Category Archives: Rebellion

The Trouble with Settling for Second Best (Genesis 19-21)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 19-21

Genesis 19 opens with two angels arriving at the gates of the city of Sodom.  Appearing in the physical form of men, the angels entered Sodom and were greeted by Lot whom they found sitting “in the gate” (the place where city leaders transacted business and made judgments in disputes).  Realizing the men were not citizens of Sodom, Lot urged them to find refuge for the night in his home (19:2-3).

As the darkness of night settled on the city, the wickedness and depravity of Sodom emerged when the Sodomites (i.e. homosexuals) of the city encircled Lot’s home demanding he turn his visitors out into the street to be sexually assaulted (19:4-6).  Describing their lusts as wicked (19:7), Lot pled with the men of Sodom, offering to sacrifice his own daughters to their lusts (19:8-9) to protect his guests.

Striking the wicked men of Sodom with blindness, the angels saved Lot  from their violent attack (19:10-11). Displaying God’s grace, the angels urged Lot to flee the city with his family, warning him the LORD would destroy the city for its wickedness (19:12-13).  Sadly, Lot’s married sons and daughters refused his plea to flee the city (19:14).  Warned to not look back, only Lot, his wife, and two daughters fled the city (19:15-23).  Adding to his sorrow, Lot’s wife looked back and “became a pillar of salt” as God rained fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah (19:24-29).

One would hope Lot’s drifting from the LORD would end with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; however, he became drunk with wine and his daughters committed incest with him (19:30-36).  The eldest daughter conceiving a son she named Moab, the father of the Moabites (19:37).  The youngest daughter conceiving a son she named Ammon, the father of the Ammonites.  Both nations, the Moabites and Ammonites, would become a curse and perpetual trouble for the nation of Israel.

With the ash and salt from God’s judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah settling on the land, Abraham makes a fateful decision to journey from the land God had promised and traveled south to Gerar and the land ruled by the heathen king Abimelech (20:1-2).

Although ninety years old, Sarah is described as a beautiful, desirable woman and Abraham foolishly demanded she again conceal her identity and say she was his sister (20:2).  Once again putting at risk God’s covenant promise that Sarah would bear him a son, the LORD intervened and warned Abimelech in a dream (20:3) that should he would be a dead man should he violate Sarah (20:3-8).  Rising early, Abimelech confronted Abraham and sent him and his household out of his kingdom (20:9-13).

Continuing our study of the life of Abraham, we come to the conception and birth of Isaac, the long-awaited son fulfilling God’s covenant promise, “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee” (Genesis 12:2).  Abraham had received and believed God’s promise of a son when he was seventy-five years old (Genesis 12:4); however, 25 years passed before he saw that promise fulfilled (21:5).

Hagar, the Egyptian mother of Ishmael, greeted the celebration of Isaac’s birth with jealousy and animosity, knowing her son would not be Abraham’s heir (21:9).  In spite of her having initiated the faithless act of Abraham having a son with her handmaid, Sarah demanded that Hagar and her son be dismissed from their home (21:10).

We have seen in our study of the life of Abraham how he often allowed circumstances and doubt to shadow his confidence in God’s promises. In spite of his faithlessness, God renewed his promise that Sarah would bear him a son in her old age, she being 90 and he nearly 100 years old (17:15-19).

Understanding the weight of his transgressions was also borne by his family, Abraham was comforted by God’s promise to bless Ishmael (21:12-13) though he and his mother must be driven from his home (21:14-21).

A tragic reminder as I close today’s devotion is God’s promise that the effects of a father’s sins will fall “upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate” Him (Exodus 20:5).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Word of Advice for Self-flattering Youth (Job 35-37)

Daily reading assignment: Job 35-37

Job’s “fourth friend,” the younger “Elihu,” began his monologue in chapter 32 and continues his criticism of the beleaguered man through chapter 37. Displaying youthful pride and knowing little of sorrows or suffering, Elihu continues his verbal assault over what he perceives as the sins of Job that precipitated his troubles (I confess, I too have grown weary of Elihu’s pride).

Elihu supposes to quote Job (35:1-3), but his words are hardly those of Job when he suggests the man has said, “My righteousness is more than God’s” (35:2).  Job has searched his heart and declared his innocence (10:7; 12:4; 27:6); however, nowhere has he claimed to be more righteous than God!

Indicative of youthful pride, Elihu’s words and manner evidence “selective hearing.”  Rather than ponder and heed the words of his elder, Elihu’s thoughts race to make his case against Job and his friends.

In the opening verses of chapter 36, Elihu presumes to “speak on God’s behalf” (36:1-2) and begs his small audience to be patient, perhaps sensing his “friends” felt they had heard enough from the young man (36:2a).  Lacking humility and implying he is “perfect in knowledge” (36:3-4), Elihu continues to assert that Job’s trials were a testament to the manner God deals with the wicked (36:5-17).

The younger Elihu’s arrogant monologue dribbles on through chapter 37.  Sensing a restlessness in his audience, he again urges Job and his friends to be patient and “hear attentively” (37:2).

With eloquence, Elihu displays a great knowledge of God, His sovereignty over creation and His mighty person (37:3-13).  Like a college sophomore who has learned much, but knows little; Elihu demonstrates he is nearly void of wisdom. The humility he urges in Job, he lacks himself!

I close with a quote attributed to the late president Theodore Roosevelt that is fitting counsel for youth who feel they have wisdom superior to their elders:

“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care!”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The Fear of the Lord, That is Wisdom” (Job 24-28)

Daily reading assignment: Job 24-28

Contrary to Eliphaz’s assertion that the trials Job has suffered are characteristic of the reward of the wicked, Job states the opposite has been his observation (Job 24:2-16).

Job 24:2-4 –  “2  Some [i.e. the Wicked] remove the landmarks [property boundaries]; they violently take away flocks, and feed thereof [upon what they have stolen]. 3  They drive away the ass [donkey] of the fatherless [orphan], they take the widow’s ox for a pledge [i.e. a surety; as an insurance guaranteeing repayment]. 4  They turn the needy out of the way: the poor of the earth hide themselves together [mistreat the poor and helpless].”  Indeed, sometimes the wicked seem to escape punishment!

“Bildad the Shuhite”, one of Job’s “friends”, pretends to speak words of wisdom concerning the person and nature of God in Job 25.  Only six verses in length, Bildad devotes the first three verses 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’s response to Bildad’s empty counsel begins in Job 26.   After answering his accuser (26:1-4), Job begins a discourse declaring not only the nature of God as Creator, but stating facts about creation that were not fully proved until the emergence of modern science.

Consider the following revelations found in Job 26: 1) The earth hangs on nothing (26:7); 2) God gives and withholds water in the clouds as it pleases Him (26:8-9); 3) God has determined the boundaries of the oceans (26:10, 12a; Proverbs 8:29).

Job’s defense to Bildad’s judgments continues through Job 28.

Professing he had searched his heart and found no sins that would invite God’s judgment, Job is at a loss to understand why God has allowed so great a sorrow to shadow his life.  Seeking answers, Job asks,

Job 28:12, 20 – “But where shall wisdom be found?… 20  Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?”

Friend, knowledge might be obtained for the excessive price of an Ivy League education; however, wisdom is priceless and cannot be purchased (28:15-19)!   In the words of Charles Spurgeon, the 19th century English Baptist preacher, “Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.”

What is the repository of wisdom and how might it be acquired?  The answer: “the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).

I am witnessing a generation of pastors, teachers, and evangelists who preach “GRACE” and “LIBERTY” to the neglect of instructing sons and daughters in the precepts of God’s Law and Commandments. I fear…

The failure to teach the statutes and judgments (Law and Commandments) of God has created a void of knowledge and fostered a liberty that has become a license to sin. 

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

At the End of Your Rope? Tie a Knot and Trust God! (Job 17-20)

Daily reading assignment: Job 17-20

As a reminder to the readers of http://www.HeartofaShepherd.com; the daily devotionals posted on this site are written by Pastor Travis D. Smith and follow a chronological plan for reading through the Bible in one year. Chronological Bible Reading PlanSometimes the reading assignments can become heavy and repetitive…as with our study of the Book of Job. I encourage you to be patient and persevere in this discipline knowing every word in the original transcripts were God-breathed… “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21).

We continue our study of the Book of Job with the man responding to his friends’ suggestions that he has suffered sorrow and loss because of some sin he has yet to face and confess.  In chapter 16, Job began to reprove his accusers and plea for mercy and compassion.  We will notice in chapter 17 that his focus turns from his accusers to God.

Believing he could not continue to bear the sorrows and losses he has suffered, Job felt the end of his own life was at hand (Job 17:1); the betrayal of friends (17:5) and the stress of loss and disappointments had all but consumed him (17:7).

The young, strong, and untried are often self-deceived by a certain invincibility.  In contrast, the old, weak and feeble wrestle with the peril of self-absorption, anxiety and despondency.  Wrestling with the latter, Job cried to the LORD, Mine eye also is dim [dark; weak; faint] by reason of sorrow [grief; anger], and all my members [strength] are as a shadow [deep darkness; i.e. shadow of death] (Job 17:7).

Nowhere is there a hint that Job was considering suicide; however, he was so overwhelmed with sorrows it seemed death might bring a welcome relief (Job 17:11).  After hearing Job’s pitiful plea for mercy, one would think a friend would have compassion and encourage him; however, that was not the case.  The whole of Job 18 records Bildad’s words of reproof, insisting Job’s troubles are evidence of God’s judgment on the man’s wickedness.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” 

Do you remember that foolish childhood retort to the taunts of a bully?  Alas, sticks and stones leave scars that will heal and bones that will mend; however, the cutting words of a friend pierce the heart with sorrows that follow some to their graves.

The cruel judgments and piercing accusations of Job’s friends have left him wounded and despairing of life (19:1-4).  While he is a victim of unfounded criticisms and unmerciful condemnations; Job has nevertheless fallen victim to an ill-advised practice of some who have been wounded…keeping tally of the wrong’s others have inflicted on him.

Job rightfully asks, How long will ye vex my soul, and break me in pieces with words?” (Job 19:2); however, his observation, “These ten times have ye reproached me” (Job 19:3) suggests his focus was on his accusers and not the LORD.

Job 19:5-20 paints a pitiful portrait of Job wallowing in the mire of his sorrows and deprivations.   He is trapped with no means of escape (19:6).  Encircled by “friends” who judge and condemn him; Job cries for help (19:8-20), but finds no justice (19:7).

Loneliness and hopelessness have become Job’s companions (19:13-19). Disappointments and despair have overwhelmed him. 

Herein we see a danger…the temptation to nurse our wounds, lament our losses, and retreat into our misery.  It is here we take a page from Job’s life and listen as his heart and thoughts turn to the LORD:

For I know [with certainty and confidence] that my Redeemer [i.e. Kinsman Redeemer; Avenger] liveth, and that he shall stand [abide; endure] at the latter day upon the earth” (Job 19:25).

In the midst of sorrows, Job’s thoughts turn to the LORD and his hope is renewed.  He expresses confidence his “Redeemer” will deliver his soul from trouble in the same way a “kinsman redeemer” would purchase a loved one out of a debtor’s sentence.

In his distress, Job is forced to answer the judgments of “friends” who, like Zophar’s statements in Job 20, imply his sorrows and losses must be attributable to some wickedness he has not confessed to God (Job 20:4-29).

Some reading today’s devotional might be struggling with anxiety, fear and loss.  While your trials might pale in comparison to Job’s, nevertheless, your pain, sorrow, and disappointments are real.  You might fear one more disappointment…one more crisis…one more trial…one more attack on your character…and you will be broken.

Might I suggest that broken…broken in will and broken in spirit may be where God wants you! Broken; at the “end of your rope,” but wholly dependent on Him.

The prophet Isaiah exhorted God’s people: “Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength” (Isaiah 26:4).

Struggling with fear and anxiety?  I encourage you to confess, give them to the Lord, and trust Him!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Yes, You Are Your Brother’s Keeper”

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 4-7

Today’s Bible reading covers a broad swath of early history from Eve giving birth to the first sons born of Adam’s seed (Cain, Abel and Seth – Genesis 4:1-2, 26), to Noah, his wife, sons and their wives entering the Ark and the start of the universal flood (Genesis 7).

I could spend months writing devotionals on these chapters, but alas, I must limit myself to a brief highlight of one thought I trust will be instructive.  Consider the conversation between God and Cain, Adam and Eve’s firstborn son, after he had slain his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8).

Obedient to God’s model of atonement for sin (the shedding of blood – Hebrews 9:22), Abel brought a sacrificial offering to the LORD (Genesis 4:4); however, Cain’s attempt to offer a bloodless sacrifice was refused by God (Genesis 4:3, 5).  Rejected, Cain burned in anger toward the LORD, his “countenance” betraying his rebellion (Genesis 4:5).

Ever merciful, the LORD questioned Cain, “Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? 7  If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him” (Genesis 4:6-7).

Rather than repent and do right, Cain’s wrath escalated and he slew his brother (Genesis 4:8).  Ponder the dialogue between the LORD and Cain after he killed his brother.

Genesis 4:9 – And the LORD [Jehovah] said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper [watchman; guard; keeper]?

God’s question presented Cain an opportunity to confess his egregious sin; however, Cain was insolent and responded with defiance.  What an astonishing insight we are given into not only the effect of sin, but also the callous heart of a sinner.  Cain already evidenced the depth of wickedness seeded in a sinner’s nature.

Why did Cain refuse to humble himself and repent of his sin?

The apostle John answers that question writing, [Cain’s] works were evil, and his brother’s righteous”(1 John 3:12).

Cain murdered Abel because he hated his brother’s righteousness.  When confronted, he evaded responsibility for his sin and refused to repent (Genesis 4:9-12).  His focus was not on the evil he had done, but on the punishment and consequences of his sin (Genesis 4:13-16).

Cain’s intent was to shirk accountability for his sin; however, are we any different?

“To grieve over sin is one thing; to repent is another.” – Anonymous

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Church, Her Spiritual Leaders and Their Failures

On a personal note: By God’s grace I recently celebrated four decades of ministry and have been blessed to serve on the pastoral staff of Hillsdale Baptist Church for thirty-four years.  The following article is written from my perspective as a pastor and graduate of a Christian University that historically made no apology for its Bible fundamental, separatist stance.

For two decades I have pondered the waning of conservative, independent, Bible-preaching churches, schools, and colleges in our nation.  While I pray for a spiritual awakening in America, I see little hope when our own families and ministries are following the spiritual erosion of our culture. Indeed, should we who identify as Bible-believers continue our flirtation with sin, I fear Bible-preaching is at risk of being silenced within a generation.

Having experienced social media vilification in the past, I fear my perspective will offend some and is not shared lightly or with a desire to offend. Nevertheless, I am compelled to share my concerns, not as a provocation, but as an exposé of what I believe is the primary factor contributing to the failure of historic, conservative Bible-Christianity in America.

Across our nation, a millennial consortium of progressive preachers is assuming the pulpits of conservative, Bible-preaching churches, schools, and colleges.  Preaching a message of grace without a call to personal sanctification and holiness, they have spawned a pseudo-piety and tolerance of sin and carnality the generation before them decried.  

A brief history lesson on conservative, fundamental Bible Christianity

From the 1950’s to the closing years of the 20thcentury, Bible-fundamentalism inspired a Gospel awakening (not so much a spiritual revival) in America.  Veterans of World War II returned to America with an evangelistic zeal giving rise to conservative, fundamental Christian Colleges whose student bodies experienced phenomenal growth until the late 1990’s.

Tens of thousands of young men enrolled in Bible colleges and became pastors across America and missionaries around the world.  That generation inspired the School Bus Ministry movement in the 1960’s and began the Christian School movement in the 1970’s continuing through the 1990’s.  The birth of the Home School movement in the 1990’s revived the prospect of a generation of youth who might surrender their lives to the LORD and dedicate themselves to serve as pastors, teachers, and missionaries.

The 21st century; however, has proved disastrous for conservative, Bible-believing, Gospel-preaching churches and institutions.

Failing churches, Christian schools, Bible colleges and seminaries dot the American landscape.  Spiritual apathy has taken hold on our homes, churches, and schools.  Aging congregations, falling church attendance, and a precipitous decline in young men going into ministry now threaten the future of conservative Biblical Christianity.

While there are many explanations for the spiritual erosion we are witnessing in our Bible-believing churches and institutions, I will limit myself to a few.  The first, cultural wars within and without our homes. Some will argue the church has failed to adapt to cultural changes.  Others will argue, in an attempt to be relevant, the church lost its identity and has become irrelevant.  The disparity between what the Bible teaches and what our homes, churches, and institutions practice is another reason for the diminishing of our churches. We are hearers of the Word, but are we doers?  Christian educators fault the churches for pervasive spiritual apathy in the students, while pastors accuse those same institutions of accommodating carnality at the sacrifice of spiritual zeal.

Believing everything rises and falls on leadership, I conclude the responsibility for the spiritual failings of our churches, schools, Bible colleges and universities, and seminaries rests with the spiritual leaders of this, my generation. 

My peers have served as the spiritual leaders of our institutions for more than two decades.  Unlike any generation before, my generation has faced and grappled with an unprecedented intrusion of technology.  While the pastors of my youth sounded the alarm regarding the secular influences of radio, television, movies, and rock music; the ministers of my generation pastor congregations that, with a few clicks of a mouse, surf the internet and introduce to their families every imaginable influence… doctrinally, culturally, and socially.

Cable television, internet, social media, and cell phones are seducing the hearts of our children and empowering the parasitic nature of secularism and progressive theology.  While Christian parents prove either ambivalent or ill-prepared for the seduction of “worldliness”, their spiritual leaders are encountering a radical cultural shift and failing to address the intrusion of sin in their own homes and ministries.

Facing a spirit of rebellion in their homes, churches, and Christian schools, the spiritual leaders of my generation, in an attempt to parley peace with their own youth, have accommodated their sins. The consequence is an extra-biblical liberty that embraces the sins of the world, its pleasures, and inevitable consequences (1 John 2:15-17).

Warning: Spiritual leaders who accommodate the sins of their children will invariably compromise the core values of the ministries entrusted to their care.

To understand why Bible-believing churches, Christian schools, colleges, and seminaries are forsaking spiritual disciplines, one need only to look to the pulpits and the leaders who occupy them. My generation has failed to call the church to sanctification and holiness because we have succumbed to a paralysis induced by our own spiritual failings.

Almost without exception, the failure of churches and the compromise and eventual closure of Christian institutions in my sphere have one thing in common… leaders who sacrificed their spiritual integrity to accommodate the sins of their children.

Consider Paul’s admonition to Titus.  Having declared the virtues and spiritual qualifications of the leaders of the church (Titus 1:6-9), including “blameless”, the principal, indispensable qualification of the pastor that includes his role as the “husband of one wife” and “having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly” (Titus 1:6), Paul warns:

“For there are many unruly [disobedient; rebellious] and vain talkers [empty, useless talk] and deceivers [impostors; seducers]…whose mouths must be stopped [silenced; bridled], who subvert [overturn; destroy] whole houses [families], teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake [dishonest gain]…Wherefore rebuke [reprove; convict] them sharply [cut off; severely].” (Titus 1:10, 11, 13)

Principle – Leaders deficient in the spiritual qualifications of their office will invariably lack the spiritual power and authority “to exhort and to convince the gainsayers” [opposed to Truth and sound doctrine](Titus 1:9)

I close this introductory article on spiritual leaders and their failings, urging you to take away three lessons from the failed example of my generation:  

1) Technology will seduce the hearts of your children and empower the parasitic nature of secularism and progressive theology; 2) Accommodate the sins of your children and you will invariably sacrifice your core values;   3) Compromise your convictions and you will lack the spiritual power and authority to exhort and rebuke those who oppose sound Biblical truths.

1 John 2:15-17– 15  Love not the world, neither the things that arein the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him
16  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 
17  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

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Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

“Whatsoever a Man Soweth, That Shall He Also Reap” (Numbers 25-26; Galatians 6:7)

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 25-26, Psalm 52, and Luke 8. Our devotional is from Numbers 25-26.

Today’s reading assignment (Numbers 25-26) sets the stage for the beginning of the end of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness.  

Reminding us “evil communications (companions) corrupt good manners (morals)” (1 Corinthians 15:33), Numbers 25 opens with a tragic decision made by some in Israel.  We read, “the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab” (25:1).  The influence of the Moabite women did not stop with the lust of the flesh, for we read in the next verse they invited the men of Israel to share in sacrificing, eating, and bowing down to their gods (25:2).

Consider three spiritual lessons from today’s Bible reading.

The first, familiarity with the ways of the wicked leads inevitably to the Temptation of Sin.  Having cast aside all moral restraint (Numbers 25:1-3), the people provoked the LORD to wrath, worshipping Baalpeor, the Canaanite god of fertility represented as a bull (25:3).

A second lesson is the Tragic Consequences of Sin (25:3b-5, 9).  The sins of the people were so egregious they provoked the LORD to anger and He demanded justice (25:3b-4).   Placing the responsibility for the sins upon the “heads of the people” (25:4), the LORD demanded they be slain and their bodies hanged in the sun as a warning to the nation (25:5).

One sin led to another until one man was so brazen in his sin he “brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel” (Numbers 25:6, 14-15).  Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, and grandson of the late high priest Aaron, was so moved with godly zeal, he rose up and slew the man and the woman, and the LORD stopped the plague leaving 24,000 dead in Israel. (25:10-13).

Numbers 26 opens with a reminder of the plague that had taken 24,000 lives (26:1; 25:9) and closes with a review of an entire generation that perished in the wilderness, save two men, Caleb and Joshua (26:65).

The LORD commanded Moses and Eleazar to take a second census of the males, 20 years and older, by tribe and household, before they crossed the Jordan River.  The census served two purposes: The first, to number men by tribe who were old enough to go to war (25:2).  The second, to use the count of each tribe as the basis for assigning geographical territory in the Promise Land (Numbers 26:52-56).  With the exception of the tribe of Levi, twelve tribes of Israel are named and include a total of 57 families (26:5-50).

The priestly tribe of Levi and its households is also named and numbered (26:57-62).  Unlike the other tribes that will be assigned lands, the Levites were assigned forty-eight cities in the Promise Land (Numbers 35:1-8).

A third lesson from today’s Bible reading is, the LORD is faithful to His Word and promises.

“The LORD had said…They shall surely die in the wilderness” (14:29; 25:65a).  Murmuring, faithlessness, and a love for the sins and idols of Egypt had dominated the affections of the first generation and all had died with the exception of two men, Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 26:65).  I close with a timeless truth:

Galatians 6:7 – 7  Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith