Category Archives: Psalms

The Centrality of Music in Worship and Praise

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 149-150

Our year-long reading of the Psalms come to a close today on an appropriate theme… “Praise ye the LORD”.  Psalm 149 and Psalm 150 begin and end with a call to worship.  What an incredible thought that the LORD, our Creator Who is Almighty desires we His people praise Him.

Dogs bark, cats purr, lions roar, and eagles screech…but man alone has the means to communicate in words, song, and musical instruments his worship of the LORD through songs of praise.

I have taken liberty to add to today’s psalms my amplification of the closing chapters in this wonderful book of songs of worship and praise.  As one who loves music, I invite you to especially note the prominence of music, musical instruments, and trained musicians in worshipping the LORD.

Psalm 149:1-9 – Praise [Glory; Celebrate; Sing; Boast] ye the LORD. Sing unto the LORD a new [fresh] song, and his praise [hymn of adoration; song of praise] in the congregation [Assembly] of saints [the godly; pious].
2  Let Israel [lit. “He will rule as God”; another name for Jacob] rejoice [be glad; joyful] in him [i.e. the LORD] that made [Created] him [Israel or Jacob]: let the children of Zion [mount upon which Jerusalem was found] be joyful [be glad; rejoice] in their King.
3  Let them praise his name [the name of the LORD] in the dance [i.e. round dance; dance in circular motion]: let them sing praises [psalms] unto him with the timbrel [tambourine] and harp [the string instrument].
4  For the LORD taketh pleasure [delights; pleased] in his people [people of His congregation; like Israel]: he will beautify [glory; boast] the meek [poor; humble; lowly] with salvation [He will deliver; prosper].
5  Let the saints [the godly; pious] be joyful [i.e. jump for joy; rejoice] in glory [or splendor bestowed on them by the LORD]: let them sing aloud [rejoice; shout for joy] upon their beds.
6  Let the high [exaltation] praises of God [Almighty God] be in their mouth, and a twoedged sword in their hand;
7  To execute [work; create; make; show] vengeance [revenge] upon the heathen [Gentile nations], and punishments [chastening; rebuke; reproof] upon the people [nation];
8  To bind their kings [rulers of the Gentile nations] with chains, and their nobles [those who exercise authority] with fetters [chains; manacles that bind] of iron;
9  To execute [make; create] upon them the judgment [law; ordinance] written [prescribed]: this honour [glory; majesty; splendor] have all his saints [godly]. Praise [Glory; Celebrate; Sing; Boast] ye the LORD.

Psalm 150:1-6 – Praise [Glory; Celebrate; Sing; Boast]  ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary [holy; sacred place dedicated to the LORD]: praise him in the firmament [in the heavens] of his power [strength; might; majesty].
2  Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent [abundance] greatness.
3  Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery [lyre] and harp.
4  Praise him with the timbrel [tambourine] and dance [i.e. round dance; dance in circular motion]: praise him with stringed instruments and organs [flute; pipe].
5  Praise him upon the loud cymbals [large, clashing cymbals]: praise him upon the high sounding [jubilant; loud noise] cymbals [i.e. perhaps like a ringing bell].
6  Let every thing that hath breath [breath of life] praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.

It saddens me to witness the diminishing of congregational singing and choral anthems in the 21st century church.  

In today’s church, the choir, a central part of worship dating to the time of King David, has become little more than a backup for spotlight hungry semi-professionals vocalists.   Even worse, congregations singing great, majestic hymns of the Christian faith are relegated to audiences mumbling in almost muted silence, “Seven-Eleven Choruses” [seven words repeated eleven times].  Worship today is a far cry from the worship the psalmist describes in today’s psalms.

I praise the LORD He has blessed Hillsdale with skilled musicians who voluntarily give and use their talents when our congregation worships the LORD with hymns of worship and praise.  What a joy to have musicians and choir members who, week after week, dedicate their time and talents to serving the LORD and praising Him!

Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD” (Psalm 150:6).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Why Should You Trust the LORD?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 146-148

Our scripture reading today consist of three psalms, Psalms 146, 147 and 148.   I will limit my devotional commentary to Psalm 146.  The author of Psalm 146 is not known; however, his purpose in writing the psalm is obvious….it is a song of praise to the LORD.  The psalmist employs numerous names for God meant to describe His nature, personality, and character.

You will notice in the verses my amplification of the text in brackets.  Understanding a word in the Hebrew scriptures can be translated into English with more than one word, it is my desire to give you a broader understanding and insight into this beautiful psalm of praise for your own worship and edification.

Psalm 146:1-2 – 1  Praise [Hallelujah; Glory; Boast; Celebrate] ye the LORD [Yahweh; the sacred name of the LORD]. Praise the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God], O my soul.
2  While I live [have life] will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises [sing psalms] unto my God [Elohim; mighty God] while I have any being.

The psalmist begins Psalm 146 directing his praise and worship to the only One worthy of praise…the LORD (146:1-2).

Psalm 146:3-43  Put not your trust [confidence] in princes, nor in the son [children] of man, in whom there is no help [salvation; deliverance].
4  His breath [man’s breath] goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day [time] his thoughts perish.

The psalmist exhorts and admonishes the people to not put their trust or confidence in man (146:3-4).  Whether a prince among men or a mere mortal man…all men live under the sentence of death (Romans 6:23); their breath disappears as a vapor, their bodies return to dust and their plans and designs perish with them.

Such is the spiritual lesson the rich man encountered in Luke 12.  Experiencing an overflow of the fruits of his labor at the time of harvest, the rich man determined to tear down his barns and hoard God’s blessings (Luke 12:17-18).   God judged the man a fool (Luke 12:19-20).  His affections were on earthly riches and he died a spiritual pauper… “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God” (Luke 12:21).

While the rich man’s affections for earthly treasure perish with him, the psalmist describes the man who looks to the LORD as “Happy” (146:5) .

Psalm 146:55  Happy [Blessed; prosperous] is he that hath the God [Almighty God] of Jacob for his help [aid], whose hope [expectation] is in the LORD his God:

Why trust the LORD (146:6-9)?  The psalmist suggests four qualities that lead us to trust the LORD.

1) The LORD is Creator of heaven, earth, the sea and “all that therein is”. (146:6a)

Psalm 146:6 6  Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth [preserves; guards] truth for ever [i.e. God is forever faithful; trustworthy]:

 2) The LORD is faithful and true. (146:6b)

Psalm 146:7-9 7  Which executeth [lit. to make or prepare] judgment [justice] for the oppressed: which giveth food [bread and meat] to the hungry. The LORD looseth [sets at liberty] the prisoners: 8  The LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth [lifts up; comforts] them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous [just]:
9  The LORD preserveth [keeps watch; regards; saves] the strangers [sojourners]; he relieveth [bear witness; admonish; protects] the fatherless and widow: but the way [journey; path] of the wicked [ungodly; guilty] he turneth upside down [subverts; thwarts;overthrows].

3) The LORD is just and compassionate. (146:7-9)

Psalm 146:10 10  The LORD shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the LORD.

4) The LORD is King Eternal, the God of Zion of whose kingdom there is no end (146:10).

How foolish to trust man or place our confidence in earthly possessions!  The LORD is eternal, just, compassionate, faithful, true and our Creator!  Why trust any other?

Let all who know the LORD trust and praise Him!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

God Broke the Mold When He Made You!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 137-139

Our Scripture reading today consist of three individual psalms of worship, Psalms 137, 138, and 139.  Recent scripture readings in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah recorded historical events following Israel’s 70 years of captivity in Babylon.  Psalm 137, however; gives us a perspective on the sorrows the Jews bore upon their arrival in Babylon.

God raised up many prophets to warn Israel and Judah, should the people continue in their sins and rebellion against the Lord, He would deliver them to their enemies.  His people and their leaders: however, would not heed warnings of the Lord’s prophets and continued in their sins until all was lost.  Arriving in Babylon, God’s people were haunted by the memories of the Temple, the city and their homes destroyed by fire.  Humanly speaking, all was lost; and so we read,

Psalm 137:1 – “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.”

Psalm 138, the first of eight Psalms written by David and located in the closing chapters of this book (138-145), is a Psalm of praise and rejoicing.

Psalm 139, authored by David, is my primary focus for today’s devotional commentary titled, God Broke the Mold When He Made You!

 There was a man who lived in the 19th century whose delusions concerning God and creation has wrecked havoc in our world.  Charles Darwin traveled the world, denying the Creator, and in his book, Origin of the Species (1859), argued for the Theory of Evolution.  Although many of his suppositions have been proven impossible and rejected by credible scientists, the Theory of Evolution continues to be taught as the explanation for life and our physical universe in secular education institutions.

Make no mistake; what you believe concerning God as Creator dictates the answer to critical questions we all face: “Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? How should I live? Where am I going?”

David declares God is Omniscient (Psalm 139:1-6), Omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-12), and mankind’s Originator [lit. Creator\Architect\Designer] (Psalm 139:13-16)

God is Omniscient and knows all that is in your heart (Psalm 139:1-6).  He knows your fears, longings,  thoughts, and desires (139:1a); there is nothing concealed from him.  He knows all about you (139:2).  He knows everything you think in secret and everything you say in public (139:2b).  He savors the noble and excellent qualities of your life (139:3-6).

God is Omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-12).  He abides in every part and place of his creation and there is not a place where God is not present (139:7-8).

Psalm 139:7-8 – “Whither shall I go [walk; come; ] from thy spirit [God’s Spirit]? or whither shall I flee [i.e. be put to flight] from thy presence [face; countenance]? 8  If I ascend up [go up] into heaven [i.e. Heavens..the sky above; stars and planets], thou art there: if I make my bed in hell [Sheol; grave; pit; place of the souls of the dead], behold, thou art there.”

Because the LORD is omnipresent, we are never beyond His protection, love, or compassion (139:9-10).  You can take flight, but you are never beyond His grasp or reach.

Psalm 139:9-10  – “If I take [depart; carried away] the wings of the morning [dawn; first beams of morning light], and dwell [abide; remain; inhabit] in the uttermost parts [end; last] of the sea; 10  Even there [flight as fast as light or the depths of the sea] shall thy hand [power] lead [guide; bring] me, and thy right hand [i.e. considered the stronger side] shall hold [take hold; possess; handle; grasp] me.”

When the darkest hour of life is upon you, the light of the Lord is with you (139:11-12).

Psalm 139:11-12 – “If I say [speak], Surely the darkness [i.e. misery] shall cover [bruise; break; overwhelm] me; even the night shall be light [day; light] about me. 12  Yea, the darkness [i.e. misery] hideth [obscures] not from thee; but the night shineth [shines; enlightens; gives light]  as the day: the darkness [i.e. misery] and the light [luminous light] are both alike to thee.”

God is not only Omniscient and Omnipresent; He is also your Originatoryour Creator, Designer and Architect (Psalm 139:13-16).  Herein is the greatest argument against abortion:  Knowing God is Creator and human life sacred, abortion is an unconscionable evil.

My friend, you are special, unique; one of a kind; there is none other like you. Modern science has proven just how unique you are.  Your ears are geometrically unique as is your body odor (secreting a combination of 44 compounds).  Your fingerprints and fingernails are unique with loops and swirls forming patterns unique to you.  Even the pores of your nose form a pattern like none other.

We have one thing in common: We are eternal souls uniquely designed and created by God (139:13-16)!  God has Sovereignly determined your uniqueness. (139:13)

Psalm 139:13  For thou hast possessed [get; acquire] my reins [lit. kidneys; figuratively the mind; soul, seat of my desire and affections]: thou hast covered [knit; weave] me in my mother’s womb [belly; bosom; body].

God has impressed on man’s soul a consciousness of his Creator’s hand and design. (139:14)

Psalm 139:14-15 – “I will praise [give thanks; confess God in public] thee; for I am fearfully [amazingly; stand in awe or reverence] and wonderfully made [distinguish; uniquely; set apart]: marvellous [wonderful; extraordinary; surpassing] are thy works [labor; i.e. needlework; deeds]; and that my soul [life; person; being] knoweth [perceives; observes] right well [exceedingly; greatly]. 15  My substance [strength; physical frame; bones and being] was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret [mother’s womb], and curiously wrought [woven as a tapestry] in the lowest parts of the earth [out of human sight].

From the moment of your conception, your person and days were determined (139:16).

Psalm 139:16Thine eyes did see [perceive; look; behold] my substance [body; frame; bones], yet being unperfect [embryo; unformed mass in mother’s womb]; and in thy book [letter; scroll] all my members were written [described; lit. – all the days of my life are ordained], which in continuance [day; time; continually] were fashioned [formed, as a potter; to mold], when as yet there was none [i.e. not the first] of them [before one day of my life was past].”

You are God’s unique creation and He knows you like none other.  He created you as a free will agent. You are not a robot and every person has the privilege and responsibility of choice and bears the consequences of their choices.

Romans 1:20 – “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”

  • Note – Amplifications of Psalm 139 are by the author.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

 

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