Category Archives: Salvation

Does God Repent? (2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21

Today’s Scripture readings are parallel accounts of the same tragic event. David commanded a census be taken, numbering the warriors in Israel. Because 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 are essentially mirror images of the same events, I will take today’s devotional from each.

David was an old man, and the shepherd boy of Bethlehem was a long past memory. Now in the latter years of his life and reign, the king made a proud, foolish decision and commanded, “Go, number Israel and Judah,” and in doing so provoked the “anger of the LORD…against Israel” (24:1). From where, or whom, did this provocation arise? The writer of 2 Samuel states, “he moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah” (24:1).

Who was “he?” The historian of 1 Chronicles revealed the inspiration for numbering the people was the Satan. We read, “Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel” (1 Chronicles 21:1). How did this happen? Why would a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22), find it his heart to do that which was contrary to the will of God? Various explanations might be put forward, but I suggest the central one is PRIDE. Satan targeted a “dead ringer,” a common area of weakness for most men, and provoked the natural inclination of the proud king’s heart.

Satan had provoked the natural inclination of a proud king’s heart.

“Joab, the captain of the host (i.e. army),” questioned the king’s motive for the census (24:3; 1 Chronicles 21:3), appealing to him with gracious words, saying, “Why doth my lord the king delight in this thing?” (24:3) Joab knew the king’s command was a provocation of God’s judgment, and suggested, “The Lord make his people an hundred times so many more as they be…why then doth my lord require this thing? why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel?” (1 Chronicles 21:3; 2 Samuel 24:3).

The census lasted nine months and twenty days, and when the number was given, David’s heart was convicted, and he prayed, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly” (24:10).

Though the king confessed numbering the people was a great sin, nevertheless, God’s nature would not dismiss the consequences of his sin. We read, “the word of the LORD came unto the prophet Gad, David’s seer” (24:11). David was mercifully given the opportunity to choose which of three judgments would befall him and Israel (21:10-12): Seven years of famine, three months of being overrun and pursued by adversaries, or three days of pestilence (24:12-13). David chose three days of pestilence, reasoning he would rather trust in God’s mercies, than fall into the hand of an enemy (24:14).

2 Samuel 24:15 – “So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men.”

The angel’s path of death and destruction spanned Israel, slaying 70,000 men, but as he neared Jerusalem, “the Lord beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the Lord stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite” (1 Chronicles 21:15).

God did not repent of wrong doing, but in His mercy He changed His mind, and halted His judgment for David’s sin. David and the elders of Israel had called upon the LORD, and as the shepherd king of Israel, he prayed, “Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, O Lord my God, be on me, and on my father’s house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued” (1 Chronicles 21:17).

The prophet Gad returned with a message from the LORD, and instructed David to buy the “threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite (the Jebusites being the original inhabitants of Jerusalem)” and build an altar there (24:18).[Note – 1 Chronicles 21:18 names one “Ornan” as the owner of the threshingfloor; they are the same man.]

David purchased the threshing floor, and there he sacrificed to the LORD the oxen he had bought. According to 1 Chronicles 21:26, the LORD sent fire from heaven and consumed the oxen as a sign of that David’s offering had satisfied God’s wrath (1 Chronicles 21:26).

Closing thoughts – What became of the land David purchased? Let us take a moment for a brief lesson from history:

The threshingfloor of Araunah had been the place God had tried Abraham, and he had offered his son Isaac (Genesis 22). This was also the place the LORD promised Jacob, “I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (Genesis 28:15). When Jacob awakened, “he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. 17And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:16-17). This same place would later be the site Solomon would build the Temple (1 Chronicles 22:1-2; 2 Chronicles 3:1).

Of course, it was not far from a place that would one day be beloved as Calvary, where Jesus Christ was crucified, suffered, and died for our sins, and the sins of the world.

“O how marvelous! O how wonderful!  Is my Savior’s love for me!”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Got enemies? Feel depressed? Think on this! (Psalm 13; Psalm 28)

Scripture reading – Psalm 13; Psalm 28

The titles of today’s Scripture reading identify David as the author. Psalm 13 is titled, “To the Chief Musician, A Psalm of David,” and Psalm 28 is simply titled, “A Psalm of David.” Both psalms deserve our focus; however, I must limit the devotional to Psalm 13. * Words in brackets are the amplifications of the author, for the purpose of giving a deeper insight into the text.

Psalm 13 – An Impassioned Cry for Help

The setting of Psalm 13 is not given, but it was certainly at a time when David was facing an enemy and circumstances that left him shaken and sorrowing daily. I have observed in prior devotionals that the insurrection led by Absalom, David’s third born son, led the king into an emotional valley fraught with loneliness. Psalm 13may be from that season of sorrow and humiliation.

David’s Protest: Feeling Abandoned (13:1-2)

Psalm 13:1-2 – “How long wilt thou forget [ignore; leave] me, O LORD [Jehovah; Eternal God]? for ever? how long wilt thou hide [conceal] thy face [countenance; presence] from me?
2  How long shall I take [consider; set; place] counsel [plan; purpose; determine] in my soul [mind; life; person; heart], having sorrow [grief; affliction; anguish] in my heart [mind; understanding] daily? how long shall mine enemy [foe; adversary] be exalted  [lifted up; become proud] over me?”

David knew the LORD had not forsaken him; nevertheless, his thoughts, feelings, and emotions were running contrary to his faith. Four times he asked the LORD, “How long…How long…How long…How long?” (13:1-2) It seemed the LORD had forgotten him, and was refusing to look upon the man He had chosen to be king of Israel (13:1). Sorrows gripped the king’s heart; he felt there was no way forward (13:2a). Adding to his distresses was the knowledge that his enemies delighted in his humiliation (13:2b).

David’s Prayer (13:3-4)

Turning from protesting his loneliness, and feelings of abandonment, David appealed to the LORD to hear and answer his prayer (13:3-4).

Psalm 13:3-4 – “Consider [look; behold] and hear [respond] me, O LORD my God: lighten [illuminate; brighten; give light] mine eyes, lest I sleep [grow old or stale] the sleep of death [ruin];
4  Lest mine enemy [foe; adversary] say [declare], I have prevailed [overcome; to have one’s way] against him; andthose that trouble [distress; afflict] me rejoice [glad; delight] when I am moved [shaken; strength decay].”

We find in this passage what many today would label depression (described as melancholy in the 19th century). In his spiritual and emotional state, the king felt the light, and life had gone out of his eyes, and he prayed, “lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep of death” (13:3). David longed for the LORD to lift the engulfing darkness within his soul. He yearned to return to a season of joy and fellowship. The knowledge there were those who rejoiced in his troubles and sorrows, only added to his despair (13:4).

Two Choices: Give up, or Step Out in Faith (13:5-6)

What did David do next? He had already protested his loneliness, and feelings of abandonment. He had prayed for the LORD to lift him out of the darkness that bound his soul. What more could he do?

Psalm 13:5-6 “But I have trusted [confident; secure; hope; lean on; put trust] in thy mercy [loving-kindness; favor; grace]; my heart [mind; understanding] shall rejoice [glad; delight] in thy salvation [help; deliverance].
6  I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully [reward with good] with me.”

David’s circumstances had not changed. He was physically weary and emotionally drained. Yet, the king made the decision to get up, and declared his faith in the LORD, not only by word, but by his deeds: “I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. 6  I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me”  (13:5-6).

Closing thoughts – What an inspiration you and I have in David’s testimony and example! His trials and troubles were not over, nor had his emotions suddenly become elated by a season of prayer. Nevertheless, in his prayer he had shifted his focus from his circumstances, to reflecting on the character of God. With that, he determined to face the day, and his enemies.

If you struggle with disappointments, and feelings of depression, you are not alone. We all face the temptation to wallow in sorrows, and indulge in “victimhood” – in fact, 21st century culture encourages it. Medical science, having no spiritual foundation, can do no more than make a diagnosis, and give a prescription that might temporarily mask the sorrow and loneliness of a deep struggle. What is the answer?

Be honest about where you are, and how you got there (13:1-2). Pray sincerely, knowing the LORD hears and answers prayer. Then, trust Him, turning your thoughts to Him (13:5; Romans 8:28-29). Finally, vow to the LORD, “I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully [reward with good] with me.” (13:6).

Sing Unto the LORD!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Plight of the Human Race (Psalm 53; Psalm 60)

Scripture reading – Psalm 53; Psalm 60

Our Scripture reading is from two psalms of David, Psalm 53 and Psalm 60. Our devotional is taken from Psalm 53.

Psalm 53 – An Observation of the Human Condition

Notice that Psalm 53 is nearly a restatement of truths observed by David in Psalm 14. The title of Psalm 53provides us the title of the person to whom it was addressed, “the Chief Musician.” It also provides the instrument used to accompany the singer, Mahalath (probably a stringed instrument), as well as the name of the melody, Maschil, that accompanied the psalm. As already noted, David is identified as the author in the title.

I invite you to identify three major truths found in Psalm 53: The fact of universal wickedness (53:1-3); the wicked’s denial of the providence of God (53:4-5); and David’s prayer that the LORD would save Israel, and rejoicing and gladness would be restored.

The Fool and His Plight (53:1-3)

David’s observations concerning the condition of man is not only well known, but should be self-evident to an honest observer. The folly of the fool is that he is an atheist, in word and deed! We read, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” Notice the phrase, “there is,” is in italics, indicating it was added by editors hoping to give clarity to the passage. I suggest, however, that the addition was unnecessary, for the folly of the fool is that he has not only denied God in his heart, but also in his deeds. David observed that the atheism of the fool carries him down a path of corruption, and destruction. Indeed, “there is none that doeth good” (53:1b).

The doctrine of God’s omniscience is stated in the next verse, where we read, “2God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God” (53:2). Having denied God, the fool may be convinced his sins go unnoticed and unpunished. Yet, God’s gaze is perpetually upon man, and he sees and tries the hearts to see if any seek Him (53:2).

Consider also that the plight of man is universal, and without exception: “Every one of them [every man, woman, boy, and girl] is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; There is none that doeth good, no, not one” (53:3). Universal rebellion; universal immorality; universal sin… “There is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (53:3).

Ponder that truth for a moment. There are no exceptions to the infection of sin. We are all infected by its curse, and the mass of humanity past, present, and future is born under the curse of sin (of course, the one exception was Jesus Christ who, though born of a woman, was not born of the seed of man, but of the Holy Spirit, Luke 1:35).

The apostle Paul observed the universality of sin, writing: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and the universal consequences of sin: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).

The Wicked’s Denial of the Providence of God (53:4-5)

The fool has not only rejected God, but he has also denied the visible evidences of God’s essence and providences as seen in His creation every day (53:4a). David warned, God is jealous of His people, and the wicked will not go unpunished for their ill treatment of them (53:4b).

There is a sad irony in this psalm. On the one hand, men boast, “There is no God,” but there is coming a day a judgment when fear will take hold of the hearts of men, and those who set themselves against Him will be destroyed (53:5a). Indeed, the wicked will be put to shame, for the LORD will hold them in contempt (53:5b).

David’s Prayer and Intercession for Israel (53:6)

Psalm 53 concludes with David looking forward to the day when Israel will be saved. In that day, “Jacob shall rejoice” (the lineage of the Twelve Tribes), and “Israel shall be glad” (53:6). Whom would God send to answer David’s prayer for a Savior? His name would be Jesus, “for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

Closing thoughts – Without exception; Every man or woman who rejects God, and refuses His offer of salvation through the sacrifice of His Son…is foolish. We might boast of our good works, but the prophet Isaiah declared, “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). A sinner cannot be saved “by works of righteousness which [he has] done, but according to [God’s] mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5).

Is He your Savior?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

God Has an Answer for Sorrow and Regret! (1 Chronicles 17; Psalm 25)

Regret Word Representing Regretful Regretting And Wordclouds

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 17; Psalm 25

As you read 1 Chronicles 17 for today’s Scripture reading, you will recognize it is nearly identical to the same event we considered in 2 Samuel 7. We cannot determine with certainty the author of 1 Chronicles; however, many scholars believe it was Ezra, the author of the book that bears his name. 1 Chronicles was written by a man who chronicled the history of Israel and Judah before the Babylonian captivity. For a complete commentary on the events recorded in 1 Chronicles 17, please reference my prior devotion on 2 Samuel 7.

Psalm 25 – A Song of Praise, Faith, and Entreaty

With only one or two exceptions, the verses recorded in Psalm 25 follow the pattern of the Hebrew alphabet, with the first word of each verse beginning with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet (comparable to an English author writing a poem with each verse of prose beginning with the letters A to Z).

The title of the psalm indicates it is “A Psalm of David,” but the occasion of the writing is not identified. Some believe Psalm 25 was written when the king was enjoying a season of ease (as we noticed in 2 Samuel 7:1); however, others suggest it was written near the end of David’s life. *As in earlier devotions, I have taken liberty to amplify word meanings in brackets.

Trust in God (25:1-3)

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.”

Although he was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14), there were seasons in David’s life when he struggled with sorrows, and enemies relished the opportunity of reveling in his afflictions. Facing the pressures of state, and the threat of enemies from within and without, there were times the king prayed to God, “Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul” (25:1). David pled for the LORD to save him from his enemies, not only for his sake, but also as a testimony to all who call upon the name of the LORD (25:2-3).

A Passion for the LORD’s Leading (25:4-5)

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] 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].”

David’s prayer should be the prayer of all saints. The king longed for the LORD to give him insight, discernment, understanding, and direction. I have often prayed much the same: “LORD, show me the path you want me to take. Teach me, and bend my will to be in accord with Your Truth!” After praying, David committed himself to “wait all the day” on the Lord (25:5b).

A Petition: LORD, Remember Your Merciful Character (25:6-7)

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’s meditations reflected on God’s compassion and mercy (25:6a) He was reminded that the mercy and grace of the LORD would never be exhausted (25:6b).

Psalm 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].”

How many of us no doubt share David’s petition for mercy? Knowing God is omniscient, David was certainly not asking God to “forget,” but to forgive and not hold his sins and transgressions against him (25:7). David cast the burden of his sorrows and regret on the LORD, and prayed he would be the object of His grace and mercy (25:7b). Knowing the magnitude of his sin, the king sought God’s forgiveness, praying, “For thy name’s sake, O Lord, Pardon mine iniquity; for it is great” (25:11).

The LORD Guides the Way of Those Who Fear Him (25:12-14)

David then asked, “What man is he that feareth [reveres] the Lord? Him shall he [the LORD] teach [instruct] in the way that he [the LORD] shall choose” (25:12). Solomon, the son of David who would inherit his father’s throne, gleaned from his father’s wisdom, later writing, “The fear [lit. reverence] of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: And the knowledge of the holy is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).

A Prayer for Deliverance (25:15-21)

Briefly summarizing the closing verses of Psalm 25, the king conveyed his sorrows were increasing (25:17), and he plead for the LORD to pity him with His compassion (25:18-19). Trusting the LORD would hear and answer his cry, David prayed, “Keep my soul, and deliver me… preserve me; For I wait on thee” (25:20-21).

Closing thought – Where do you turn when you feel troubled and overwhelmed? What do you do with yourregrets, sorrows and disappointments? 

I know some believers live in what John Bunyan described as the slough of despondency in his classic novel, The Pilgrim’s Progress.  Like “Christian,” the main character in Bunyan’s novel, many bear the heavy burden of sins and regret. They wrestle in the mire of despair, and rather than repent of their sin and turn to Christ, they turn back to the very sins that pierce their soul with sorrow. Others amuse themselves with sinful distractions, and hope to salve their conscience with pleasures. Some “blame shift” and impugn loved ones with the consequences of their own sinful choices. Others turn to alcohol and drugs hoping to dull the sorrows of guilt and regret.

Take a page out of David’s life, and lift up your heart and thoughts to the LORD! (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.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Creator, and King of Glory, Is He Your Lord? (Psalm 24)

Scripture reading – Psalm 24

Psalm 24 was written by David. Consisting of only ten verses, it has inspired many great hymns and anthems. [The brackets within the verses contain amplifications by this author.]

God is the Sovereign of His Creation (24:1-2)

Stated emphatically, and with no ambiguity in the opening verses of Psalm 24, is the truth that God is Creator, possessor, sovereign, and sustainer of His creation.

Psalm 24:1-2 – “The earth is the LORD’S [Jehovah; Eternal God], and the fulness [all it contains] thereof; the world [inhabitants], and they that dwell [inhabit; abide] therein. 2  For he [the LORD] hath founded [laid the foundation] it upon the seas, and established [prepared; erected] it upon the floods [waters; streams].”

The LORD is Eternal God, and the Creator of all things, and “without Him was not anything, made that was made” (John 1:3). As Creator, He is owner of the earth’s resources, and all that inhabits it. He has set the boundaries of the sea and the dry land (24:2). He is the Sustainer. Because the LORD is Sovereign, David asked:

What Manner of Man Might Draw Nigh unto the God of Heaven? (24:3)

Psalm 24:3 – “Who shall ascend [come up; scale] into the hill [mountain] of the LORD? or who shall stand [arise; rise] in his holy [hallowed; sacred] place?”

Can anyone merit the favor of God, or be worthy to enter into His presence? Might a rich man earn good standing with God by donating to charity, and giving his riches to help the poor? Does fasting, praying, worshipping, or showing kindness to another give one entrance into the presence of the LORD?

David listed four characteristics of the man who may enter the presence of the LORD.  (24:4)

Psalm 24:4 – “He that hath clean [innocent; guiltless; blameless] hands, and a pure [clear; innocent] heart [mind]; who hath not lifted up [removed] his soul [life; person] unto vanity [lying; deceit], nor sworn [taken an oath] deceitfully [fraud; i.e. lacking integrity].”

A man must have “clean hands” to enter into the LORD’S presence (24:4a). How might a man acquire “clean hands,” before a holy God? A comparable question was asked and answered in Psalm 119:9, where we read: “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word.” 1 John 1:9reminds us the way to be cleansed is to “confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” For a man to have “clean hands,” he must heed God’s Word, and confess his sins.

No man enters into the LORD’S holy place unless he has a “pure heart(pure in heart, thoughts, and motives, 24:4b). The man who enters the “holy place” cannot be like the Pharisees, who thought by portraying outward piety, their prayers would be heard, and answered (Matthew 23:25-28). The LORD, knowing the hearts of men, condemned the Pharisees saying, “Ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:28).

The man who enters God’s presence must also guard his soul from the “vanity” of the world (24:4c). What is the “vanity” of the world? It is the pleasures, sins, and philosophy of the world that promises much, but never satisfies the heart. The rich man boasted to himself that bigger barns and more goods would satisfy his soul (Luke 12:16-18). Beguiled by riches, he had failed to plan for God’s judgment, and “God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12:20).

A man who enters the presence of the LORD must also have integrity, and he will not swear deceitfully (24:4d). The saints of God are honest and truthful. They are conscious of the Lord’s presence, and they will not cheat, lie, or swear falsely. They are not bound by a contract, but by a consciousness of God’s holiness.

David promised a twofold reward to them who seek the LORD. (24:5-6)

Psalm 24:5 – “He shall receive [accept] the blessing [prosperity] from the LORD, and righteousness [rightness; justice] from the God [i.e. Almighty God] of his salvation.”

When a man seeks the LORD with “clean hands,” a “pure heart,” guards his heart from vanity, and walks with integrity, he is promised “the blessing from the LORD” (24:5a), and declared righteous and just in His sight. David declared on behalf of all Israel, “This is the generation [age; people] of them that seek [follow; worship] him[the LORD], that seek [seek out; require; desire] thy face [the LORD’S countenance and face]  O Jacob [Tribes of Israel]. Selah [pause]” (24:6).

Hail to the King of Glory! (24:7-10)

The coming Messiah, the “King of glory,” is the subject of Psalm 24:7-10. Five times the LORD is identified as the “King of glory.” Who is this “King of glory?” He is the LORD, the “LORD of hosts” (24:8, 10).

In ancient times, the city gates were where private and governmental business was transacted.  The elders, and the king’s ambassadors, sat in judgment at the gates. Beginning with the elders, and chief leaders of the city, David commanded the people to hail the coming of the “King of glory” (24:7).

Psalm 24:7 – “Lift up [hold up] your heads, O ye gates [gates of the city of Jerusalem]; and be ye lift up [men who sat in the gates], ye everlasting [perpetual; ancient] doors; and the King of glory shall come in.”

Who was this “King of glory?” He was “the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal God] strong [mighty; powerful]and mighty [heroic; warrior], the LORD mighty in battle [war; combat; warfare]” (24:8). A thousand years after Psalm 24 was composed, Jerusalem celebrated Jesus’ entrance into the city, and identified Him as the “the Son of David,” and therefore heir to the throne. Within that same week, those same voices cried against Jesus, “Let Him be crucified” (Matthew 27:22-23; 1 Corinthians 2:8).

Closing thoughts – Perhaps that is the reason David announced, not once, but twice for the “gates” (24:7, 9) to lift up their heads and hail the coming of the “King of glory” (24:9-10). The world rejected Jesus when He came the first time; however, all nations will be forced to hail His Second Coming.

Psalm 24:9–109Lift up your heads, O ye gates; Even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; And the King of glory shall come in. 10Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.

Hail to the King, the LORD of heaven’s armies, for He is the King of glory!

Revelation 1:77Behold, he [Christ] cometh with [in the] clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him [on the Cross]: and all kindreds [people and nations] of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

Are you ready for His coming?

With the heart of a shepherd,

HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Suffering, Compassionate, and Victorious Savior (Psalm 22; Psalm 23)

Scripture reading – Psalm 22; Psalm 23

Our Scripture reading consists of two of the most beloved psalms in the Bible. Psalm 22 is a messianic psalm that presents us with a graphic portrait of Christ’s crucifixion, suffering, and death on the Cross. Psalm 23 is unquestionably one of the best known of all the psalms. A thorough study of each psalm is impossible in a devotional; therefore, the focus of this devotion will be Psalm 22. The brackets within the verses contain this author’s amplification.  HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Psalm 22 – The Suffering Shepherd

If you are familiar with the Gospel accounts of Christ’s death on the Cross, you will recognize the opening words of Psalm 22 as the very words quoted by Christ from the Cross (Matthew 27:45-46; Mark 15:34).

Psalm 22:1-2My God [Almighty God; my strength], my God, why hast thou forsaken [left; failed; abandon] me? why art thou so far [remote; distant] from helping [saving; delivering] me, and from the words of my roaring [moaning; cries; distress]?  2 O my God [Supreme God; the Godhead], I cry [call out] in the daytime [daily; by day], but thou hearest [answer; respond] not; and in the night season, and am not silent [still; quiet].”

Christ’s cries of sorrow to His Heavenly Father are found here.  Jesus would be betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, and abandoned by His disciples. In the hour of His suffering, He not only experienced the physical pain of the cross, He also suffered the anguish of loneliness. God the Father had turned away, and Christ cried, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”  (22:1; Matthew 27:46)

Why would the Father forsake His Son? Why so far away when His Son hung dying on the Cross?

A holy God would not look upon sin, and Jesus in His suffering had become “sin for us, Who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21).  He was altogether sinless; however, He bore the guilt, shame, and condemnation for sin we all deserve…DEATH (Romans 5:12). Make no mistake, God heard the cries of his Son, but heaven was silent as Christ accepted the penalty of our sins (22:2).

Psalm 22:3 – “But thou art holy [completely pure and clean], O thou that inhabitest [dwells; sits; abides] the praises of Israel.”

David confessed the holiness of God’s character, and His worthiness to be praised (22:3). Whatever sorrows and loneliness the king might bear, he was confident God was altogether holy!  The God of Israel is faithful, and He hears and answers prayers (22:4-5).

The prophetic focus of Psalm 22 shifted to the shame and reproach Christ would suffer on the Cross beginning with Psalm 22:6 and continuing through to Psalm 22:21.

Consider briefly the humiliation of a cross (22:6), the derision Jesus suffered as the crowd scorned and derided him (22:10). The agonies of the Cross continued with the emotional agony of Golgotha. Jesus was abandoned (22:11), encircled by enemies who are portrayed as bulls and roaring lions (22:12-13). Notice the description of the physical suffering of the Messiah: tired and traumatized (22:14); thirsty and tormented (22:15); taunted by enemies that were portrayed as dogs. The very nails of the cross are portrayed as piercing Christ’s hands and feet (22:16-17). Even the parting of Christ’s robes is prophetically described as it would occur (22:18; John 19:23-24).

The prophetic scene of the Cross continues with Christ’s death portrayed in the words, “19But be not thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me. 20Deliver my soul from the sword; My darling from the power of the dog” [a portrayal of the Gentile soldiers, 22:19-20].

The closing verses of Psalm 22 end in a note of triumph, and with two invitations (22:22-31).

The first invitation was to Israel, “the seed of Jacob…the seed of Israel,” and was an appeal for the people to glorify and fear the LORD (22:23). Reminiscent of the thief on the cross, the Messiah was foretold as not rejecting the afflicted, nor hiding “his face from him; But when he cried unto him, he heard” (22:24). I believe this was a foretelling of the thief crying to Jesus on the Cross, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus heard his penitent cry, and answered, “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

The second invitation was a universal one to all nations, and all people of the earth. David wrote, “27All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: And all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. 28For the kingdom is the Lord’s: And he is the governor among the nations” (22:27-28).

Closing thoughts – One thousand years before the Cross, David penned in exacting detail this prophecy of a suffering Messiah (Psalm 22). Christ’s death fulfilled the Father’s plan for a substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of mankind. His glorious resurrection triumphed over sin and the grave, promising all who accept Him, forgiveness and redemption. Even the Second Coming of Christ is found in Psalm 22: Jesus Christ will come again, as Sovereign and Governor of the nations, and all will “bow before Him…and declare His righteousness…that He hath done this!” (22:28-31)

Hallelujah! What A Savior!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Doxology of Praise (16:34-36)

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

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

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

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

Let all the earth rejoice, and praise the LORD.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

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

Psalm 88 – “A Psalm of Lamentation”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Make a Joyful Noise Unto God” (Psalm 81)

Scripture reading – Psalm 81

The title of Psalm 81 indicates that it was written by Asaph, and assigned to “The chief Musician upon Gittith,” which was perhaps an instrument or a musical notation. Psalm 81 assigns the observance of the psalm to “our solemn feast day,” most likely indicating either the Feast of the Passover or the Feast of the Trumpets (81:3).

A Call to Worship (81:1-3)

Asaph, one of three prominent musicians in his day (the others being Heman and Ethan, 1 Chronicles 6:33, 44) began Psalm 81 with a call to worship: “Sing aloud [i.e., with rejoicing] unto God [Elohim, mighty God] our strength: make a joyful noise [in harmony], unto the God of Jacob” (81:1). Notice that the music and the words of the psalm were focused on praising God, and the sound of the music was to be harmonious to the ear, and not the loud dissonance that too often characterizes music in our day.

Psalm 81:2-3 defined both the instruments, and the occasion of the psalm: “the timbrel [perhaps the tambourine], The pleasant harp with the psaltery [a lute or string instrument]. 3Blow up the trumpet [a shofar made from the horn of a ram, probably with a silver mouthpiece] in the new moon, In the time appointed, on our solemn feast day.” The shofar signaled the beginning of the feast, and it is indicated it was “in the new moon” (81:3; Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 10:10).

The Subject of Worship (81:4-7)

The LORD commanded Israel to observe the feast days (81:4), and Psalm 81:5 is a strong indication that Asaph had in mind the Feast of the Passover which was established in Egypt on the night the firstborn in Egypt was slain (Exodus 11:1-10; 12:29-36). God spared the firstborn of Israel because the Hebrews in obedience had placed the blood of sacrificial lambs on the posts of the door (Exodus 12:1-28, 37-51). Israel was a stranger in Egypt (represented in Psalm 81:5 as “ordained in Joseph,” and Israel would have been known as Joseph’s family), and there the LORD “heard a language that [He] understood not” (not that God did not understand the language, but it was not the tongue of His people which was Hebrew).

Psalm 81:6 describes the LORD delivering Israel from the burdens and toil of slavery (Exodus 1:11-14; 5:4-17); and when Israel called upon the LORD, He delivered the people out of trouble (Exodus 2:23; 3:9; 14:10). When they were thirsty in the wilderness, He gave them water to drink (81:7; Exodus 17:5-7).

Israel’s Covenant with the LORD (81:8-10)

Asaph reminded Israel that the LORD was a jealous God, and they were to have no other gods whom they worshipped (81:9). He had been the Savior and Deliverer of Israel, and they owed their allegiance to Him (81:10a). Like a mother bird provides warmth and food when her brood opens wide their mouths (81:10b), the LORD wanted to fill His people so that they would want for nothing (81:10).

Israel Disobeyed God (81:11-12)

Tragically, the people had disobeyed the LORD’s laws and commandments, and they would not heed his warnings (81:11). They had rejected Him, and God gave them over, and they became slaves to sin (81:12).

The LORD’S Love and Longsuffering (81:13-16)

Like a parent who feels the pain of a son or daughter’s rejection, Israel had rejected the LORD (81:13), though He longed to bless and protect them from their enemies (81:14). Those who hated, the LORD would have prospered had they turned from their sins to Him (81:15). The people would have wanted for nothing, for the LORD would have “fed them…with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock [He would] have satisfied” His people (81:16).

Closing thoughts: What can we take from Psalm 81, and incorporate into our hearts and lives?

The LORD wants His children to worship Him, and our music and songs should reflect His holy character. He wants us to remember all the good He has done in the past. He promises, if we obey Him we will never go wanting. If you are away from the LORD, He is longsuffering, and yearns for you to humble your heart, trust Him, and He will give you His best (81:16).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD: My Deliverer and Protector (Psalms 124-125)

Scripture reading – Psalm 124; Psalm125

Our study of the Psalms continues with two psalms titled, “A Song of Degrees.” While Psalm 124 bears the name of David as its the author, the author of Psalm 125 is unknown. Both of the psalms are among those believed to have been sung by the priests as they ascended the steps in the Temple.

Psalms 124 – “A Song of Degrees of David.”

I suggest two major themes for Psalm 124. The first, the dangers from which the LORD had saved David and his men.

The phrase, 1If it had not been the Lord who was on our side” is repeated in Psalm 124:1, and again in Psalm 124:2. I believe it is possible a song leader could have sung the first verse, ending the verse with, “Now may Israel say” (124:1). The congregation might have echoed the phrase, 1If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,” and added, “When men rose up against us” (124:2).

If the LORD had not been on the side of David and his men, the enemy (perhaps King Saul) would have “swallowed us [David, and his men] up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us” (123:3). If the LORD had not been on their side, he and his men would have been overwhelmed by their enemy, and swept away in Saul’s wrath like a violent stream sweeps away its victims (124:4-5).

Deliverance is the second theme of Psalm 124.  Like a prey delivered from the teeth of lion (124:6), and a bird set free from a trapper’s snare (124:7), when David called on the name of the LORD, his deliverer was the Creator of heaven and earth (124:8).

Psalms 125

The reference to Mount Zion (125:1) seems to confirm Psalm 125 was a psalm sung by pilgrims ascending the road to Jerusalem and the Temple. Consider the following as an outline for Psalm 125. I suggest you consider four major ideas for the psalm.

The Proclamation – “1They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever. 2As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, So the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.” (125:1-2)

We live in world where it seems the wicked often have the advantage. Psalm 125, however, exhorts believers to “trust in the LORD,” for He is like Mount Zion: Unmovable, immutable, unwavering, and He “is round about his people” forever (125:1-2).

The Promise – “3For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; Lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity.” (125:3)

The wicked threaten, and even smite the saints of God with their rod (i.e., club). Nevertheless, the LORD restrains the wicked, and the rod will not “rest [stay] upon the lot [person] of the righteous” (125:3).

The Prayer4Do good, O Lord, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts.” (125:4)

The LORD is loving, and compassionate, and we can be certain He will bless those who please Him with good.

The Pledge – “5As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, The Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity: But peace shall be upon Israel.” (125:5)

The LORD is Just, and those who take the crooked path, will be led along with the “workers of iniquity” and shall perish (125:5). But Israel [the true Israel, those who are the people of God] will enjoy peace (Galatians 6:16; John 14:27).

Closing thoughts: The mountains of Zion afforded Jerusalem a natural, fortified place, secure from her enemies.  Sitting upon the Mount Zion, Jerusalem was an impressive site from a distance and the deep ravines that cut through the mount were formidable.

In the same way Jerusalem enjoyed safety and security on Mount Zion, His people are encouraged to “trust in the LORD,” for He encircles them like the “mountains are round about Jerusalem” (125:1).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith