Category Archives: Psalms

An Answer to the Irrelevancy of the 21st Century Church

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 125-127

Psalms 125-127 continues a section of songs in the Book of Psalms known as “A Song of Degrees”.  As a reminder, though there is some debate regarding the word “degrees”, many suggest pilgrims sang this collection of psalms as they ascended to Jerusalem and the Temple for a feast day.  The mention of Mount Zion in Psalms 125 and 126 support that theory.

We live in a sin-cursed, fallen world where the wicked often seem advantaged in the course of our journey; however, Psalm 125 exhorts us to put our faith in the LORD for our life and fate is in His hands.  Unlike the challenges of this vacillating, ever-changing world, the saints who “trust in the LORD” are stable (125:1), not moved by fear or given to flight.

Built upon the mountains of Zion, Jerusalem provided the people of that city a natural, fortified protection from their enemies.  Sitting upon the mount, Jerusalem was an impressive site from a distance and the deep ravines that cut through the mount were formidable.  As the mountains of Zion provided safety and security to Jerusalem, the LORD provides the same to His people whose trust is in Him.

Psalm 126 records the joy of the Jews as they returned from Babylonian captivity to Mount Zion.  For the Jews, it was a long-awaited prophecy fulfilled, a dream come true for the nation (126:1).   The people returned with their mouths “filled with laughter” and their tongues “with singing” (126:2a).

The heathen of the land marveled that Israel, after nearly seventy years in exile, was returning to her land (126:2) and testified, “The LORD hath done great things for them” (126:2b).  The Jews echoed the same saying, “The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad” (126:3).

Returning to the land after captivity was fraught with challenges for the Jews.  Jerusalem was in ruins; heathen people took possession of their lands and houses in their absence and, after seven decades, thorns and thistles had reclaimed the land.  The people faced the challenge of rebuilding their cities and walls and the hardship of clearing the land; however, the law of nature promised, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy” (126:5).

Having the privilege of growing up on a small farm, I remember well clearing the land of rocks, pulling up briars and weeds, and breaking the ground in anticipation of planting seed.  As a child, I did not appreciate the labor and hardships necessary to plant seed; however, I enjoyed the fruit (i.e. vegetables) of my labor…sweet corn, green beans, yellow squash, juicy tomatoes, and cucumbers!

The principle for “sowing and reaping” is applicable to our spiritual lives (126:6). 

While the farmer’s plow clears the land of briars and thorns, the toil of reading, studying and meditating in God’s Word pulls up briars of worldliness and clears thistles of lusts from our hearts, preparing our souls for precious truths and sowing in our hearts principles that strengthen our character, shape our thoughts and mature us.

Psalm 126:5-6 gives us a principle that is applicable to sharing the Gospel and the work of the Great Commission.   We are promised, tears precede joy (126:5) and sowing “precious seed” promises a harvest of fruit (126:6).

Were there more tears and toil on our part in sharing the Gospel, would there not be more reason for rejoicing?  Were we to show more compassion for lost souls and hurting hearts, would we not have greater cause for joy?

I am afraid the majority of believers are cocooned in selfish pursuits and content to toil away their time, talents and life isolated from hurting hearts and lost souls.  No wonder the 21st century church finds itself irrelevant; we are entertaining the masses or huddled in our Bible studies, to the neglect of going forth weeping for lost souls and “bearing precious seed” (126:6)!

Galatians 6:7-9 – Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
8  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
9  And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

My LORD Never Slumbers or Sleeps!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 120-121

Our scripture reading today is from a section of fifteen psalms, Psalms 120-134, titled “A Song of Degrees”.  The designation “degrees” might refer to one’s elevation or ascent to higher ground and the psalms in this section are believed by some to have been sung by pilgrims journeying up to Jerusalem for a feast day.  Others suggest the “degrees” might be a reference to our modern concept of musical keys or scales.  Today’s scripture reading is the first two of the psalms in this section, Psalms 120-121.

The author of Psalm 120 is David and it was apparently written as a reflection on a time of trouble and affliction.  The title of Psalm 120 in my Bible is, “David prays against Doeg and reproves his tongue”.  Who was Doeg and why did he cause David such distress?

When David fled from king Saul and was hungry, he requested “hallowed bread” of Ahimelech, the high priest, bread dedicated to the LORD, for himself and his men (21:1-6).  Doeg, identified as “a certain man of the servants of Saul” (1 Samuel 21:7), overheard the request and took notice it was David.

King Saul, hearing how the high priest gave aid to David and his men, commanded his servants to slay the priest and his household; however, the servants of Saul refused to harm the LORD’s priests (1 Samuel 22:16-17).  Doeg, however, had no conscience and rose up and slew eight-five priests (22:18).

With that background, we understand David writing, “In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me” (Psalm 120:1).  There is no doubt David was downcast when he learned men who aided him had died for his sake.  Doeg perpetuated the lie David was Saul’s enemy and the king made war against David (Psalm 120:2-7).

Some refer to Psalm 121 as the “Pilgrim’s Psalm”, one the saints of God sang on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship and offer sacrifices to the LORD.

I suggest four major points for Psalm 121.  The first is the psalmist’s Pledge to seek the LORD: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help [aid]” (121:1).

I am not certain the dangers the psalmist faced; however, I know where he looked for help… “the hills” (121:1).  He did not look to himself and live by his wits or to others hoping they might come and save him.  His confidence was in the LORD.

The second point is the Promise; the psalmist was confident in the LORD’s care (121:2).

Psalm 121:2  – “My help cometh from the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God], which made [created; fashioned] heaven [sky; sun, stars, moon] and earth [land].”

The psalmist was confident the LORD Who created heaven and earth was more than a spectator or bystander of His creation.    He affirmed the LORD would come to his aid in a time of trouble.

The psalmist was confident in the LORD’s Protection (121:3-7).  He looked to the LORD as his Deliverer in times of trouble and Keeper Who never slumbers or sleeps (121:3-4).

Psalm 121:3 – “He [the LORD] will not suffer thy foot [walk] to be moved [waver; shake]: he that keepeth [guard; watch; preserve] thee will not slumber [sleep].”

Psalm 121:4 – “Behold, He [the LORD] that keepeth [guard; watch; preserve] Israel [posterity of Jacob] shall neither slumber [sleep; i.e. be drowsy] nor sleep [slack; i.e. grow old].”

The psalmist was confident the LORD was his Protector (121:5).  Like a shepherd keeps his sheep from danger, the LORD keeps watch over His people.  The LORD is “thy shade”, a place of retreat, refreshing and where one’s strength is revived.

The LORD is also Guardian of His people (121:7) and protects them from “all evil” (121:7).

Psalm 121:7  – “The LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] shall preserve [guard; watch] thee from all evil [wickedness; bad; calamity]: He shall preserve [guard; watch] thy soul [life; person].”

That does not mean “bad things” do not happen to God’s people; however, it does mean God is able to turn “bad things” into good for those who love Him and place their trust in Him (Romans 8:28-29).  David writes the same when he assures us:

Psalm 91:9-10 – “Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; 10  There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.”

Finally, we note the LORD is a Perpetual Shepherd (Psalm 121:8).

Psalm 121:8 – “The LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] shall preserve [guard; watch] thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore [perpetually].”

Like a shepherd keeps watch over his sheep, the psalmist assures us “the LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in” (121:8a)

What a comforting truth!  There is no place beyond the LORD’s watch. 

The LORD keeps us when we rise in the morning until we lay our head on the pillow in the evening.  The LORD keeps us when we are young and strong and when we grow old and frail.  The LORD is with us in health and sickness!  When we travel afar and when our steps lead home, the LORD is with us.   He is with us in our down sittings and our uprisings.

My friend, if you are believer you are a child of the King, forever secure in the LORD.  You can be assured, Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever” (Psalm 23:6).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Failure to Thrive

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalm 119

Today’s scripture reading is Psalm 119.  With the exception of Psalm 23, Psalm 119 may be the favorite psalm of saints down through the centuries.  Its celebration of the Word and Law of God might seem out of step with many 21st century believers’ emphasis on grace [which is in danger of becoming “lawless grace” that knows little of the holiness of God]; however, its truths are eternal and its lessons regarding what manner of people the saints ought to be timeless.

I preached a series of messages on Psalm 119 in January 2016 and authored a brief series of devotions on the chapter during that time.  Today’s devotional commentary was first posted on this blog, January 25, 2016.

Psalm 119:129 – “Thy testimonies [witness; admonitions; ordinances] are wonderful [marvelous]: therefore doth my soul [life; person] keep [preserve; guard] them.”

“Failure to thrive” is an ominous term I have heard doctors use for both the very young and elderly patients.  The terminology is not a disease, but a description of a patient who is failing; failing to gain weight, failing to grow and failing to mature.  It is a state of being undernourished despite heroic actions taken to encourage physical weight gain and well-being.

The term, “failure to thrive”, is a fitting diagnosis for many church members.  They come to church faithfully and sit in pews year after year with no visible signs of spiritual life, health or growth.  

American Christians are hardly undernourished when it comes to physical weight; however, there are too many who are spiritually undernourished…failing to grow and mature.

The writer of Hebrews observed the same malady in the 1st century church when he wrote:

Hebrews 5:12-14 – “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers [Instructors], ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God [Old Testament sayings]; and are become [having degenerated] such as have need of milk [unable to chew solid food], and not of strong meat [solid food; advance doctrines].
13  For every one that useth [drink] milk is unskilful [ignorant; inexperienced] in the word [doctrine; preaching] of righteousness: for he is a babe [spiritually immature].
14  But strong meat [solid food] belongeth to them that are of full age [mature], even those who by reason of use [exercised in the Word and Law of God] have their senses [discernment] exercised [train; workout; disciplined exercise] to discern both good and evil [moral and immoral].”

anorexic ChristiansFailure to thrive” is the malady of the 21st century church.   Although we live in a day of mass communication and modern technology has put within our reach opportunities of studying and hearing God’s Word taught 24\7; the reality is there is a gross ignorance of the scriptures.  Like the 1st century, there are Christians who should be faithful students and teachers of the Bible, but are content with being spoon-fed the puree of elementary truths in churches more focused on entertaining the masses than the faithful exposition of God’s Word.

A spiritually anorexic Christian is the portrait of 21st century Christianity in America!  No wonder sin and lawless liberty abounds within our churches; we have fostered a generation of carnal Christians who demand pandering because they are spiritual babies desensitized to sin by their ignorance of the Truth!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.”

September 27, 2017

Scripture Reading – Psalms 114-116

Our scripture today begins with Psalms 114 and reminds us the God of heaven is LORD, Sovereign of creation and the winds and waves serve His bidding.

As a song of worship and praise, the psalm reminded Israel how God had lovingly and providentially gone before His people; delivering the nation out of Egypt, opening the Red Sea and Jordan River, allowing them to cross dry land into the Promise Land (114:1-3).

Psalm 115:1-8 is among my favorite passages in the Psalms contrasting the majesty of the God of Creation (Psalm 115:3) with the foolishness of those who worship idols.   While the psalmist states confidently, “our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased”, the heathen worship idols that are nothing more than “the work of men’s hands” (115:3).

Foolish man!  Why worship and sacrifice to objects made of “silver and gold” (115:4)?  Why call upon idols that “have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: 6  They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: 7  They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat” (115:4-7).   Sadly, those who worship deaf, dumb and blind objects become like that which they worship (115:8)!

Turning his thoughts to the LORD, the psalmist exhorts all who know the LORD, the nation of Israel, the priests of the house of Aaron and “Ye that fear [revere] the LORD, trust [be confident, secure] in the LORD: He is their help [aid] and shield [protector; i.e. a small shield used for defense in close combat]” (115:9-11).  The LORD is not only a helper in times of trouble and our protector, He is also a God of grace and promises to “bless them that fear…both small and great” (115:13).

The author of Psalm 116 opens his psalm with a sincere testimony of his love for the LORD, attesting he had cried to the LORD in his sorrow and He heard his cry.   The psalmist does not name the “trouble and sorrow” (116:3) that were his affliction; however, it was serious enough he describes them as the “sorrows of death” (116:1-3).  Reflecting how the LORD had graciously saved him out of trouble, the psalmist exclaims with joy, “I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications” (116:1).

Rather than one stream of poetic thought, we find many reflections on the character of the LORD and the troubles out of which He had saved His servant.

Psalm 116:4-8 – “Then called I upon the name of the LORD…5  Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful6  The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me….the LORD hath dealt bountifull… 8  For [the LORD] hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.”

Having reflected on the faithfulness of the LORD and how He heard and answered his prayers, the psalmist responded with a series of vows to the LORD and all who were his witnesses (116:9-19).

Psalm 116:9 – I will walk before [live; i.e. conscious of the presence] the LORD in the land of the living.

Psalm 116:13 – I will take the cup of salvation [possibly the Passover cup, recalling how the LORD had saved Israel in Egypt when the angel passed over the homes of Hebrews when he saw the blood on the door], and call upon the name of the LORD.

Psalm 116:14 – I will pay [complete; finish] my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people.

Psalm 116:17 – I will offer [i.e. sacrifice; make] to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving [praise], and will call [publicly proclaim] upon the name of the LORD.

Psalm 116:18-19 – I will pay [complete; finish] my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people, 19  In the courts of the LORD’S house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD.

I close today inviting you to consider Psalm 116:15 – Precious [excellent; honorable; noble] in the sight [presence] of the LORD is the death [i.e. the day of death] of his saints [the godly].”

Remembering the author is a man rejoicing the LORD saved him from the “sorrows of death” (116:3), it gives us pause to reflect on verse 15 when he writes “the death of His saints” is “precious in the sign of the LORD” (116:15).

While the LORD is sovereign and hears and answers the prayers of some and spares them from death; others cry to the LORD in their affliction and come to die.  Some He restores to health while others pass through the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4).

Man fears the inevitability of death; however, from the LORD’s heavenly perspective the death of His saints is precious, excellent and noble.   The LORD restores some saints to health and life while others die and enter into the eternal presence of the LORD.

I close with the apostle John’s description of heaven found in Revelation 22.

Revelation 21:3-7  – And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
4  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
5  And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
6  And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
7  He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD is Sovereign of Wind and Water

September 6, 2017

Scripture Reading – Psalms 105-107

We have three psalms before us for our scripture reading, Psalm 105, Psalm 106 and Psalm 107.

Psalm 105 is a psalm of praise and thanksgiving and rehearses the LORD’s providential care of Israel, His chosen people.  The contextual timeline of the psalm begins with Abraham, runs through Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian slavery and the nation’s wanderings in the wilderness for 40 years.

Psalm 105 is a testimony of God’s care of Israel in the wilderness by a cloud to cover their journey in the day and a fire to light their way at night (105:39).   When they were hungry the LORD gave them quail for meat and manna for bread.  When they were thirsty, water gushed out of the rock (105:40-42).   When the people murmured and tempted Him, the LORD was longsuffering and remembered His covenant promise to Abraham and brought his seed into the land He had promised where they might serve Him and “observe His statutes, and keep His laws” (105:45).

Like Psalm 105, Psalm 106 is a song of praise and thanksgiving to the LORD (106:1).  Psalm 106 reflects on God’s loving care and provision for Israel in spite of the unfaithfulness of the people.  The psalm becomes a penitential psalm (a psalm of confession and repentance) when the psalmist recalls the sins of his forefathers and identifies with them his own bent to sin (106:6).   The bulk of the psalm remembers the LORD’s providential care of Israel in the wilderness and His patience with His people in spite of their sin and rebellion (106:7-48).

Hebrew scribes divide the Book of Psalms into five books: Book 1 consists of Psalms 1-41; Book 2 consists of Psalms 42-72; Book 3 consists of Psalms 73-89; Book 4 consists of Psalms 90-106; and the fifth book is Psalms 107-150.  Psalm 107 is the first psalm in the fifth and last Book of the Psalms.

Psalm 107 begins with a call to give thanks to the LORD for redeeming Israel out of Babylon (107:2-7).   The psalmist remembers how the LORD preserved His people in exile and restored them to the land He had promised Abraham would be his inheritance.  The psalmist writes:

Psalm 107:8-9 – “Oh that men would praise [give thanks] the LORD for His goodness [grace; mercy; loving-kindness], and for His wonderful works to the children of men! 9  For He satisfieth [fills] the longing [seeking; hungry] soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness [good and pleasant things].”

Why should Israel praise the LORD and give thanks?

Because the LORD is good, merciful and a God of grace! 

When His people turned from Him, the LORD humbled them in prison and when they cried out He heard their cry and delivered them (107:10-16).  When they sinned and became sick, He healed them (107:17-22).   When rocked with trouble and turmoil, like seamen at sea caught in the fury of a storm who call out to the LORD, Israel called upon the LORD and He heard their cry and quieted their troubles (107:23-32).

Psalm 107:33-43 is especially pertinent for the United States after witnessing the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey ravaging the coast of Texas and the worrisome approach of Hurricane Irma for Florida.

Remembering God is Sovereign of nature, the psalmist reminds us the LORD, “turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground; 34 A fruitful land into barrenness…35 the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings” (107:33-35).

Friend, God is just, and He blesses the land for the sake of the righteous and brings judgment upon the land because the wicked dwell therein (107:36-41).

Wise are they who understand the way of the LORD and walk in His commandments for “they shall understand [regard; be instructed in] the lovingkindness [mercy; goodness; grace] of the LORD” (107:43).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Don’t Worry; God is in Control!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 93-95

Our scripture reading today is three psalms, Psalm 93, Psalm 94 and Psalm 95.  For the sake of brevity, my devotional commentary will focus on Psalm 93.

Scholars believe Psalm 93 was written after the Babylonian captivity when the Jews returned from exile during the reign of Cyrus of Persia.  In a matter of 70 years, Israel had witnessed the implosion of Babylon, arguably the first great world empire.  Nebuchadnezzar had conquered the known world in his day and among the many nations led away to serve him was Israel.  Unlike other ancient nations that resettled and assimilated by the Chaldeans, the Jewish people maintained their identity as a chosen people, distinguished by God’s Law.

Israel’s return to their land and the rebuilding of the Temple and city of Jerusalem gave cause for the author of Psalm 93 to state three truths regarding God and His immutable character.  For the sake of this study, I will post my amplification of the text in a cursive font.

The first principle is, God is Sovereign and His Rule is Forever (93:1-2).

Psalm 93:1-2 – The LORD [Jehovah; the Eternal, Self-Existent God] reigneth [He reigns as King], he is clothed [wrapped in a robe] with majesty [lofty; exalted]; the LORD is clothed [wrapped in a robe] with strength [power; might], wherewith he hath girded [compass or encircled; clothed] himself: the world also is stablished [anchored; immovable; firm], that it cannot be moved [slip; waver; fall; brought down]. 2  Thy throne [place of authority] is established [anchored; immovable; firm] of old [from the beginning; since time began]: thou art from everlasting [eternal; forever; perpetual; always].

A study of world history yields the reality even the greatest nations rise and fall.  With the passing of time, every nation that has ever taken its place on the world stage inevitably evidences corruption and the decay of character and morality.  Such is not the case with the LORD whose sovereignty over His creation is majestic, unwavering and everlasting.  Nations rise and nations fall. Kings rule and presidents preside, but the reign of the LORD is everlasting.

The second principle is, God is Greater than My Circumstances (93:3-4).

Psalm 93:3-4 – The floods [rivers; streams] have lifted up [taken away; carried away], O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice [noise; sound; thunder]; the floods lift up their waves [i.e. pounding, crashing waves].
4  The LORD on high [above; i.e. sits in the highest place] is mightier [glorious; majestic] than the noise [sound; thunder] of many [great; much] waters, yea, than the mighty [glorious; majestic] waves [breaking, pounding waves] of the sea.

As I write this devotional some very dear friends and members of Hillsdale come to mind who are facing trials and troubles that might easily overwhelm them if it were not for the promise we find in verses 4: “The LORD on high is mightier” (93:4).

Mighty, destructive floodwaters are the picture the psalmist draws upon to describe circumstances that are powerful, sweeping and devastating (93:3).  Whether in person or on news broadcasts, we have witnessed the devastating power of floodwaters sweeping away everything in their path…homes, possessions, even lives are lost to the power of surging waters.

With that picture in mind, the psalmist writes, “The LORD on high is mightier” (93:4).   He is mightier than the thundering waters of a waterfall or the pounding waves of the sea.  He is mightier than the circumstances that seem ready to overwhelm you.  He is mightier than the sorrows and disappointments that have brought you low.

We have seen the LORD is Sovereign (93:1-2) and mightier than our circumstances (93:3-4), bringing us to our third principle found in Psalm 93: God is Faithful – His Word, Testimonies and Promises are Sure (93:5).

Psalm 93:5 – Thy testimonies [witness] are very sure [established; firm; faithful; enduring]: holiness [sacredness; hallownes] becometh [pleasant; befits] thine house [temple; household; residence], O LORD, for ever [continually].

God’s Word and promises never fail.  Israel’s return to their land as a nation fulfilled God’s promise He would not forget or forsake His people.  Surely there were times in Babylon when all seemed lost; the temple destroyed, the walls and city of Jerusalem had become nothing more than a pile of debris and the people removed from their land.  However, not a promise of the LORD had failed and the Jews were restored to their land.

Friend, take heart, God is Sovereign, greater and mightier than your circumstances, faithful to His promises, and His residence is holy forever!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Ever Feel Like Complaining, “Life’s Not Fair”?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 72-74

Three psalms make up our scripture reading today.  Psalm 72 is believed to be David’s prayer for God’s blessings on the reign of his son Solomon; however, a careful study of the psalm brings me to believe it is ultimately a psalm describing the universal kingdom over which Christ will reign and is therefore a prophetic psalm to be fulfilled when Christ returns and sets up His righteous kingdom upon the earth (72:1-3, 7).

Solomon’s kingdom was a great kingdom; however, Christ’s future kingdom will span “from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth” (72:8).  His will be a compassionate kingdom, “For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. 13  He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy” (72:12-13).

Psalm 73, introduced as “A Psalm of Asaph”, is followed by ten additional psalms attributed to him.   Asaph was a priest and musician in David’s court (1 Chronicles 6:39; 15:19; 16:7) and the author of Psalms 50 and Psalms 73-83.

Psalm 73 is a psalm of praise to the LORD and a testimony of Asaph’s own journey of faith in the God of Israel.  Asaph opens the psalm with an affirmation of God’s goodness:  Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart” (73:1).  Unlike sinful man of whom it is said, “there is none that doeth good” (Psalm 14:1; Romans 3:12), God is wholly, absolutely good and there is no evil or sin present in Him.  God is always and only good to Israel and to those who are of “a clean heart” (meaning pure, innocent and sincere heart).

In his heart, Asaph remembered the promises of God and the goodness of the LORD; however, in the midst of trials he struggled when he saw the wicked prosper (73:2-14).  The ungodly appeared to prosper while he faltered (73:13-14).  In other words, Asaph’s heart told him one thing (“trust the LORD”), while his feelings cried, “It’s not fair!”

Asaph appeared ready to quit his ministry as the king’s musician until he weighed the consequences of his decision and the offense it might be to the younger generation (73:15-16).  However, when Asaph entered the “the sanctuary of God” his perspective of the wicked and their end changed (73:17-20) and he confessed “my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins” (73:21).  Understanding the prosperity of the wicked is temporal (73:27), Asaph’s faith in the LORD and his desire to serve Him were renewed (73:28).

“Maschil of Asaph” is the subtitle of Psalm 74 and is an instructive or reflective poem.   Although attributed to “Asaph”, the content of the psalm describes the destruction of Jerusalem and temple (74:3, 6-8) that took place many years after David’s Asaph was dead.  Psalm 74 was most likely penned by a descendant of Asaph.

While Psalm 73 described Asaph’s personal struggles, the focus of Psalm 74 is on Israel’s struggles as a nation.  In the midst of numbering the nation’s sorrows and devastation (74:1-11), the psalmist recounts how God delivered Israel in past days (74:12-17) and cried out for the LORD to deliver His people (74:18-23).

Allow me to close by reflecting on Psalm 73 and Asaph’s renewed commitment to serve the LORD.

Although few will admit it, there are many who have known the temptation to say, “I quit!” and walk away from the burdens of marriage, family, friends, church and ministry.    In fact, for a season the ones who walk out on responsibilities appear happy, giving little thought to the ripple of consequences that might follow in the wake of their decision.   Driving Asaph’s motivation to continue his ministry was not only his love for the LORD and the king, but also his concern for how his decision would affect the next generation.  Surely that is a concern every pastor, teacher and parent should share.

May the LORD, our family, friends and the generation to follow us find us faithful!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith