him with a wicked plot, that would inevitably defile the virgin, Tamar. When she protested, Amnon raped her, and then “hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her. And Amnon said unto her, Arise, be gone” (13:15). Amnon’s infatuation with his sister was not love, but wicked lust, and her rape was an act of physical violence! There was no remorse in Amnon’s heart, and after stealing his sister’s purtiy, he humiliated her, and had his servants cast her out of his home (13:11-17).

We must not overlook a sad pattern of failure that emerges in David’s life. The king had failed to confront the sins of his household, and I suggest his weakness was a result of his own moral failures. He had sacrificed his moral authority, and was made weaker in his administration of justice.

When he learned that Amnon, his eldest son, had raped his sister, he was furious…but did nothing! (13:21) His failure to act as a loving, caring father, and a righteous judge (for so was his role as king), provoked his son Absalom, to avenge his sister’s honor (13:18-20, 22-29). Two years passed (13:23), and Absalom plotted to slay his brother. Oh what weeping, and sorrow came over David when he learned Amnon was dead (13:31, 36). David’s failure cost him two sons: Amnon was dead, and Absalom was departed (13:37-39).

“Be sure your sin will find you out!” (Numbers 32:23)

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

God Hears and Answers Prayer (Psalm 86; Psalm 122)

Scripture reading – Psalm 86; Psalm 122

Our Scripture reading consists of two chapters from the Book of Psalms, Psalm 86 and Psalm 122. David is the author of both, with Psalm 86 titled simply, “A Prayer of David,” and Psalm 122 titled, “A Song of Degrees” (the “degrees” most likely a reference to the ascending steps of the priests into the Temple). Our devotional is taken from Psalm 86.

Psalm 86 – A Petition for the LORD to Hear and Answer Prayer

The circumstances that inspired Psalm 86 are not given, but the content indicates it was at a time of trouble, and affliction for the king. The prophet Nathan forewarned David that trouble would shadow his household after his adultery with Bathsheba, and the murder of Uriah, her husband. We might be justified in assigning this psalm to the years of sorrow that followed his sin.

David’s Troubled State (86:1-7)

The afflictions David faced were constant reminders of his helpless dependency (86:1). He was the king of Israel, but he confessed he was “poor and needy,” and realized only the LORD could save and comfort him in his distress (86:2-3). His prayer rehearsed what he knew was true concerning the nature of God: “5For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; And plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee” (86:5). David resolved, “7In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: For thou wilt answer me” (86:7).

Take a moment and ponder that statement (86:7). There may come a time when you find yourself in a difficult situation with no where you can turn; or perhaps you have reached out to someone in confidence, only to be shunned, or betrayed. David found comfort knowing he could call upon God, appreciating He would not only hear, but would also answer his prayer.

The Sovereignty of God (86:8-14)

Some men call upon their “gods,” but those idols can neither see, hear, nor answer prayer (Psalm 135:15-17). Indeed, there is no God, save the God of heaven who is powerful, all-knowing, and worthy of our worship and praise (86:8-9). He is “God alone” (86:10).

Praying for the LORD to guide and direct him, David promised, “11Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: Unite my heart to fear thy name. 12I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: And I will glorify thy name for evermore” (86:11-12). David longed to know the way of the LORD (John 14:6), and promised he would be faithful, fear and revere the Lord, and glorify Him (86:11-12).

David’s Plight (86:14-15)

David did not identify his enemies by name (and there were many, including his own son Absalom), but he did describe them: “Proud…violent” and godless (86:14). They were proud, ambitious, plotting his destruction, and wicked.

Facing relentless enemies, David encouraged himself by remembering the character of God: “15But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, Longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (86:15).

A Final Plea (86:16-17)

David concluded the prayer, and called upon the LORD to be merciful, and strengthen him in his weakness (86:16). The king prayed, “17Shew me a token [sign] for good; That they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed: Because thou, Lord, hast holpen me, and comforted me” (86:17).

David’s prayer for God to bless him was an inward cry for peace, as well as an outward sign of vindication. He prayed for the LORD to bestow on him a “token,” a sign of his blessing, and one that would silence his enemies, and put them to shame.

Closing thoughts – The next time you find yourself in a troubled place, and an enemy is waiting to gloat in your sorrows; remember, the LORD is merciful, kind, and omniscient. He is jealous of His name before the heathen, and is able and ready to come to the aid of those who call upon Him (86:17b).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Thou art the man!” (Psalm 51)

Scripture reading – Psalm 51

Psalm 51 is a prayer of brokenness.

Biblical brokenness is contrition of heart, and always involves confession, seeks forgiveness, and offers a plea for restoration.

Psalm 51 introduces us to a man brought low by sin.  David’s adultery with Bathsheba, her conception of his son, and his failed attempt to conceal his sin had led to the death of Uriah the Hittite.  David’s sins were secret no more, and the prophet Nathan’s bold condemnation exposed his depravity before all in his court.

Lord Acton, the late 19th century British historian, made the observation, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Such is true of monarchs, politicians, leaders, teachers, and yes, pastors. The same, however, is also true of men and women who, in their own little fiefdoms, find themselves in roles that go unchecked. David found himself at the pinnacle of success and power, and accountable to no one. Though the words of the prophet, “Thou art the man!”  (2 Samuel 12:7) had humiliated him, they were the words that awakened in the king a godly sorrow to repentance.

Be forewarned: If given the right provocation, the potential of egregious wickedness lies within us all.

When David wrote, “I was shapen in inquity: and in sin did my mother conceive me” (51:5), he acknowledged the nature of sin that is present within us all. A millennium later, the apostle Paul wrote the same, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).

David had maintained his cover of sin for nearly a year, and though in the throes of guilt, he proudly maintained a regal façade, passing judgment on other men’s 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 held absolute authority, and the power of life and death rested with them, we appreciate the tenuous position in which Nathan found himself.

The words, “Thou art the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7), echoed in the king’s hall, and resonated in David’s heart.  He cried 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” (Psalm 51:1-2). David acknowledged that only God can remove the guilt and stains of sin. He confessed his sins, praying, “3  For I acknowledge my transgressions…4  Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight…” (51:3-4a). He was haunted by his guilt, and his sins against Bathsheba and Uriah paled in comparison to his sins against God.

A Petition for Forgiveness and Renewal (51:10-12)

David prayed, “10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me… 12  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (51:10, 12a). He longed for that which God alone could give—not only to be forgiven, but to have his happiness and joy restored.

A Passion for Serving the LORD (51:13-17)

With his sins forgiven, David’s thoughts turned to teaching others the ways of a loving, merciful, just, and holy God (51:13). He prayed for that which only grace might impart: Deliverance from guilt (51:14a), a desire to praise God’s righteousness in song (51:14b), and for the LORD to bless the words of his mouth (51:15). He acknowledged, the LORD does not desire a multitude of sacrifices, but a “broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart” (51:16-17).

Closing thoughts – As king, David found himself insulated from accountability. He had neglected his duties (2 Samuel 11:1), and his moral failure occurred when was alone. He had been too proud to acknowledge, confess his sins, and accept the consequences of his moral failures (2 Samuel 11:6-22). God, however, loved the king, and sent his prophet to confront him, that David might be restored.

Truth – If you are concealing sin, be forewarned: You are living on borrowed time before the consequences of sins catch up with you, and affect your loved ones (Galatians 6:8; Psalm 32:3-4). Won’t you humble yourself before God, confess your sins, knowing He has promised, “whoso confesseth and forsaketh [his sins] shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Blessed Joy of Forgiveness (1 Chronicles 20; Psalm 32)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 20; Psalm 32

Today’s Scripture reading in 1 Chronicles 20 is a brief summary of our preceding study in 2 Samuel 11-12. The historian did not chronicle David’s sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:2-5), nor the king’s foolish attempt to conceal his sin (2 Samuel 11:6-13), eventually staining his hands with the blood of Uriah (2 Samuel 11:14-24; 12:7-12). The chronicler did record the king’s failure to accompany his servants to war and the siege of Rabbah, the Ammonite city (1 Chronicles 20:1).

Today’s devotional will consider Psalm 32. The setting of the psalm is not given; however, it is believed to be about the time of the king’s tragic sin with Bathsheba. Psalm 32 echoes the joy of every believer who has found redemption when he turned from sin, confessed, and found forgiveness.

Two Beatitudes (32:1-2)

Psalm 32:1 – “Blessed [happy; favored] is he whose transgression [sin; trespass] is forgiven [removed; lift; carried away], whose sin is covered [hide; conceal].”

Beatitudes typically begin with the word, “Blessed” (Psalm 1:1; Matthew 5:3-11). Those who are “blessed” are confident in, and the object of God’s grace and mercies. The “blessed” are joyful, and their happiness is independent of favorable circumstances. The truly “blessed” are believers who know the relief, and joy of having their sins forgiven. They have acknowledged their sin (Romans 3:23), but know their transgressions have been covered by the blood of Christ (32:2; Romans 6:23). They can sing with the saints, “Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It!”

Psalm 32:2 – “Blessed [happy; favored] is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth [count; reckon; devise]not iniquity [sin; fault], and in whose spirit [breath; temper; mind] there is no guile [deceit; treachery].

The sins of the “blessed” have been reckoned, and accounted by God as a debt to Him that has been paid in full. The “blessed” are honest, and transparent before the LORD, and the weight of their guilt, and chastening has been removed.

The Agony of Unconfessed Sin (32:3-4)

Psalm 32:3-4 – “When I kept silence [peace; speechless], my bones [body; life] waxed old [spent; wear out; consumed] through my roaring [rumbling; moaning; cries] all the day long. 4  For day and night thy hand [arm; rule] was heavy [made heavy; grievous; burden-some] upon me: my moisture [vitality] is turned [overthrown; changed] into the drought [heat] of summer [harvest]. Selah. [pause; i.e. suspend music]

Psalm 32:3-4 is David’s vain attempt to conceal his sins (32:3-4). He endured the guilt and shame of his sins for a year, until the LORD sent the prophet Nathan to confront him.  He was guilty; guilty of adultery with Bathsheba; guilty of engineering the murder of her husband Uriah, and guilty of deceit in a futile effort to conceal his sins.

He had been silent, and unwilling to confess his sin. His life was consumed with guilt, and his conscience roared against him day and night (32:3).  The heaviness of God’s hand, and the inescapable reality of His justice pressed on the king day and night.  Failing to confess his sin and repent, David felt his strength and vitality drying up like water consumed in the heat of a summer drought (32:4).

Repentance (32:5)

Psalm 32:5 – “I acknowledged [know; perceive; understand] my sin [offence; guilt; punishment] unto thee, and mine iniquity [sin; fault] have I not hid [cover; conceal]. I said [answered; promised], I will confess [make confession] my transgressions [trespass; sin] unto the LORD; and thou forgavest [take away; remove] the iniquity [sin; fault] of my sin [offence; guilt; punishment]. Selah.”

There is a way for the burden and guilt of sin to be lifted; however, it will cost you your pride, but its reward is like fresh water to a thirsty soul (32:5).

There is one solution to sin: honest confession and sincere repentance.  No more excuses; no more blame shifting; David said, I am guilty. He knew his offence. and would no longer conceal it (32:5a). The king confessed his sins… adultery, murder, and deceit! Oh, the joy of God’s response to his confession: “Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” (32:5b).

The Penitent Prayer and the Delight of Forgiveness (32:6-7)

Psalm 32:6-7 – For this shall every one that is godly [saint; pious] pray [i.e. intercede] unto thee in a time [season] when thou mayest be found [found out; present]: surely in the floods [deluge; overflowing] of great [many] waters they shall not come nigh [touch; reach] unto him.
7
Thou art my hiding place [protection; secret; cover]; thou shalt preserve [keep; guard; watch] me from trouble [distress; tribulation]; thou shalt compass [surround; encircle] me about with songs [shout; ringing cry] of deliverance [escape]. Selah. [pause; musical term for suspension]

“Forgiven,” what a wonderful truth!  More than the absolution of guilt; it is the response to one who has acknowledged the guilt of their sin, and a Redeemer that lifts that burden, taking away the sin and the guilt.

An illustration of forgiveness is the “scapegoat” that was sent out of the camp of Israel on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:15-22). The priest would sacrifice a goat, and acknowledge the sins of the nation (Leviticus 16:15-19). After sprinkling the blood of the sacrifice on the altar, the high priest would symbolically place his blood-stained hands on the living goat, and confess the sins of Israel (Leviticus 16:20-22). Sending the “scapegoat” out of the camp was an illustration, a living symbol of God’s promise to forgive the sins of the nation.

David’s Advice (32:9)

Psalm 32:9 – Be ye not as the horse [i.e. which is swift], or as the mule [i.e. a beast of burden], which have no understanding [regard; prudent; discernment]: whose mouth must be held [muzzled; i.e. held in check; lit. to hold in] in with bit and bridle [halter; i.e. device for restraining], lest they come near [approach; draw near; ]unto thee.

David had learned concealing sin carries grave consequences for the sinner, and those he loves. The king urged God’s people to be humble, and obedient before God! Don’t be a “mule-headed,” hard-hearted, irrational believer (32:9).

David’s Admonition: Choose the Path of the Righteous (32:10-11)

Psalm 32:10 – Many [abundant; great many] sorrows [pain; grief; affliction; sufferings] shall be to the wicked [ungodly; guilty; i.e. immoral]: but he that trusteth [confident; secure]  in the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God], mercy [loving-kindness; goodness; steadfast love] shall compass [surround; encircle] him about.

Psalm 32:11 – Be glad [rejoice; be merry] in the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God], and rejoice [be joyful], ye righteous [just; lawful; blameless; innocent]: and shout [cry out; sing; i.e. be overcome]for joy, all ye that are upright [right; just] in heart [mind; understanding].”

Closing thoughts – David described the egregious effects of failing to confess and repent of sins. Are you bearing the weight and consequences of secret sins? I urge you to confess your sins, and God will forgive you, and restore unto you the life of the “blessed.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Song of Thanksgiving (Psalm 67; Psalm 69)

Scripture reading – Psalm 67; Psalm 69

Our study of the Psalms continues with two songs of worship. According to its title, Psalm 67 was addressed to, “The Chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm or Song” (it is believed that “Neginoth” was a stringed instrument). Psalm 69 is titled, “To the chief Musician upon Shoshannim,” and describes it as, “A Psalm of David.) The focus of today’s devotional is Psalm 67.

A Prayer for God’s Grace and Mercy (67:1)

Like other psalms of thanksgiving we have considered, this brief, but beautiful song as a petition to the God of Israel to be “merciful” and gracious to His people. The psalm continues, “bless us; and cause his [God’s] face to shine upon us” (67:1). Literally, shine your favor upon us, O Lord!

We might ask, “Why should the LORD bless His people?” The answer: “That thy way may be known upon earth, Thy saving health among all nations. 3Let the people praise thee, O God; Let all the people praise thee” (67:2-3).

The motivation for asking for the LORD’s blessings was not a selfish desire for success or material possessions, but as a testimony of God’s favor upon His people before all the nations of the earth (67:2-3).

A Petition for Universal Praise and Thanksgiving (67:4-5)

4O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: For thou shalt judge the people righteously, And govern the nations upon earth. Selah.”

The psalmist longed for that which should be the desired of all believers: that the nations of the world would turn to the LORD and “be glad and sing for joy” (67:4a).

What part might believers have in seeing the nations of the world turn to God? Jesus Christ answered that question with His Great Commission: “19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19–20).

Unlike the scales of man’s justice, God’s judgment is perfectly righteous, and altogether just (67:4b). He is a just, and holy God; He is kind, and compassionate. What a great cause for rejoicing! “5Let the people praise thee, O God; Let all the people praise thee” (67:5).

God’s Response to Praise and Thanksgiving (67:6-7)

The psalmist observed, when a nation praises the LORD, He in turn blesses the earth. The psalmist writes, “6Then shall the earth yield her increase” (67:6a). Unless you grew up on a farm, or have had a family garden, you might not grasp the beauty of that promise. A man who praises the LORD in his labor, enjoys the blessings of God, and the fruit of his labor.

Twice we read, “And God, even our own God, shall bless us. 7God shall bless us” (67:6b-7a). What an inspiring thought! When our hearts and thoughts are upon the LORD, and we offer Him our prayers of thanksgiving, He blesses us twofold!

Psalm 67 concludes with the assurance, “all the ends of the earth shall fear him” (67:7b, 22:27). All people, everywhere, will have cause to fear, revere, and worship the LORD.

Closing thought: Take a few moments and count your blessings. Offer to the LORD a prayer of thanksgiving for the multitude of His blessings.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Saying Grace” – A Prayer of Thanksgiving (Psalm 65-66)

Scripture reading – Psalm 65; Psalm 66

Today’s Scripture reading consists of two psalms, Psalm 65 and Psalm 66. This devotional is focused on Psalm 65.

Psalm 65 – A Psalm of Thanksgiving

Psalm 65 is a beautiful psalm of praise and thanksgiving to the LORD. I am not sure why this particular psalm is titled “A Psalm and Song of David” (because all the psalms are songs of worship); however, the king of Israel was the author and it was dispatched to “the chief musician” of the tabernacle (for the Temple would not be built until the time of Solomon, the son of David). I suggest you consider Psalm 65 in three applications.

Praise is Due the LORD (65:1-4)

David’s introduction to the psalm acknowledged the LORD is worthy of praise. The vow is in reference to the covenant of promise God made to Israel. His people were to remember the stipulation of the covenant and perform them (65:1). David confessed the weight of sin upon man, and realized all flesh would one day come before God. Yet, David rejoiced in the LORD’S forgiveness, and deliverance (65:3). Such a man is blessed, for he can approach the presence of the LORD, dwell in the courts of His sanctuary, and experience His goodness and blessings (65:3b-4).

Those who worship God should remember the vows they have made to Him, and fulfill them The LORD not only hears the prayers of His people, He answers them (65:2)!

Praise the LORD for His Power (65:5-8)

Reflecting on God’s sovereignty (65:5-8), David praised Him not only for answering prayers, but for His salvation. The king observed that the presence of the LORD reaches “all the ends of the earth,” even to them who are “afar off upon the sea” (65:5). Psalm 65:6-8 reminds us of God’s power and sovereignty, for He is the Almighty One, the Sovereign of creation. He is the Creator, and fixed the mountains in their places (65:6), quiets the raging storms of the seas (65:7), and can silence the fury of the sea of humanity (65:7b).

David writes of men, “8They also that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid at thy tokens” (65:8a). What are the tokens of the LORD that cause the bravest of men to tremble? Think of the menacing power of a thunder storm with its blinding flashes of light, or the roar and tempest of a hurricane. Think also of the destructive path of a tornado, or perhaps the rumble and upheaval of an earthquake. All are tokens of the Creator.

Praise God for His Blessings (65:9-13)

Perhaps recalling his years as a shepherd, David remembered with welcome the relief of rains that produced much needed streams in that dry land.  As a shepherd he would have known firsthand how important water was to the earth. He acknowledged to God, “9Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: Thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water: Thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it. 10Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows thereof: Thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof” (65:9-10).

We should be thankful for the rains God sends our way, and the streams of water that quench the thirst of nature, and provide green pastures and grains so that all nature rejoices (65:9-13). I live in Florida and am surrounded by water. However, in centuries past when family farms were indispensable for the famer and his neighbors, rain was not an inconvenience, it was essential and celebrated. I fear we fail to pray, and thank the LORD for replenishing the earth with rain.

Closing thoughts“Who would like to say grace?” I have not heard that phrase in years, but I remember the old folks of my youth asking, “Who would like to say the blessing?”  To “Say Grace” or offer a “blessing,” was a prayer of thanksgiving for the bounty of God’s blessings, and in particular, the meal we were about to consume.

If “saying grace” is not a practice in your home, it should be. Every meal should begin with you bowing your head, and thanking God for His “GRACE.” When we pray at mealtimes, we acknowledge the LORD is the provider and source of all blessings.

Remember, the sun, wind, and rain all come from Him!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

 

Be A Prayer Warrior For Your Nation (Psalm 20)

Scripture reading – Psalm 20

Psalm 20 has been described by some as a “National Anthem” for Israel, but surely it should be the prayer of all who call upon the LORD. It is an intercessory prayer, an exhortation to pray and call to the LORD “in the day of trouble” (20:1). I suggest it is also an exhortation for believers to intercede with God for their nation and leaders. * As in the past, the amplifications of words in our text are those of the author.

Psalm 20:1-2 – “The LORD [Eternal God; Jehovah] hear thee in the day [time] of trouble [adversity]; the name [fame; renown] of the God [Elohim; the Mighty God] of Jacob defend [strengthen] thee; 2  Send thee help [aid]from the sanctuary [holy place], and strengthen [support;; sustain] thee out of Zion [site of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount];

The setting and events that inspired this psalm are not stated, but because its author was David, I believe it was the king appealing to his people to call unto the LORD (20:1). Israel was facing an enemy, and the king dare not go to war without the confidence that the LORD would go before him (20:2).

Psalm 20:3-4 – “Remember [think of] all thy offerings [sacrifices], and accept thy burnt sacrifice [offering]; Selah [lit. pause; or pause to think]. 4  Grant [Deliver] thee according to thine own heart [mind], and fulfil [accomplish] all thy counsel [advice; purpose].”

Confident the battle was the LORD’s, the people worshipped Him, and prayed He would accept their sacrifices, hear, and answer their prayers (20:3-4).

Psalm 20:5 “We will rejoice [sing; shout] in thy salvation [deliverance], and in the name [fame; renown; reputation] of our God [Elohim; the Mighty God] we will set up our banners [flags; standard]: the LORD [Eternal God; Jehovah] fulfil [accomplish] all thy petitions [request; desires].”

Even before the battle was fought, the people believed the LORD would give their king victory. They promised to shout to the LORD for joy, and that He alone would be the object of their praise (20:5a). They were ready to unfurl their banners. (The flags carried into battle identified national pride). They believed the LORD would hear their prayers, and answer their petitions (20:5b).

Psalm 20:6 – Now know I that the Lord saveth his anointed [the king was God’s anointed]; He will hear him from his holy heaven [for God reigns over His creation from heaven’s throne] with the saving strength of his right hand.

David’s faith inspired him to face the enemy, confident the LORD had heard the prayers of His people, and would save him, “His anointed” (20:6). God was mighty, and with “his right hand” (from a human perspective, the hand that is the strongest), He would save him in the battle.

Psalm 20:77Some trust in chariots, and some in horses [horsemen; the calvary]: But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.

Men and nations go into battle with little thought to the power of prayer or the providence of God. Their faith is in their weapons of war (chariots and horses). David, however, urged the people to “remember the name of the LORD our God” (20:7). We have observed in earlier devotions that the “name” of the LORD embodied all of His divine attributes. The LORD is holy, just, powerful, omniscient, compassionate, and sovereign. He will do as it pleases Him.

Psalm 20:8-98They [the enemies of God’s people] are brought down [defeated] and fallen [vanquished]: But we [Israel] are risen, and stand upright [confident of victory]. 9Save, Lord [Jehovah, save]: Let the king [the LORD; the Sovereign of heaven] hear us when we call [shout His name].

Closing thoughts – I invite you to consider three spiritual lessons from Psalm 20:

The LORD hears and answers prayer. Israel prayed the LORD would hear the prayer of the king, and His people, and go before them into battle (20:1-2). Oh, that the leaders of this world would call upon the LORD, and not put their faith in weapons of war. Remember, the God of heaven hears and answers prayers.

We should pray and assure our leaders of our prayers (20:3-4). Israel assured the king they would pray for the LORD to grant him wisdom, and bless his strategy for the battle. Blessed is the nation whose leaders call on the LORD, and whose people uphold them in prayer.

God’s people should put their faith in the grace and blessings of God.  Even before the battle was waged, the people planned to celebrate the victory, They were confident God heard, and would answer their prayers.

I close with a story conveyed by a farmer during the American Revolution.  The farmer was walking through the woods toward the encampment at Valley Forge, when he heard a voice. Drawing near, he found General George Washington on his knees, his cheeks wet with tears, praying to God. That farmer was said to have returned home, and assured his wife that the United States would win her independence from England. When the farmer’s wife asked how he could be so sure, he answered, “Because I heard Washington’s prayer.”

1 Timothy 2:1-21 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;  2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Pity the Nation (Psalm 75)

Scripture reading – Psalm 75

Continuing our Scripture readings in the Psalms, our focus is again on one of the twelve psalms attributed to Asaph, a chief musician during David’s reign. Psalm 75 challenges us to a Biblical perspective on the sovereignty of God and His rule over the nations and people of the earth.

Psalm 75:1 summons the congregation to acknowledge God is the Supreme Ruler of His creation, and is due our thanksgiving. Twice the words of the first verse declare a spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude: “1Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: For that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare” (75:1).

God is a Righteous Judge (75:2-3)

Psalm 75:2-3 speaks of judgment, and some might suppose it is the rule and judgment of man that is the focus. I believe, however, that the judgment of God is the subject. Who but the LORD has the authority to receive the congregation of the saints, judge them uprightly, and weigh them in the scales of His law (75:2)?

The law and judgment of men is perpetually shaky and uncertain, but “the earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved,” will be the judgment of God’s righteous verdict. If our hope for justice was found only in the discretion of men, we would have cause for anxiety. God, however, has assured His people, “I bear up the pillars of [the earth] (75:3). Nations rise, and nations fall, but be assured the LORD is holding up the pillars, the foundations of the world.

God Admonishes Foolish Leaders (75:4-8)

We find a warning to every leader who bears rule over the lives of men with a heavy, proud hand. The LORD admonished, “4I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly: And to the wicked, Lift not up the horn [a symbol of power and strength]: 5Lift not up your horn on high [i.e. don’t abuse your office]: Speak not with a stiff [proud, stubborn] neck” (75:4-5).

How soon those in authority forget they are nothing without God! Civil government has been ordained by the LORD (Romans 13:1), and those who rule and judge have divine mandates for which they will give account. From the King or President, to the local magistrate, all in authority are commanded to be the servants of God for good, and avengers of His wrath “upon him that doeth evil” (Romans 13:4).

What of leaders who defy God’s authority, scorn His Law, and abuse their appointments?

God warned, “6For promotion cometh neither from the east, Nor from the west, nor from the south. 7But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another” (75:6-7). God is sovereign, and He is the final Judge. He promotes and demotes, and oversees the rise and fall of nations. Like a cup of red wine that is poured out like blood, God will pour out His wrath upon wicked leaders, and “all the wicked of the earth” will drink to the full the wrath of God (75:8).

When the Foundations Shake, May the Saints Sing God’s Praises (75:9-10)

The psalmist has painted a dark picture of God’s wrath upon rulers that fail to rule righteously and lawfully. Nevertheless, the believer’s faith rests in the LORD and we should declare our faith in His holy character, and “sing praises to the God of Jacob” (75:9).

Closing thoughts – Though the foundations of a nation may be shaken, and the wicked boast and abuse their authority, be assured: 10All the horns [power and strength of their office] of the wicked also will [the LORD]cut off; But the horns of the righteous shall be exalted” (75:10).

God is just, and the wicked will face His wrath and be destroyed; however, He has promised to bless the righteous. Fools sing their own praises, and stiffen their necks against the LORD (75:5), but a wise man remembers every promotion that comes his way is an act of God’s grace (75:6).

The wise remember, “God is the judge [governor; the final dispenser of justice]: He putteth down [humbles; abases; humiliates] one, and setteth up [exalts; raises up] another” (75:7).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Plight of the Human Race (Psalm 53; Psalm 60)

Scripture reading – Psalm 53; Psalm 60

Our Scripture reading is from two psalms of David, Psalm 53 and Psalm 60. Our devotional is taken from Psalm 53.

Psalm 53 – An Observation of the Human Condition

Notice that Psalm 53 is nearly a restatement of truths observed by David in Psalm 14. The title of Psalm 53provides us the title of the person to whom it was addressed, “the Chief Musician.” It also provides the instrument used to accompany the singer, Mahalath (probably a stringed instrument), as well as the name of the melody, Maschil, that accompanied the psalm. As already noted, David is identified as the author in the title.

I invite you to identify three major truths found in Psalm 53: The fact of universal wickedness (53:1-3); the wicked’s denial of the providence of God (53:4-5); and David’s prayer that the LORD would save Israel, and rejoicing and gladness would be restored.

The Fool and His Plight (53:1-3)

David’s observations concerning the condition of man is not only well known, but should be self-evident to an honest observer. The folly of the fool is that he is an atheist, in word and deed! We read, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” Notice the phrase, “there is,” is in italics, indicating it was added by editors hoping to give clarity to the passage. I suggest, however, that the addition was unnecessary, for the folly of the fool is that he has not only denied God in his heart, but also in his deeds. David observed that the atheism of the fool carries him down a path of corruption, and destruction. Indeed, “there is none that doeth good” (53:1b).

The doctrine of God’s omniscience is stated in the next verse, where we read, “2God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God” (53:2). Having denied God, the fool may be convinced his sins go unnoticed and unpunished. Yet, God’s gaze is perpetually upon man, and he sees and tries the hearts to see if any seek Him (53:2).

Consider also that the plight of man is universal, and without exception: “Every one of them [every man, woman, boy, and girl] is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; There is none that doeth good, no, not one” (53:3). Universal rebellion; universal immorality; universal sin… “There is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (53:3).

Ponder that truth for a moment. There are no exceptions to the infection of sin. We are all infected by its curse, and the mass of humanity past, present, and future is born under the curse of sin (of course, the one exception was Jesus Christ who, though born of a woman, was not born of the seed of man, but of the Holy Spirit, Luke 1:35).

The apostle Paul observed the universality of sin, writing: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and the universal consequences of sin: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).

The Wicked’s Denial of the Providence of God (53:4-5)

The fool has not only rejected God, but he has also denied the visible evidences of God’s essence and providences as seen in His creation every day (53:4a). David warned, God is jealous of His people, and the wicked will not go unpunished for their ill treatment of them (53:4b).

There is a sad irony in this psalm. On the one hand, men boast, “There is no God,” but there is coming a day a judgment when fear will take hold of the hearts of men, and those who set themselves against Him will be destroyed (53:5a). Indeed, the wicked will be put to shame, for the LORD will hold them in contempt (53:5b).

David’s Prayer and Intercession for Israel (53:6)

Psalm 53 concludes with David looking forward to the day when Israel will be saved. In that day, “Jacob shall rejoice” (the lineage of the Twelve Tribes), and “Israel shall be glad” (53:6). Whom would God send to answer David’s prayer for a Savior? His name would be Jesus, “for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

Closing thoughts – Without exception; Every man or woman who rejects God, and refuses His offer of salvation through the sacrifice of His Son…is foolish. We might boast of our good works, but the prophet Isaiah declared, “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). A sinner cannot be saved “by works of righteousness which [he has] done, but according to [God’s] mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5).

Is He your Savior?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Praise, Prayers, Promises, and Peace (Psalm 29)

Scripture reading – Psalm 29

What can you give someone who has everything?  What can you and I, mere mortals with failings and shortcomings, give to God Who is the Creator and Sovereign of the universe? *As in earlier devotions, I have taken liberty to amplify word meanings in brackets.

Give That Which God Requires (Psalm 29:1-2)

Psalm 29:1-2 1Give [bring; ascribe] unto the LORD [Jehovah; Self-Existent, Eternal God], O ye mighty [strong; mighty ones], give [bring; ascribe] unto the LORD glory [honor] and strength [acknowledge His power; might].
2Give [bring; ascribe] unto the LORD the glory [honor] due unto his name [character; reputation]; worship [bow; do reverence; prostrate] the LORD in the beauty [honor; glory; splendor] of holiness [hallowed; consecrated; sacredness].”

To “give” is to bring, ascribe, or assign to the LORD that which is rightfully due Him.  The “mighty,” perhaps the mightiest among mankind, or the angels of heaven (i.e., the sons of God, Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7), owe their being to the LORD. The angels, like man, were created to glorify and serve the LORD. God is due our praise!

Worship and adoration are “due unto His name,” for His names define His divine character and attributes (29:2).  When we worship the LORD, we acknowledge He is Creator, Jehovah, Eternal, and Self-Existent God.

The Power and Presence of the LORD in the Storm (29:3-9)

The presence and majesty of the LORD in His creation is explained in Psalm 29:3-9. Rather than a prolonged commentary, I will permit my word amplifications to reflect the beauty and the revelation of God in the midst of a powerful sweeping storm over the mountains of Canaan. Imagine the loudest, most powerful storm you have ever experienced, and how the thunder was loud enough it shook the house, and the lighting so bright it was blinding.

Psalm 29:3-9 – The voice [sound; noise; thunder] of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory [honor]thundereth [roars]: the LORD is upon many [great] waters.
4  The voice
[sound; noise; thunder] of the LORD is powerful [mighty; strength]; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty [glory; honor].
5  The voice
[sound; noise; thunder] of the LORD breaketh [destroys; crushes; abolishes] the cedars; yea, the LORD breaketh [destroy; crush; abolish] the cedars of Lebanon [known for their beauty and strength] .
6  He
[the LORD] maketh them also to skip like a calf [leap or frolic like a young calf]; Lebanon and Sirion [a mountain peak in Lebanon] like a young unicorn [perhaps a one-horned antelope].
7  The voice
[sound; noise; thunder] of the LORD divideth [cut in pieces; engraved] the flames of fire.
8  The voice
[sound; noise; thunder] of the LORD shaketh [be pained; tremble] the wilderness [desert place]; the LORD shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh [southern Palestine].
9  The voice
[sound; noise; thunder] of the LORD maketh the hinds [doe or female deer] to calve [give birth], and discovereth [make bare; uncover] the forests: and in his temple [palace; sanctuary] doth every one speak [command] of his glory [honor; great reputation].

The LORD is Sovereign of Creation (29:10-11)

Psalm 29:10-1110 The LORD sitteth [dwells; abides] upon the flood; yea, the LORD sitteth [dwells; abides]King for ever [everlasting].
11 The LORD will give
[grant; put; deliver] strength [power; might] unto his people [nation]; the LORD will bless his people with peace [shalom; health; prosperity].”

The psalm concludes with an assurance that when storms are raging, we can take comfort remembering the LORD is sovereign over Creation.  To Him, the floodwaters, though powerful and frightening, are His footstool, and He is the everlasting King (29:10). The LORD is the source of strength and peace for His people!

Closing thought – Storms come in various forms. Some are natural occurrences like the thunderstorm described in Psalm 29. Other storms are deeply personal and bring emotional upheavals, physical sufferings, and paralyzing fears. Those storms can come in waves, rushing in upon our lives and reminding us even the strongest are vulnerable. Yet, storms can also remind us to look to the God of heaven, for “the LORD sitteth King for ever…[and]will bless His people with peace” (29:11).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith