Category Archives: Salvation

A Lesson in LAW and GRACE (Genesis 22-24)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 22-24

Genesis 22 puts the faith of Abraham to the test as God proves his faith by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac, the son of God’s covenant promise.  Isaac’s question, “Where is the Lamb?” (22:7) is answered 2,000 years later when John the Baptist says concerning Jesus, “Behold the Lamb” (John 1:29, 36).

Reminding us God’s people are sojourners in this world of sin, we read, “Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2  And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her” (Genesis 23:1-2).

I close this historical crossroads in Abraham’s life inviting you to consider spiritual lessons concerning Law and Grace illustrated in the births of Ishmael and Isaac (Galatians 4:21-31). 

Ishmael, born a slave of a slave woman, was the fruit of Abraham’s effort to have a son and heir apart from God (Galatians 4:22a, 23a).   Isaac, born a free man of a free woman, was the son of promise whose birth was miraculous and the work of God (Galatians 4:22b, 23b).

The mothers, Hagar and Sarah, represent two covenants: Hagar, the LAW, the covenant between God and man (Galatians 4:24-25) reminding us the impossibility of man fulfilling the demands of the Law (Romans 3:19-20).  Sarah, represents God’s covenant of GRACE, His provision and unmerited favor (Galatians 4:26-27) extended to man.

Ishmael’s birth is a tragic reminder of man attempting in his own efforts to do and fulfill what only God can do.  Isaac’s birth, fulfilling God’s covenant promise to Abraham and Sarah, is a portrait of GRACE, God doing what only He could do.

My friend, that is why salvation is not by works that merit God’s favor, but is an act of God’s grace alone.

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

My theme for Genesis 24 is “Here Comes the Bride”.   Following the death of his beloved Sarah (23:1-2), Abraham was burdened that Isaac, his son and heir of God’s covenant promises, should have a fitting wife.

Fearing Isaac might be tempted to take a wife of the heathen tribes that dwelled in Canaan, Abraham determined to send his “eldest servant”  (24:2-4) to his kindred residing in “Ur of the Chaldees” (11:27-31).  Reflecting the faith of his master, Abraham’s servant prayed for the LORD to make His will clear in choosing the young woman who would become Isaac’s wife  (24:12-14).

God heard and answered the servant’s prayer even as he was praying (24:15-26).  In a prayer of praise that should comfort all who call upon and desire the will of the LORD, the servant prayed, I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren” (24:27).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Closing Thoughts on Life’s Trials, Fair-weather Friends, and the LORD’s Unfailing Grace (Job 40-42)

Daily reading assignment: Job 40-42

The LORD continues His interrogation of Job in chapter 40; however, he is now given an opportunity to respond  (40:3-5).  The first words from Job’s lips confessed his unworthiness (“Behold I am vile” – 40:4).  Humbled and at a loss for words, he is silent (40:4-5).

The LORD responds to Job, speaking to the man from the midst of the storm, Job is asked why he questioned His dealings as anything less than just (40:6-8). To summarize the LORD’s questions to Job in a modern context, “Who do you think you are to question me?” (40:9-14).

The beast described as the “behemoth” (40:15) is highly debated among scholars. Given the early writing of the book of Job, it is possible a dinosaur is described. Others suggest the behemoth was a hippopotamus, elephant or perhaps a water buffalo.

The LORD continues to question Job in chapter 41 and invites him to consider the “leviathan” (Job 41:1).  The identity of this great creature is also uncertain; however, some suggest it to be a giant saltwater crocodile.  Perhaps a giant creature of the sea that is extinct, but whose remains are identified today as those of a dinosaur.

Either way, the analogy is meant to draw Job to conclude that man is foolish to question his Creator when he pales in size and strength to the majestic beasts of His creation (41:1-9). The Lord challenged Job, if man cannot tame a “leviathan,” he has no right to question God (41:10-34).

Having heard the LORD’s revelations of Himself and pondered the evidences of His power and might as sovereign of creation, Job confessed, I abhor [despise] myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).

Accepting Job’s humble confession and repentance, the LORD turned the focus of His wrath upon Job’s “friends” (42:7-9) and commands “Eliphaz the Temanite” (perhaps the elder of the friends) to go to Job with sacrifices, humble themselves, and ask the very man they had condemned to pray for them (42:8-9).  [An additional observation: It is interesting that Elihu, the youngest “friend” of Job’s friends, is not named among those who went to Job in humility.  Elihu had been the most vociferous of Job’s judges; however, he fails to be named among those who sought to be restored to his fellowship].

Evidencing the grace and humility of a sincere repentant man of God, Job “prayed for his “friends” and God blessed him with “twice as much as he had before” (42:10).

Consider with me a few closing thoughts on “Fair-Weather Friends”:

Job 42:11 Then[i.e. the trials now passed and God having prospered Job “twice as much”] came there unto him all his brethren [kindred], and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance [i.e. friends and neighbors] before [before Job’s trials], and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned [i.e. showed sympathy] him, and comforted [pitied] him over all the evil [troubles] that the LORD had brought [i.e. allowed to enter] upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold.”

Where were these “brethren” and “sisters” when Job lost everything?  Where were Job’s acquaintances when he lost his sons and daughters, servants, home, physical health and possessions?  Why appear now to show sympathy and comfort?  Why wait to bring Job “a piece of money” and gold earrings after the LORD has begun to pour out his blessings on him and he has need of nothing?

I close our study of Job’s life rejoicing in how the LORD blessed him and he lived another “one hundred and forty years.” Job lived to witness the birth of “his sons, and his sons’ sons, even four generations” and“died, being old and full [satisfied] of days” (Job 42:10, 16-17).

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

“In the Beginning” (Genesis 1-3)

Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

Chronological Bible Reading PlanThank you for joining me on what I pray will be an incredible journey of faith and spiritual enlightenment in 2020!  I invite you to embrace the challenge of reading through the Bible, following a chronological reading plan that will take you from the Beginning (Genesis 1:1) to Eternity (Revelation 22:21).

The Scriptures are often profound in their stately simplicity, while challenging us spiritually and intellectually to ponder the Creator’s revelation of Himself, His holy character, moral attributes, and redemptive plan for the highest being of His Creation…Man.

Caution: While we will explore timeless spiritual truths that are decidedly apolitical and immutable; be forewarned that this pastor\author will not shy from addressing both the sins of our churches and the societal lunacy of “political correctness” that has embroiled our world.

Scripture Reading for January 1, 2020 – Genesis 1-3

To understand the chaos and conflict in our 21st century world one must go back…back to the beginning.  Accepting the universe was created by God demands faith; however, no more faith than believing this world came about as a result of some cataclysmic event and evolved from some primordial swamp over eons and eons.  Rejecting the Scriptures account of Creation leaves man believing the order and delicate balance of life and undeniable evidences of organization somehow arose out of disorder…a scientific impossibility.

The Bible simply states, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  While a consciousness of the Creator is written on the heart of every man and woman, the beauty and expanse of the heavens give undeniable evidence of His existence.  The psalmist writes,

Psalm 19:1 – “The heavens [sky; realm above the earth where the birds soar] declare [tell; shew forth; proclaim] the glory [splendor; majesty] of God [El – Almighty God; ]; and the firmament [expanse of the sky] sheweth [makes known] his handywork [i.e. the product of His hands].”

In his letter to believers in Rome, the apostle Paul states,

Romans 1:20 – “For the invisible things [which cannot be perceived with the physical senses] of Him [God] from the creation of the world are clearly seen [manifest perceived], being understood by the things that are made [Creation is a display of God’s power and majesty; the grandeur of the heavens give testimony of His power and person], even His eternal power and Godhead [deity; divine nature]; so that they are without excuse.”

God has written on the heart and conscience of mankind a moral law; a universal sense of right and wrong (Romans 2:14-15). In the words of Paul, men show or evidence “the work of the law written in their heart, their conscience also bearing witness” (Romans 2:15).

Genesis 1 states with simplicity the facts and wonders of God’s creation. Genesis 2 offers insight into man’s uniqueness in creation (Genesis 2:7).  While Adam and Eve’s physical bodies were shaped and formed by God; their souls and spirits were brought to life by the breath of God giving man a consciousness of self and his Creator (Genesis 2:7, 21-22).

Adam was created to serve God as the steward (Genesis 1:28) and servant (laborer) of His creation (Genesis 2:15).  God commanded Adam to “dress” and “keep” the Garden [“dress” = to till the ground; garden; “keep” = to guard; to keep it beautiful and in order].

“Why did God put a tree in the midst of the Garden and then forbid Adam and Eve to eat its fruit?”  (Genesis 2:16-17)

Adam and Eve were not robots.  God created them with “free wills” and gave them an ability to choose to obey or disobey Him.  Adam had both liberty and limitation. He had liberty to eat “…Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: “ (2:16).  He had one limitation“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (2:17).

Think of it this way: The forbidden fruit was not a test of God’s love for Adam, but a test of Adam’s love and devotion for God.

Tragically, Adam and Eve chose to disobey God (Genesis 3).  Mercifully, the Lord extended salvation to them, sacrificing an innocent animal whose skin He used to hide the shame and nakedness of their sin (Genesis 3:21).

Revealing His plan of redemption, grace, and forgiveness, God promised the “enmity”, the hostility, between Lucifer (i.e. the serpent) and mankind would be settled when the devil bruised the “heel” of a man described as the woman’s “seed” and that same man would crush the head of the serpent.

Who was that man? Who was the “seed” of the woman? Jesus Christ!

1 Corinthians 15:21-22 – “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Spiritual Qualifications of the Pastor and the Failure of the 21st Century Church (Titus 1:6-9)

One of the great failings of the 21stcentury church is men in the pulpit and positions of church leadership who are not spiritually qualified.

This past week, Josh Harris, a former mega-church pastor of the Sovereign Grace Movement (becoming pastor at age 30), former leader of The Gospel Coalition, and best known for his best-seller book on dating titled, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” (published when he was only 21 years old), announced on social media, “By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.”

Harris’ announcement of his “falling away” from the Christian faith was preceded by an announcement two weeks prior that he and his wife of 21 years were ending their marriage.  

Harris’ most recent announcement grabbed national and international headlines as he not only repudiated his book on dating and rejected Christianity, but also made an apology to the LGTBQ community writing on Instagram, “to the LBGTQ+ community, I want to say that I am sorry for the views that I taught in my books and as a pastor regarding sexuality. I regret standing against marriage equality, for not affirming you and your place in the church, and for any ways that my writing and speaking contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry.”

Behind the latest headlines is some old news…Josh Harris and his mentor, C. J. Mahaney, the former leader of the Sovereign Grace Movement, were exposed in May 2014 for their failure to prevent or stop sexual abuse in their Maryland church, Covenant Life when they learned a youth leader was sexually abusing three boys in the church.  That same man was later convicted of sexual crimes against minors.

While the secular and Christian media, along with a legion of bloggers, are focused (and some celebrating), Harris’ rejection of Christ and the authority of God’s Word in faith and practice, I suggest there is a greater disgrace than one man’s “falling away”; the 21st century church’s failure to examine its leadership in light of the spiritual qualifications for the office of pastor\teacher (Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Timothy 3:1-12; Titus 1:6-9).  

What lesson might we take from this ecclesiastical humiliation?  A spiritually unqualified man in the role of pastor\teacher will inevitably disgrace a church, it’s ministries, and testimony in the community and world.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Here Comes the Bride!

Today’s Bible reading is Numbers 3-4, Psalm 45, and Luke 1. Our devotional is from Psalm 45.

The heading of Psalm 45 identifies this psalm as “A Song of Loves” that was sent to the chief musician and set to a tune for worship. The tune is identified in the setting as “Shoshannim”, meaning “Lilies”.

Psalm 45 appears in the first reading as a love song composed by a king for his bride; however, the fact verse 6 states, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre” (45:6) and the song was used in worship means its application rises above that of a love song composed for a bride.

Hebrews 1:8-9 quotes Psalm 45:6-7, identifying the “Son” as Jesus Christ; therefore the bride of Psalm 45 is the Church, the bride of Christ.  What a wonderful thought!  As a groom loves his bride, even so does Christ the King love His bride, the Church.

Notice the idyllic description of the Church and the manner of people her members ought to be: “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness” (Psalm 45:7).

As a godly groom anticipates his bride to save herself, a virgin and morally innocent; so it is the duty of believers to be pure and holy in the sight of the King of kings and Lord of lords (Psalm 45:10-17).

Romans 12:1-2 –“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Old Testament Sacrifices and What They Teach Us About God’s Character (Leviticus 1-3)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 1-2, Psalm 34, and Mark 6. Our devotional is from Leviticus 1-3.

Leviticus 1-3 states what God required of Israel in sacrificial offerings and it serves as a lesson for the 21stcentury believer: God demands His people be a holy, sanctified people.

Preacher and author, Warren Wiersbe writes in his “Be Series” on the Book of Leviticus: “Leviticus tells New Testament Christians how to appreciate holiness and appropriate it into their everyday lives. The word holy is used 91 times in Leviticus, and words connected with cleansing are used 71 times. References to uncleanness number 128. There’s no question what this book is all about.”  [BE Series – Old Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – Pentateuch]

The sacrifices offered in the Old Testament were a pre-figure of which Jesus Christ was the perfect, complete, “once and for all” sacrifice for our sins (Hebrews 10:10).

The first offering required in Leviticus is the “burnt offering” (1:1-17).  The head of each household was to bring to the Tabernacle “a male without blemish”(1:3); placing “his hand upon the head” of the bull, sheep or goat, the worshipper identified with the animal’s death as the substitutionary sacrifice for his sin (1:4-5, 10, 14-15).   The sacrifice was then killed and the priest would take the blood and sprinkle it on the altar (1:5, 11).

The second sacrifice noted in Leviticus is the “meat offering” (a better translation would be “meal” or food offering) (Leviticus 2).  Also known as an oblation (meaning “gift” or present); it was a non-blood offering that consisted of grain (“fine flour”), oil and frankincense (2:1).  The priests were to take a portion of the “meal offering” for their families and the rest was to be offered as a burnt offering (2:2).

The third offering was a “sacrifice of peace offering” and was a blood offering (Leviticus 3).  Unlike the “burnt offering”, the “peace offering” could be male or female; however, the standard, “without blemish”, applied and the priests inspected the offerings to ensure they were acceptable sacrifices (3:1, 12).  As with the “burnt offering”, the worshipper would “lay his hand upon the head of his offering, kill it at the door of the tabernacle” (3:2), and the priests would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the altar.  We will continue our examination of sacrifices in our next devotional commentary from Leviticus.

I close highlighting the “without blemish” standard the LORD required of sacrifices under the Law.  Sacrificial offerings were to be of the highest quality; however, I am sure the temptation for many was to give the LORD something, but not necessarily the best.

The apostle Paul had in mind the same “without blemish” standard for believers when he wrote:

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

The LORD required the best and He requires no less of His people today.  Our bodies and our lives are to be “holy, acceptable unto God” (Romans 12:1).   Holy, sanctified, set apart and dedicated to the LORD.  Acceptable, pleasing and conforming to the will of God.

Anything less than our best is unacceptable to a holy God!

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith