Category Archives: Trials and Temptations

Does the LORD Seem Distant? (Psalm 10)

Scripture reading – Psalm 10 

The author of Psalm 10 is not identified, and are we not given the historical context for the psalm. However, the subject of the psalm is evident, for the focus is on the pride and oppressive nature of the wicked. I invite you to consider two portraits of man found in Psalm 10. The first portrait is that of the wicked (10:2-11), and the second is a portrayal of the righteous, and their appeal to the LORD (10:1, 12-16).

The Astonishment of the Righteous (Psalm 10:1)

When facing a wicked foe, the psalmist felt as if he had been abandoned by the LORD. He questioned, Why standest thou afar off, O LORD? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble [anguish; distress; adversity]?” (10:1) Facing an enemy whose desire was to hurt, and destroy him, the psalmist despaired, and felt the LORD was far from him in his hour of need.

The Will of the Wicked (10:2-4)

Psalm 10 paints a vivid portrait of the wicked. Consider the will, resolve, and determination of the wicked. They are arrogant, and oppressors of the poor and needy (10:2). The wicked are boasters, and glory in sinful lusts, passions, and desires (10:3). That which God abhors, the wicked praise (10:3). “Through the pride of his countenance,” the wicked “will not seek [follow] after God,” and God is far from his thoughts (10:4).

The Way of the Wicked: They are insensitive, and desensitized to the grievous nature of their sin. (10:5)

They deceive, and defraud the naive with their platitudes, and lofty promises. They do not fear God, and are blind to His judgments (10:5). The wicked are “his enemies, [and the LORD] puffeth at them” (10:5). They are proud, and sneer at any who oppose them.

The Words of the Wicked (10:6-7)

Lifted up with pride, the wicked boast, “I shall not be moved [removed; carried; fall down]: for I shall never be in adversity [distress; harm; injured]” (10:6). He believes he is too big, or too strong, to be brought to justice (10:6), and he threatens all who oppose him (10:7). He swears, “his mouth is full of cursing.” He deceives, insults, and his tongue is venomous, full of “mischief and vanity” (10:7).

The Wiles of the Wicked (10:8-11)

Like lions stalking their prey, the wicked lie in wait to catch the poor, the innocent, and spiritual stragglers unawares (10:8-10). With one fierce swipe, they seek to crush the righteous. (The portrayal in Psalm 10 is of a physical attack; however, the implication might also be intimidation, slander, and lawsuits that can crush, and destroy.) A wicked man is spiritually deluded, and like the fool that he is, “He hath said in his heart [mind; will], God hath forgotten [oblivious; ignored]: he hideth [conceals] his face; he will never see [look; behold; perceive] it” (10:11).

The Appeal of the Righteous to the LORD (10:12-18)

The psalmist had prayed to the LORD, “let them [the wicked] be taken [captured; taken hold; seized] in the devices [inventions; plots] that they have imagined [devised; purposed; conceived]” (10:2). Remembering the LORD is Just (10:12), Omniscient (10:13-14), and Judge (10:15), he called upon the LORD to save him from the wicked (10:12). He reminded Him that the wicked boast, and believe the LORD “wilt not require it” [call to account] (10:13).

Closing thought: Psalm 10 concludes on a victorious note, for the psalmist took comfort, knowing the LORD was Sovereign (10:16). Though the wicked boasts, the righteous can be confident the LORD hears and answers the prayers of the humble (10:17).

You may not always see justice come to pass, but you can be certain that the LORD is on the side of the righteous, and He is a righteous Judge (10:18).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“What is Man?” (Psalm 8-9)

Scripture reading – Psalm 8-9

Today’s Scripture readings, Psalms 8-9, are authored by David. Both of the psalms have captured the imagination of saints for centuries, and inspired musicians and poets to put the words of the psalms to music. With the exception of my amplification of some word meanings, I invite you to meditate on the words of the psalms.

Psalm 8 – The Wonder and Majesty of the LORD and Creation

1 O LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent God] our Lord [Master; Sovereign of Creation], how excellent [noble; mighty; majestic; glorious] is thy name [character; person; reputation] in all the earth! who hast set [put; made; given] thy glory [splendor; majesty; authority] above the heavens [i.e. stars of the sky].  
2  Out of the mouth of babes [young children] and sucklings [nursing infants] hast thou ordained [appointed; established; lay a foundation] strength [might; power; boldness] because of thine enemies [adversary; foes; distress], that thou mightest still [cease; silence; rest; observe] the enemy and the avenger.  
3  When I consider [look; behold; perceive] thy heavens [i.e. stars of the sky], the work [acts; labor; i.e. accomplishments] of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained [prepared; established; fashioned; fixed];  

4  What is man [mortal man], that thou art mindful [remember; think of] of him? and the son [children] of man, that thou visitest [care for; concerned with] him?”

David beheld the splendor and glory of the LORD displayed in His handiwork, the sun, moon and stars (8:3). He marveled at God’s power to hold the stars and planets in their courses. Overwhelmed by the beauty and majesty of creation, David exclaimed, “What is man?”  (8:4)

Why would the Creator of the heavens give even a thought to sinful, weak, foolish men?  Why would the Infinite take a single moment of time to visit, care or concern Himself with such an ignoble race?  Surely, only a fool would gaze into the heavens and state, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

5  For thou [the Lord] hast made him [man] a little [smaller; less than] lower [wanting; lacking] than the angels [heavenly beings], and hast crowned [encircled; compassed; surrounded] him [man] with glory [splendor] and honour [beauty; majesty].
6  Thou madest him [man] to have dominion [rule; reign; power] over the works [acts; deeds; i.e. creation] of thy hands; thou hast put [placed; set; fixed] all things under his feet:
7  All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts [domesticated animals..i.e. horse; mule] of the field [land; country];
8  The fowl [birds] of the air [sky; heavens], and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas [roads; ways; i.e. we have learned there are currents].
9  O LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent God] our Lord [Sovereign; Master], how excellent [great; powerful; glorious; majestic]is thy name [character; position; renown] in all the earth [land; country]!

Psalm 9 – A Call for Thanksgiving

Psalm 9 is a psalm of praise and thanksgiving to the LORD for His judgment upon the wicked, and His deliverance of the righteous. Psalm 9:1-6 stated David’s praise, in anticipation that the LORD would give him victory over his foes.

Psalm 9:7-12 listed David’s reflections on the character of the LORD, who is eternal (9:7), righteous in His judgment (9:8), a refuge and safe place for the hurting (9:9), trustworthy (9:10), worthy of all praise (9:11), and just (9:12).

Understanding the LORD is merciful, David called upon Him to look upon his troubles, and behold his enemies. He believed God would deliver him in the future as He had in the past (9:13-14). Though his adversaries threatened him, David was confident the heathen would be overtaken in their own plots against him (9:15).

Knowing the LORD is just and righteous in His judgments, David declared, “16The Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth: The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion [think, meditate]. Selah [pause]. 17The wicked shall be turned into hell, And all the nations that forget God” (9:17-18).

David’s psalm of thanksgiving closed with a benediction, as he called upon the LORD to remind the heathen, and the nations of the world that they are but men! (9:19-20).

Closing thought: Take a few minutes and ponder the majesty of the LORD reflected in not only His creation, but also in His “marvelous works” in your life. The LORD is great, and worthy of all praise!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Way of the Wicked (2 Samuel 4; Psalm 6)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 4; Psalm 6

The events in 2 Samuel 4 are another reminder that humanity has not changed. Evil men struggle for power, riches, and influence, and the treachery and deceit found in our Scripture readings are as present in our day as they were in ancient times.

2 Samuel 4

The Plot to Kill, Ishbosheth, King of Israel (4:1-4)

When the news of Abner’s death (3:26-27) reached Saul’s son, Ishbosheth was so overcome with fear that “his hands were feeble [i.e., became limp], and all the Israelites were troubled” (4:1). With the captain of his army dead, Ishbosheth realized his days as king were numbered.

Two brothers, Baanah and Rechab (4:2-3), supposed the death of Abner provided them an opportunity to exact revenge against the house of Saul (for that king had slain many Gibeonites who lived in Beeroth, 2 Samuel 21:1-2). Besides Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, there was one other male of Saul’s household, Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan; however, he was lame and unfit to be king (4:4). With Ishbosheth dead, Baanah and Rechab reasoned the last obstacle to David becoming king of Israel would be removed, and they would be rewarded.

The Assassination of Ishbosheth (4:5-8)

Under the pretense of gathering grain, possibly as compensation to their band of soldiers, Rechab and Baanah entered the palace. Finding Ishbosheth sleeping, they killed him upon his bed, and beheaded him (4:5-7). Carrying the head of the king as proof he had been slain, Rechab and Baanah traveled through the night, and “brought the head of Ishbosheth unto David to Hebron” (4:8). Imagining they would be rewarded, they said to David, “Behold the head of Ishbosheth the son of Saul thine enemy, which sought thy life; and the Lord hath avenged my lord the king this day of Saul, and of his seed” (4:8).

David Condemned the Murderous Actions of Rechab and Baanah (4:9-12)

Reflecting on the LORD’S faithfulness during his wilderness years, David certainly did not need Rechab and Baanah to slay Ishbosheth (4:9). Drawing upon how he had ordered the death of the Amalekite soldier that had claimed to slay King Saul (2 Samuel 1), David condemned the two brothers for slaying Ishbosheth, “a righteous person in his own house upon his bed” (4:11).

David then “commanded his young men, and they slew [Rechab and Baanah], and cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged them up over the pool in Hebron” (4:12). Because the pool in Hebron was a public gathering place, hanging the limbs of the slain served as a testimony and a warning to Israel. A testimony that David had no part in the assassination of Ishbosheth. It was also a warning to any who might be tempted to betray David in the future. David, however, made certain “the head of Ishbosheth” was given an honorable burial “in the sepulchre of Abner in Hebron” (4:12).

Closing thought: We should not be surprised that when there is no law, evil men commit heinous acts of treachery, and murder. The wicked actions of Rechab and Baanah, and their expectation to be rewarded for murdering Ishbosheth, is the way of the world. David, however, proved to be a righteous man, and his judgment to put Rechab and Baanah to death was according to the Law (Genesis 9:6, Exodus 21:12; Leviticus 24:17,21).

Psalm 6Suffering, Sorrows and Setbacks

The setting and historical context of Psalm 6 is not known; however, David is identified as its author. Time and space do not allow me to do an in-depth study of Psalm 6; however, I trust my brief overview might be a blessing.

Psalm 6:2 2  Have mercy [Be gracious; show favor] upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal [cure; make whole] me; for my bones [i.e. body; substance] are vexed [troubled; tremble; alarmed; disturbed]

Psalm 6:5-7 5  For in death there is no remembrance [memory; memorial] of thee: in the grave [hell; the pit; Sheol] who shall give thee thanks [praise; revere]?

6 I am weary [faint; exhausted; grown weary] with my groaning [sighing; mourning]; all the night make I my bed to swim [inundate; i,e, swimming with tears]; I water [melt; dissolve] my couch [i.e., bed with a canopy] with my tears [weeping]

7  Mine eye [sight; appearance] is consumed [dimmed; waste away] because of grief [sorrow; anger]; it waxeth old  [grows old; fails] because of all mine enemies [distress; pains].”

Believer, if you find yourself in the midst of trials, and your soul is burdened and weary of life…take heart; the saints of God are strengthened in their faith when they, in the midst of the extremity of their weakness, turn to the Lord.

Many are the saints that have experienced the sorrows of trials, and can readily identify with David’s sleepless nights.  How many have cried themselves to sleep, because of the sinful choices of one they loved?  How many parents have grown weary, bearing the sorrows and trials heaped upon them by children who have chosen a path of sin? Take heart…God hears your cries.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Psalms of Rejoicing and Praise (Psalms 18; 121)

Scripture reading – Psalms 18; 121

The death of King Saul and his sons concluded a tragic time in Israel’s history (1 Samuel 31). The king’s death, however, marked the ascension of David, the man whom the LORD had chosen to be king, for he was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).

With today’s Scripture reading (Psalm 18 and Psalm 121), our study introduces us to the Psalms David penned during his reign as king of Israel. To understand the psalms, you must consider them in their historical context, and cultural setting. They were written by the king in a time that was pastoral and agricultural, and far removed from our fast-paced 21st century world. Beautiful and poetic, the psalms reflect the heart of a man who loved the LORD, and cherished His Word, Law, and Commandments. The spiritual breadth of the psalms makes it impossible for me to write an exhaustive exposition of the chapters we will study; however, I pray my meditations and thoughts will enrich your study. [For the sake of brevity, I will limit my focus to only a few verses. The phrases in brackets are the amplification of this author.]

Psalm 18 – A Hymn of Rejoicing

The title of Psalm 18 indicates it was a hymn of rejoicing, penned by David on the occasion when the LORD delivered him from Saul, and his enemies. After expressing his deep, and fervent love for the LORD (18:1), David painted a verbal portrait of the LORD using eight descriptive metaphors.

Psalm 18:2 – The LORD is my rock [stronghold; cliff], and my fortress [castle; fort], and my deliverer [Savior; Rescuer]; my God [Almighty God], my strength [rock; mountain], in whom I will trust [confide; have hope; seek refuge]; my buckler [small shield], and the horn [strength] of my salvation [liberty; deliverance; prosperity], and my high tower [defense; refuge].

Rock” and “Fortress” describe the LORD’S loving protection of His people.  David had often sought refuge among the rocks and clefts of the wilderness, and they serve as a reminder that God wants His people to flee to Him in our hour of trouble and need. The LORD is also our “Deliverer” and mighty “God,” and can save us from our enemies by the power of His might.  The LORD is “my Strength,” and He never changes.

David employed three metaphors for the LORD that are suggestive of a battlefield:  The LORD is “my Buckler,” a small shield employed when an enemy presses hard upon us. The LORD is “the Horn of my Salvation,” for He alone has the power to save us. The LORD is, “my High Tower,” a refuge to Whom believers may flee for safety.

Psalm 18:3 – I will call [call to; cry unto] upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised [boast; glory; sing praise]: so shall I be saved [delivered; preserved] from mine enemies [foe; adversary].

There were times when David’s courage waned, and his fears well-nigh overwhelmed him, but the LORD delivered him. Indeed, the LORD alone is worthy to be praised!

Psalm 18:30 – “As for God [“El;” Almighty God], his way is perfect: the word [commandment] of the LORD [Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent God] is tried [refined; purged by fire; tested]: he is a buckler [small shield] to all those that trust in him [flee to Him for protection; confide; make their refuge].”

It is easy to say, “God’s way is perfect,” when we are free from trials and troubles; however, will we trust God’s way is perfect when our days are shadowed by trials. When we feel the intense heat of trials, and our motives are tried like silver smelting in the fire, will we resolve to trust the LORD? When an enemy maligns us, and friends betray us, will we turn to God’s promises for hope?  Will we trust Him to be our “buckler” (a small shield for hand-to-hand combat), when an enemy means us harm?

David’s hope was revived, His strength renewed, when he reflected on the character of the LORD (18:31), and confessed, “His way is perfect” (18:30), for He is “my rock…[and] the God of my salvation” (18:46).

Psalm 121 – A Pilgrim’s Psalm

Psalm 121 is titled, “A Song of Degrees,” and it is believed it was one of the songs sung by saints of God during their annual pilgrimages.

I suggest four major themes from Psalm 121: The Pledge of the psalmist to seek the LORD (121:1); his Promise to trust Him (121:2); his confidence the LORD was His Protector (121:3-7); and that He was a Perpetual Shepherd and would “preserve [his] going out and [his] coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore” (121:8a).

Believer, there is no place beyond the LORD’S watch. He keeps us when we are young and strong, and when we grow old and frail. He is with us in sickness and in health! He is with us in our down sittings and our uprisings.

If you are a child of God, you are secure in the LORD, and can be assured, Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6a).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Sin Will Rob You of Everything You Hold Dear (1 Samuel 31)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 31

1 Samuel 31 brings us to the inevitable, inglorious end of king Saul.  The battle went against Israel, and Saul received word that his sons were slain (31:1-2).  Having suffered a mortal wound from an arrow, the king commanded his armorbearer to slay him, but he refused. Knowing he would soon fall into the hands of his enemy, Saul took his own life, and fell upon his sword (31:3-4). When the men of Israel learned their king, and his sons, had been slain, they not only fled the battle, but also abandoned their homes and cities (31:7).

As has oft been observed, “to the victor goes the spoils,” the day after the battle, the Philistines returned to the battlefield and looted the dead (30:8). In the midst of the carnage, they found the bodies of Saul, and his three sons (30:8). Demeaning Israel and her slain king, they cut off the king’s head, and stripped his armor, and displayed it as a trophy, putting it “in the house of Ashtaroth [believed to be the temple to the goddess Venus]” (31:9-10). To further humiliate Israel, they took the bodies of the king, and his sons, and fastened them “to the wall of Bethshan” (31:10, 12).

When the men of Jabesh-Gilead learned of the desecration, and the display of the bodies of the king and his sons, they “went all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there. 13And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days” (31:12-13).

Why did Saul and his sons suffer such a disastrous, ignoble end?

1 Chronicles 10:13-14 answers the question, where we read: “So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it; 14 And enquired not [no desire to repent] of the LORD: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.” Sin and rebellion cost Saul everything…his army (31:1), his sons (31:2), his life (31:3-4) and his honor (31:9-10).

Sin is hard, cruel and merciless. Sin will destroy your marriage, strip you of your crowning achievements and leave you despairing of life.  Sin will rob you of everything you hold dear. If you are in the midst of sin, it is not too late to turn to the LORD who is “full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (Psalm 86:15).

2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Victory is the LORD’S (1 Samuel 30)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 30

David and his men lived at Ziklag for sixteen months, and prospered in the midst of the Philistines (27:8-11). Tragedy, however, struck while the men were deployed to the battlefront with king Achish and the Philistines. Knowing the Philistines had removed to wage war with Israel, the Amalekites determined to use their absence as an opportunity to attack Ziklag, no doubt to exact revenge for David’s raids upon their cities (27:8-9). With the men away, the Amalekites encountered no opposition, and took away the women, sons and daughters, and burned the city (30:1-2).

David’s men departed the battlefront, and arrived at Ziklag on the third day (30:1), and found the city destroyed, and their wives and children missing (30:3). Distraught, and overcome with grief, David and his men wept until there were no more tears (30:4), yet grief quickly turned to bitterness. As mankind is so prone to do, the men, without delay, set upon whom to blame, and “David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him” (30:6a).

In his distress, “David encouraged himself in the Lord his God,” and commanded Abiathar the priest, to bring the ephod of the high priest, and “David inquired at the Lord…[and the LORD] answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all” (30:8). David obeyed without hesitation, and with six hundred men followed after the Amalekites (30:9). Two hundred of the six hundred men, had become faint and were left behind, while David continued his pursuit of their families (30:9-10).

They came upon an Egyptian slave whose master had abandoned him without food or water (30:11-15). Reviving him with food and water, the Egyptian agreed to lead David and his men to the Amalekite’s camp, with a promise his life would be spared (30:15). Finding the Amalekites celebrating the spoils they had taken from Ziklag, David and his men attacked them “from the twilight [darkness] even unto the evening [setting sun] of the next day: and there escaped not a man of them, save four hundred young men, which rode upon camels, and fled” (30:17).

It was a glorious victory, and all that had been taken was recovered, including David’s two wives (30:5, 18). David took the spoils of the Amalekites for himself, and sent some of the spoils as presents to the elders of Judah (30:26-31).

There were some wicked men among David’s four hundred, described as “men of Belial,” who begrudged returning the possessions of the two hundred men who had stayed behind (30:9, 22). David quickly intervened, and reminded those complainers that it was not they, but the LORD who had given them the victory, preserved them, and saved their wives and children (30:23).

David’s decision became a law for Israel thereafter, being reminded the battle, and the victory is the LORD’S. (30:24-25)

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Divine Providence: The Steps of a Good Man are Ordered By the LORD (1 Samuel 29)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 29

Today’s Scripture reading sets the stage not only for the death of Saul, Israel’s first king, but also for that of his son Jonathan (28:19).

We find the armies of the Philistines gathered against Israel, and Saul and his army pitched across the way “by a fountain which [was] in Jezreel” (29:1). David found himself in a conflicting place, for he had been chosen by Achish, the king of the Philistines, to be that king’s bodyguard (28:2).

As the Philistine soldiers mobilized, and began their passage to the battlefront, providentially, David and his men were placed in the rereward with Achish, and were spared from warring against their countrymen (29:2).

Though King Achish entrusted his life to David, the Philistine generals were far less trusting, and protested the thought of going to war against Israel with David and his men in their midst (29:3-4). Arguably, more astute than the king, the Philistines reminded Achish how David had served as Israel’s champion, and had led men of Israel to slay “ten thousands” (29:5).

Achish reluctantly consented to the demands of his generals, and with affirming words, commanded David and his men to remove themselves from the battlefield (29:6-7). Though David offered a weak protest to the king’s command (29:8-10), in the providence of God, the next morning he and his men returned “into the land of the Philistines” (29:11). As the Philistines prepared to wage war against Israel, the LORD wonderfully spared David from lifting his sword against the LORD‘S chosen people.

Psalm 37:23–2423The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: And he delighteth in his way. 24Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: For the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Dead Man Walking; God’s Man Rejoicing (Psalm 63, 1 Samuel 28)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 28; Psalm 63

1 Samuel 28 – Dead Man Walking

One might feel a certain empathy for King Saul in the latter years of his reign and life. The king was old, the strength and vitality of his youth faded, and his spirit consumed by bitterness. In contrast, David had been a faithful servant to the king, but Saul’s jealousy had made his friend his enemy. Indeed, the champion of Israel, appeared to be in league with Achish, the Philistine king (28:1-2).

Saul was alone. He had disobeyed God’s command, and the LORD had withdrawn his Spirit from the king (16:14-15). With the prophet Samuel dead (28:3), and the Philistine army gathered against Israel (28:4), Samuel trembled at the sight of “the host of the Philistines” (28:5).

Paralyzed by a spirit of foreboding (28:5-6), and desperate for a word of reassurance, the king disguised himself, violated the Law (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:31), and turned to a witch who consulted with spirits (28:7;Leviticus 20:27). Assuring the witch, she would not be punished, Saul demanded she call the prophet Samuel from the dead (28:11).

The LORD permitted Samuel to appear, and his appearance frightened the witch, who realized the man before her was Saul (28:12). With the king’s assurance that she would come to no harm, the woman revealed she had seen a man, “an old man…covered with a mantle” (28:14). Saul realized the apparition was that of Samuel, and the king “stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself” (28:14).

Samuel demanded, “Why hast thou disquieted me [awaken from rest or sleep], to bring me up [from Sheol, the place of the dead]?” (28:15). Trembling with fear, Saul declared how the Philistines had gathered against Israel, and God’s Spirit had departed from him (28:15). He confessed he had no prophet to answer him, and no man to interpret dreams (28:15).

Samuel then reminded Saul he was suffering the consequences of his disobedience (1 Samuel 15:23; 28:18). Not only had God’s Spirit departed from Saul, but the LORD had become his enemy (28:16). The LORD had “rent the kingdom out of [Saul’s] hand, and given it to [his] neighbour, even to David” (28:17).

Revealing the imminent deaths of Saul and his sons, and the defeat Israel would suffer the next day on the battlefield (28:19), Saul fell to the ground, “and there was no strength in him” (28:20). Overcome with emotion, and weak from fasting, the witch took pity on Saul and urged him to eat (28:22-24). When their supper was ended, Saul and his men “rose up, and went away that night” (28:25).

Closing thoughts: Rather than humble himself, and repent, Saul departed with his heart hardened, knowing he would not live to see another night. Because of his sin and disobedience, the king and his sons would die the next day, and his throne would be given to David.

He was a “dead man walking.”

Psalm 63

The title of Psalm 63 gives us the background for the song, for it was “when [David] was in the wilderness of Judah.” You will notice phrases and verses throughout the psalm that are beautiful and expressive.

In light of Saul’s despair in 1 Samuel 28, Psalm 63 affords us an encouraging contrast.  While Saul longed for a word from the LORD, but found his sins had made the LORD his enemy; David’s heart rejoiced in his God, and he confessed:

Psalm 63:11O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: My soul thirsteth for thee, My flesh longeth for thee In a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;

Surely, only a man who loved the LORD could find such joy, comfort, and cause for rejoicing in Him.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Treasures of the Wicked are Fleeting, But the Righteous Will Behold the Face of God (Psalm 17)

Scripture reading – Psalm 17

Psalm 17 is titled, “A Prayer of David.” We cannot be certain what occasion served as the background for the psalm; however, the fervency of the prayer leaves no doubt its inspiration came from a time of grave danger in David’s life. The previous Scripture reading, 1 Samuel 26-27, could serve as a fitting setting for the prayer. Consider the following outline for Psalm 17.

A plea for justice (17:1-4) – David asserted his rightness before the LORD, and his desire for Him to hear his cry for help. His enemies had accused him of wrongdoing, and deceiving the king, Saul’s heart had turned against him. Although he was falsely accused, David took comfort knowing the LORD is omniscient (17:2). His concern was not the judgment of men, but the justice of God (17:3). With humility, he declared the LORD had tested and tried his heart, and found nothing! As a man of integrity, he had determined in his heart that he would “not transgress” in word, or action (17:4).

A prayer for grace (17:5-6) – Though his enemies plotted to destroy him, it was David’s prayer that the LORD would grant him grace and favor, and keep his feet on the right path (17:5; 37:23). With faith in the LORD, he asserted, “6I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God” (17:6).

An entreaty for protection (17:7-12) – Desiring to be an object of God’s goodness (17:7a), and to be saved from his enemies (17:7b), David prayed, 8Keep me as the apple [pupil] of the eye… hide me under the shadow of thy wings” (17:8b). Recounting the malicious intent of his enemy (17:9-11; 1 Samuel 26), David described the king as “a lion that is greedy of his prey, [and] a young lion lurking in secret places” (17:12).

A petition for vindication (17:13-14) – With righteous indignation, David called upon the LORD to exact His justice on the wicked (17:13), reminding him that all men, even the wicked are in the hand of God to do as He will. He considered how the wicked are “men of the world, which have their portion in this life” (17:14). Their treasures are earthly, and when they are dead, they “leave the rest of their substance to their babes” (17:14).

A recitation of hope and thanksgiving – “15As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (17:15).

David looked beyond the grave, and with eyes of faith, declared with confidence, the righteous will “awake” and behold the face of God (17:15). The word “awake,” describes the resurrection of believers from the dead. When Jesus announced He would raise Lazarus from the dead, He said, “I go, that I may awake him out of sleep” (John 11:11). Paul encouraged believers whose loved ones had died, “14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

For believers, physical death is a “shadow” (Psalm 23:4), a veil through which we will pass, comforted by the presence of the LORD. For the lost, death is the dreadful beginning of perpetual darkness, and eternal suffering. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Faltering Faith (1 Samuel 27)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 27

Saul had spoken words of affirmation to David, saying, “Blessed be thou, my son David: thou shalt both do great things, and also shalt still prevail” (26:25). Yet, David knew the unrelenting, evil character of the king, and had “said in his heart, I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul” (27:1). Fearing for his life, he determined to quickly “escape into the land of the Philistines,” for he believed the king would not desist until he was dead (27:1).

With his wives, and six hundred men, David retreated to the territory of Achish, the Philistine king of Gath (27:2-4), and when Saul learned he was departed from Israel, “he sought no more again for him” (27:4).

David appealed to his old foe, and King Achish gave him, his men, and their families sanctuary in Gath (the home of the slain giant Goliath). Desiring to remove himself from the king’s royal city, David requested a city where he and his families could dwell, and was given Ziklag, a city in southern Judah (27:5-6).

David dwelled among the Philistines for sixteen months (27:7), and acquired possessions, by invading and raiding the lands and cities of Israel’s enemies, “the Geshurites, and the Gezrites, and the Amalekites” (27:8). He made sure there were no survivors of the raids, and deceived the Philistine king, who believed he was raiding Israel (27:10-11). “And Achish believed David, saying, He hath made his people Israel utterly to abhor him;therefore he shall be my servant for ever” (27:12).

Closing thoughts:

I can find no leading of the LORD in David’s decision to depart from Israel, and settle in the Philistine territories. David made that decision when he despaired of life. While he escaped Saul, his immediate enemy, he put himself, his men, and their families in the midst of the Philistines, another enemy. I also cannot offer a defense for David’s decision to lie, and deceive King Achish, other than he had fallen into a state where his fears were greater than his faith. Solomon, David’s son and heir, would write, “25The fear of man bringeth a snare: But whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25).

Trials and temptations present us with two choices: We can walk through life, living by our wits, and often driven by fear; or we can look at trials through the eyes of faith, and trust, and obey the LORD.

What is your guide?

Proverbs 3:5–65Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; And lean not unto thine own understanding. 6In all thy ways acknowledge him, And he shall direct thy paths.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith