Category Archives: Psalms

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

A Salute and Challenge to Gray-headed Saints

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 69-71

Note from the author of “From the Heart of a Shepherd”:  Today’s post is the 900th blog post by this simple shepherd.  I pray the thoughts and spiritual ponderings of this pastor continue to be a blessing.  

Our scripture reading for today is a gold mine of truths and spiritual principles found in Psalms 69, 70 and 71; however, for the sake of brevity my focus will be two golden nuggets of truths taken from Psalm 71:9, 17 and 18.

Some believe king David is the author of Psalm 71 and I am inclined to lean that way; however, others make an argument its author is the prophet Jeremiah.  I will leave the debate of its authorship to others and am content it was written by a man of faith; a man who by God’s grace was young in spirit, but chronologically old in years.  The psalmist, confident in God’s providential care, had faith God’s hand had been upon him from his mother’s womb (71:6), through his youth (71:5) and was with him in the frailty of his old age (71:18).

Of the many fears that potentially haunt the elderly, surely the fear of being forgotten and forsaken is foremost.  The dynamics between youth and the aged presents a challenge; however, the technological revolution of the past 30 years with computers, iPads, cell phones and social media has made the generational divide a precipice.  The fast pace mobility of our 21st century society and an attitude of narcissism that dominates this generation has strained family ties and sadly, left as its victims millions of elderly who feel forgotten and forsaken.

Complicating the interaction of familial generations and contrary to what some aged might think, one is never too old to sin!   Many elderly fall into a sinful pattern and become cantankerous and difficult.  Because a negative, critical spirit only exasperates our loved ones and caregivers, let us who are grey-headed consider the prayer of the ancient psalmist to the LORD.

Psalm 71:9 – Cast me not off [down] in the time [season] of old age; forsake me not when my strength [power; vigor] faileth [consumed; finished].

The aged psalmist petitions the LORD for two things in verse 9. The first, “cast me not off in the time of old age” (71:9a).  Strength of youth inclines one to pursue independence…independent of family, friends and sadly, independent of God.  However, when the vigor of youth fails and the frailty of old age advances, we are reminded how much we need the LORD’s grace.

The second petition expressed by the psalmist is, “forsake me not when my strength faileth” (71:9b).  Visiting the elderly in nursing homes has been a pattern of my life from childhood.  I remember fondly accompanying my maternal grandparents, Roland and Sadie Whitley, in their Saturday visits to family and friends in nursing homes.  It comes as no surprise that, when they found themselves in those same beds, the Whitley’s were never lacking in visits from family and friends.

As a pastor\shepherd, my calling has me making frequent visits to hospitals, nursing homes and homes of shut-ins.  Sadly, there are many in those places that not only feel forsaken, they are all but forgotten.  At a time when their strength is gone, their eyesight is dim and hearing has failed…they are alone.  What a tragedy that our society looks upon its elderly as a burden rather than a blessing!

The elderly psalmist continues his prayer:

Psalm 71:17-18 – O God [Elohim; Mighty God], thou hast taught [instructed; goad or disciplined] me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared [tell as a messenger] thy wondrous works [miracles; acts that surpass human skill or works]. 18  Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed [declared; informed] thy strength [power] unto this generation, and thy power [might] to every one that is to come.

The psalmist declares in his old age, LORD, the things you taught me in my youth I continue to declare in my old age!  My elderly friend, when life affords you an opportunity to praise the LORD, whether in private or public, be among the first to declare God’s love, salvation, mercy and grace.

The psalmist’s prayer moves from affirmation and adoration in verse 17 to petition and purpose in verse 18.  Unlike the old sassy commercial that declared, “I’m going to wash the gray right out of my hair”, the psalmist acknowledges, “I am old and grayheaded” and petitions the LORD for His power and presence in his life (“forsake me not”).

Finally, the psalmist declares his purpose for living: “until I have shewed [declared; informed] thy strength [power] unto this generation, and thy power [might] to every one that is to come” (71:18b).  The old psalmist’s thoughts turned to his spiritual legacy.  Thirty-eight years of ministry has brought home to me the sad realization that few give any thought to the spiritual legacy they are leaving for the next generation.  They have their wills written, their possessions planned for parceling, but the urgency of declaring a lifetime testimony concerning God’s faithfulness and blessings seems forgotten.

Elderly believer, I know you and I share the sentiment of the psalmist…Oh Lord, don’t forsake me when I am old and frail; however, will you also purpose to declare to all who will listen God’s faithfulness? I close with an appropriate quote and challenge:

“How many people in our churches, at an age when they ought to be tearing the world apart, are instead sliding home?” – Dr. Howard Hendricks

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Life Got You Down?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Psalms 42-44

Today’s scripture reading is Psalms 42-44; however, my devotional commentary will focus on Psalm 43.

Spiritually mature believers are well aware of the conflict that assaults the soul when our knowledge and understanding of God’s Truth and His promises seem to be contradicted by our thoughts, circumstances, heart and emotions.  Heavy heart, cast down soul, melancholy, and depression are a few of the terms men have employed to define a soul that is “weary” of life (Job 10:1) and broken in spirit (Proverbs 17:22).  Words to describe this malady of heart and soul have evolved through the centuries; however, the reality that depression is the plague of the souls of men is undeniable.  Robert Burton, the 17th century Oxford scholar and author of The Anatomy of Melancholy, wrote: If there be a hell upon earth, it is to be found in the melancholy man’s heart.”

Psalm 43 offers us an opportunity to peer within the depressed soul of a great king pleading to the LORD to rescue his heart from loneliness and his soul from the pit of despair.

Psalm 43:1 – “Judge [litigate; vindicate; deliver] me, O God [Elohim; the Godhead], and plead [defend; contend; debate; argue] my cause [contest; controversy; dispute] against an ungodly nation [heathen; Gentile]: O deliver [escape; preserve] me from the deceitful [dishonest; treacherous; deceptive] and unjust [wicked; perverse; unrighteous] man.”

David appeals to God to hear his prayer, come to his aid, and deliver him from a wicked, “unjust” enemy. David does not name his enemy; however, the tactics of his enemy are the same as those you and I face in our day. Lies, libel, slander, threats and attacks on one’s integrity are the modus operandi of the enemies of God, His Church and His people.

Psalm 43:2 – “For thou art the God of my strength [fortress; stronghold; place of safety]: why dost thou cast me off [forsake; turn away; reject]? why go [behave] I mourning because of the oppression [distress; affliction] of the enemy [adversary]?”

Rallying his heart, David states what he knows, “God is my strength”, literally, my fortress, stronghold and refuge.  However, what David believed concerning the character of God was at odds with his feelings and state of mind.  The king knew God was faithful; however, he confessed he felt forsaken, alone and overcome by his adversaries (43:2).

Psalm 43:3-4 – “O send out [stretch forth; spread] thy light [illumination] and thy truth: let them lead [guide; bring] me; let them [God’s light and truth] bring [carry] me unto thy holy [sacred; consecrated] hill [mount], and to thy tabernacles [residence; earthly place representing the presence of God]. 4 Then will I go unto the altar [place of slaughter or sacrifice] of God, unto God my exceeding [blithesome] joy [gladness]: yea, upon the harp [string instrument] will I praise [give thanks; confess; revere; worship] thee, O God my God.”

Turning his heart and thoughts away from his despair, David looked to the LORD in the same manner the captain of a ship peers through fog and darkness for the piercing beam of a lighthouse.  David appealed to God to illuminate his way and guide him with His Truth to the safe haven of God’s “holy hill” and the “tabernacles” where the saints of God gather to worship (43:3).  Though despairing, the king rallied his heart to look past his sorrows and set his heart upon the joy of once again offering sacrifices to God and singing His praises (43:4).

Having turned his focus from his enemy and troubles, David counseled his soul with two questions (43:5).

Psalm 43:5 – “Why art thou cast down [depressed; sink; brought low], O my soul [life; person; heart]? and why art thou disquieted [troubled; roar; in tumult; roar] within me? hope [wait; patient; tarry; trust] in God: for I shall yet praise [give thanks; confess; revere; worship] him, who is the health [deliverer; salvation; welfare] of my countenance [face], and my God.”

Why are you depressed?  Why are you so troubled?  David realized the error of his fear and doubts and counseled his heart, “hope in God” (43:5b)!  Resetting his spiritual compass from the delusion that is self-pity to trust and faith in the LORD, David took courage and declared, “I shall yet praise [give thanks; worship] Him [the LORD], who is the health [deliverer; salvation; welfare] of my countenance [face], and my God” (43:5c).

My friend, I do not know what fears and doubts might haunt your soul, but I challenge you to pass through this time of trouble, turning your thoughts from self-pity and trust the LORD!

1 Corinthians 10:13 – “There hath no temptation [test or trial] taken you but such as is common to man [i.e. your trouble is not unique]: but God is faithful [trustworthy; true], who will not suffer [allow] you to be tempted [tried or tested] above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape [lit. to pass through the trial], that ye may be able to bear it [endure].”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

God is not only the Creator of all things; He is the Sustainer of all He has created.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Job 25-26

Today’s Bible reading offers an incredible insight into God’s revelation of Himself and His creation.

“Bildad the Shuhite”, one of Job’s “friends” whose role has been more of an accuser than a comforter, pretends to speak words of wisdom concerning the person and nature of God in Job 25.  Only six verses in length, the first three verses are devoted to God’s dominion and power (25:1-3), followed by verses 4-6 that focus on God’s justice and man’s natural, wretched state (25:4-6),

Job 26 records Job’s response to Bildad the Shuhite’s empty counsel.   After answering his accuser (26:1-4), Job began a discourse declaring not only the nature of God as Creator, but stating facts about creation that were not fully understood or proved until the emergence of modern science. Consider the following revelations found in Job 26:

  • God is omniscient: He knows even the abode of the dead. (26:5-6)
  • The earth hangs on nothing. (26:7)
  • God is omnipotent:
    1. He gives or withholds the water in the clouds as it pleases Him. (26:8-9)
    2. He has determined the boundaries of the oceans. (26:10, 12a; Proverbs 8:29)

The Book of Job, regarded as one of the oldest, if not the oldest, book in the Bible; reveals God “hangeth the earth upon nothing” (26:7)!  “Scientific opinions” expressed as late as the Middle Ages were debating a flat earth and wondering on what the earth was resting.   Job had the answer to that question, perhaps as early as 4,000 years ago!  Who has not looked at photos of the earth taken from outer space and marveled that this beautiful sphere we call home is, like the sun, moon, stars, and planets..hanging on nothing!

God is not only the Creator of all things; He is the Sustainer of all He has created.

Colossians 1:16-17 – “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17  And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Ain’t Got Time for Fear!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Psalms 27-29

Fear can become a paralyzing emotion and, if we are not careful, its tentacles can enslave us.  Not all fear is negative; for instance, there are some things that warrant a good healthy dose of fear.  It is good to fear and revere authority if that authority guards us against the consequences of foolish and unlawful choices.  We are wise to fear the dangers of a fiery blaze, the deadly potential of a lightning strike, the fast approach of a train at a railroad crossing, and the penalty of failing to study for an exam.

It is the dominant aspect of negative, enslaving fear that is devastating to the soul.  Some fear failure and become paralyzed and incapable of making wise decisions.  Fear of people drives some to withdraw into a cocoon of ambivalence.  Fear criticism, and you may vainly seek to withdraw into self-imposed isolation.  Fear rejection and you retreat from friendship and relationships.  Fear verbal attacks that assail your motives and assault your character, and you are tempted to quit!

How can we overcome fear? Let’s take some spiritual lessons out of David’s life experiences (Psalm 27:1-3).

 Psalm 27:1 – “The LORD [Jehovah; Eternal God] is my light [brightness] and my salvation [Deliverer]; whom shall I fear? the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal God] is the strength [fortress; hold; rock; protection; refuge] of my life; of whom shall I be afraid [fear; tremble]?”

We note three assertions of David’s courage and faith in verse 1. The first, “The Lord is my Light:  David’s confidence was not in himself or in human thought or philosophy;  his courage arose from his conviction that the LORD Who is Jehovah, Eternal God, was the source of light to his soul (John 1:4-5, 9; 1 John 1:5).   David’s second assertion was, “The LORD…is my Salvation”; his Deliverer; not only his guiding light, but also the One Who is able to save his soul from the curse of sin.

Having declared his faith that the LORD is his light and salvation, David asks, Whom shall I fear?”  Is anyone too big for God?  Is anyone stronger than the LORD?  Is any circumstance greater than the LORD?

David’s third assertion is, The LORD is the Strength of my life;  his Rock, Fortress and Refuge! Why be afraid of mortal men if the Lord is your Protector? Why scurry from a foe like a rat retreating from a predator?

Having stated the LORD is the object of his faith; David considered God’s providences and protection in the past (27:2).

Psalm 27:2 – “When the wicked [evil], even mine enemies [adversary] and my foes [hostile], came [approached; drew near] upon me to eat up [devour; consume; feed] my flesh [body], they stumbled [became weak; overthrown; staggered] and fell.”

David had experienced the threats of adversaries who relished in besmearing his character and gloated in his sorrows.  Friends and family had cannibalized his soul with malicious attacks and disparaging lies.  Of those enemies David testified, “they stumbled and fell” (27:2b).

Remembering God’s faithfulness, David was embolden and declared he would not be overcome with fear.

Psalm 27:3 – “Though an host [camp; great company] should encamp [pitch; lay siege] against me, my heart [mind; understanding] shall not fear [tremble; be afraid]: though war [battle; warfare; combat] should rise against me, in this will I be confident [trust; secure].”

Take heart friend!  If the LORD is your Light, Salvation, and Refuge; if He has proven faithful in the midst of trials that are past; cast aside your fears and affirm with David:

I will not allow fear to overcome me; I will not allow the threat of the unknown rob me of my faith and confidence in the LORD.  

If the LORD is your God, no foe or trial should keep you from embracing this thought:  “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

Fear?  Ain’t got time for that!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

God’s Has An Answer for Sorrows and Regret!

psalm-25-5Tuesday, March 2, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Psalms 24-26

Our scripture reading today is Psalms 24, 25, and 26 for those continuing the discipline of reading through the Bible in a year. For today’s devotional commentary, my focus is Psalm 25. David writes:

Psalm 25:1-2 – “Unto thee, O LORD [Jehovah; Eternal God], do I lift up [remove; take away] my soul [life; person]. 2  O my God [Almighty God], I trust [trust; confident; bold] in thee: let me not be ashamed [confounded; disappointed; put to shame], let not mine enemies [foes; adversary] triumph [rejoice; exult] over me.”lift-up-my-soul

Many believe David wrote Psalm 25 in the last years of his  life. Though a man after God’s own heart, the king struggled with sorrows and the reality that his enemies relished the opportunity of reveling in trials troubled his soul. David cried out to God, “Unto thee, O Lord” [I might add, and “thee alone”] “do I lift up my soul” (25:1). Though he was physically frail and emotionally fragile, David’s trust and confidence in the LORD had not wavered.

Psalm 25:3 – “Yea, let none that wait [look; hope] on thee be ashamed [confounded; disappointed; put to shame]: let them be ashamed [confounded; disappointed; put to shame] which transgress [offend; act deceitfully] without cause.

David pleads for the LORD to save him from his enemies, not only for his sake, but also for the sake of all who call upon the name of the God of Israel (25:3a).  Indeed, if someone should bear shame, let it be those who have sinned and transgressed against the LORD and His law (25:3b).

Psalm 25:4-5 – “Shew me thy ways [road; path], O LORD [Jehovah; Eternal God]; teach [instruct; accept] me thy paths [way; conduct; manner]. 5  Lead [bend; guide; aim] me in thy truth [right; faithfulness], and teach [instruct; accept] me: for thou art the God [Almighty God] of my salvation [liberty; deliverance]; on thee do I wait [look; behold; hope] all the day [time].”proverbs-14-12

We have seen in earlier devotionals that there are two ways, two paths in life—the way of man that denies God and leads to death (Proverbs 14:12) and the way of the LORD that is straight and narrow and begins at the cross (Matthew 7:14).  David’s prayer should be the prayer of all saints.  Like David, we have the Word of God, but we need the LORD to give us insight, discernment and understanding.  If you will allow an amplification of Psalm 24:4-5, we need to pray, “LORD, show me the path you would have me take; teach me how to conduct myself in a manner that pleases You; bend my will in accord with Your Truth; and teach me!” (John 17:17)  Confessing that salvation, safety, and deliverance from a troubled soul come from God (25:5a); David committed himself to “wait” on the Lord (25:5b).

Let’s be honest, impatience is a struggle when we are in the midst of trials, and fear and flight are a natural reaction when we reject God’s refining fire.

Psalm 25:6 – “Remember, O LORD [Jehovah; Eternal God], thy tender mercies [compassion] and thy lovingkindnesses [mercy; kindness; goodness]; for they have been ever of old [eternity; everlasting; perpetual].”

In the midst of his sorrows, David reflected on God’s compassion and mercy (25:6a) and remembered that the mercy and grace of the LORD will never be exhausted (25:6b).

mercyPsalm 25:7 – “Remember not the sins of my youth [childhood], nor my transgressions [sin; trespass; guilt]: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ [welfare] sake, O LORD [Jehovah; Eternal God].”

Finally, David calls upon the LORD to forget, “remember not”, the sins and transgressions of his youth (25:7a).  Knowing the LORD is merciful, David cast the burden of his sorrows and regret on the LORD and prays that he would be the object of His grace and mercy (25:7b).

Believer, what have you done with your regrets, sorrows and disappointments? Some believers live in what John Bunyan described as the “slough of despondency” in his classic novel, The Pilgrim’s Progress.  Bearing the burden of sins and regret, they wrestle in the mire of despair and, rather than repent of their sin and turn to Christ, turn back to the very sins that pierced their despairing soul with sorrow.

Others amuse their thoughts with sinful distractions hoping the salve of temporal pleasures will desensitize the emotions that cloud their hearts.  Some dissuade regret by falling into a sinful pattern of “blame shifting” and impugning loved ones with the consequences of their own sinful choices. Finally, some turn to alcohol and drugs attempting to dull the piercing sorrow of guilt and regret.

Pressed upon with sorrows and regret?  Take a page out of David’s life and lift up your heart and thoughts to the LORD! (Psalm 25:1-2)

In the words of the great 19th century Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon: “It is the mark of a true saint that his sorrows remind him of his sins, and his sorrow for sin drives him to his God.   [Treasury of David]

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Got Trouble? God’s Got a Plan! (Bonus devotional thought)

his-way-is-perfectWednesday, February 15, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Psalm 18:30

Psalm 18:30 – “As for God [“El”; “Almighty God”], his way [path; course of life; actions] is perfect [without blemish; whole; blameless]: the word [commandment] of the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent God] is tried [refined; purged by fire; tested]: he is a buckler [small shield] to all those that trust in him [flee to Him for protection; confide; make their refuge].”shield

It is easy to say, “The way of God is perfect” when we are at peace and enjoying a season of happiness free from trials and troubles; but are we willing to trust God’s way is perfect when our days are shadowed by trials that, like gold passing through a smelter’s fire, test our motives and resolve to trust the LORD?

When enemies malign us, friends betray us, and we find no solace in our heart and thoughts…will we, like David turn to God’s promises for hope?  Will we trust the LORD is our “buckler” (a small shield for hand-to-hand combat), when we face an enemy that means us harm?cliff

Reflecting on the character of God (18:31), David asserts God alone is Jehovah (Eternal; Self-existent), a Refuge (i.e. “rock”), and Almighty! Though his trials had not changed, David’s hope was revived in the LORD!  Believing the way of the LORD is perfect, David found his strength and vigor renewed (18:32), his courage restored, and his steps like a deer standing on a precipice, solid and sure (18:33, 36).

smelterFriend, are you facing trials and challenges that are nigh overwhelming?  Don’t lose hope!  If you know the LORD, be confident “His way is perfect” and the fiery trials you face have the potential of purifying your heart like gold and strengthening your character like steel!  Even before the trials pass, give thanks to the LORD confident He will deliver you and His mercies fail not (18:46-50)!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith