Category Archives: Proverbs

“The Hand that Rocks the Cradle” (Proverbs 31, 1 Kings 12)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 31, 1 Kings 12

The “virtuous woman” is the subject of Proverbs 31, perhaps the most beloved of all the Proverbs because it addresses the most central figure in life apart from our Creator—one’s mother. Like chapter 30, the authorship of Proverbs 31 has been debated down through the centuries; however, I feel there is much about this chapter that commends itself to having been authored by King Solomon. [Author’s note – A separate devotional for 1 Kings 12 is available at www.HeartofAShepherd.com]

Proverbs 31:1 – “The words [discourse; law] of king Lemuel, the prophecy [burden; tribute] that his mother taught him [instructed; discipline; chasten].”

There is no record of a king named Lemuel in ancient Israel or Judah, and many scholars believe Lemuel might have been a nickname Bathsheba gave to her son Solomon. Having lost her firstborn son in infancy, the one conceived in an act of adultery with David; one can understand why Bathsheba would dedicate Solomon to God, and in her heart, name him Lemuel (the literal meaning of Lemuel is “unto God” –lit. dedicated to God). For the sake of our devotional studies in Proverbs, I propose we view this chapter as Solomon’s memorial to his mother.

Verse 2 of Proverbs 31 records the Queen mother’s appeal to her son in a three-fold question:

Proverbs 31:2 – “What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows [dedication to God; binding covenant between mother and God]?”

Allow me to probe the meaning of the three questions proposed by the king’s mother.

1) “What my son?” (31:2a) – i.e. – What more can I say to you my son and king?

2) “What, the son of my womb?” (31:2a) – She reminds the king that she knew him in her womb; before he drew his first breath. She gave him life, and loves him as no one else could love him.

3) “What, the son of my vows?” (31:2a) – Like Hannah dedicated her son Samuel (1 Samuel 1:11), Bathsheba dedicated her son while he was in her womb. She remembers the first stirring of life and how she prayed for him. She had dedicated him to serve the Lord!

We are not told what moved Bathsheba to make an impassioned plea to her son. Perhaps her motherly instincts sensed the moral dangers Solomon would face. She knew all too well the temptations that beset a man of power, possessions, and popularity. The plea of the Queen mother resonated in her son’s heart, and he memorialized her virtuous qualities as an example for all women.

Someone has said: “The greatest moral power in the world is that exercised by a mother over her child.”

John Quincy Adams, the 6th president of the United States said concerning his mother, “All that I am, or ever have been, in this world, I owe, under God, to my mother.”

Closing thoughts – Read the entirety of Proverbs 31 today. It is my prayer the king’s praise of his mother will move husbands, sons and daughters to thank the LORD for loving mothers, and encourage them with words of affirmation and thanksgiving. Finally, in a day that is desperate for a moral compass, I pray there will be mothers who have been inspired from the king’s praise of his mother, to aspire to the qualities of a virtuous woman.

To the two mothers in my life, thank you for your loving sacrifices, and examples of Christ-like, unconditional love. (Proverbs 31:28-31)

[Author’s note – A separate devotional for 1 Kings 12 is available at www.HeartofAShepherd.com]

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Before Wisdom Goes Humility” (Proverbs 30)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 30

The opening verses of Proverbs 30 are not as practical as the majority of the proverbs; however, with a little “gold mining” into word meanings, we find nuggets of truth that are applicable to all who seek wisdom.

The human author of Proverbs 30 is debated among scholars. Some believe “Agur” is another name for Solomon; however, the reference of “Agur, the son of Jakeh” would seem to negate that suggestion. In addition, the personal admissions in verses 2-3 and 8-9 would seem out of character for Solomon, a man renowned for his wisdom.

Proverbs 30:1 “The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy [utterances inspired by God]: the man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal,”

The words of “Agur” are described as “the prophecy” (30:1), thereby attributing his words to be the inspired word of God. We may be unable to identify the human author; however, there is no doubt that God the Holy Spirit is the divine author. The apostles Paul and Peter testified that the scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments were God-breathed, and inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:162 Peter 1:20-21).

The prophecy of Agur was delivered to two men of whom nothing is known save their names, “Ithiel and Ucal” (30:1). Perhaps Ithiel and Ucal had come to Agur seeking words of wisdom and instruction. Agur, acknowledging the magnitude of his duty to speak on behalf of God, was overwhelmed with the responsibility.

Proverbs 30:2 “Surely I am more brutish [stupid; foolish; lacking an ability to reason] than any man, and have not the understanding [knowledge and wisdom] of a man.”

Agur admitted his inadequacy to impart wisdom apart from God, confessing he was a “brutish man”, wandering like a beast without reasoning. In my opinion, Agur expresses the humility that should be true of every man. Apart from God’s mercy and grace, we are all sinners, brute beasts, without direction (Isaiah 53:6Romans 1:28).

Proverbs 30:3 – “I neither learned [have not learned] wisdom, nor have [know] the knowledge [discernment; ex. between good and evil] of the holy [sacred; pure].”

Agur’s confession in verse 3 expresses the humility required of those who would seek the wisdom of God. The foolish reject God (Psalm 14:1) and the proud are unwilling to humble themselves. Before a man can acquire the wisdom of God, he must confess his woeful ignorance, and express the humility of Isaiah when he was given a vision of God’s heavenly glory and cried out: “Woe is me! for I am undone…for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).

Closing thought – Where might one find the wisdom of God?

Godly wisdom, understanding, and discernment come from trusting the LORD by faith, quietly residing in His presence, and meditating on His Word. Such wisdom is not the wisdom of this world, which “is foolishness with God” (1 Corinthians 3:19). The wisdom of God is derived from reading and meditating in His Word, and walking in obedience to His Law and Commandments.

Got wisdom? It is available to those who trust the LORD, come to Him humbly, and obey His Word.

James 1:5 – “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God [ask God for wisdom and understanding], that giveth [offers; grants] to all men liberally [generously], and upbraideth not [does not reproach or find fault]; and it shall be given him.”

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“I’d Rather ‘Sing Like a Canary in a Coal Mine,’ Than Be a Silent Judas” (Proverbs 28; Proverbs 29)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 28; Proverbs 29

Continuing our study in the Book of Proverbs, with our Scripture reading being Proverbs 28 and 29, this is the second of two devotional commentaries for the day. The focus of this brief devotional is Proverbs 29:24. This author’s explanations are stated in italics within brackets.

Proverbs 29

Proverbs 29:24 serves as a reminder that, when it comes to sin, one’s failure to be a tattletale, informer, snitch, or rat is not a matter of neutrality, but in effect affords sinners aid and comfort in their sins. Solomon taught his son:

Proverbs 29:24 – “Whoso is partner [plunderer; divider] with a thief hateth [is the enemy of; detests] his own soul [life; person; being]: he heareth [hearkens; gives attention to] cursing [oaths; swearing], and bewrayeth it not.” [fails to expose, or rebuke]

“Tattletale” is a taunting label children give peers who expose them and their sins to responsible authorities. While your silence might earn the questionable friendship of a thief or beguiler, it sacrifices your integrity and soul.

Permit me the liberty of a broader application: We are living in volatile times, and many biblically sound institutions are adrift from the principles of their founders. Churches and schools are being steered from their conservative, biblical legacies by “progressive” pastors and administrators, while staffs, faculty, and church members remain silent.

Some reading this devotional might be among the well-meaning believers who have served on boards or senior staff. You have “tacitly partnered” with leaders who were plotting a subtle departure from the course and principles of your institution’s past. You listened in silence as the founding fiber of that institution’s past, and its legacy were “cursed” and besmirched.

Warning: You not only share in the sins of your leaders, your silence and failure “bewrayeth” the sacred trust of those who have gone before you. Criticize those of us who dare to speak up, but:

I’d rather “sing like a canary in a coal mine” than be a silent Judas!

* You are invited to subscribe to Pastor Smith’s daily devotionals in the box to the right of this devotion, and have future devotionals sent to your email address.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Few Things Are as Repulsive as One Who Praises Himself” (Proverbs 27)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 27

Our brief study in the Proverbs continues with chapter 27. Though filled with golden nuggets of “uncommon common sense,” the focus of our devotional will be limited to Proverbs 27:2.

Proverbs 27

The Book of Proverbs is a king’s instructions to his son.  On several occasions, Solomon has expressed concern that the heart of his son might not be lifted up in pride. Born into a home of wealth and privilege, it would have been easy for a young prince to be carried away by the grandeur of the palace, and the presence of servants ever ready at his beckon call. Proverbs 27:2 presents a wonderful consideration regarding the insightful counsel of a father who understood the bent of the heart of his son. Lest he be led astray by the pride of youth, Solomon urged his son to recognize how uncomely it was for a man to boast, and praise himself.

Proverbs 27:2 – “Let another man praise thee [boast; celebrate; sing your praises], and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips [speech].

Few things are as repulsive as a man boasting in his achievements. It is, however, the nature of man to “proclaim every one his own goodness” (Proverbs 20:6). Such a man has forgotten the raw clay from which he was taken. While praise and acknowledgement are rewarding, they ring hollow when expressed by one’s own lips.

Why is a conceited, pompous, self-congratulatory spirit so distasteful to others, and inappropriate before God?

The answer is clear – because it is not the Spirit of God, but the evil spirit of self-promotion. The prophet Isaiah, comparing the fall of Nebuchadnezzar, the great king of Babylon, to the fall of Lucifer, noted how that fallen angel had boasted in his pride, and exalted himself to be the Creator’s equal (Isaiah 14:12-15). Notice the number of times Lucifer employed the pronoun “I” to glory in himself.

Isaiah 14:12-15 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
13  For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
14  I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
15  Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

Closing thoughts – Before you dismiss the thought of being proud and vain, evaluate how much of your conversations are actually self-focused? Are you given to bragging and boasting? Does your social media wall reveal you to be arrogant, self-righteous, and self-promoting?

The ugly little secret is: others have already noticed how much of your life is self-focused.

* You are invited to subscribe to Pastor Smith’s daily devotionals in the box to the right of this devotion, and have future devotionals sent to your email address.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Beware the Busybodies!” (Proverbs 25; Proverbs 26)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 25; Proverbs 26

Continuing our second of two devotionals from today’s Scripture reading, I invite you to consider Proverbs 26:17-19.

Proverbs 26:17  – “He that passeth by [pass over; provokes], and meddleth [pass over; provokes; alienates] with strife [controversy; lawsuit; dispute] belonging not to him, is like one that taketh [restrains; catch; seize] a dog [fierce, hungry dog] by the ears.”

A lot of people are more adept at giving advice, than they are at accepting counsel, and managing their own lives and concerns!  Those sanctimonious types are a lot more proficient at creating problems than solving problems.  They are what Paul described as “busybodies” in 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12; individuals who are slackers in dealing with their problems, but experts in sowing discord and undermining the authority of spiritual leaders (2 Thess. 3:14-15).

Paul found the same sin in the church at Ephesus among the younger women. He described them as idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not” (1 Timothy 5:13).

Believers, beware of busybodies! They will surely suffer the fate of one foolish enough to grab a fierce dog by its ears—their sins will come back to bite! (26:17).

Before concluding today’s devotional, allow me the liberty of addressing two more proverbs (26:18-19).

Proverbs 26:18-19 – “As a mad [rabid; insane] man who casteth [shoots] firebrands [burning arrows], arrows [i.e., spear or dart that wounds], and death,
 19 So is the man that deceiveth [beguiles; betrays] his neighbor [companion; friend], and saith, Am not I in sport? [play; laugh; mock]

“I’m sorry… I was kidding… I didn’t mean anything by it!” may be an easy out for one who has cast a firebrand and wounded another’s feelings.  Such a man throws his verbal darts without considering how or where they fall. His callousness and careless thought earn him the label of a man to be guarded against, and one who should be avoided.

A word of advice: Don’t believe his excuses!  The Lord taught His disciples a valuable lesson regarding the words that proceed from a man’s mouth:

Matthew 15:18-20 – “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. 
19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: 
20 These are the things which defile a man…”

* You are invited to subscribe to Pastor Smith’s daily devotionals in the box to the right of this devotion, and have future devotionals sent to your email address.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Hawking One’s Self and Gawking at Others has become a Passion” (Proverbs 25:6-7)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 25; Proverbs 26

Today’s Scripture reading is Proverbs 25 and 26. As with all the chapters in Proverbs, the number of verses, and couplets of wisdom are daunting if addressed in a brief devotional. My devotional commentary from Proverbs 25will focus on Proverbs 25:6-7. This is the first of two devotional studies today.

Proverbs 25

The Internet has opened up a world of fame and/or infamy for those who want to impact the social media world. Such a platform has given opportunity to anyone who wants to be an overnight, self-made, internet sensation.

I am often amazed at the magnitude of information individuals are willing to share on social network sites. Hawking one’s self and gawking at others has become an all-consuming past time. It is estimated that 18-34-year-olds spend 3.8 hours a day social networking! The infatuation with self, reminds me of a comment my tourist guide in Israel made years ago when he observed the national pastime of Israeli youth was “to see and to be seen.”

Proverbs 25:6-7 cuts against the grain of our self-promoting society. Solomon urged his son to show discretion and humility, especially in the presence of great men. The king wrote:

Proverbs 25:6-7 – “Put not forth thyself [don’t be a self-promoter; overtly ambitious; seeking vainglory] in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men:
7 For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up [ascend; go up] hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower [humbled; humiliated] in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.”  

Christ taught a similar lesson regarding humility in Luke 14:8-10.

Luke 14:8-11 – “When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room [place of honor]; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him;
9 And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room.
10 But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.
11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

Closing thoughts – Take a few minutes and inspect your social media page, and the pictures you have posted. I encourage you to be honest about the things you have written, and the photos you have posted. Forget how many “Likes” or “Comments” you have received and consider: How much of what I have posted glorifies God? Are you guilty of self-promotion?

In a day of shameless self-promotion, HUMILITY is still the quality God cherishes in His people.

* You are invited to subscribe to Pastor Smith’s daily devotionals in the box to the right of this devotion, and have future devotionals sent to your email address.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Even a Fool Can Father a Child, but a Wise Man Builds a Home” (Proverbs 24; 1 Kings 5)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 24; 1 Kings 5

In addition to our Scripture reading in the Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 24), our chronological study of God’s Word returns to 1 Kings 5. This devotional will consider Proverbs 24:3-4.

“A Wise Man Builds a Home” (Proverbs 24:3-4)

Solomon, a master builder whom God trusted with the responsibility of building His Temple in Jerusalem, employed the analogy of building a house to emphasize the necessity of exercising godly wisdom when building one’s life and family (24:3-4). The king wrote:

Proverbs 24:3–43Through wisdom is an house builded; And by understanding it is established: 4And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.

I have had opportunity to tear down a few old buildings in my lifetime. I have fond childhood memories of assisting my Dad when he tore down a couple of old weathered, clapboard-sided farmhouses and barns, and then recycled the wood to build barns on our property in the country.  Unlike a contractor who follows meticulously drawn blueprints when building a house, my Dad’s de-construction required little more than hammers, crowbars, ladders and raw physical strength!

Unfortunately, I fear many believers fail to follow God’s blueprint when building their family. In fact, the manner of some is as destructive as a man who tears down, rather than builds his home. Consider Solomon’s counsel to his son in the matter of building a house (i.e., a life or home), with my amplification of word meanings in brackets.

Proverbs 24:33Through [By] wisdom [godly wisdom and insight] is an house [life; family] builded [established]; and by understanding [insight; discernment] it is established [fixed; made ready]:

Forgive my frank, honest observation in the challenge of building a life and family. It is my opinion: Any fool can father a child and start a family; however, a man of godly wisdom knows to build a family requires commitment, wisdom, discernment, and understanding.

Sadly, the state of our society evidences that few have any concept of the personal discipline and sacrifice required to make a house a home!  There are few who turn to the LORD, the source of all wisdom, and ask Him for discernment (James 1:5).

For the sake of application, let’s consider the house in verse 3 as an allegory of one’s personal life and family, and ask: “How would wisdom and understanding have us to furnish this house?”  Proverbs 24:4 answers that question.

Proverbs 24:4 – “And by knowledge [i.e. wisdom and understanding, plus knowledge derived from life experiences] shall the chambers [rooms] be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”

I confess, I lack my wife’s vision and motivation when it comes to decorating. Four walls, a roof that does not leak, and a comfortable chair, and I am content.  My wife, however, has an eye for style, furnishings, and placement. She is able to take a house [chambers], add a few furnishings, and make a house a comfortable, attractive home!

The house and chambers Solomon portrayed represented a life or family built by godly wisdom (24:3).  Spiritual understanding was the foundation of the home (24:3), and the knowledge of walking in the light of God’s Law was its furnishings (24:4). Where can a man attain such furnishings for himself and his family? The Word of God.

Paul urged Timothy, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Why should a father be a disciplined student of God’s Word? The Scriptures are inspired by God, and are His manual for life. The Bible “is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

A disciplined study, and application of the nuggets of wisdom found in Proverbs is a great beginning!  Remember, however:

Any man can start a family, but a wise man follows God’s blueprint [the Scriptures] to build a home.

Copyright @ 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Spiritual Benefits of Biblical Discipline” (Proverbs 23)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 23

Proverbs 23 is today’s Scripture reading, and as you will see, it is rich in metaphors that illustrate spiritual principles for life and daily living. Solomon is training his son, the future king of Israel, and instilling in him life lessons. He cautions his son concerning the enticements of the rich and powerful (23:1-3), and the enslaving sin of covetousness (23:4-5). He admonished him to not fall into the company of “big bellies and booze” (23:19-21), and urged him to treasure truth, wisdom, instruction and understanding (23:23).

Today’s devotional will consider Proverbs 23:12-16 , and the subject is the spiritual benefits of Biblical discipline.

Remembering the Book of Proverbs is a compilation of a father’s loving instructions to his son, we feel Solomon’s passion for his son to respond to loving discipline with a humble, teachable spirit.

Proverbs 23:12 “Apply [take; set] thine heart [mind, thoughts; emotions] unto instruction [warning; discipline; reproof], and thine ears to the words [speech; sayings] of knowledge [i.e., knowledge of good and evil].”  

Proverbs 23:12 places the responsibility of a right response to correction and discipline upon the child. We live in a permissive society that absolves its youth of personal responsibility, and condemns parents who determine to balance loving instruction with authoritative discipline. It is that misguided, unbiblical approach to parenting that has encouraged an undisciplined, lawless spirit in the youth of this generation.

Solomon challenged his son to harmonize his heart, thoughts, and emotions with what he had been taught from a child. Because we sin by nature, it follows that the bent of every son and daughter is to sin. Temperaments differ, and the degree or choice of sin are not the same; however, the spiritual reality is: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15).

Proverbs 23:13  “Withhold [keep back; deny; refrain] not correction [instruction; chastisement; discipline] from the child: for if thou beatest [strike; punish; smite] him with the rod [staff; stick; family scepter], he shall not die.” 

Solomon is not encouraging physical abuse, nor commending a parent who vents their anger and frustration on a child. Still, contrary to societal norms of the 21st century, the Word of God exhorts loving parents to recognize the bent of a child’s heart, and administer loving discipline.

Proverbs 23:14  “Thou shalt beat [strike; punish; smite] him with the rod, and shalt deliver [rescue; save; preserve] his soul [life; being; spirit] from hell.” 

To avoid confusion: Solomon was not calling for, or suggesting physical abuse. He was stating a principle that is the desire of every parent who longs to see their child turn from sin and follow righteousness.

Truth–The temporal pain of physical discipline is not comparable to an unbridled, undisciplined spirit that may drive a child to an early grave, and send his soul to the punishment of eternal hell.

Proverbs 23:15-16  “My son, if thine heart [thoughts; feelings; emotions] be wise [sound; restrained from acting in an evil manner], my heart shall rejoice [be joyful; extremely happy; glad], even mine.    
16 Yea, my reins [figurative of the mind] shall rejoice [jump for joy; exult; shout], when thy lips [language; speech] speak [say; declare] right things [upright; honest].”

A wise son or daughter is a delight to a parent’s heart! When a child chooses good over evil, and speaks words that are true, honest and sincere, the heart of the father swells with joy and pride.

I close with a promise for every son and daughter that will embrace wisdom, and follow the path of a godly parent’s loving instructions:

Ephesians 6:1-3  – “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2  Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) 3  That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

Copyright© 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Sovereign God, and A Lesson in Parenting (Proverbs 21-22)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 21; Proverbs 22

Proverbs 21

The Lord is Sovereign of His Creation (Proverbs 21:1-3)

We are once again reminded that God is Sovereign! He is the Ruler of His creation, and has all power and authority. He is involved in the affairs of man, and is working all things together according to His purpose, and for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28-29). He does not approve of the sinful actions and decisions of men; however, He is sovereign and is able to direct choices contrary to His will, to the end of accomplishing His eternal purpose (notice Joseph’s affirmation of that truth in Genesis 50:20).

Proverbs 21:1-3 is an exposition of the Sovereignty of God, and the authority of man.

Proverbs 21:1 “The king’s heart [mind; thoughts; will] is in the hand [under the authority and dominion] of the LORD, as the rivers [channels; canals; streams] of water: he turneth [bends; turns aside] it whithersoever he will [pleasure; desire; favor].”

All human authority is subservient to the authority of God. Men are not robots; however, they cannot act independent of God. God can, and does guide men’s choices to accomplish His plan and purpose. The LORD is sovereign, and like a farmer directs water through irrigation channels to his crops, He directs and channels the heart of a king where He wills (21:1b).  [Example of Pharoah in Exodus 10:1-2.]

Proverbs 21:2 – “Every way [road; journey; course of life] of a man is right in his own eyes [opinion]: but the LORD pondereth [weighs; measures] the hearts [mind; understanding].”

Proverbs 21:2 reminds us that God knows the heart, motives, and purpose in man. It is the bent of the human heart to perceive ourselves better than we are; however, God weighs and knows what lies within the hearts of men.

Finally, we are reminded that God’s focus is on the heart of man, and not his outward form or ritual (21:3).

Proverbs 21:3 – “To do [accomplish] justice and judgment [righteousness; conform to an ethical or moral standard] is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice [offerings].

Outward ritual, without inward devotion is hypocrisy. Though hypocrites offer sacrifices of money, service and outward conformity (1 Samuel 16:7), it is the heart of the righteous to obey the Lord.

Closing thoughts – God’s hand rests upon every human authority in your life. Look past the personalities, flaws, and failures of those in authority, and be confident: God is able to turn the hearts of men to accomplish His best for your life. Trust the Lord, and pray for those in authority! (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Proverbs 22

Parenting: A Lesson for the Fainthearted (Proverbs 22:6)

Proverbs 22:66Train up a child in the way he should go: And when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Thousands of books and articles have been written on child rearing. Psychologists, psychiatrists, educators, counselors, pastors, neighbors, friends, and family, all have their opinions on how you should train and discipline your child. Yet, it has been my observation that most everyone is an expert on child training, until they have children of their own!

Proverbs 22:6 is one of the best known, and most quoted verses in Proverbs.  It has been the inspiration of godly parents, and a club of discouragement for parents wrestling with the will and path of a rebel. Allow me to amplify Solomon’s proverb with my own clarification in brackets.

Proverbs 22:6  “Train up [initiate; inaugurate; dedicate; consecrate] a child in the way [road; path; journey] he should go: and when he is old [aged; “hair on the chin”], he will not depart [turn aside; withdraw] from it.”

Many parents languish in the throes of discouragement when a child rebels, and turns from his parents. They might have embraced Proverbs 22:6, and believed it afforded them an absolute guarantee of a “happily ever-after ending.” Yet, when a son rejects his parents’ counsel, and goes his own way, godly parents often wrestle with guilt until they are driven to despair (too often heaped upon them by the judgments of others). Even the rebel might throw the responsibility of his wicked choices onto his parents, and other authorities in his life.

The problem: A proverb is a proverbial expression, a wise saying and a general truth. It is not a guarantee. In other words, Proverbs 22:6 is not a “parenting guarantee,” because it is subject to a child’s individual free will. Every child will choose to embrace, or reject parental instructions and commands. “Train up” carried in its original meaning, the practice of a mother chewing food for a suckling child, and then placing the chewed food on her child’s palate. Why? She was encouraging her child to develop a taste for solid food as he or she matures.

It is the prayer of godly parents that their children will have a taste, and desire for righteousness. Nevertheless, I remind you that Adam and Eve had a perfect Creator/Father, and He placed them in a perfect environment (the Garden of Eden). Yet, the first man and woman rebelled and chose to sin (Genesis 3:6-7).

Closing thought – The wicked influences of this sinful world, and its philosophies, are fighting for the heart of every child. There are no perfect parents; and every child has a will of their own. Nonetheless, I urge you to do all you can to set a godly example, teach your children the truths of God’s Word, expose them to godly influences, and insulate them from the ways and wiles of sin. Then, pray earnestly!

You may email the author at: HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Alcohol: “To Drink, or Not to Drink?” Is that the Question? (Proverbs 20)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 20

You will find that Proverbs 20 is a chapter rich in spiritual truths that seem to challenge nearly every aspect of life. From the admonition concerning wine and “strong drink” in verse 1, to the affirmation of biblical chastening described as “the blueness of a wound” in verse 30, spiritual principles abound. A daily devotional gives little opportunity to address the whole chapter, and so I have determined to tackle one that is being overlooked, if not rejected by some believers. Consider the first verse:

Proverbs 20:1 – “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: And whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”

Should you be willing to embrace this proverb as simply as it is stated, its truth and application are both simple and undeniable. Consider a restatement of that proverb with this author’s amplification of word meanings:

Proverbs 20:1 “Wine [fermented wine] is a mocker [scorner; holds in derision], strong drink [intoxicating drink] is raging [roar; troubled; clamorous]: and whosoever is deceived [stray; mislead] thereby is not wise [almost always condemned].”

There are many in the 21st century Church who argue for tolerance in the matter of alcohol, and have embraced the imbibing of “strong drink” as a matter of liberty. Such an argument is a grave departure from the historical stance of Bible believers. Sadly, the silence of the pulpit in the matter has only perpetuated the acceptance of wine and alcohol. So, we ask the question, “To drink, or not to drink?” What do the Scriptures teach?

Paul challenged pastors to be sober [lit. temperate], “not given to wine” (1 Timothy 3:3). In the Epistle of Titus, Paul called on pastors (i.e., “bishops”) to be “blameless…not given to wine” (Titus 1:7). He also cautioned older women to be “not given to much wine” (Titus 2:3).

Modern societies enjoy the blessing of fresh, pure water; however, that was not the case in ancient times. There was a risk of unsanitary, unpurified water in Solomon’s day, and that of the apostles. To kill germs and bacteria in drinking water, wine would be mixed with the water making it safe to drink (the mix was 8 parts water, and 1 part wine).

Lacking modern refrigeration we enjoy, juices would ferment in the heat, making it necessary to water down the wine to slow down the fermenting process and sterilize the water. Today’s strong wine and alcohol go through a distilling process that was unknown in Bible times, with the purpose of elevating alcohol content. Unlike the wine in the Bible that was watered down, today’s strong drink is imbibed for its intoxicating properties.

What spiritual applications might we take from Proverbs 20:1 – “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: And whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”

Concerning pastors: Because the Scriptures admonish pastors to be “not given to wine,” and understanding the wine of Bible times was not nearly as intoxicating as it is today, we can state unapologetically: A man who indulges in wine or alcohol is unfit for the pastorate. Old Testament priests were not to “drink wine nor strong drink” (Leviticus 10:9), and certainly God’s standard would be no less for his preachers.

Concerning believers: Solomon admonished his son to not drink wine or strong drink (20:1), nor keep company with drunkards. Solomon wrote, “20Be not among winebibbers; Among riotous eaters of flesh: 21For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: And drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags” (Proverbs 23:20–21). The virtuous wife and mother of Proverbs 31 (believed to have been Bathsheba), warned her son who was heir to the throne: “4It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; Nor for princes strong drink: 5Lest they drink, and forget the law, And pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted” (Proverbs 31:4–5).

Paul admonished believers to not risk causing another believer to stumble and fall, therefore, “It is good neither to eat flesh [i.e., meat offered to idols], nor to drink wine” (Romans 14:21).

Some might quote 1 Timothy 5:23 as grounds for taking liberty with wine and alcohol. We read, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23). Timothy had some stomach ailments, and proving the young preacher was not in the habit of drinking wine, Paul urged him to take some wine for medicinal purposes (in the absence of medicines at our disposal today).

Closing thoughts – There are many verses, principles, and illustrations that support an absolute intolerance of wine and alcohol in the life of a believer (Hosea 4:11; Daniel 1:8, 10; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). In addition, our society abounds with examples of damages caused by alcohol use: Physical (cancer of the esophagus, mouth, pharynx, and larynx), gross immorality caused by the effect of lowering inhibitions, and spiritual failures.

1 Corinthians 6:9–109Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

You matter, and there is hope to escape the ravages of alcohol! You can reach this author at HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith