Category Archives: Sickness

The Cry of a Wounded Heart (Psalm 41)

Scripture reading – Psalm 41

Today’s devotional is taken from Psalm 41, and is believed to have been penned by David when he was at a low point in life. Some have suggested the king was recovering from sickness, and was physically and emotionally exhausted.

Blessed are the Compassionate (41:1-2)

Psalm 41:1-2 – “Blessed [Happy] is he that considereth [understands; comprehends] the poor [weak; sick; needy]: the LORD will deliver [save; rescue] him in time of trouble [injury; misery; misfortune].
2  The LORD will preserve [keep watch; guard] him, and keep him alive [revive; restore; sustain]; and he shall be blessed [prosperous; happy] upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver [abandon] him unto the will [desire] of his enemies [adversary; foe].

Rehearsing the LORD’s promise that He hears and heeds the cries of His people, especially those who have shown compassion to others (41:1), David reminded all who worship the LORD that He keeps watch over them. Not only does God “preserve” and sustain them, David promised they shall be blessed! (41:2). And, should an enemy seek advantage in one’s hour of weakness, David assured believers the LORD never abandons His own to the will of an adversary (41:2).

A Comfort to the Sick and Afflicted (41:3-4)

Psalm 41:3-43 The LORD will strengthen [support; uphold] him upon the bed [couch; canopy] of languishing [illness; sorrow]: thou wilt make [turn; i.e. describing the care of a nurse] all his bed in his sickness [disease; malady].
4  I said, LORD, be merciful [gracious; show favor] unto me: heal [cure; purify] my soul [life]; for I have sinned [committed sin; guilty] against thee.”

David had tossed and turned on his bed, as sorrow and disappointment washed over him.  He had spent sleepless nights praying, and waiting on the LORD to heal him (41:3).  He had searched his soul, confessed his sin, and believed God would show Him mercy and restore him (41:4).

The Cruelty of Hypocritical Friends (41:5-8)

Psalm 41:5-6 – Mine enemies speak [charge] evil [sin; wickedness] of me, When shall he die [be slain], and his name [fame; honor] perish [destroyed]?
6  And if he [enemy; adversary] come to see [look upon; behold] me, he speaketh [declare] vanity [deceit; lies]: his heart gathereth [collect; heap; take up] iniquity [sin; wickedness] to itself; when he goeth [go forth] abroad [in the streets], he telleth [speak; say; talk] it.

David did not identify his enemies, but he revealed they took pleasure in his illness. They were cruel, and desired his name would perish with his life. Those men were not enemies of another country, but friends, perhaps some of his inner circle. They were close enough to see his pain, pretend to pity him, only to go their way and gloat in his troubles.

Psalm 41:7-8 –  “All that hate me whisper [mumble] together [i.e. in chorus] against me: against me do they devise [imagine; fabricate] my hurt [misery; trouble].
8  An evil [wicked] disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth [lays down] he shall rise up no more.”

We expect cruelty in the world, but it was David’s friends who reveled in his sorrows. Rather than empathy, they took pleasure in adding to his miseries (41:7). Such is the way of embittered souls (41:8).

Betrayed by a Friend and Confidant (41:9)

Psalm 41:9 –  “Yea, mine own familiar [close] friend, in whom I trusted [a confidant], which did eat [devour; consume] of my bread [food; meal], hath lifted up his heel [foot] against me [magnified himself].

Psalm 41:9 gives us a glimpse into the personal nature of the betrayal that had befallen David. Ahithophel’s betrayal, a man whom the king would have counted as a “familiar friend” (41:9), would have been a bitter experience for David. He had been the king’s confidant, but was also Bathsheba’s grandfather. No doubt embittered by David’s sins against his household, Ahithophel had joined Absalom’s insurrection against the king (2 Samuel 16:23). In David’s words, such an adversary had “lifted up his heel” and sought to grind the king under his heel.

A Doxology of Praise (41:10-13)

Psalm 41:10-13 – “But thou, O LORD, be merciful [be gracious; show me favor] unto me, and raise me up, that I may requite them. [reward them for the evil his enemies had done]
11  By this I know that thou favourest [delight in] me, because mine enemy doth not triumph over me.
12  And as for me, thou upholdest [support; give him justice] me in mine integrity [innocence], and settest me before thy face [presence] for ever.
13  Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen.”

Closing thoughtsPsalm 41 has given us a window into the heart of a broken man. There are many who can identify with David’s disappointments, and empathize with his sorrows; however, David did not stay there! When the king turned his thoughts from his sorrows to the LORD, his hope renewed. He was confident the LORD would show him grace, and mercy. Take a lesson from David’s life, and remember:

God favors those who put their trust in Him (41:11-13).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Don’t Worry, Our God Changes Not! (Psalm 102)

Scripture reading – Psalm 102

The author of Psalm 102 is not known; however, the title of this psalm may offer insight into the period in which it may have been composed. The title reads, A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord.” Speculative on my part, but I am in agreement with some scholars who suggest its author may have been one of the children of Israel who was living in Babylon during the captivity.

A Cry of Lamentation (Psalm 102:1-11)

Assuming the psalm was penned by an exile, I understand the pitiful cry of its author who has earnestly prayed, and longed for the LORD to lend a sympathetic ear and answer his prayer (102:1-2). Reflecting on his miseries, the psalmist painted his physical and emotional state (102:3-8).

He felt his life was passing, and his bones were wasting away (102:3). His heart was depressed, and his appetite lost (102:4). Physically, he had been reduced to skin and bones (102:5). Like a sparrow that had lost its mate, he moaned there was no one to comfort him (102:6-7).

The psalmist did not identify his adversary; but his enemy had been unrelenting in his attacks (102:8). He had become inconsolable. He could not hide his sorrows, and his tears flowed till they ran into his drink (102:9). Like a fading shadow, or grass that withers in the heat of the sun, he felt he was perishing (102:11).

A Confession of Faith, Hope, and Trust (Psalm 102:12-22)

In the midst of his darkest hour, the psalmist looked past this mortal, temporal life, and prayed, 12But thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever; And thy remembrance unto all generations” (102:12). With his hope renewed, he confessed his confidence that the LORD had appointed a time when He would “have mercy upon Zion” (Zion was a reference to the mountain range upon which Jerusalem and the Temple had been built, 102:13). Knowing the LORD would not forsake Israel forever, the author believed He had set the time He would renew His favor, and Jerusalem would be rebuilt (102:14-16).

Looking beyond sorrows, the psalmist was confident, though God was enthroned in heaven, His eye was always upon His people, and He heard their groanings (102:19-20). Stirring hope anew, our author looked forward to the time the LORD’S name would be declared in His city, and the people would worship, and serve Him (102:21-22).

The Majesty of God Overshadows Human Frailty (Psalm 102:23-28)

Have you ever been through dark times? Do you recall how you felt as though you were riding a rollercoaster, and experiencing the physical, emotional, and spiritual ups and downs of life?

Our psalmist began Psalm 102 with a prayer and cry for sympathy, but then his faith carried him to spiritual heights, and he believed the LORD had heard, and would answer his prayers. Yet, from a pinnacle of rejoicing, the present realities of his sorrows suddenly plunged him into a sensation that his strength would fail him (102:23a), his life would be shortened (102:23b), and he would not live to see Israel restored to her homeland (102:24).

Then, the psalmist remembered. He remembered God had revealed Himself as the Creator (Genesis 1), and He had “laid the foundation of the earth: And the heavens [were] the work of [God’s] hands” (102:25). He foresaw the temporal nature of the earth, the stars, and the planets, and that they would all “perish…[and] wax old like a garment” (10:26; Luke 21:33). He believed the LORD would change the earth and the heavens like you and I change our clothes (102:26; 2 Peter 3:13).

I believe our author was familiar with Isaiah’s prophecies, for the LORD had revealed to that prophet, “17For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: And the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind” (Isaiah 65:17). He surely knew the LORD had promised Israel, “22For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, Shall remain before me, saith the Lord, So shall your seed [Israel] and your name remain” (Isaiah 66:22).

Closing thoughts – The earth and the heavens are temporal, and the days of a man’s life pass “like a shadow” (102:11); however, the LORD is immutable and eternal, for His “years shall have no end” (102:27).

Be confident! Every promise of God is backed up by His divine character, and He is immutable, and eternal!(102:28)

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Distinction Between the Clean and Unclean (Leviticus 11-12)

The Distinction Between the Clean and Unclean (Leviticus 11-12)

Scripture reading – Leviticus 11-12

* The Scripture reading prior to today’s devotional was Leviticus 10-11. I limited the focus of the previous devotional to Leviticus 10. This devotional commentary will cover Leviticus 11 and Leviticus 12.

Distinction Between Clean and Unclean Meats (Leviticus 11)

Leviticus 11 delineates for us the distinction between the meats the LORD deemed clean and unclean for His people to consume. God instructed Moses and Aaron regarding the beasts the children of Israel could eat, and those they were forbidden to eat (Leviticus 11).

Israel was to be distinct from the other nations. While the heathen would eat all manner of flesh, the children of Israel were to limit their diet to what the LORD deemed clean: Large beasts that were “clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud” (11:3) included ox (i.e. beef), sheep, goat, and deer (Deuteronomy 14:4,5).

There were beasts the LORD classified as unclean, that did not “chew the cud,” and others did not “divide the hoof (11:4-8). Examples of beasts that were forbidden, included the camel (11:4), “the coney” (believed to be a rock badger, 11:5), “the hare” (similar to the rabbit, 11:6) and “the swine (pig or boar), though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you” (11:7).

Fish with fins and scales were permitted (11:9); however, any creature of the water that lacked fish and scales were considered “an abomination” and not allowed (11:11-12).

The Hebrew word, “fowl” (11:13, 20) describes anything that is winged and flies. We notice there were numerous predatory fowl, and scavengers of carrion (vultures), that were labeled unclean, and forbidden for consumption (11:13-19). Leviticus 11:20 describes “fowls that creep, going upon all four,” believe to be a reference to winged insects (flies, wasps, and bees).

Some swarming winged insects were permitted in the Hebrew diet, and they are described as “every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth” (11:21). These insects have jointed legs, and their larger hind legs allow them to leap. Among those that may be eaten were locusts, beetles, and grasshoppers (11:22-24).

All beasts, clean or unclean, that died as the course of nature, or by violence, were not to be eaten (11:24-25). Horses, asses, dogs, and all other beasts with paws (lions, tigers) were deemed unclean and were not to be consumed. In fact, touching them would make one ceremonially unclean (11:26-28).

Other animals labeled as “creeping things that creep upon the earth,” and were forbidden for human consumption: “the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind, 30And the ferret, and the chameleon, and the lizard, and the snail, and the mole” (11:29-30).

Kitchen vessels (pots, and pans) that came in contact with unclean animals were declared unclean (11:32-36). Vessels of wood, raiment, or skin that came in contact with unclean animals were to be cleaned in water, and not used until even (11:32). Vessels of clay that came in contact with unclean beasts, were to be broken and discarded (11:35). Snakes that slithered on their belly were unclean (11:41-43).

Why such attention to dietary restrictions?

There are several reasons that could be cited for the LORD’S declaration, and distinction between clean and unclean beasts. Long before man could peer through microscopes, and see the prevalence of dangerous bacterium in meats, the Creator knew those meats that are harmful to man. To prevent the consumption of meats that would cause illness, disease, and death, the LORD declared them unclean.

The LORD, who is Himself holy, commanded His people: “sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 45For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (11:44-45).

Leviticus 12 – The Purification of Women

Leviticus 12 moves the focus from unclean beasts, to unclean persons, and instructs women regarding ceremonial purification following childbirth (12:1-8).

A woman who had given birth was considered ceremonially unclean, and was to be separated from the sanctuary until her days of purification had past (12:1-2). A woman who had given birth to a son, was deemed ceremonially “unclean” for seven days, during which time she and her son would be separated from the family (12:2c). On the eight day, she would take her son to the priest to be circumcised (12:3). Her days of purification were numbered thirty-three days, during which time she would remain at home (12:4).

A woman who gave birth to a daughter (12:5), was separated from her family, and considered unclean for two weeks. She would remain at home for sixty-six days for her purification.

When a mother’s days of purification, and isolation were fulfilled, she would come to the sanctuary, and depending upon her means, bring either “a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest” (12:6).

The sin offering was a confession of her unworthiness, the burnt offering her sacrifice of gratitude and thanksgiving, acknowledging God’s mercies in bringing her through the pangs of childbirth (12:7-8).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Jacob’s Last Will and Testament (Genesis 48-49)

Scripture reading – Genesis 48-49

His father’s strength had been waning, and when Joseph received news his father was sick, he hastened with his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to Jacob’s bedside (48:1). Learning Joseph was approaching, Jacob (Israel) “strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed” (48:2). Joseph is about 56 years old when he comes with his sons to his father’s bedside.

Raising himself up from his bed, Jacob began to remind Joseph of the covenant promises God had imparted to him in Canaan, and said: “Behold, I [God Almighty] will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession” (48:4). [The third of the covenant promises, that of being a blessing to all people, will be related to Judah of whom Jesus Christ would be born, 49:8-12; 12:3.]

Jacob’s thoughts then turned to pronouncing God’s providential inclusion of Joseph’s sons among his own (48:5-6). Ephraim, the younger, and Manasseh the older, were foretold to be equal to Jacob’s sons, and would therefore inherit a portion of the birthright blessings in the place of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi who forfeited their portion through sinful choices (48:5b; 1 Chronicles 5:1; Numbers 26:28-37; 1 Chronicles 7:14-29; Hebrews 11:21). Reuben had morally sinned against his father (35:22), and Simeon and Levi had brought shame upon the family by their anger and violence (34:25-31). Though these sons were loved by their father, their sins had been so egregious that they were rejected from their full blessing.

Joseph put forward Manasseh, his oldest son; however, Jacob took Ephraim in his right hand, and insisted that the blessing of the firstborn would fall on him (48:8-19). Though he would die in Egypt, Jacob foretold that Joseph and his sons’ inheritance would not be in Egypt, but in Canaan (48:21). Thus, Joseph’s faithfulness to the LORD, and his care of his father and family were rewarded, and he would receive through his sons a double portion of the inheritance (48:22).

 

Genesis 49 – A Parting Blessing

Jacob’s final words to his sons, and his prophetic insight into the future of their lineages, are recorded in Genesis 49. The words of that dying man were both a blessing and sobering (49:3-15).

The Six Sons of Leah (49:3-15)

Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, was a strong leader; however, the shame of his lying with his father’s concubine shadowed his life (49:3-4). Simeon and Levi, the second and third born sons, were reminded of their angry, vindictive spirits, and their lineages would be scattered among the tribes in the Promised Land. The tribe of Levi would be priests to the LORD (49:5-7). Judah, the fourth born son, would become a royal lineage, of whom David and Jesus Christ would be born (49:8-12). Zebulun’s lineage, the tenth born son of Jacob, would settle along the Mediterranean coast (49:13). Issachar, the ninth son, would become an agricultural people (49:14-15).

The Sons of Bilhah (49:16-18; 21)

Bilhah, one of Jacob’s concubines, gave birth to two sons of Jacob. Dan, the fifth born son, his name means “Judge,” and his lineage would be a judge of the tribes (49:16-18). Naphtali, Jacob’s sixth son, would father a lineage said to be like a “hind let loose,” a swift female deer, and gifted in words (49:21).

The Sons of Zilpah (49:19-20)

Gad, son of Bilhah, was Jacob’s seventh son, and his lineage would be known as great warriors (Joshua 22:1-6; 1 Chronicles 12:8). Asher, the eighth born, would become a rich tribe, and supply the other tribes with “bread…[and] royal dainties” (49:20).

The Sons of Rachel (49:22-27)

Rachel, Jacob’s first love, was the mother of Joseph, the eleventh son (49:22-26), and Benjamin, his twelfth son (49:27).

Jacob described Joseph as an overcomer who, though suffering the arrows of accusations from his brothers, had become a “fruitful bough” (49:22-23).  God had elevated him, and he had become the shepherd of his family, and the “stone (or rock) of Israel” (49:24). Though separated from his father and brothers, Jacob promised God would bless Joseph “with blessings of heaven above” (49:25-26).

Benjamin, Jacob’s twelfth son, was described as ravenous as a wolf (49:27). His tribe would be fearless warriors (Judges 20:15-25), and numbered among his lineage would be Saul, the first king of Israel, and the apostle Paul (Romans 11:1; Philippians 3:5). Benjamin’s tribe, along with the tribe of Judah, would be faithful to the LORD.

Jacob’s Death (49:28-33)

Jacob’s dying breaths repeated his request to be buried in Canaan, and in the ancestral tomb where Isaac and Abraham were entombed. “When Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people” (49:33).

Jacob’s death marked the end of an era, but not the end of our study. He would be given the burial honors of a ruler in death, and Joseph’s brothers feared he would exact revenge for the evils they had committed against him.

Our next devotional will reveal how the drama between Joseph and his brothers will end.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

God is Just, Merciful, Gracious, and Good (Job 35-36)

Scripture reading – Job 35-36

Job 35 – Elihu’s criticism of Job continues as that angry young man charges him with three improper statements.

The first, that Job had misrepresented religion as unprofitable (35:1-8). Elihu suggested that Job had implied that his “righteousness [was] more than God’s” (35:2). Of course, Job had not verbalized such an outrageous statement, but Elihu had supposed that was the implication of his testimony of innocence (35:3-8).

Job had prayed, and cried out to God because of his afflictions; however, Elihu suggests he was not interested in drawing closer to God, but merely seeking relief from his sorrows (35:9-13).

Job had complained of not understanding the cause of his plight, and despaired of ever again enjoying God’s favor (35:14). Elihu suggested the delay in Job’s deliverance from suffering was because he had opened “his mouth in vain; He multiplieth words without knowledge” (35:15-16). Stated simply, Job had said a lot, but he had failed to humble himself before God.

Job 36 – Elihu’s Proposal to “Speak on God’s Behalf” (36:2)

Evidencing youthful pride, Elihu proposed to “speak on God’s behalf” (36:2), and to impart uncommon “knowledge” (36:3). He promised his words would be true (36:4a), and that which God Who “is perfect in knowledge” would have him to speak (36:4b).

Elihu returned to the rationale that had been espoused by Job’s friends, and that is that God is just and always rewards men according their works (36:5-15).

Elihu declared that “God is mighty…mighty in strength and wisdom” (36:5). It was Elihu’s conclusion that was untrue. He implied that God always rewards men according to their works, and declared that the Lord “preserveth [prolongs] not the life of the wicked: But giveth right [justice] to the poor” (36:6).

Elihu’s assertion failed the reality that God is “longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Not only does the LORD prolong the life of the wicked, providing them opportunity to repent of their sins, but the poor do not always receive the justice they are due in this earthly life (36:6b).

Another error proposed by Elihu was that, hypocrites in heart heap up wrath…They die in their youth” (36:13-14a). In a perfect, sinless world that statement would stand as just, and there are many instances where wicked men die young. However, it is also true that God is patient, and his grace is offered to the worst of sinners.

Elihu suggested that Job’s sorrows were due to his pride, and had he humbled himself and repented, God would have given him a “table…full of fatness [rich foods]” (36:16). Elihu continued, because Job had refused to repent, the “judgment of the wicked” had befallen him (36:17), and no amount of riches could deliver him (36:18-19).

Job 36 concludes with Elihu attempting to inspire Job to concede the sovereignty and omnipotence of God (36:22-33).

God is supreme, and He “exalteth” and sets up whom He pleases (36:22a). He is omniscient, and no man can teach Him (36:22b). He is perfect, and cannot be accused of “iniquity” or wrong doing (36:23b).

God’s greatness is displayed in His creation (36:24-25), for the “heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handywork” (Psalm 19:1). He is eternal, and “the number of His years [cannot] be searched out” (36:26b).

God’s power and wisdom sustains His creation, and He determines where the clouds drop their water (36:27-28), and they act as a canopy, sheltering us from the rays and heat of the sun (36:29-30). The same clouds that brought judgment on the earth in the flood, also bear life-giving water by which He “giveth meat [food] in abundance” (36:31).

Contrary to Elihu’s reasonings, and the assertions of Job’s friends, God is not only just, He is gracious, merciful, and kind.

Matthew 5:4545That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Religious Zeal without Knowledge is a Travesty (Job 33-34)

Scripture reading – Job 33-34

We were introduced to Elihu in the previous devotional (Job 32). Understanding Job and his friends were his elders, he had remained silent and observed the debate between those men. Having failed to convince Job of his error, “the three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes” (32:1). Provoked by the failure of Job’s friends, and incensed by his protests of innocence (32:2-3), Elihu had confessed he was “ready to burst” with his own opinion (32:17) like wine that had fermented in wine skins and having no vent (32:18-20).

Job 33 – Elihu’s Denigration of Job

Elihu began with a façade of humility, conceding he was no better than Job, for he too was “formed out of the clay” (33:6). His humility soon gave way to arrogance as he accused Job of daring to accuse God of treating him as an enemy (33:7-10).

Attempting to convict Job of folly, Elihu reminded him that he was not “just” (i.e. righteous), and God is Sovereign, and does not give “account of any of His matters” (33:12-13). God is altogether righteous in His ways, and good in His dealings with man (33:14-18).

Job’s friends had argued that his afflictions were God’s punishment for some wickedness, and he had confessed he believed his suffering was a token of God’s wrath (33:19).

Elihu believed that God uses pain and afflictions for His purpose, and to protect men from pride (33:17-23). Job’s sorrows, he argued, could be used by God to purge his passion for “bread…and dainty [rich] meat” (33:19-20), and “deliver [redeem] him from going down to the pit [grave]” (33:24, 28).

Job 34 – The Majesty of God’s Character, and Elihu’s Defamation of Job’s

Elihu challenged Job and his friends to listen to his indictment of the man (34:1-4), and accused him of entertaining high ideas of himself, and a false view of God (34:5-9). He alleged that Job was self-righteous, and that he had accused God of injustice (34:5). He insinuated that Job believed he had been wounded “without transgression” (i.e. unfairly, 34:6), and that he had declared he might as well run with the wicked, for pleasing God “profiteth a man nothing” (34:7-9).

Although he had mistaken the cause of Job’s sorrows, Elihu nevertheless stated some great insights into the attributes of God (34:10-30).

He declared God is Just (34:10-12, 17, 19, 23), Sovereign (34:13-15), and Almighty (34:20, 24). He is Omniscient, “21For his eyes are upon the ways of man, And he seeth all his goings. 22There is no darkness, nor shadow of death, Where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves…He knoweth their works” (34:21-22, 25). He is Judge of the wicked (34:26-28).

Job 34 concluded with Elihu sharply rebuking Job, and demanding, “speak what thou knowest” (34:33b), or say what you think! He reproved him, and accused him of speaking “without knowledge [thinking]…[and] without wisdom [discernment]” (34:35). He cruelly declared his desire that “Job may be tried unto the end [forever]because of his answers for wicked men [i.e. he answers like wicked men]” (34:36), and “addeth rebellion unto his sin…and multiplieth [murmurs or complains] his words against God” (34:37).

A closing thought: Elihu had defamed, cruelly past judgment, and condemned Job without cause. He had arrogantly demanded that others hear and agree with his conclusion (34:34). Rather than a friend, Elihu’s words, and actions had proved he was Job’s enemy. He desired to destroy the man God pronounced as “a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil” (1:1, 8).

Warning: Elihu’s are ever present, and we should be vigilant and oppose those who are swift to libel and slander others.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Elihu the Younger: An Exhibition of Youthful Zeal (Job 32)

Scripture reading – Job 32

Job 31 was Job’s final reply to his friends’ allegations, that his troubles were those with which God afflicts wicked men. When he had finished his retort, his friends remained silent, and they “ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes” (32:1).

Listening to the dispute between Job and his friends was a younger man named “Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram” (32:2b). Because he was young, he had wisely deferred to his elders; however, he had determined he would no longer sit in silence.

Exhibiting the zeal of youth, he confessed he had been stirred to indignation, not only by Job, whom he observed, “justified himself rather than God” (32:2c), but “also against his three friends…because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job” (32:3). When he realized the conversation between Job and his friends had ended with no resolution, Elihu determined he would be silent no longer (32:4-8).

Observing that, “9Great men are not always wise: Neither do the aged understand judgment” (32:9); he demanded that his elders would weigh his opinion in the matter of Job and his afflictions (32:10). Though his words were lofty, his spirit was negative (32:12), as he boasted he had insights that had not yet been expressed (32:14-17).

Elihu’s enthusiasm, and his demand to be heard by Job and the others, was graphically expressed in a metaphor where he likened his spirit to a new wine skin that was ready to burst (32:18-19).

Job 32:18–19 – “18For I am full of matter [words], The spirit within me constraineth [compels] me. 19Behold, my belly is as wine which hath no vent; It is ready to burst like new bottles.”

Unable to contain himself any longer, Elihu asserted:

Job 32:20–2220I will [must] speak, that I may be refreshed [relieved]: I will open my lips and answer.
21Let me not, I pray you, accept [show favor to] any man’s person, Neither let me give flattering titles unto man.
22For I know not to give flattering titles [puff up another]; In so doing my maker [Creator] would soon take me away [seize by force].

Though he was the younger of the four men, and one who had wisely deferred to his elders, Elihu nevertheless had a zeal that demanded to be heard. Though young, he was wise in much that he said, and his speech will cover six of the remaining chapters in our study of the Book of Job (Job 32-37).

A closing thought: Old age is not indicative that one has spiritual maturity or understanding; however, it is also true that religious zeal without wisdom can be injurious.

Proverbs 4:7 – “7Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: And with all thy getting get understanding.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Tragic Consequences of Generational Sins (Job 20-21)

Scripture reading – Job 20-21

Job 20 records the second and final response of Zophar the Naamathite (his first speech was recorded in Job 11). Offended by Job’s admonition that his “friends” would face God’s wrath for their harsh judgments (19:28-29), Zophar’s rebuke came swift and furious (20:1-3).

Job 20:4-29 – The Fate of the Wicked

Like his friends, Zophar inferred that Job’s afflictions were to be expected by those who are wicked. Consider three erroneous opinions Zophar stated regarding his observations of the wicked.

The first error, that the wicked always come to destruction (20:4-11).

Zophar submitted that the rejoicing of the wicked is brief (20:4), and the honors bestowed on them perishes with them, and they are soon forgotten (20:5-8). Neither of those statements is necessarily true. In fact, the wicked often live out their lives enjoying ill acquired wealth, and their funerals and tombs are often grand spectacles to behold.

The second error, that the wicked will not prosper (20:12-23).

Continuing his erroneous observations, Zophar suggested that the prosperity of the wicked is brief (20:12), inevitably bites like a poisonous viper (20:13-16), and he dies in want.

One need remembers the LORD’s parable of a rich fool (Luke 12:16-21) to understand the error in Zophar’s reasoning. Beguiled with the pleasures of his riches, the rich man ordered his barns be torn down to build greater barns, and said to his soul, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:19). Rather than die in want, the rich fool died as he had lived, enjoying his wealth until he learned in eternity that he was the poorest of men: “20But 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? 21So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20–21).

The third error in Zophar’s observations was that only the wicked suffer devastating sorrows, and catastrophic losses (20:24-29).

Zophar maintained that the wicked are struck down (20:24-25), and all that he has is destroyed (20:26).  He observed that the wicked feel everything is against him, until his riches are consumed by God’s wrath (20:27-28).

While it might be argued that the wicked often suffer loss, it is more often true that they are rewarded by the system of this fallen world, and hailed for their ill-gotten gains (John 15:19a).

The implication of Zophar’s argument was that Job’s sorrows were a wicked man’s afflictions, and such is the lot or “heritage,” God has “appointed” for the wicked (20:29).

Job 21 – Rather than Suffer, the Wicked Prosper

I will summarize Job 21 by outlining Job’s disagreement with Zophar’s fallacies. Demanding his friends be silent that he might speak, Job sarcastically challenged them that after he had spoken, “mock on” (21:1-2).

Confessing his struggle was with God, not with men (21:3-6), Job observed that the wicked and their children often live long lives, and enjoy prosperity (21:7-13). He contended that the riches of the wicked cause their hearts to be calloused, and “they say unto God, Depart from us; For we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. 15What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? And what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?” (21:14-15)

Failing to realize that they deserve nothing, and all that they have is a testimony of God’s grace and longsuffering, the prosperity of the wicked moves them to reject God (21:16).

Do not assume that the wicked go unpunished.

The consequences of sin are inevitable, and the wicked are “18 as stubble before the wind, And as chaff that the storm carrieth away. 19God layeth up his [the wicked’s] iniquity for his children: He rewardeth him, and he shall know it” (21:18-19).

Here is a tragic truth: The children of the wicked often suffer the influence of their parent’s sins. That truth is stated three times in the Law (Exodus 20:5; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9).

Numbers 14:18 – “18The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.”

Warning: The consequences of your sins may be borne by your children.

A Personal Note: Knowing this devotional series is read daily by hundreds of believers, I covet your prayers for my wife. She was hospitalized today, January 19, 2021, with pneumonia and we are waiting on confirmation if her illness is COVID-19 related. As you might imagine, the devotions in the Book of Job have been personal, and have coincided with my wife and me facing our own afflictions. Thank you for interceding for us. I will update this prayer request when I receive news.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

God is with us in joys, and in sorrows. (Job 16)

Scripture reading – Job 16

A word of encouragement: The Book of Job is “heavy reading,” especially for young believers who have little experience with sorrows and disappointments; however, Job’s afflictions are spiritually instructive. We observe not only the reality of trials, but also a great truth: God is with us in joys, and in sorrows.

Eliphaz had made no allowance for Job to be anything less than guilty of some great wickedness. After all, he reasoned, “the wicked man travaileth with pain all his days” (15:20a).  Beginning with that false premise, Eliphaz wrongly concluded that God was punishing Job.

Job’s Response to Eliphaz (Job 16:1-6)

The introductory verses of Job 16 reflect the heart of a man who had grown weary of accusations, brought by men who came under the pretense of showing him compassion. Instead of comfort, Eliphaz had wounded and offended Job. He and his friends were, in Job’s words, “miserable comforters” (16:2).

Job rebuked Eliphaz saying, “3Shall vain words have an end? Or what emboldeneth thee that thou answerest?” We might say, stop talking! What makes you think that you have anything worth saying?

Job continued, were he in Eliphaz’s place, he would be able to heap on him similar judgments (16:4), however, his desire would be to strengthen and comfort his friend with the words of his mouth (16:5).

Job’s Complaint Against God (Job 16:7-22)

Turning his focus from his friends, I count at least seventeen complaints that Job confessed to God (16:7-22). I will not list all of his complaints, but I remind you as you read them that they reflect the sincere anguish of a hurting, troubled man. Job believed his trials were from the LORD, but he did not know their cause. His complaints; however, shed light on the plight and emotions that afflict believers when they go through hard times.

Take a few moments and consider Job’s grievances. Grief had left him physically, and emotionally exhausted (16:7). Sorrow had wrinkled his countenance, and his body was physically wasted (16:8). Rather than pity, his “friends,” attacked him like a lion seizes its prey (16:9).  Instead of compassion, he had been mocked and scorned (16:10-11), and left a broken, wounded soul (16:12).

Job felt crushed by the weight and sorrows of his troubles (16:13-15). His face was swollen from weeping, and the dark circles under his eyes were like “the shadow of death” (16:16). Still, Job argued his innocence (16:17a), confessed his devotion to God (“my prayer is pure,” 16:17b), and maintained he had harmed no man (16:18).

Though his friends had scorned him, and added to his sorrows (16:19-20a), Job held out hope that God would vindicate him before he died (16:20b-22).

I close with a common-sense adage for those times you might, like Job, feel your life is hanging by a thread:

TIE A KNOT, HANG ON, AND TRUST GOD!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“God Has Got the Whole World in His Hands” (Job 12-13)

Scripture reading – Job 12-13

Zophar had contended that Job’s troubles were indicative of unconfessed sin (Job 11), and concluded his admonition with three challenges:  Repent (11:13-14); Be restored (11:15-19); but Be forewarned – A man who refuses to repent of his sin will vainly seek rest, refuge, and hope (11:20).

Job’s reproof of Zophar’s denunciation is recorded in Job 12-14. Today’s devotional will consider the first two of the three chapters (Job 12-13).

Job 12 – Four Spiritual Lessons in the Sovereignty and Providence of God

Job’s initial response to Zophar was sarcastic, asserting, “2No doubt…wisdom shall die with you” (12:2). In other words, Job argued that Zophar presumed he had all wisdom, and no doubt believed that wisdom would perish with him.

Continuing his reproof, Job declared, “I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you: Yea, who knoweth not such things as these?” (12:3) Although bearing the sorrows of his trials, Job’s confidence in the LORD, and his personal knowledge of God’s ways was unshaken by Zophar’s pride and condemnation. Job contended he was his friend’s equal, and he had heard nothing spoken that was not common knowledge among men (12:3). There are several lessons we might derive from Job’s defense.

Lesson – Trials are not indicative of sin or God’s judgment. (12:4-8)

Refuting Zophar’s contention that only the wicked suffer so many sorrows, Job observed, “6The tabernacles [houses or households] of robbers prosper, And they that provoke God are secure; Into whose hand God bringeth abundantly” (12:6).

Job’s observation was the opposite of Zophar’s conclusion. Using the order and laws of nature as the basis of his argument (12:7-8), Job concluded that the influence of sin in the world dictates that the stronger prey upon the weak (the beasts, fowls, and fish are proofs, 12:7-8).

Lesson – God is Sovereign, and He Will Not Abdicate His Authority (12:9-15)

The life and breath of “every living thing” is in God’s hands (12:9-10), and the wisdom of man is not the wisdom of God (12:11-13). God is all-powerful, and no man or nation can contend with His providences. What the LORD determines to break down, no man can rebuild (12:14a). He controls the floodwaters, and sends or withholds the rain (12:15). All men are under God’s control, for “the deceived and the deceiver are His” (12:16).

Lesson – No Man Can Contend with Divine Providence and Win (12:17-24).

God humiliates counselors, and makes fools of judges (12:17). He upends the bondage of kings, and entangles them in their own devices (12:18). He humiliates the mighty (12:19), and frustrates the counsel “of the aged” (12:20). He brings the powerful to disgrace (12:21). He brings to light the plots made in secret (12:22). He is Sovereign of the nations, and “increaseth [strengthens] the nations, and destroyeth them: He enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth [leads] them again” (12:23).

Lesson – God Frustrates the Heads of the Nations, Leaving Them Blind (12:24-25)

Job 12:23–2524He taketh away the heart [mind; will; understanding] of the chief [leaders] of the people of the earth, And causeth them to wander in a wilderness where there is no way [perplexed, and confused]. 25They grope in the dark without light, And he maketh them to stagger like a drunken man.

Job 13 – Job’s focus turns from his friends to God.

Job 13 begins with the same contention he stated in the early verses of Job 12: His friends are no wiser than he (13:1-2), and he does not need them superseding God’s authority or speaking for Him (13:3). He rejects their counsel, contending they were “forgers of lies…physicians of no value” (13:4). He accused them of dishonoring God, by supposing to speak on His behalf (13:5-13).

I conclude with one of the great statements of faith in God’s providences found in the Bible: Though He slay me, yet will I trust in him (13:15a). Job was confident that, though his life might be taken in death, the Lord would not forsake him.

What about you? Will you trust God, when it appears it will cost you everything? Will you trust Him when you feel humiliated, and betrayed? Will your faith remain unshaken, when all seems lost?

Psalm 23:44Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith