Category Archives: Pride

Does God Repent? (2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21

Today’s Scripture readings are parallel accounts of the same tragic event. David commanded a census be taken, numbering the warriors in Israel. Because 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 are essentially mirror images of the same events, I will take today’s devotional from each.

David was an old man, and the shepherd boy of Bethlehem was a long past memory. Now in the latter years of his life and reign, the king made a proud, foolish decision and commanded, “Go, number Israel and Judah,” and in doing so provoked the “anger of the LORD…against Israel” (24:1). From where, or whom, did this provocation arise? The writer of 2 Samuel states, “he moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah” (24:1).

Who was “he?” The historian of 1 Chronicles revealed the inspiration for numbering the people was the Satan. We read, “Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel” (1 Chronicles 21:1). How did this happen? Why would a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22), find it his heart to do that which was contrary to the will of God? Various explanations might be put forward, but I suggest the central one is PRIDE. Satan targeted a “dead ringer,” a common area of weakness for most men, and provoked the natural inclination of the proud king’s heart.

Satan had provoked the natural inclination of a proud king’s heart.

“Joab, the captain of the host (i.e. army),” questioned the king’s motive for the census (24:3; 1 Chronicles 21:3), appealing to him with gracious words, saying, “Why doth my lord the king delight in this thing?” (24:3) Joab knew the king’s command was a provocation of God’s judgment, and suggested, “The Lord make his people an hundred times so many more as they be…why then doth my lord require this thing? why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel?” (1 Chronicles 21:3; 2 Samuel 24:3).

The census lasted nine months and twenty days, and when the number was given, David’s heart was convicted, and he prayed, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly” (24:10).

Though the king confessed numbering the people was a great sin, nevertheless, God’s nature would not dismiss the consequences of his sin. We read, “the word of the LORD came unto the prophet Gad, David’s seer” (24:11). David was mercifully given the opportunity to choose which of three judgments would befall him and Israel (21:10-12): Seven years of famine, three months of being overrun and pursued by adversaries, or three days of pestilence (24:12-13). David chose three days of pestilence, reasoning he would rather trust in God’s mercies, than fall into the hand of an enemy (24:14).

2 Samuel 24:15 – “So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men.”

The angel’s path of death and destruction spanned Israel, slaying 70,000 men, but as he neared Jerusalem, “the Lord beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the Lord stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite” (1 Chronicles 21:15).

God did not repent of wrong doing, but in His mercy He changed His mind, and halted His judgment for David’s sin. David and the elders of Israel had called upon the LORD, and as the shepherd king of Israel, he prayed, “Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, O Lord my God, be on me, and on my father’s house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued” (1 Chronicles 21:17).

The prophet Gad returned with a message from the LORD, and instructed David to buy the “threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite (the Jebusites being the original inhabitants of Jerusalem)” and build an altar there (24:18).[Note – 1 Chronicles 21:18 names one “Ornan” as the owner of the threshingfloor; they are the same man.]

David purchased the threshing floor, and there he sacrificed to the LORD the oxen he had bought. According to 1 Chronicles 21:26, the LORD sent fire from heaven and consumed the oxen as a sign of that David’s offering had satisfied God’s wrath (1 Chronicles 21:26).

Closing thoughts – What became of the land David purchased? Let us take a moment for a brief lesson from history:

The threshingfloor of Araunah had been the place God had tried Abraham, and he had offered his son Isaac (Genesis 22). This was also the place the LORD promised Jacob, “I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (Genesis 28:15). When Jacob awakened, “he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. 17And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:16-17). This same place would later be the site Solomon would build the Temple (1 Chronicles 22:1-2; 2 Chronicles 3:1).

Of course, it was not far from a place that would one day be beloved as Calvary, where Jesus Christ was crucified, suffered, and died for our sins, and the sins of the world.

“O how marvelous! O how wonderful!  Is my Savior’s love for me!”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Weeping and Wailing: The Death of a Rebel (2 Samuel 18; Psalm 26)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 18; Psalm 26

Our Scripture reading is 2 Samuel 18 and Psalm 26, but today’s devotional is taken from 2 Samuel 18.

2 Samuel 18 – The Defeat and Slaying of Absalom

With his men and their families safely across the Jordan River, David, a skilled strategist, organized his soldiers, and appointed captains over companies of hundreds and thousands (18:1). The army he divided into three parts, and assigned over them three of his most formidable leaders: “David sent forth a third part of the people under the hand of Joab, and a third part under the hand of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, and a third part under the hand of Ittai the Gittite” (18:2). David then declared, “I will surely go forth with you myself also” (18:2).The people objected to the king’s presence on the battlefield, for they understood he would not only be the principal target of the enemy, and should he be killed, all would be for naught (18:3).

David’s Review of His Soldiers, and a Foolish Command (18:3-5)

The king heeded the counsel of the people, and took his place at the gate of the city to review those who were going to war on his behalf (18:4).

Once again, we see a dominant weakness in David’s character when he commanded his generals, Joab, Abishai, and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom. And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains charge concerning Absalom” (18:5).

While desiring compassion for his son, David’s request was foolish, and disheartening to the soldiers fighting, and risking their lives to put down Absalom’s insurrection. We have observed the same weakness in previous devotions. David’s failure with Absalom, enflamed his son’s rebellion, and yet, he continued to desire his leaders would “deal gently [with Absalom] for my sake” (18:5).

Spiritual Lesson – Leaders sacrifice moral authority when they fail to address sin in their life and family.

That truth is seen throughout the Scriptures (for instance, Eli’s failure to confront his son’s sins marked the end of the judgeships in Israel, for the people demanded a king). Allow me the liberty to point out some contemporary instances of the same principle.

Political leaders and judges who are “weak on crime,” and fail to enforce the law of the land, are often plagued by moral failures that are the root cause of their weakness. Our society is plagued by “Absalom’s”, emboldened criminals who have no fear of consequences.

There is a breakdown of formal discipline in school classrooms, because there is a lack of personal disciplines in the lives of teachers and administrators. In a word, undisciplined, immature “Absalom” students are running, and ruining the educational system of our nation, and permitted to do so by educators who have no fortitude.

The Fateful Battle in the Woods of Ephraim (18:6-8)

Two armies, one loyal to David, and the other that supported Absalom’s insurrection, faced one another in the forest of Ephraim (18:6). The battle was short lived, as the king’s experienced forces overwhelmed the poorly led followers of Absalom. Before that day was ended, “twenty thousand men” of Israel were slain (18:7). Though the army of David was greatly outnumbered by Absalom’s soldiers, David’s strategy to attack from three fronts had scattered the battle “over the face of all the country: and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured” (18:8). The rugged terrain of the forest with its ravines had swallowed up Absalom’s soldiers.

The Humiliation and Slaying of Absalom (18:9-15)

The proud son of David, had come to a tragic, and ignoble end. Fleeing the king’s men, Absalom became entangled in “the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth; and the mule that was under him went away” (18:9). Many have suggested that he hung by his thick locks of hair; however, the Scriptures record it was his head that was “caught hold of the oak” (18:9). Rather than Absalom’s hair, it might have been his neck that caught hold in the fork of a limb (Though some may suppose the impact may have broken his neck, and paralyzed him, yet it did not kill him).

Now, all the soldiers of David were aware he had commanded that Absalom was to be dealt with “gently for [his]sake” (18:5). When a soldier of David’s troop found him suspended by the limb, he reported his finding to Joab (18:10). Joab slightly reproved the man for his failure to slay Absalom (18:11), but that servant proved to be a man of principle, who would not disobey his king. He assured Joab that no amount of silver would give him cause to slay the king’s son (18:12). The young man went further in his observation, and revealed he knew Joab’s character, and had he slain Absalom, he would have taken sides against him (18:13).

Joab departed and found Absalom as he had been told. Disobeying the king’s orders, Joab thrust three darts through Absalom’s heart (18:14). Afterward, ten of Joab’s armor bearers finished the job by brutalizing and ultimately slaying Absalom. (18:15).

The End of the Rebellion (18:16-18)

Absalom’s death marked the end of the insurrection, and Joab “blew the trumpet,” signaling for David’s soldiers to withdraw, and allow those who had followed Absalom to return to their tents (18:16-17). Absalom’s body was removed from the tree, and cast into a pit, over which great stones were piled. He had in his youthful zeal, raised up a pillar to memorialize his name in Israel; however, it was the pit and the heap of stones over his body that would serve as his inglorious memorial (18:17-18).

The News of Absalom’s Death (18:19-33)

David and a watchman had waited for an update from the battlefront. One young man, Ahimaaz the son of Zadok, known for being a fast runner (18:27), volunteered to take the news of the outcome of the battle to the king (18:19). Instead, Joab chose Cushi, a non-Hebrew man, to be his messenger, perhaps because he would deliver the news of Absalom’s death without the patriotic zeal displayed by Ahimaaz (18:21). Undeterred, Ahimaaz pressed Joab to allow him to take the news to the king (18:22-23), and soon caught up with Cushi, and was the first to arrive before David with the news that his soldiers had won the day.

As feared (18:20), David’s heart and thoughts went to Absalom, and he enquired what had become of his son (18:32). Though spoken discreetly, the news of Absalom’s death, being as “all that rise against thee to do thee hurt” (18:32) overwhelmed the king with such sorrow that he physically trembled (18:33a). Retreating to the privacy of a bedchamber, he wept saying, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (18:33)

Closing thoughts – We can imagine, and almost hear the wails and cries of grief that poured out from the king. The king’s bereavement and sorrow so impacted the nation, that “the victory that day was turned into mourning unto all the people” (19:2). The king not only felt the sorrow of his son’s death, but the deep remorse of a man who understood all that had befallen his family were the consequence of his sins. Indeed, if he could, the king would have given his life for Absalom’s.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Whose Side Are You On? (2 Samuel 17)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 17

2 Samuel 17 continues the historical record of the insurrection led by Absalom, David’s thirdborn son. We are given a window, a front row seat, concerning Absalom’s war council, and the opposing strategies he was proffered.

Ahithophel’s Counsel for Pursuing David (17:1-4)

Ahithophel, an embittered, but wise man and the grandfather of Bathsheba, counseled Absalom to allow him to pursue David and his entourage that very night (17:1). His strategy was to ambush David before he could organize his “mighty men,” and “smite the king only” (17:2). Ahithophel encouraged the king, by striking the head (the king), he would “bring back all the people [and] all the people shall be in peace” (17:3). Absalom and “all the elders of Israel” agreed to the counsel (17:4); yet, Absalom made a fateful error, and a providential one for David, for he said: “Call now Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear likewise what he saith” (17:5).

Hushai’s Contrary Counsel and Diversion (17:5-14)

Remembering Hushai’s loyalty was to David, he fulfilled his mission by giving opposing counsel to that of Ahithophel. Ahithophel’s counsel was to pursue, and destroy David before he could organize, even before he could pass over the Jordan River. Hushai, however, urged that Absalom had the luxury of time, and an opportunity to gather a superior force, and by strength of power would defeat his father (17:6-12). Appealing to Absalom’s pride, and pursuit of glory, Hushai painted a picture saying that, if necessary, “all Israel [would] bring ropes to that city, and…will draw it into the river, until there be not one small stone found there” (17:13).

Though Ahithophel’s counsel was the wiser of the two, Absalom rejected his advice, and followed Hushai’s strategy, “For the Lord had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the Lord might bring evil upon Absalom” (17:14).

David’s Flight Across Jordan (17:15-29)

The priests, who were on David’s side in the conflict, sent word to him by way of a woman (“wench”) who met with two of David’s men at a well (17:17). After being concealed in the well by the woman, she deceived Absalom’s men with a tale that David’s men had fled the city (17:20). David’s spies returned to his encampment, and warned the king concerning Absalom’s plot (17:21). Hushai warned the king, he and his company must pass that very night over the Jordan before resting (17:22).

Absalom followed his father in a desperate pursuit; however, David and all that were with him had crossed the Jordan to Mahanaim, located on the east side of the Jordan River. There the king and his company not only refreshed themselves, but were comforted by gifts from those who were sympathetic to David (17:27-29).

The Tragic Death of Ahithophel (17:23)

His counsel rejected, Ahithophel, a man who had been one of David’s trusted counselors, understood what Absalom and those who followed him would soon learn…All was Lost. The opportunity to crush David’s forces was when he was in hasty retreat, but that time had passed. Though shamed, and humiliated by the insurrection led by his own son, David and those who were with him were men of war. In the words of Hushai’s counsel to Absalom:

2 Samuel 17:8, 10 – “Thou knowest thy father and his men, that they be mighty men, and they be chafed in their minds, as a bear robbed of her whelps in the field: and thy father is a man of war…all Israel knoweth that thy father is a mighty man, and they which be with him are valiant men.”

Knowing his counsel had been rejected, Ahithophel exited Absalom’s presence, and went home to put his personal affairs in order, and “hanged himself” (17:23).

Closing thoughtsThe problem with Ahithophel was not his counsel, but his spirit.

There was a time he exercised the gifts of discernment, and the wisdom of a man that consulted with the word of God (2 Samuel 16:23). Tragically, he had allowed bitterness and a vengeful spirit to supplant godly wisdom. He had opposed David, God’s anointed, and committed high treason against the king.

Warning – Before choosing sides in a conflict, a wise man assesses his spirit, for only fools oppose the LORD’S side.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Chickens Coming Home to Roost (Psalm 55; 2 Samuel 16)

Scripture reading – Psalm 55; 2 Samuel 16

Our daily Scripture readings continue to focus on the life and reign of David, king of Israel. 2 Samuel 16 continues the narrative with David’s hasty flight from Jerusalem, as Absalom, his thirdborn son, had stolen the hearts of the people and led an insurrection against his father. Psalm 55, the second half of today’s Scripture reading, is believed to have been written by David during this heart wrenching time in the king’s life. Today’s devotional will focus upon 2 Samuel 16.

2 Samuel 16

David’s heart was grieved when he learned Ahithophel, a trusted counselor and the grandfather of Bathsheba, had joined Absalom’s rebellion (15:30-31). To counter Ahithophel’s counsel, David commanded Hushai the Archite, a faithful friend and servant, to return to Jerusalem and join himself to Absalom and serve in his court as a spy (15:32-34, 37).

An Act of Deceit (16:1-4)

As David, his family, and entourage of warriors fled Jerusalem, they encountered “Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth” (16:1). You might remember that Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan, and the grandson of king Saul. Though Mephibosheth had cause for a legal claim to the throne, he had recognized David as king, and he had extended to him the lands and properties that would have been his as Jonathan’s heir (2 Samuel 9:1-13). Ziba had been commanded by the king to serve Mephibosheth as the caretaker of his master’s estate (9:9-13).

Coming alone, and bearing a large amount of food and wine, seemed suspicious to David, who asked Ziba, “where is thy master’s son?” (16:3) Ziba went on to betray his master, suggesting Mephibosheth had planned to use Absalom’s insurrection as an occasion for him to usurp the throne (16:3). Hasty in his response, and failing to investigate the sincerity of Ziba’s answer, David bequeathed to him the lands and properties of Mephibosheth (16:4). We will see that the king would later reverse his decision when he heard Mephibosheth’s account (2 Samuel 19:24-30).

The Insanity of a Bitter Spirit (16:5-9)

Time and space do not permit a full exploration of the deplorable scene when Shimei, a man kin to Saul and a Benjamite, confronted David at one of the lowest points of the king’s life (16:5-14). Hurling curses at David, and casting stones from a safe distance at him and his entourage, Shimei called the king a murderer, and a worthless man (16:7). Shimei contended the humiliation David had suffered was the justice he rightly deserved (16:8). While David suffered the insults in silence, Abishai the son of Zeruiah, and brother of Joab, required the king’s blessing to defend his honor: “let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head” (16:9).

David’s Gracious and Humble Response (16:10-14).

Trusting in God’s sovereignty, David refused to seek revenge, and accepted Shimei’s abuse as from the LORD (16:10). In his sorrow, he reflected on his shame and saying to Abishai, “Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him” (16:11).

David determined to accept his humiliation, saying, “12It may be that the Lord will look on mine affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day” (16:12). Only when the king crossed the Jordan River did he, “and all the people that were with him…[refresh] themselves” (16:14; 17:22).

Absalom’s Seizes His Father’s Throne, and His Gross Wickedness (16:15-23)

Absalom wasted no time in crowning himself king, and it seemed all Israel came to honor him (16:15), among whom was Ahithophel, Bathsheba’s grandfather (16:15). Hushai, David’s friend and spy, presented himself to Absalom saying, “God save the king, God save the king” (16:16). Flattering the youthful impudence of Absalom, Hushai convinced him that he had taken leave of David to serve him (16:17-19).

Ahithophel, desiring to heap greater sorrow and shame upon David and bearing bitterness for the king’s adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband Uriah, counseled Absalom to disgrace his father further (16:20-21). Ahithophel suggested Absalom would endear himself to Israel, by the young man entering his father’s harem, and committing incest with the king’s concubines (16:20-21). Heeding the detestable counsel of Ahithophel, Absalom went into his father’s harem “in the sight of all Israel” (16:22).

Closing thoughts – For a season, it seemed Ahithophel’s counsel “was as if a man had inquired at the oracle [sanctuary; the holy place] of God” (16:23). The old counselor was indeed wise, but his counsel would soon be spurned by Absalom (17:14). Ahithophel was a wise man, but bitterness had poisoned his soul. His days were numbered, and knowing he had committed treason against God’s anointed, he would commit suicide, rather than face the consequences of his treason (17:23).

In conclusion, consider David’s response to Shimei’s curses and abuse (16:11-12). Though he was king, he accepted with humility that there was truth in Shimei’s accusations. He was a “bloody man” (16:7), and his hands were stained with the blood of Uriah. As none other, he understood the sorrows, and humiliations he had suffered were the consequence of his own wickedness, and a fulfillment of God’s judgment (2 Samuel 12:7-12). He had committed sins in secret, but they were now the catalyst for public sorrow and shame.

In the words of a poet, “the chickens had come home to roost.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Political Correctness is a Moral Cancer (Psalm 12)

Scripture reading – Psalm 12

Make no mistake, “political correctness” is neither new, nor correct.  Psalm 12:1-8 exposes “political correctness” for what it is—a vehicle for attacking Truth and silencing those who believe God’s Word and accept its morality as just and right.

Psalm 12 is titled, “A Psalm of David,” and is the cry of a king who witnessed the retreat of a godly remnant, and in the king’s words, were all but extinct. David lamented:

Psalm 12:1 – “Help [deliver; save; avenge], LORD; for the godly man [saint] ceaseth [come to an end]; for the faithful [true; people of faith; believers] fail [disperse; disappear] from among the children of men.”

The date and setting that inspired Psalm 12 is not given, but the time of Absalom’s insurrection would certainly stir the sentiments we find in this passage. David cried out to the LORD to save the faithful, and avenge those who obey His law and revere Him (12:1).

Psalm 12:2-4 – “They speak [say; declare] vanity [deceit; evil] every one with his neighbor [friend; companion]: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.
3  The LORD shall cut off all flattering
[smooth] lips [language; speech], and the tongue that speaketh [declares; tells] proud [great; magnify] things:
4  Who have said
[declared; tell], With our tongue will we prevail [strengthen; act insolently]; our lips are our own: who is lord [master; sovereign; owner] over us?

Remembering the manipulative ways of Absalom (2 Samuel 15:1-2), and the way he won the heart of the people by self-promotion at the expense of the king’s reputation (2 Samuel 15:3-5), we can identify David’s description of the smooth lips and double-tongued nature of the wicked (12:2).  With a “double heart,” and insolent “flattering lips” the wicked assail the godly, rejecting the authorities in their lives (12:4).

The believers of our day would do well to take a page out of David’s “playbook” and realize the nature of man has not changed!  The wicked are emboldened by their peers (12:2), and should they go unchallenged by the righteous, they will prevail against those in authority (12:4b).

Though the wicked revel in their lies, and boast with their lips, David assured the godly, “The LORD shall cut off all flattering [smooth] lips [language; speech], and the tongue that speaketh [declares; tells] proud [great; magnify]things” (12:3). Believer, take solace in this; The LORD will “cut off,” expose, and take vengeance against those who deny Him and rail against His people.

Psalm 12:5 – “For the oppression [spoil; destruction] of the poor [afflicted; depressed; needy], for the sighing [groaning; cries] of the needy [beggar; destitute], now will I arise [stand up], saith the LORD; I will set [array; appoint] him in safety [salvation; safety; liberty; prosper] from him that puffeth [scoffs; kindles as a fire] at him.”

David reminded his faithful followers that God is patient, longsuffering, and merciful toward sinners. However, He is just, and He will avenge the wicked who oppress the poor and needy. In this instance, the “poor and needy” are not necessarily financially challenged or destitute, but are afflicted and oppressed by the actions of the wicked.

The wicked boast, and oppress others, not understanding that the LORD is longsuffering, and extends liberty to sinners for a season. However, He declares He will rise up against the wicked, and pour out His wrath on those who “puffeth” and scoff at the poor and afflicted (12:5).

Psalm 12:6-7 – “6  The words [speech; commands] of the LORD are pure [clean; fair; no falsehood] words: assilver tried [refined] in a furnace of earth, purified [purged; refined] seven times.
7  Thou shalt keep
[preserve; guard; protect] them [the poor and needy of vs. 5] , O LORD, thou shalt preserve [guard; protect] them from this generation [age] for ever.”

Unlike the speech of the wicked (12:2-4), the words of the LORD (His Laws and Commandments) are pure, like refined silver that has passed through the furnace seven times (12:6).  The words of the wicked are full of vain promises; however, the Word of the LORD is faithful and true from generation to generation (12:7).

Psalm 12:8 – “The wicked [immoral; guilty; criminal] walk [go; behave] on every side [every place], when the vilest [worthless] men are exalted [raised up; high; emboldened].”

You need only read Psalm 12:8 to understand what has become of our world! Citizens of this world have invited the wrath of God by promoting the vilest of men and women to rule over them. God’s people should not be surprised, nor wonder why lawlessness abounds in the 21st century. David states the principle cause for pervasive wickedness: “The wicked [immoral; guilty; criminal] walk [go; behave] on every side [every place], when the vilest [worthless] men are exalted [raised up; high; emboldened]” (12:8).

Closing thoughts – My own country has “exalted…the vilest men,” prompting lawlessness as wickedness runs unchecked in our communities. A spirit of rebellion, promoted as a demand for rights, has seized upon the spiritual vacuum in our youth, while fanning the flames of anarchy in the hearts of our children. When the godly are silent, the wicked are strengthened, and will “walk on every side.” Continue to elect the “vilest men,” and lawlessness will prevail.

In spite of how “badly” things might go in society, God’s people should never forget the LORD’S promises are forever true. King David aptly stated: God’s words are “pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of wrath, purified seven times (12:6). Those who trust in the LORD, He will “keep…and preserve” (12:7).

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

How Far Will a Man Fall? (2 Samuel 11-12)

Daily reading assignment: 2 Samuel 11-12

2 Samuel 11 – “And it came to pass, after the year was expired”

“Came to pass” is an apt description of the passing of life. No one knows what a day may bring forth, but each day presents us with an array of choices and consequences that leave their mark on our existence.

Events were about to unfold in David’s life that would inevitably follow him to his grave, and forever cast a shadow over his reign as king. If it were possible, we might strike this tragic moment from David’s life. What sin! What sorrow!

2 Samuel 11 challenges all believers to consciously abide in the presence of the LORD.

We have followed the king from his humble beginnings as a shepherd, and witnessed the surprise of his father and brothers when Samuel anointed him to be the next king of Israel. When he slew Goliath, the Philistine giant, he had become a household name in Israel. His transition from boyhood to manhood, brought a string of victories, as the fugitive of Saul emerged to become Israel’s warrior king, for “the LORD preserved David whithersoever he went” (1 Chronicles 18:13b).

Israel had celebrated David’s victories in 2 Samuel 10; however, 2 Samuel 11 introduced a sad foreboding of tragedy that would befall him. We read, “at the time when kings go forth to battle…David tarried still at Jerusalem” (11:1).

Probably in his fifties, and having served twenty years as Israel’s king, David’s exploits on the battlefield had inspired songs that celebrated his valor (1 Samuel 18:7); however, he was but a man. There are many spiritual lessons we could take from 2 Samuel 11-12, and some should serve as a sobering warning to all believers.

Grave consequences inevitably befall a man who underestimates the sinful bent of his nature (Psalm 51:5).

Disobeying the law (Deuteronomy 17:16-17), David had given rein to the pleasures of the flesh and taken to himself “more concubines and wives” (2 Samuel 5:13). He had foolishly indulged in carnal pleasures, and neglected his duty to the nation.  He was at the pinnacle of his success, and enjoying God’s blessings. Israel was strong and prosperous. However, when his army went to war, David remained behind in the comfort of his palace (11:2). The king’s idleness and lack of accountability became the catalyst for a tragic series of decisions that would forever scar his life, and unravel his reign (2 Samuel 11:3-15).

How far will a “man after God’s own heart” fall?

I will not take the time to outline the obvious in the story of David’s sins recorded-in 2 Samuel 11, but lust, adultery, deceit, guile, and murder are all found here (11:4-17).  Those were the sins that haunted David to his grave.  The consequences of his sins, for himself, his family, servants and Israel were incalculable (11:18-25). Guilt, shame, sorrow, and humiliation shadowed David to his grave. We read:

“The thing that David had done displeased the LORD” (11:27).

David attempted to maintain a facade of routine for nearly a year as he sat on his throne, and conducted the affairs of state.  On the outside, things might have appeared as usual; however, David was conscious of God’s displeasure and later wrote:

Psalm 32:3-4 – “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.  [4] For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.”

2 Samuel 12 – “The LORD sent Nathan unto David” (12:1a).

In God’s timing, He sent a man of courage and integrity to speak to the king. Evidencing both wisdom and caution, the prophet Nathan approached David with a story that contrasted a rich man’s abuse of a poor man (12:1-6). Intrigued by the story and incited to anger, David passed sentence against the rich man, proclaiming, “As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: 6 And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity” (12:5b-6).

Having pronounced sentence, David and his attendants fell silent when Nathan pointed his finger, and raised his voice, boldly confronting the king, saying, “Thou art the man” (12:7).

David’s heart was smitten with conviction; he was indeed the man: adulterer; murderer; hypocrite and a wretched, miserable soul (12:8-12). His heart was convicted, and his proud, hypocritical façade crushed (12:13). David soon realized the sorrow his sin would bring on his family (12:15-17).  The king then prayed,

Psalm 51:3-4For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.  [4] Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

Closing thoughts – I invite you to turn the spotlight of truth on your heart. Realize the danger of idleness, and the tragedy that comes when we trifle with sin and temptation. I challenge you, “Flee also youthful lusts” before it is too late (2 Timothy 2:22)!  Solomon would later warn his son, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper” (Proverbs 28:13a).  When it comes to sin, the question is not “if,” but “when” the consequences of secret sins will befall you. I close with a blessed promise:

Proverbs 28:1313He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

False Accusations – the Hook of Humiliation (2 Samuel 10; 1 Chronicles 19)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 10; 1 Chronicles 19

Today’s Scripture reading consists of two passages of Scripture, but one event. 2 Samuel 10 and 1 Chronicles 19are focused on one historical event. I am choosing 2 Samuel 10 as the passage for today’s devotional.

The phrase, “and it came to pass” (10:1a) begs a brief recap of events that immediately precedes our study in 2 Samuel 10. You might remember how David had sought if any man of King Saul’s lineage was still alive. When David received the news that there was one lone survivor of Saul’s lineage, Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan (9:5), he summoned for him to appear before him.

Fulfilling his covenant to be a blessing to Jonathan’s lineage, David extended a gracious invitation to Mephibosheth, and invited him to “eat continually at the king’s table” (9:7, 10, 13) with his own sons. Mephibosheth, though lame, was privileged to once again live as a prince.

After that great picture of grace, “it came to pass….” (10:1)

An Act of Humiliation and Disgrace (2 Samuel 10:1-5)

What came to pass? David had received news that “Nahash the king of the children of Ammon died, and his son reigned in his stead” (1 Chronicles 19:1). The king remembered a past kindness shown to him by Nahash, and felt it behooved him to send ambassadors to extend sympathy and condolences to Hanun, Nahash’s son and heir (10:2).

Coming “into the land of the children of Ammon,” Ammonite counselors convinced Hanun that David had not sent ambassadors, but spies to discover the nation’s weaknesses (10:3). Trusting his counselors, and failing to examine the Israelite men himself, Hanun betrayed David’s trust and humiliated the Israelite men, shaving half their beards, and cutting off their robes (10:4).

A Provocation of War (10:5-14)

Understanding an ambassador is an agent of a ruler and his government, David took the ill treatment of his ambassadors as a personal offense (10:5). When the Ammonites learned that David was incensed by their ill treatment of his men, they hired Syrian mercenaries to prepare to war against Israel (10:6).

Learning the Ammonites had hired Syrian warriors, David commanded Joab to gather the “host of the mighty men” of Israel, and go to war against the Ammonites and their Syrian mercenaries (10:7-11). Confident the LORD was with Israel, Joab and Abishai his brother, went to war, against the Ammonites and the Syrians (10:9-14). When the Syrian mercenaries fled from before Joab, the Ammonites also fled into the safety of their walled city (10:13-14).

War with Syria (10:15-19)

Although defeated in their initial skirmish with Israel, the Syrians gathered a greater army against Israel (10:15-17). David himself led Israel to battle, and soundly defeated Syria, slaying seven hundred men who drove chariots, forty thousand horsemen, and Shobach, the captain of the Syrian army (10:18). Israel’s success against Syria moved the kings of other nations to make peace with Israel, and come under tribute to David (10:19).

Closing thoughts – What can we take from today’s study? Perhaps the most prominent lesson is the need to search out a matter, and seek the truth first, before charging someone with wrong motives, or wrongdoing. David’s desire had been to extend sympathy and comfort to the Ammonites upon the death of King Nahash (10:1-2).

Tragically, the Ammonite counselors accused David of sending men to spy out the land (10:3). That accusation, along with Hanun’s ill treatment of David’s men, led to war and the deaths of thousands of soldiers. How tragic! King Hanun believed a lie, and his nation and families grieved the deaths of their sons.

Lesson – Don’t believe everything you hear, especially about others. Take time to investigate, and get the truth. Make an effort to know the heart and intent of a man before believing the worst.

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

Guiding Principles for Life and Friendships (Psalm 101; Psalm 105)

Scripture reading – Psalm 101; Psalm 105

Singing and thanksgiving remain our theme as we continue in the Book of Psalms for the Scripture reading. Psalm 101 is ascribed to David as the author. Although the writer of Psalm 105 is unnamed, many believe it may also be attributed to David. Today’s devotional will focus on Psalm 101.

Psalm 101 – A Resolution of Thanksgiving and Dedication

Imagine living under a ruler whose passion was not his career or legacy, but foremost his love and gratitude for the LORD. Such were the “golden years” of David’s reign in Jerusalem. The date and setting of this psalm is not known, but I believe it was in the early years, if not the beginning of the king’s reign over Israel.

While the purpose and overriding theme of Psalm 101 is a song of praise for the “mercy and judgment” of the LORD (101:1), you will notice the assertions of the king concerning his personal life and choices (101:2-8). There are nine assertive “I will” statements, and six “shall” statements.

David Purposed to Live a Righteous Life (101:2-3)

David determined as a matter of conviction that he would act in a “perfect way” [blameless], and conduct his life with a “perfect [innocent] heart” (101:3). The king set for himself an intolerance for observing or tolerating a “wicked thing before [his] eyes.” He was resolute, saying, he would “hate” the sins he observed in others (101:3).

Think about it: How much would your life and family change if you dedicated yourself to David’s standard of personal holiness and righteousness? Will you set your heart to walk a higher moral road, even if it means walking alone? Remember, what you tolerate, and the influences others have, will inevitably affect your life choices.

David Adopted Guiding Principles and Convictions (101:4-5, 7)

Though penned 3,000 years ago, the guiding principles we observe in the king’s psalm should resonate in the hearts of all believers. David’s “I will” and “I shall” statements leave no room for ambiguity. David was a man of conviction, and as king, there were always those who desired his favor and sought for power and position in his administration. David realized those closest to him would influence him with their counsel, and their character.

Psalm 101:4-5, 7 lists the manner of men the king would not tolerate in his emissaries. The following were cause for disqualification in the king’s court: “A froward [crooked, deceitful] heart,” and a “wicked [evil] person” (101:4). Slander [gossip], and proud and self-indulgent servants had no place in his household (101:5). Liars and deceivers were also unwelcomed in the king’s court (101:7).

Spiritual Qualifications for Servants to the King (101:6)

The psalm has so far focused on qualities the king determined were undesirable, and cause for disqualification. Psalm 101:6 states two qualities the king required in his servants: “6 Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me.”

The men David desired in his fellowship and company were faithful, tried and true men of conviction. He required men “that walketh in a perfect way” (101:6) to serve him and the people. The word “walketh” in the King James Bible gives an accurate insight into the character of those who served the king. Regardless of a man’s talents, none would serve the king who fell short of a blameless testimony when measured by God’s laws and judgment.

Closing thoughts – It was not enough for the king to declare the qualifications and disqualifications of those closest to him. He determined he would actively oppose wickedness: “8 I will early destroy [silence] all the wicked of the land; that I may cut off [exterminate] all wicked doers from the city of the LORD” (101:8).

An invitation: Guiding principles and convictions must be weighed, and determined for our lives and families. If you follow David’s pattern, you must establish and state your personal convictions (101:3). Will you determine to live a blameless life, and keep your heart pure and innocent?

You must also decide the influences in your life (101:4-5, 7). The king determined he would not tolerate liars, gossips, the proud, or deceivers. In fact, he stated he would actively oppose the sin and wickedness of evil men.

He also set a spiritual standard for the character of those closest to him (101:6). They were to be faithful: faithful to the LORD, to His Law and Commandments. Their lives were to be a “perfect” testimony.

An application – Have you adopted guiding principles for your friendships? I encourage you to examine your personal convictions (“I will” and “I shall”), and the character of those closest to you. What manner of people are your friends?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith