Category Archives: Providence

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

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

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

A Path for Success (Psalm 39; 2 Samuel 8)

Scripture reading – Psalm 39; 2 Samuel 8

Our Scripture reading continues in the Book of Psalms (Psalm 39), and also returns to the historical narrative of the life of David (2 Samuel 8). Today’s devotional will be taken from 2 Samuel 8.

2 Samuel 8 – David’s Success and Victories as King

If a boy in Israel had been looking for a hero, he would have to look no further than King David. The king’s life was a testimony of what God can do with a man who loves the LORD, and is fully yielded to His will.

The first years of David’s reign were marked by continual success. When God denied him the opportunity to build a temple (2 Samuel 7:4-7), the king accepted the rejection with humility. He then set about extending Israel’s territory, and securing the rule over his domain.

Confident in the LORD’S promises and obedient to His Laws and Commandments, David defeated one adversary after another (2 Samuel 8). The first to fall to Israel were the Philistines who resided in territories to the west and south of Israel (8:1).

Eventually, a line of kings and kingdoms either fell to Israel, or began paying tribute to David. The Moabites, descendants of Lot who occupied land on the east side of the Jordan River, were the next to be conquered (8:2). King Hadadezer of Zobah (8:3), a capital city north of Damascus and whose lands occupied territories that included a portion of ancient Syria, reaching to the Euphrates River, was dealt a harsh defeat. Hadadezer’s kingdom boasted “a thousand chariots, and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen” (8:4). David had the chariot horses of his enemy “houghed,” clipping their hamstring and thus preventing the horses from being used in battle again. (8:4).

When the Syrians came to aid Hadadezer, David sorely defeated them, slaying “of the Syrians two and twenty thousand men” (8:5). The king then secured the land for Israel, placing “garrisons in Syria of Damascus: and the Syrians became servants to David, and brought gifts [paying Israel tribute]. And the Lord preserved David whithersoever he went” (8:6). The bounty of the spoils of war were brought by David to Jerusalem, including “shields of gold that were on the servants of Hadadezer” (8:7), and “exceeding much brass” that would later be used by Solomon to make vessels for the Temple (8:8; 1 Chronicles 18:8).

Continuing his conquest, David defeated the Amalekites (8:12) and Edomites (8:14), who accepted servitude to David and Israel. 2 Samuel 8:13 observed that, “David gat him a name,” for his reputation as a warrior king continued to grow (8:13).

What was the secret to David’s achievements? Was he successful because of his skill as a general and warrior on the battlefield? Was it the loyalty of his leaders (8:16-18), or the size of his army that gave him success?

The secret to David’s successes, and his military exploits was summed up in this: “The LORD preserved [saved; delivered; gave victory to] David whithersoever he went” (2 Samuel 8:6, 14). In turn, David proved himself, not only to the LORD, but also to all in his realm, for he “executed judgment and justice unto all his people” (8:15).

From Egypt in the south, to the Euphrates River in the east, David acquired for his kingdom the lands God had promised Israel as an inheritance. The king’s victories were part of God fulfilling His covenant promise to Abraham, and his seed (Gen. 15:17-21; Deut. 1:6-8; 11:24; 1 Kings 4:20-21).

Closing thoughts – Who among us does not long for success? Everyone I have known wants to be successful, and to enjoy the fruits of their success. Yet, how many are willing to follow David’s example, model humility, and walk faithfully in the ways of the LORD?

Though a powerful king whose fame was growing, nevertheless, David was committed to do right, and to execute righteous “judgment and justice” to his people (8:15).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Accepting When God Says “No,” Will Open the Way for a Greater Blessing (2 Samuel 7)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 7

Today’s Scripture reading parallels events that are also recorded by the historian in 1 Chronicles 17. The events unfolding in 2 Samuel 7 follow sometime after the arrival of the Ark of God in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6).

David’s Passion to Build a Temple (7:1-3)

The early years of David’s reign were indeed, “golden years.” In the opening verses of today’s study, we find the king enjoying a time of rest, and reflection (7:1). The great warrior had earned a well-deserved reprieve, though it would be short-lived. 2 Samuel 8 records a string of battles David would soon face, but at this time “the LORD had given him rest round about from all his enemies” (7:1).

Resting, and contemplating the rich appointments of his cedar palace, the king confided to the prophet Nathan of his discomfort. He was troubled that while he enjoyed the luxury of his palace, the “Ark of God dwelleth within curtains” (for that was the tent David had prepared for the Ark (7:2). Neither approving or affirming David’s desire to build a temple, Nathan encouraged the king, “Go, do all that is in thine heart; for the Lord is with thee” (7:3).

God Prohibited David Building a Temple (7:4-17)

The LORD came to Nathan, and commanded His prophet to reason with David, and forbad him building a Temple, noting He had not commanded nor expressed a desire for “an house for me to dwell in” (7:4-5). The LORD had fashioned a tabernacle that had sheltered the Ark during the wilderness years, and throughout the era of the Judges (7:6-7).

Nathan was commanded to go to the king, and remind him he was a servant of the LORD. He was to remember what the Lord had said concerning his beginning: “I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel” (7:8). Though he was king and his name and fame were growing, he was reminded his success had come from the LORD (7:9-10).

In contrast to David’s desire to build a house for the Ark, God promised the king, “the Lord telleth thee that he will make thee an house” (7:11). The verses that follow prove this was not a house made with hands, and formed out of cedar and stone, but was a royal lineage, a dynasty of kings (7:12). David was promised that his son [Solomon] would build a house, a temple to the LORD (7:13). God promised he would love him like a father loves a son (7:14), and would bestow His mercy upon him.

A far-reaching messianic prophecy is found in this passage, and it was one that would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. God promised the king, “I will stablish the throne of his [David’s] kingdom for ever” (7:13). The promise is repeated in 2 Samuel 7:16 where we read, “thy throne shall be established for ever” (7:16).

A faithful prophet, Nathan fulfilled God’s command and “according to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David” (7:17).

David’s Response to the Prophecy (7:18-29)

Rather than dwell upon the denial of his desire to build a house for the LORD, David embraced the prophecy that his throne and kingdom would be forever (though not fully understanding the breadth of its fulfillment). Humbled by the LORD’s promises, I believe David rose from his throne, and made his way to the Tabernacle where he “sat before the Lord, and he said, Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?” (7:18).

He had been reminded that he was a lowly shepherd when the LORD chose him to be king (7:8), and it was God that had given him fame and power over his enemies (7:19). David asked a profoundly humble question: “20And what can David say more unto thee? for thou, Lord God, knowest thy servant” (7:20).

Think about that statement: LORD, you know me, and that I am a lowly servant in the presence of a God Who is great, and there is no god like Thee (7:22). God is indeed great in mercy, grace, power, and deeds. Israel’s history was a testimony of the greatness of God, for He had chosen them, and redeemed them out of the slavery of Egypt (7:23-24).

David believed God (7:25-29). Instead of the king building a temple for the LORD, God promised to build through David’s seed a perpetual dynasty. Trusting God’s grace, David’s prayer concluded rejoicing in God’s goodness (7:28), and requesting His divine blessings on himself, and his seed (7:29).

Closing thought – God’s way is always best. David had a good heart, and his desire to build a temple for the Ark was a righteous one; however, he accepted that responsibility and privilege would belong to his son and heir.

Nevertheless, by accepting the LORD’S prohibition, David inherited a far greater promise: His name, throne, and kingdom would be established by the LORD forever. That promise would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ: “16And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever” (7:16).

Lesson – Trust God, after all, His Way is Perfect! (2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 18:30)

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Let All the Earth Praise the LORD! (1 Chronicles 16)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 16

The celebration of the arrival of the Ark of God in Jerusalem continued in 1 Chronicles 16. David had prepared a new tent for the Ark, while the original tabernacle from the days of Moses remained in Gibeon, a city north of Jerusalem, and located in the midst of the territory of the tribe of Benjamin.

The Ark’s return, and the restoration of sacrificial offerings (16:1-2) was cause for a national celebration. David did not usurp the role of the Levites; however, as king he placed himself at the forefront of the celebration. After blessing the people in the name of the Lord” (16:2), we read that “every man and woman [was given] a loaf of bread, and a good piece of flesh [possibly a serving of meat], and a flagon [clay jar] of wine” (16:3).

David had re-established, and set in order the service of the Levites and priests (16:4). He appointed singers and musicians to lead in daily worship (16:4-6), thus reminding us of the prominent role music and singing has always held when believers worship the God of heaven. A poet and musician himself, David had prepared a special psalm of thanksgiving for the occasion (16:7-36), and entrusted it to Asaph, one of three chief musicians (16:7).

A Festive Song, A Psalm of Thanksgiving (16:8-36)

David’s psalm heralded a new day, and a new beginning for the people. Calling upon all Israel to worship and give thanks to the LORD, David invited the congregation to sing: “9Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, Talk ye of all his wondrous works” (16:9). Boast of the LORD, and “10Glory ye in his holy name: Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord” (16:10).

Three times the song called upon the people to “seek the LORD” (16:10-11). What did it mean to “seek the LORD?” It meant to diligently seek Him; call upon Him as one wholly dependent on Him (16:10).

Not only were the people to glory in the LORD, and seek Him, but they were to remember all He had done for them as a nation (16:12). Abraham, and Jacob were dead, but the covenant promises of the LORD had not failed (16:13-17). All He had promised He had fulfilled, for He had given Israel “the land of Canaan” for their inheritance (16:18). Though Israel had been small among the nations of the world, the LORD had protected His people from the heathen. He had warned the kings of the earth, “touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” (16:22).

The focus of the song turned to rejoicing as the people were reminded that the LORD is King and Sovereign of the earth (16:23-33). All the world was encouraged to “sing unto the LORD,” for every day declares His salvation, and His glory is not hid from the eyes of the heathen” (16:23-24). Fools look to the heavens and declare, “No God” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1), but the heavens themselves declare the glory of their Creator (16:25). He is great, and “is to be feared above all gods. 26For all the gods of the people are idols: but the Lord made the heavens” (16:25-26).

How should believers respond when they realize the glory and majesty of the LORD? With hearts of thanksgiving and rejoicing, we are to bring to the LORD our offerings, and worship Him who is holy (16:27-29). Though all about us seems in turmoil, we should not forget that God sustains the earth, and “the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved” (16:30).

All nature should rejoice, for “The LORD reigneth” (16:31). 32Let the sea roar…let the fields rejoice…the trees of the wood sing out at the presence of the Lord” (16:32-33a). Why all this rejoicing? For David, like all the faithful saints of the Old Testament, was looking for the coming of the LORD. The psalm declares, the LORD “cometh to judge the earth” (16:33b).

A Doxology of Praise (16:34-36)

David’s psalm concluded with a prayer for deliverance, and a doxology of thanksgiving. I can hear the crescendo of voices and instruments, as the people sang, “34O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever” (16:34). Acknowledging that salvation is from God (16:35), the song fell silent with the last refrain: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel for ever and ever” (16:36). The voices of the people thundered in response, “Amen, and praised the Lord” (16:36).

1 Chronicles 16 concluded with a register of Levites that had been assigned to minister before the Ark in Jerusalem (16:37-38), and the names of men assigned to attend the altar and sacrifices in Gibeon, where the tabernacle of Moses remained (16:39-40). As in Jerusalem, so it was in Gibeon, that musicians accompanied the worship of the LORD (16:41-42).

Closing thoughts – With the celebration ended, David and all Israel returned to their houses (16:43). Though the episode with Michal, the daughter of Saul, and the first wife of David was unwarranted and disheartening (15:29), the past was the past and David and the nation looked forward to the blessings of the LORD (1 Chronicles 17).

I encourage you to do the same! Be willing to forgive, and leave the past in the past. We too often stumble over trifles, make minor issues major, and fail to recognize the blessings of the LORD. Take a moment and count your blessings, and then pause and meditate on the greatness of God displayed in His Creation, and in your salvation.

Let all the earth rejoice, and praise the LORD.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Embrace the joy of unity, and love one another! (1 Chronicles 12)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 12

We considered 1 Chronicles 11 in our prior Scripture reading, and the names of the mighty men, the great men of war, who were the leaders of the tribes of Israel when David was ordained king of a united Israel. 1 Chronicles 12continues a registry of the names of warriors who distinguished themselves on the battlefield, and were loyal to David.

Consider four groups of men and tribes who swore allegiance to David (12:1-40)

The first, the men of Benjamin who joined David when he was exiled from Israel, and living among the Philistines in Ziklag (12:1-7). Ziklag served as David’s stronghold during his fugitive years. Recalling Saul was a Benjaminite, the betrayal of skilled warriors from his own tribe had to have been discouraging for the king. The men of Benjamin were skilled, formidable warriors, and “could use both the right hand and the left in hurling stones and shooting arrows out of a bow” (12:2; Judges 20:16).

Joining David’s band of men earlier than the Benjamites (12:1-7), were the men of the tribe of Gad. They came to David while he lived in the wilderness. “The Gadites there separated themselves unto David into the hold [i.e., stronghold] to the wilderness men of might” (12:8). They were a welcome addition to David’s band for they brought with them skills that had been proven in battle. Strong and powerful, they were prepared to battle hand-to-hand (for the buckler was a small shield used in sword warfare). In battle, the faces of the Gadites displayed the fierceness of lions, and they were flight of foot, as “swift as the roes [gazelles] upon the mountains” (12:8). Eleven great men of Gad were named (12:9-13), and they are remembered for swimming across the Jordan River in flood stage to join David (12:15).

Coming at a later date than the Benjamites and Gadites, were other “children of Benjamin and Judah to the hold unto David” (12:16). David went out to prove the credibility of those latecomers, and proposed a treaty, saying, “If ye be come peaceably unto me to help me, mine heart shall be knit unto you: but if ye be come to betray me to mine enemies, seeing there is no wrong in mine hands, the God of our fathers look thereon, and rebuke it” (12:17). Speaking on behalf of the men of Benjamin and Judah, Amasai swore his allegiance to David, saying, “Thine are we, David, And on thy side, thou son of Jesse [who was of the tribe of Judah]: Peace, peace be unto thee, And peace be to thine helpers; For thy God helpeth thee. Then David received them, and made them captains of the band” (12:18).

1 Chronicles 12:19-22 is a reminder of the time that David and his men had sought refuge from King Saul, and lived among the Philistines (1 Samuel 29-30). When the Philistines went up to battle Israel, their leaders refused to allow David to be among them, fearing he would lead his men turn on them in the midst of the battle with King Saul’s army (12:19; 1 Samuel 29). When David withdrew from the battle, there were many men of Manasseh who deserted Saul, and joined with David (12:20). They, like others of Israel, were men of war, and strengthened David’s hand in Israel (12:21-22).

1 Chronicles 12:23-40 gives us the names of the tribes, and the number of men who came together at Hebron to “to turn the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word of the Lord” (12:23; 2 Samuel 5:1-5). I will not take time to enumerate the tribes and the thousands of men who swore their allegiance to David, but I invite you to consider the character of those men who were confident that God had chosen David to be king of Israel.

Judah’s men came bearing “shield and spear,” and were ready for battle (12:24). The men of Simeon were “mighty men of valour for the war” (12:25). The men of Issachar had insight and discernment (12:32), and those of Zebulun were “expert in war, with all instruments of war” (12:33). They did not break rank in battle, and flee. They were “not of double heart,” but were stable and trustworthy (12:33).

One hundred thousand men from Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, tribes on the east side of the Jordan River came to Hebron, “to make David king over all Israel: and all the rest also of Israel were of one heart to make David king” (12:38).

The tribes of Israel celebrated David’s coronation with a three-day festival (12:39), enjoying meats, cakes, wine, and oil that were supplied by the nearest tribes, Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali (12:40).

Closing thoughtOur Scripture reading ends on a memorable note, “for there was joy in Israel” (12:40).

Though there was “one heart,” and “joy in Israel,” David lived in a sinful, fallen world, and in the midst of a sinful people. While children’s storybooks sometimes end with the phrase, “They lived happily ever after,” that summary is beyond man’s reach in this mortal life. In fact, the next chapter in David’s life will prove tragic (1 Chronicles 13).

There is joy when the hearts of God’s people, and their leaders are intertwined and dedicated to the glory of God; however, know such joy is fleeting. I encourage you: Embrace the joy of unity, and love one another! (John 13:34; 15:12, 17; Romans 13:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 John 3:11; 1 John 4:7).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD, My Creator and my God (Psalm 104) – Part 2

Scripture reading – Psalm 103; Psalm 104

The author of Psalm 104 though unknown, he continues the spirit of worship and praise, focusing upon God as the Creator, provider, and sustainer of creation.

This devotional is the second of two devotionals for today. The first focused on Psalm 103. This devotional will consider Psalm 104.

Psalm 104 – Creation is God’s Glory on Display

Psalm 104 needs little explanation or commentary. Its simplicity, and beauty can inspire saint and sinner to contemplate the earth, sun, stars, and planets, and understand that all creation is a testimony of God’s person and existence. The pen of the author sings the praises of the LORD, saying, “1Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, thou art very great; Thou art clothed with honour and majesty” (104:1).

Psalm 104 unfolds much like the timeline of the first five days of creation (Genesis 1).

The first day of creation, God’s light, His shekinah glory stretched across the heavens (104:2), and He made the heavens His abode (104:3; Genesis 1:1-5). (Take time to look up into the sky, and ponder the majesty of God). In the words of the psalmist, “[He] maketh the clouds his chariot: Who walketh upon the wings of the wind” (104:3).

The second day of creation is described as the day the LORD “laid the foundations of the earth” (104:5; Genesis 1:6-8; Job 38:4). How did this ancient psalmist know “the waters stood above the mountains” in the beginning? God revealed to him that He had spoken in the beginning, and the waters were separated from the dry land (104:6-9). In case you have ever wondered how the vast waters of the ocean are held in place by the sands on the seashore, the Creator “hast set a bound that they [waters] may not pass over; That they turn not again to cover the earth” (104:9).

On the third day of creation, God sent fresh waters throughout the earth, where the thirst of beasts might be quenched (104:10-11), and to water the grasses, vegetables, and trees of the earth (104:10-18). Then, on the fourth day of creation, God set the stars, the sun, and moon in place, and by them the days, and season were set (104:19-23).

Pondering the creation of the fifth day, the psalmist exclaimed, “24O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all: The earth is full of thy riches” (104:24). God created the teeming creatures of the seas on the fifth day (Genesis 1:20-23), and made provision for their food (104:24-30). The psalmist observed, it is the LORD who gives, and takes life (104:29), and He has made provision to renew the earth (104:30).

The subject of creation concludes in Psalm 104 with the fifth day.

The psalmist did not detail the events of the sixth day when God created life on dry land (Genesis 1:24-25), and made man in His image (Genesis 1:26-27); nor did he consider the seventh day when God rested (Genesis 2:1-3).

Rather than consider man, the height of God’s creation, the focus of the psalm turned to contemplating the glory of God displayed in His creation: “31The glory of the Lord shall endure for ever: The Lord shall rejoice in his works” (104:31).

Closing thoughts: Having considered all God had created, the psalmist burst out with song: “33I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. 34My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord” (104:33-34).

Take a few moments, and ponder the glory of creation, and remember, it is a display of your Creator’s glory. Let us join with the psalmist, and lift up our voices and say,

“I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being” (103:34).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Don’t Worry, Our God Changes Not! (Psalm 102)

Scripture reading – Psalm 102

The author of Psalm 102 is not known; however, the title of this psalm may offer insight into the period in which it may have been composed. The title reads, A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord.” Speculative on my part, but I am in agreement with some scholars who suggest its author may have been one of the children of Israel who was living in Babylon during the captivity.

A Cry of Lamentation (Psalm 102:1-11)

Assuming the psalm was penned by an exile, I understand the pitiful cry of its author who has earnestly prayed, and longed for the LORD to lend a sympathetic ear and answer his prayer (102:1-2). Reflecting on his miseries, the psalmist painted his physical and emotional state (102:3-8).

He felt his life was passing, and his bones were wasting away (102:3). His heart was depressed, and his appetite lost (102:4). Physically, he had been reduced to skin and bones (102:5). Like a sparrow that had lost its mate, he moaned there was no one to comfort him (102:6-7).

The psalmist did not identify his adversary; but his enemy had been unrelenting in his attacks (102:8). He had become inconsolable. He could not hide his sorrows, and his tears flowed till they ran into his drink (102:9). Like a fading shadow, or grass that withers in the heat of the sun, he felt he was perishing (102:11).

A Confession of Faith, Hope, and Trust (Psalm 102:12-22)

In the midst of his darkest hour, the psalmist looked past this mortal, temporal life, and prayed, 12But thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever; And thy remembrance unto all generations” (102:12). With his hope renewed, he confessed his confidence that the LORD had appointed a time when He would “have mercy upon Zion” (Zion was a reference to the mountain range upon which Jerusalem and the Temple had been built, 102:13). Knowing the LORD would not forsake Israel forever, the author believed He had set the time He would renew His favor, and Jerusalem would be rebuilt (102:14-16).

Looking beyond sorrows, the psalmist was confident, though God was enthroned in heaven, His eye was always upon His people, and He heard their groanings (102:19-20). Stirring hope anew, our author looked forward to the time the LORD’S name would be declared in His city, and the people would worship, and serve Him (102:21-22).

The Majesty of God Overshadows Human Frailty (Psalm 102:23-28)

Have you ever been through dark times? Do you recall how you felt as though you were riding a rollercoaster, and experiencing the physical, emotional, and spiritual ups and downs of life?

Our psalmist began Psalm 102 with a prayer and cry for sympathy, but then his faith carried him to spiritual heights, and he believed the LORD had heard, and would answer his prayers. Yet, from a pinnacle of rejoicing, the present realities of his sorrows suddenly plunged him into a sensation that his strength would fail him (102:23a), his life would be shortened (102:23b), and he would not live to see Israel restored to her homeland (102:24).

Then, the psalmist remembered. He remembered God had revealed Himself as the Creator (Genesis 1), and He had “laid the foundation of the earth: And the heavens [were] the work of [God’s] hands” (102:25). He foresaw the temporal nature of the earth, the stars, and the planets, and that they would all “perish…[and] wax old like a garment” (10:26; Luke 21:33). He believed the LORD would change the earth and the heavens like you and I change our clothes (102:26; 2 Peter 3:13).

I believe our author was familiar with Isaiah’s prophecies, for the LORD had revealed to that prophet, “17For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: And the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind” (Isaiah 65:17). He surely knew the LORD had promised Israel, “22For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, Shall remain before me, saith the Lord, So shall your seed [Israel] and your name remain” (Isaiah 66:22).

Closing thoughts – The earth and the heavens are temporal, and the days of a man’s life pass “like a shadow” (102:11); however, the LORD is immutable and eternal, for His “years shall have no end” (102:27).

Be confident! Every promise of God is backed up by His divine character, and He is immutable, and eternal!(102:28)

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Season of Sorrow, But the End is Rejoicing (Psalm 88, 92)

A word from the author: My purpose for writing these daily devotions is to give a historical context, an explanation when necessary, and application of spiritual truths I often label as “closing thoughts.” I pray my effort proves to be a blessing to you and your families. With the heart of a shepherd, Pastor Travis D. Smith – HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

Two chapters in the Book of Psalms are the subject of our Scripture reading and today’s devotional. Psalm 88 is a psalm by “Heman the Ezrahite,” and was an appeal to the LORD for mercy and grace, in the midst of sorrows and troubles. Psalm 92 is described in its title as “A Psalm or Song for the Sabbath Day.”

Psalm 88 – “A Psalm of Lamentation”

What troubles and sorrows the author was facing is not revealed in the verses of the psalm; however, it was certainly a time of great trial for the author who appealed to the LORD, calling upon the “God of my salvation” (88:1). The cry and prayer of the psalmist was “day and night” (88:1), as he poured out his heart to the LORD (88:2).

Heman felt as though he would die if the LORD did not relieve him of the burdens of his troubles (88:3-6). Adding to his grief, he felt he was oppressed by God’s anger (88:7), and complained of loneliness, writing, “8Thou hast put away mine acquaintance [friend; kindred spirit] far from me; Thou hast made me an abomination [detestable] unto them: I am shut up [restrained; confined], and I cannot come forth” (88:8). (Some who have had COVID, or been quarantined because of it, have faced this loneliness.)

Overcome with tears, the psalmist wrote, “I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee” (88:9). He pled with the LORD to spare his life, for should he die, he would be unable to give testimony of the LORD’S character (88:10). In the grave, he could not share the mercies of the LORD, or tell others of His faithfulness and love (88:11-12).

The reason for Heman’s trials, and troubles is not known, but his plea that he might be heard was insistent (88:13). He felt abandoned by God, and prayed, “14Lord, why castest [reject; expel] thou off my soul? Why hidest thou thy face from me?” (88:14) Exhausted from his afflictions (88:15), overwhelmed by his sorrows, he confessed, “15I am afflicted [crushed] and ready to die from my youth up” (88:15). He felt he had suffered his whole life, even from his youth. The psalm concludes finding Heman in a dark place. He confessed he felt abandoned by those who loved him, and it seemed as though only darkness was his friend (88:18).

Closing thought: If not yet, you will one day suffer disappointments in this earthly life. In fact, you may find yourself in a similar dark place where we found Heman. He was a spiritual leader, a musician in the LORD’S sanctuary, nevertheless, though he prayed his focus was on himself…his sorrows, physical sufferings, and loneliness.

A dark place indeed. It is in such an hour, that we are challenged to bow our hearts to the will of the LORD, and accept He is sovereign. May we be like Job of old, and trust God knowing he is faithful (Job 42:10, 17).

Psalm 92 – “A Psalm or Song for the Sabbath Day”

We find the author of Psalm 92 rejoicing in the LORD on the Sabbath. The psalmist rehearses five things that were good: It was good “to give thanks,” and good “to sing praises,” It was good to begin the day praising the LORD for his kindness, and end the day reflecting on His faithfulness (92:1-2). It was also good to worship the LORD in song, and meditate upon Him with a “solemn sound” (92:3).

We saw in Psalm 88 that there are seasons of life that are filled with sorrows, and the author of Psalm 92 reminds us that there is also a cause for rejoicing in the LORD (92:4-5). Believers are privileged to know what the “brutish” men of this world cannot know (92:6). While the wicked appear to spring up, and flourish like weeds, the psalmist reminds us the justice of God will demand their everlasting judgment (92:7-9).

The author of Psalm 92 anticipated God’s loving favor. Like the “horn” that was a sign of strength among beasts, the psalmist was confident the LORD would strengthen him. Although the wicked seemed to prosper, the psalmist foresaw they would suffer judgment, and the righteous would “flourish like the palm tree…[and] grow like a cedar in Lebanon” (92:12, the palm flourishes in drought, and the cedar of Lebanon was a picture of strength).

Psalm 92 concludes with an amazing promise to those who have lived righteous lives: “14They shall still bring forth fruit [be fruit bearers] in old age; They shall be fat [healthy; lit. full of sap] and flourishing [i.e. evergreen]; 15To shew that the Lord is upright [faithful]: He is my rock [security], and there is no unrighteousness in him [the LORD]” (92:14-15).

Closing thought: Psalm 92:14-15 promises all that a person could ask: to live to a ripe old age, and your life be a testimony of fruitfulness, healthy, and flourishing. What a great promise, but remember that promise is only for the righteous whose faith and hope is in the LORD. You cannot be righteous in the sight of God, without knowing Christ as Savior. Turn from your sinful ways, trust Christ as your Savior\Redeemer, and accept God’s offer of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith