Category Archives: Trials and Temptations

You Can Run, But You Cannot Hide from God (2 Chronicles 25, Jonah 1)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 25, Jonah 1

2 Chronicles 25 is a parallel record of events we considered in a prior study of 2 Kings 14:1-2. For that reason, today’s devotional will focus exclusively on the Book of Jonah.

Have you ever wanted to run away? Ever wanted to flee from pressures, people, pain and problems? I am certain there are many who have entertained the notion to run and hide. The book of Jonah will remind you that our Heavenly Father never takes His eyes off His people. He is omniscient, and knows your strengths, weaknesses, fears, and struggles (Psalm 139:1). He knows your every thought (Psalm 139:2-3), and every word (Psalm 139:4). He is omnipresent, and His presence is inescapable (Psalm 139:7-10). The Scriptures impart a comforting and inescapable reality: “You can run, but you cannot hide from God.”

Jonah 1

Who was Jonah? (1:1-2)

Jonah was a preacher and prophet of the LORD to northern Israel, and served during the reign of the second Jeroboam (i.e., Jeroboam ben Joash). Passionate and patriotic, his life was dedicated to ministering in Israel, until the LORD interrupted his ministry commanding him to, Arise, go to Nineveh” (1:2).

Nineveh is described in the Scriptures as a “great city,” and one known for its wickedness (1:2). Located on the Tigris River in what is today, modern Iraq. Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, with a population of 120,000 (4:11). In ancient times, the Assyrians were known as a cruel, heartless people who buried their enemies alive, and tortured others by skinning them alive until they died. They were also a great enemy of Israel, and eventually conquered that nation, taking the people captive.

God’s Calling on Jonah’s Life (1:3-4)

The stench of Nineveh’s wickedness had become so grave, that the LORD had determined He would destroy the city if the people did not repent. Revealing His compassion for sinners, and His longsuffering, the LORD determined to give that great city an opportunity to repent of its sins.Jonah, however, refused to go to Nineveh to call on the people to repent (1:3). Some might argue the prophet feared the notorious cruelty of the nation. Others might suggest he did not want to aid Israel’s enemy, and feared his own people might reject him. Jonah 4:1-2, however, reveals Jonah did not want to prophesy against Nineveh for he knew the LORD was gracious, and feared He would spare the people if they repented of their sins. Rather than obey the LORD, Jonah resigned his calling, took a boat going to Tarshish (the opposite direction of Nineveh), and attempted the impossible…to escape “the presence of the LORD” (1:3).

Jonah’s Spiritual Insensitivity (1:4-6)

We read in verse 5 how Jonah “was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep” (1:5). What a poignant insight into the character of a disobedient servant of God! While the heathen battled the storm, desperate to save their lives, the prophet slept!

The ship’s captain assailed that calloused prophet, and asked in disbelief, What meanest thou, O sleeper?” (1:6) How could he be sleeping when so many lives could be lost? Here we see the spiritual profile of a backslidden believer: Emotionally detached, and distant from God and others.

The Sailor’s Interrogation (1:7-11)

The sailors cast lots, and the LORD sovereignly directed the lot to fall on Jonah (1:7). With the storm raging, the sailors demanded to know the cause of Jonah’s guilt that God had sent such a great storm that threatened all their lives. What evil? “What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?” (1:8)

“And he said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land” (1:9). He declared he had “fled from the presence of the Lord” and the storm had been sent by God to chasten him (1:10). Fearing for their lives, the sailors questioned Jonah, “What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm unto us?” (1:11)

Jonah’s Counsel and the LORD’s Provision (1:12-17)

Jonah instructed the sailors saying, “Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you” (1:12).

Given the desperate plight of the ship, you would think the calloused sailors would have cast the disobedient prophet overboard immediately; however, they continued to row hard hoping to bring the ship to land (1:13). Realizing all effort was for naught, the sailors cast Jonah into the sea, “and the sea ceased from her raging” (1:15). God mercifully spared the lives of the sailors, and providentially “prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (1:17).

Closing thoughts – Several lessons come to mind in our study of Jonah 1. We have seen God’s love for sinners and His longsuffering. In spite of Nineveh’s wickedness, the LORD sent His prophet to call the people of that city to repent (2 Peter 3:9; John 3:16). We will also observe that the LORD is a God of second chances. He lovingly pursued Jonah across the sea, and saved him from drowning. Lastly, consider how a disobedient believer can peril the lives of the unsaved, leaving me to ask:

Are you periling lost souls by your disobedience?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Far-reaching Consequences of a Father’s Compromise (2 Chronicles 18)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 18

While the focus of 1 Kings 22 was primarily upon King Ahab and the northern ten Tribes known as Israel, 2 Chronicles 18 was authored after the Babylonian captivity, and gives a greater focus to King Jehoshaphat and the kingdom of Judah (consisting of the two tribes in the south known as Judah and Benjamin).  The focus of this devotional commentary is 2 Chronicles 18.

As a nation, Judah enjoyed God’s blessings during the reign of Jehoshaphat, and the king “had riches and honour in abundance” (18:1). Unfortunately, Jehoshaphat had “joined affinity with Ahab,” king of Israel, and his son Jehoram had taken one of Ahab’s daughters as his wife (2 Chronicles 21:6). Three years passed (1 Kings 22:2), and Jehoshaphat traveled to visit Ahab in Samaria, the capital city of Israel. After a great banquet, Ahab proposed for Judah to support Israel in an attack on Ramoth-gilead, a Levite city of refuge that was occupied at that time by Syria (18:2).

Jehoshaphat was willing to go to war with Ahab and Israel, for they were family by marriage (18:3). Yet, Jehoshaphat, a spiritually-minded king, requested they seek “the word of the LORD” for his will (18:4). “The king of Israel gathered together of prophets four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear?” (18:5). Ahab’s prophets, eager to please the king, answered his inquiry and said, “Go up; for God will deliver it into the king’s hand” (18:5).

Because the character of true prophets of the LORD is to speak independently without fear of consequences, Jehoshaphat, was concerned Ahab’s prophets spoke with one voice. Therefore, the king of Judah asked Ahab, “Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides, that we might inquire of him?” (18:6). Ahab admitted there was another prophet, but confessed concerning the prophet Micaiah, “I hate him; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil” (18:7).

Micaiah, whom we met in a previous devotional (1 Kings 22), came to the kings of Israel and Judah, and delivered a message the king desired, but the prophet had not attributed his words to the LORD (18:12). When Ahab realized the prophet was not speaking prophetically, he instructed Micaiah saying, “How many times shall I adjure thee that thou say nothing but the truth to me in the name of the Lord?” (18:15).

The LORD’s prophet then spoke of his vision of a heavenly council gathered around the throne of God. In the vision, Israel was scattered, “as sheep that have no shepherd” (18:16). Because the king of Israel was identified as a shepherd of the people, the prophecy left no doubt that it was a foretelling of Ahab’s death.

Micaiah went on to describe how God had requested that a messenger would go to Ahab, and entice that king to go to battle at Ramoth-gilead where he would be slain (18:19). In the vision, a spirit went out from the LORD, and put “a lying spirit in the mouth of all [Ahab’s] prophets” (18:21).

The prophet then declared, “behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil against thee [Ahab]” (18:22). Exposed as a lying prophet, “Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah[a false prophet of Ajab] came near, and smote Micaiah upon the cheek” (18:23).

Ahab, hearing his death foretold, was angry and demanded the prophet be imprisoned with nothing more than bread and water, until he returned from battle (18:25-26). Emboldened and confident in his prophecy, Micaiah warned the king, “If thou certainly return in peace, then hath not the Lord spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, all ye people” (18:27).

In spite of the prophet’s warning, Jehoshaphat went to war with the king of Israel and went into battle against the king of Syria (18:28). Lest he be discovered to be the king of Israel, Ahab disguised himself that he might not be recognized, and targeted by the Syrian soldiers (18:29). Yet, in the providence of God, an arrow from a nameless soldier struck Ahab, mortally wounding him (18:33).

Elijah’s prophecy was fulfilled, for as the sun was setting that day, Ahab, the king of Israel, died (18:34), “and one washed the chariot in the pool of Samaria; and the dogs licked up his blood; and they washed his armour; according unto the word of the Lord which he spake” (1 Kings 21:19; 22:37-38).

Closing thoughts – Though the consequences of Jehoshaphat’s alliance with Israel were not immediately evident, his compromise with Ahab through the marriage of his son to Ahab’s daughter introduced a great wickedness in Judah, and nearly terminated David’s royal lineage (2 Chronicles 21:6; 22:3; 22:10-12).

An observation – When spiritual leaders accommodate the sins of their children, they sacrifice not only their testimonies, but also the ministries and institutions they lead.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: God Is Just, and He Will Not Ignore a Nation’s Sins Forever (1 Kings 13)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 13

Having rejected Rehoboam as king, the ten tribes in the north, now known as Israel, followed Jeroboam and made him king. The two tribes in the south, Judah and Benjamin, now identified as Judah, continued to serve Rehoboam.

King Jeroboam, fearing the worship of the LORD in Jerusalem might unite the people (12:26-27), established his own religion, and encouraged the people to worship two golden calves (12:28). One calve he sat in Bethel, and the other in Dan (12:29-30). He then ordained “the lowest of the people” to serve as his priest (for the sons of Levi had apparently refused to participate in Jeroboam’s idolatry, 12:31).

Acting as a priest, Jeroboam offered sacrifices on the altar he had built in Bethel, and it is there we find him in today’s Scripture reading, 1 Kings 13.

1 Kings 13 – Wickedness and Tragedy in Israel

God Sent a Prophet from Judah to Condemn Bethel’s Idol Worship (13:1-10)

We do not know the name of the prophet, but he faithfully discharged his duty as God’s prophet, and condemned the altar Jeroboam had built at Bethel (13:1).

The prophet foretold a son would be born in Judah, of the lineage of David, and his name would be Josiah (13:2). He warned Jeroboam how the king named Josiah would lead a revival in Judah, and he would destroy the illegitimate altar at Bethel, and the prophets, and the bones of dead men would be burnt upon the altar (13:2).

Jeroboam was furious with the prophet, and when he stretched forth his hand to order the prophet to be seized, his hand drew up, and withered (13:4). The king cried for mercy, and the prophet prayed and Jeroboam’s hand was restored (13:6). Restored to health, the king invited the prophet to his home for food, drink, and a gift. The prophet, however, refused, for the LORD had commanded him to neither eat nor drink in Bethel (13:7-9). So, the prophet departed another way as he had been commanded (13:10).

An Act of Disobedience, and A Tragic End (13:11-32)

As the prophet departed, he was met along the way by a man described as “an old prophet in Bethel” (13:11). The old prophet and his sons lived at Bethel, in spite of the idolatry, and wickedness Jeroboam had raised up there.

Having heard how the prophet from Judah had boldly confronted the altar and the wicked Jeroboam, he invited that faithful prophet to his home at Bethel for bread and water (13:11-17). Hearing the hesitancy of the prophet, the old prophet lied, and persuaded the prophet from Judah that the LORD had sent him to bring the prophet to his home to “eat bread and drink water” (13:18).

Foolishly, the prophet heeded the old prophet’s words, disobeyed the LORD, and invited upon himself the wrath of God (13:19-22). Even while he was eating, God filled the old prophet’s mouth with His judgment against the prophet from Judah, and foretold he would die along the way, and not be buried in his father’s sepulchre (13:22).

Sending the prophet from Judah on his way, the old prophet soon heard there was a man seen slain outside Bethel, and a donkey and lion stood over the man’s lifeless body (a scene that was contrary to nature, and therefore an act of God, 13:23-25). The old prophet believed God’s judgment had been fulfilled, and said, “It is the man of God, who was disobedient unto the word of the Lord: therefore the Lord hath delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn him, and slain him” (13:26).

The old prophet left his home, found and retrieved the lifeless body of the prophet (13:27-28), and lamented his death. He commanded the body of the dead prophet be placed in his own tomb (13:29-30). After the prophet was buried, the old prophet instructed his sons to bury him one day in the same tomb (13:31).

Though he had failed to condemn the sins and idolatry of Bethel, the old prophet acknowledged the words of the prophet from Judah, and asserted the judgment of God would one day fall upon that place as the prophet had foretold (13:32).

The King and Israel Continued in Wickedness (13:33-34)

The cry of the prophet against the altar at Bethel did not dissuade Jeroboam or Israel from idolatry. Instead, the king led the people in “his evil way,” and chose “of the lowest of the people priests of the high places: whosoever would, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places” (13:33). So great was this wickedness, God determined He would cut of Jeroboam’s lineage, and “destroy it from off the face of the earth” (13:34).

Closing thoughts – Compromise has become the way of believers, and the way of the churches today. Preachers have failed to speak out against the wickedness of the world, and it is no wonder that gross wickedness has been embraced by our homes, churches, and schools. If God is faithful and just, and He is, He will surely pour out His judgment upon this generation that justifies its sins under the pretense of liberty, love and grace.

1 Samuel 15:22b – “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to hearken than the fat of rams.”

Copyright© 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Remember Thy Creator” (Ecclesiastes 12, 1 Kings 10)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 12, 1 Kings 10

We conclude our study of the Book of Ecclesiastes with a look into the final chapter,  Ecclesiastes 12, and consider a sobering challenge from Solomon. Remember the king commenced this short book by introducing himself as “the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem” (1:1), and brings it to an end by embracing the same title, “the preacher” (12:9, 10). Today’s Scripture reading also includes 1 Kings 10.

An Admonition (Ecclesiastes 12:1-2)

Ecclesiastes 12:1Remember now [Think of; have respect of] thy Creator in the days [years] of thy youth, while the evil days [adversity; troubles; distresses] come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure [delight; desire] in them;

Patterns of life are set in one’s youth, when hearts are generally soft and pliable, and before sins and adversities have given rise to spiritual callousness. Solomon urged his son, “Remember,” think of, meditate on your Creator when you are young. While you have your whole life before you, consider the ONE that made you in His likeness and image, and formed you when you were in your mother’s womb (Genesis 1:27; 2:7-8). Remember your Creator, before you face “evil days,” and adversities plague your life (12:1), that you have no more desire to live.

Ecclesiastes 12:3-7 paints a depressing picture of the future, and old age with its physical ailments and frailties.

Solomon described the coming of a season when the days of a man would be darkened (12:2). Men who were once strong, would shake and “tremble” (12:3a), and become stooped with old age. The picture Solomon painted was of an old man whose teeth (“grinders”) had failed, and whose eyesight was dimmed (“windows be darkened”).

Continuing his depressing description of old age, Solomon described the loneliness of the elderly. Their lives become like a village whose doors are shut (none are coming or going), and streets are silent (12:4a). The “grinding is low” (perhaps the grinding or milling of grain), and if not for the “voice [or crowing] of the bird,” there would be no reason to awaken, for work has ceased (12:4b). Where there was once the exuberance of daughters, there is silence instead (12:4c).

Fear takes hold of an old man apart from the LORD (12:5a). His “desire [appetite]” fails (12:5c), and mourners gather in expectation of his death, for he “goeth to his long [future] home” (12:5d). Bible scholars suggest Ecclesiastes 12:6 describes the physical decline of the elderly, the failure of their circulatory system, and the imminence of death. Solomon wrote, the “wheel is broken at the cistern” (and is no more), the lifeless body returns to “dust,” and the “spirit [of the man] shall return unto God who gave it” (12:7; Genesis 3:17-19).

The physical body of man goes to the grave until the resurrection of the dead, but the spirit of man is eternal. The spirit of lost sinners will be judged, and condemned to everlasting punishment (2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 20:11-15). The spirit of the saved shall dwell in the presence of the LORD forever (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 3:20-21). It is true, that apart from God, life is a vapor, and “all is vanity” (James 4:14; 12:8).

Did Solomon Repent in His Last Days? (12:8-12)

Though he strayed far from the LORD in his later years (1 Kings 11), it seems Solomon returned to his longing for the LORD, being mindful He would give account of his life. Solomon once again took up the mantle of the “preacher,” and “taught [instructed] the people knowledge…and set in order [set straight] many proverbs” (12:9). With urgency, the king studied, and “sought to find out acceptable words…even words of truth” (12:10). He comprehended “the words of the wise are as goads,” for they prick, and convict (12:11).

What were the “goads” that were as “nails fastened by the masters” (12:11)? They were the “words of truth” (12:10), being God’s Laws and Commandments (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and were “given from One Shepherd,” Who was the LORD Himself (12:11; Hebrews 13:20; John 10:3-4).

An Epilogue: “Fear God, and Keep His Commandments” (12:13-14)

Solomon concluded his ponderings, by summoning the attention of all who would hear:

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 – Let us hear [Listen; obey; publish] the conclusion [end] of the whole matter [account; speaking]: Fear [Revere] God, and keep [observe] His commandments [Laws; Precepts]: for this is the whole duty[purpose] of man.
14  For God shall bring every work [act; deed] into judgment, with every secret thing [hidden; concealed], whether it be good [right], or whether it be evil [sin; wickedness].

Closing thoughts – When youth are not guided by spiritual principles, they squander their lives on sinful indulgences that inevitably leave them with sorrow laden souls. To my youthful readers, I exhort: Enjoy your youth, remember your Creator, but know “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”(Hebrews 9:27).

To parents and grandparents: I urge you to remember, fear, and revere your Creator. Conform your life to the likeness of Christ, and reflect in your attitudes and actions His Laws and Commandments.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Four Principles for a Rewarding Life (Ecclesiastes 11)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 11

Remorse is a heavy burden to carry, but I have known many who, in their later years of life, were haunted by the sorrows of regret. Solomon understood that life holds many tendencies for regret, and wisely taught his son invaluable principles he had learned from years of experience. I invite you to consider Solomon’s wisdom found in Ecclesiastes 11.

Be Charitable. (11:1-4)

Ecclesiastes 11:1–21Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. 2Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.

The word, “cast” means to freely give, and “the waters” in the Scriptures is often a reference to mankind (i.e., the sea of humanity). The implication then is to “freely give” (in this case, bread) to others, for you cannot know what “evil” the days ahead might hold for you. A popular adage sums up a similar warning: “What goes around, comes around.” Solomon urged, while you have the power to give…GIVE, for the day may come when you will find yourself in want.

Illustrating the need to give while you are able, Solomon cited nature, using an illustration to which all could relate, writing, when “clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth” (11:3). In other words, like clouds that do not hoard their lifegiving moisture, we should not be misers with the bounty of that which God has entrusted to us.

Some put off the opportunity or inclination to be charitable, looking for a time when it is more convenient, or the economy more favorable. They are like the lazy farmer; he procrastinates tending his fields, always looking for perfect weather, and a more convenient time for his labor (11:4).

God Has a Plan and Purpose for Your Life. (11:5-6)

Solomon did not have the privilege of scientific research such as we have today. He understood the baby’s body was formed in its mother’s womb (11:5); however, he did not know the essence of DNA (genetics) that guided the formation of that little one from conception (Psalm 139:15-16). The king did not know, and neither do we, how God made us uniquely who we are, imparting to us an eternal spirit, distinctly like no other.

Know this: You are unique, and God has a plan, and purpose for your life (11:5c). He has numbered your days (Psalm 90:12), but you cannot know the number of your years on this earth (11:6). While you are young (“in the morning” of your life), you should “sow thy seed” (give of yourself and your means as you are blessed). “In the evening” of life, when you are old (11:6b), don’t restrain your hand from blessing others. Don’t presume you can put off till tomorrow the good that you should do this day. Whether you are young or old, Do Right!

Wise Men Enjoy the Good Times, But Plan for the Bad. (11:7-8)

The light of a sunrise is welcomed, and when you are young it promises a day that is “sweet, and a pleasant thing” (11:7). The sun of spring and summer brings warmth, and the promise of growth and harvest; however, look ahead, and know “the days of darkness [cometh], for they shall be many” (11:8). Live for today, and fail to plan for the failings and frailty of old age, and you will say, “All that cometh is vanity” (11:8c).

Rejoice in Your Youth, but Remember God will be Judge. (11:9-10)

 Ecclesiastes 11:9 – Rejoice [Be Glad; Joyful], O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.

“Rejoice,” be glad in the strength of your youth! Enjoy life, but remember, the sins of one’s youth are a draft on old age. “God will bring thee into judgment” (11:9b).

The foolish man counsels the young to, “sow their wild oats,” but fails to warn: the wild seeds planted in one’s youth will sprout weeds that will choke the joys from their future (11:9b).

“Therefore remove [depart] sorrow [anger; wrath] from thy heart, and put away [do away; remove] evil [sin; wickedness] from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity” (Ecclesiastes 11:10 )

Closing thoughts – The king urged youth to not mull over youthful grievances, nor allow them to become a flashpoint for anger and bitterness. The king challenged, “put away evil,” and give no place for the sins and lusts of the flesh.

The apostle Paul, in his letter to Timothy, wrote:  “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).

To put away sin, you must be fill the void with righteous choices, and godly attitudes. (Ephesians 4:22-32)

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Five Profound Truths for Life and Happiness (Ecclesiastes 7; Ecclesiastes 8)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 7; Ecclesiastes 8

You will find similarities between the Book of Ecclesiastes and the proverbs of Solomon from his earlier days. Time and space do not permit me to set forth a comprehensive study of both Ecclesiastes 7 and 8. This devotion will offer a summary of Ecclesiastes 7.

Ecclesiastes 7

Solomon returned to a comparative pattern we often observed in the Book of Proverbs. There he contrasted the choices of life with the comparative, “Better…Than” (7:1-10) statements found throughout the book. I invite you to consider five “better…than” truths recorded in the first five verses (7:1-5).

  • Better to have a “good name” and your integrity, than a man of wealth who affords the riches of a “precious ointment” (i.e., expensive perfume, 7:1).
  • The “day of [one’s] death” is “better than the day of one’s birth” [Solomon again reflecting on the trials and oppressions of this world] (7:1b).
  • Better to mourn at a funeral, than to gorge at a feast with fools (7:2).
  • Better to have a soul refined by fiery trials and sorrows, than a shallow life that knows only pleasures (7:3-4).
  • “Better to hear the rebuke of a wise” man, than be entertained by “the songs of fools” (7:5).

Five Profound Truths for Life and Happiness (7:11-22)

1) Riches are temporal, but wisdom endures (7:11-12). Wisdom and money give security and protection, but only wisdom gives life, lasting joy and prosperity.

2) No man can change what God has purposed (7:13). God is sovereign, and no man can divert Him from His plans and purpose. What God has determined will be crooked will be crooked, and what He has bent no man can straighten.

3) Adversity cannot deter God’s will, and in times of prosperity we should be joyful (7:14-15). God ordains the good, and the bad. Times of plenty, and times of famine are from the LORD. He is able to take the evil intent of men, and turn it for His good (Genesis 50:20; Psalm 91:10; Romans 8:28-29).

4) Be balanced and spiritually conscientious (7:16-18). Do not allow sinful pride to move you to become greedy to reign and rule over wealth or others (“Be not righteous over much” 7:16). Understand that unresolved conflicts, and unconfessed sin can send you to an early grave, and “thou die before thy time” (7:17-18).

5) Godly wisdom is powerful and influential. A man known for godly wisdom is stronger, and more influential than “ten mighty men” (7:19). Such wisdom is powerful, and prevails over the mightiest of men.

Closing thoughts – I leave you with a great challenge–GET WISDOM! Godly wisdom and wise counsel, though often spurned by men, are nevertheless powerful, convicting, and influential.

Examples – The wisdom of Joseph was valued by Pharaoh, and he became second only to the king of Egypt (Genesis 41:38-41). David, a mere shepherd boy, was a “man after [God’s] own heart,” and he became King of Israel (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). Daniel’s godly wisdom carried him from the role of a slave, to serving as counselor to the kings of Babylon (Daniel 5:11-12; 6:10). Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the king of Persia, but he was promoted to serve the king and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:4, 11).

Proverbs 22:29Seest thou a man diligent [prompt; skillful] in his business [labor; occupation]? he shall stand before kings [leaders will take note of him]; he shall not stand before mean men [wise men do not stand long in the shadow of foolish men].

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Five Strangers That Consume Happiness and Three Things that Never Satisfy (Ecclesiastes 6)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 6

Our study in the Book of Ecclesiastes continues with King Solomon echoing a sentiment I suggest can be summed up in three words: Life is not fair! Writing from his observations of men’s lives, we read:

Ecclesiastes 6:1–21There is an evil [depravity; distress] which I have seen under the sun, and it is common [great] among men: 2A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour [abundance; glory], so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power [control] to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it [feeds upon; consumes]: this is vanity [empty], and it is an evil [bad; displeasing] disease [grief].

What had Solomon concluded was an injustice, and therefore not fair? It was that men labor, store up riches, wealth, and possessions, only to leave it all to others. The king concluded; it is a grief that is common, an universal experience. Men spend their lives becoming rich, acquiring possessions, obtaining honors, only to leave all to those who come after them.

I suggest five “strangers” that enter uninvited into a family’s life, and steal their happiness, and wealth.  (Ecclesiastes 6:1–2)

Disease: Sickness consumes not only a man’s strength and vitality, but may leave him physically wasted and financially ruined. Divorce is another stranger; it not only destroys a family, but legal proceedings plunder a family of its home, possessions, and savings. Disobedience: rebellious children rob parents not only of their joy, but can bring financial woes upon the parent that enable a child’s rebellion. A fourth stranger is represented in  Disasters, such as natural calamities (hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, earthquakes, drought), and human calamities (war, and the danger of living in a violent society) can destroy a family’s wealth. Of course, the greatest “stranger” that will inevitably come knocking is Death: The death of a spouse, child, or the reality of one’s own mortality.

Three Things That Do Not Satisfy (6:3-8)

Solomon proposed three things men pursue, but do not bring happiness and fulfillment. The first is found in multiples: The man who begets many children, and lives many years (6:3-6). Solomon had observed children more concerned with their rights of inheritance, than they were in honoring their parents. He concluded, it would be better to be stillborn, than live to a ripe old age, and your children neither love or honor you (6:3-6).

Secondly, some men believe if they work harder, and longer hours, they will achieve success and happiness (6:7). Yet, a man might climb the ladder of success, earn titles, and gain fame, but die a miserable soul.

Lastly, some men pursue knowledge, believing academic achievement is the path to happiness (6:8). Still, having one’s name engraved on a “Who’s Who” plaque, or earning the applause and admiration of men, will not satisfy the hunger of an eternal soul.

What, then, satisfies the soul of man? (6:9-12)

Having a right perspective, and outlook on life is the path to happiness (6:9). It is better to be satisfied with what you see, than it is to be driven about by lusts for temporal possessions and vain pleasures (6:10). You see, God is eternal, and His purposes are “named already” (6:11). Did you know that nothing surprises God? He is sovereign, and we dare not “contend with Him,” for He is not only mightier, but also wiser than we (6:10).

Closing thoughts – “Many things” might attract our affections for a season. We might also increase in goods and honors, but in the end all is vain (6:11). God is loving and benevolent (6:12), and only those who trust Him will be satisfied.

Isaiah 45:9 – “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!”

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Need to Be Needed (Ecclesiastes 4; Ecclesiastes 5)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 4; Ecclesiastes 5

We are continuing our study of the Book of Ecclesiastes, and this is the first of two devotionals from today’s Scripture reading, Ecclesiastes 4 and 5.

Ecclesiastes 4

Unfair, Unfair (4:1-3)

Solomon, now an aged king and near the end of his days, returned to a familiar subject in this book. Contemplating the injustices men suffer in life (4:1-3), the king wrote, “So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter” (4:1).

What a sad commentary on how men oppress and victimize the innocent, and less fortunate. The king observed, the oppressed have nowhere to turn for comfort. In his state of heart and mind, Solomon concluded, an innocent man might be better dead than to suffer the sorrows of oppression (4:2-3).

Four Sinful Attitudes Regarding Wealth (4:4-8)

Moving to another matter, the king considered four sinful attitudes concerning wealth and material possessions. The first was envy. Some people are envious of their neighbor’s wealth and possessions (4:4). While the nature of man is not to envy the labor of another, it is to desire the fruit and success of his work. An envious, jealous spirit is unloving, and violates the command, “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18).

Laziness is also a sinful attitude when it comes to prosperity. Solomon observed, “The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh” (4:5).  The fool in this verse is one who quits work, and is dependent upon others (4:5a). He is a sluggard, and is slothful (Proverbs 19:15; 21:25). The effect of his laziness is that it cannibalizes his future, for he “eateth his own flesh,” and what might have been (4:5b).

The workaholic is the polar opposite of an indolent man, for he labors to fill his hands with wealth, and toils at the sacrifice of himself, his health, and his family (4:6b). Solomon observed, it would be better to have a little (“a handful”), and enjoy peace and “quietness” (4:6b).

The miser is the fourth sinful attitude that was observed by Solomon (4:7-8). Like the rich fool who toils away his life for riches, but is never content (Luke 12:15-21), the miser may find himself rich in goods, but alone. He has money, but no family or friends to bless.

Three Principles for Life, Work and Friendship (4:9-12)

I find three life principles when it comes laboring with others (4:9-12). The first: Working with others is satisfying, and more rewarding than working alone (4:9-10).

Solomon writes, “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour” (4:9). Like oxen that are stronger and more productive when they share the same yoke, we are by nature happier and more satisfied when we work with others (4:9).

The king perceived, For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up” (4:10). Working together builds a bond, discourages selfishness, and provides an opportunity to encourage and minister to others (4:10).

Working with others affords us protection, and encourages perseverance (4:11-12). Solomon wrote: “if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone12  And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (4:11-12).

Everyone needs to be needed, and “huddling together” affords us comfort and encouragement. Like a husband and wife who find warmth together on a cold night, we are made stronger when we laugh together, cry together, and work together!  Should an enemy threaten, or when difficult times come, a sincere friend will keep you from falling or failing (4:12).

Working together fulfills God’s plan, for He never meant for us to be alone (4:12b).

In the beginning, God created everything perfect and good (Genesis 1-2), with one exception–After He created Adam, “the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:19).

You are happiest when you are needed!  You are more effective in your work, and less likely to quit when you work with others who are striving for the same goals.

One Can Be a Fool at Any Age (4:13-16)

Contrary to the opinion of some, youth does not own the market when it comes to being a foolish. A child that is poor, but wise, is better than a king corrupted by power, and unwilling to hear or heed correction (4:13).

While the foolish sometimes rise from obscurity (i.e., “prison”), and seize opportunity to wield power, their blunders inevitably bring them low (4:14). Remembering people are fickle by nature, they turn and embrace youth (4:15). Those in whom the public celebrate today, they will “not rejoice in” tomorrow (4:16).

Closing review – 1) There will always be injustices, and you should expect them (4:1-3). 2) Warning: The wealth and success of others may tempt you to be envious, or lazy if you sit idly focusing on what others have that you do not (4:4-8). 3) Remember – You will be happiest when you labor with others (4:9-12). 4) People are fickle, and foolishness will characterize the young and old, and the poor and rich.

* Please subscribe to http://www.HeartofAShepherd.com for future daily devotionals. This is the first of two daily devotionals published today by Pastor Smith. The second devotional will be taken from Ecclesiastes 5, and is only available by going to www.HeartofAShepherd.com.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Time Marches On” (Ecclesiastes 3)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 3

The word “Ecclesiastes” is a word for a public assembly or congregation, and a record of the ponderings of the wisest of men, King Solomon. Rather than a book of happy reflections, Solomon bares his heart and gives us opportunity to consider the soul of a man whose lusts had taken him far from the LORD. In a statement of the obvious, Solomon writes,

Ecclesiastes 3:1 – “To every thing there is a season [a time appointed], and a time to every purpose [matter; pleasure] under the heaven [sky].”

As a youth, I could not grasp what old folks meant when they remarked, “time is flying.” I have come to realize time does indeed fly. Sometimes, I catch myself reflecting on former days, and seasons of life that have passed. Whether physically, or in my thoughts, I go back and visit places that held meaning when I was young. Familiar places hold precious, memories. The names of deceased loved ones still resonate in my heart. Familiar names and faces, long silenced by death, echo in my thoughts, and I am reminded, there is “a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted” (3:2).

Solomon drew several analogies in today’s text, and each began with “a time,” and all bring us to the conclusion that time is passing (3:3-8). And so, the king who had assessed life as “vanity and vexation of spirit” (2:26), asked his readers, 9What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?” (3:9).

Man’s life apart from God is aimless, and pointless. (3:10-11)

We might sum up Solomon’s observations with an exclamation, “What’s the use?” The king observed, “I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised [troubled] in it” (3:10). The king had seen the troubles, trials and travails that God allows to come upon men. Though He had created everything good, and beautiful (3:11), and set in man’s heart a longing for eternity, it was the entrance of sin into the world that brought the curse of God’s judgment upon man and creation (Genesis 3:17-19).

God has placed in man’s heart the reality of eternity, and a longing He alone can satisfy. (3:12-14)

Though born under the curse of sin, and therefore mortal, man longs for immortality (3:12; Romans 6:23a). That men are able to enjoy the fruits of their labors, is a testimony of God’s grace and favor (3:13); however, all that men build apart from God (wealth, fame, legacies, buildings, monuments) is temporal and passing. Only what God has ordered and blessed will endure. “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear [revere; be afraid] before him” (3:14).

God’s Sovereign Courtroom (3:15-17)

The preacher’s focus then turned to a courtroom where God presided as judge, and Solomon observed the LORD was judge of the wicked and the righteous (3:16). The New Testament reveals there will indeed be two judgments. Revelation 20:11-15 gives us God’s prophetic revelation of the Great White Throne, where the LORD will judge the lost who rejected Christ’s sacrifice for their sins by His death, burial and resurrection. The righteous, those who placed their faith in Christ’s substitutionary death for their sins, will be judged according to their works at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). Solomon understood there would be a day when all men would be judged by God (3:17).

The Destinies of Men and Beast (3:18-22)

I have been asked by some who were particularly fond of their pets, where their spirit might go after death. Many have had pets who were great companions, and it is only natural that the same soul that longs for eternal life, would also long for those they love to enjoy the same, even their pets.

Solomon observed that death eventually befalls man and beast (3:19-20). The curse of sin is death, and “we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together” (Romans 8:22). Man, and beast eventually go to the grave, for “all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again” (3:20).

But what about the spirit of man, and the spirit of the beast? Solomon writes, “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” (3:21) The spirit of man, and the spirit of beasts are not the same. The beasts of the earth were created by the spoken word of God (Genesis 1:25); however, God made man (Genesis 1:26-27), and “formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7).

Unlike beasts, the breath of God gave man life, and an eternal soul. When beasts die, they cease to exist and their spirit “goeth downward to the earth (3:21). When a man dies, his spirit “goeth upward” (3:21), and “shall return unto God who gave it” (12:7).

Closing thoughts – God who “made every thing beautiful in his time [season]” and put “the world [lit. eternity]in [our] heart [mind; thoughts] (3:11). Only God can satisfy the soul. Will you not turn from your sin, and trust the LORD’S provision of salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ? (1 John 5:13)

* You are invited to subscribe to Pastor Smith’s daily devotionals in the box to the right of this devotion, and have future devotionals sent to your email address.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Sovereignty of God, Fiery Troubles and Trials (Proverbs 16; Proverbs 17)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 16; Proverbs 17

Our Scripture reading is Proverbs 16 and Proverbs 17. Today’s devotional will consider two great truths that can be life changing, if you embrace them!

Proverbs 16

God is Sovereign (Proverbs 16:1)

The Sovereignty of God is one of the great doctrines of the Scriptures, and has been a spiritual anchor for believers who have found themselves in the midst of trials and troubles. The Word of God reveals that He is Creator, and is therefore the Sovereign Ruler of the universe, all nations and people. Solomon, because his son would be king, and men’s lives and the future of the nation would rest in his hands, stressed the importance of both planning, and trusting God. Solomon wrote:

Proverbs 16:1 – “The preparations [plans; blueprints; i.e., plan for battle] of the heart [mind; thoughts; emotions] in man [belong to; are the responsibility of man], and the answer [reply] of the tongue, is from the LORD.”

What is the essence of Proverbs 16:1?

It is that man bears the responsibility of planning and preparing for each day, as well as for the future; but  the final answer to man’s preparations is from the Lord, the Sovereign of all. Whether a king plans for battle, or a humble farmer plants his crops; success is dependent upon the LORD’s blessings. Wise men plan, but the wisest of men acknowledge, and accept the sovereignty of God. In the words of Solomon, “the answer” (whether the outcome is favorable or unfavorable) is from the Lord.

Closing thought – Those who lack faith, and are unwilling to accept that God is sovereign, will be overtaken by racing thoughts, and fears that will erode strength.

Remember: A wise man plans, and will then “trust in the LORD with all [his] heart” (Proverbs 3:5a).

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Proverbs 17

Are You Feeling the Heat of Fiery Trials? Look Past the Flames! (17:3)

Fire is one of nature’s most valuable, yet destructive elements. The fire of a BBQ grill can stir a hungry appetite with the aroma of flame-broiled meats. Fire in a boiler can power a mighty steam engine, and turn massive electric turbines. Fire unleashed, however, can make a trail of destruction devastating everything in its path, rendering pain and sorrow.

Capitalizing on the theme of fire, Solomon compared the flames of a furnace that smelted and purified silver and gold, to the fiery trials God employs to test the hearts of His spiritual sons and daughters.

Proverbs 17:3 – “The fining pot [refining] is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD [Jehovah; Self-existent] trieth [proves; examines] the hearts.”

The process of purifying precious metals required intense heat. A smelter would take a refining pot of raw silver or gold, and sit the pot in the midst of an intense fire. He would then melt the raw material, causing the dross to boil to the top, where a skimmer would remove the impurities, leaving pure silver or gold.

Comparing times of trial and trouble to a refining pot and furnace (17:3b), Solomon taught his son to anticipate the LORD would prove, test and purify the hearts of His people by fiery trials. Trials and troubles not only test the heart, but purify the motives, and humble the spirit of a man. Nearly a thousand years later, James exhorted believers:

James 1:2-3 – “My brethren, count [consider] it all joy when ye fall into [encounter] divers temptations [trials; adversity]3 Knowing this, that the trying [testing; proving] of your faith worketh patience [strength; perseverance].”

The singe of fiery trials can hurt and humiliate, if not received with a humble, broken spirit. Trials can also benefit us, by burning away the crutches of self-will, and independence. The betrayal of a friend, or the rejection of a loved one can benefit us when we trust the way of the LORD is perfect, good and altogether right (2 Samuel 22:31Psalm 18:30; Romans 8:29-29).

Job, the Old Testament patriarch, confessed, “But he [the LORD] knoweth the way that I take: when he [the LORD] hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

Closing thoughts – Are you feeling the heat of fiery trials and troubles?

I know it hurts, and you want to flee the flames of pain and disappointment. It is tempting to focus on the circumstances, and personalities who have hurt and disappointed you. My exhortation and counsel is:

Look past the flames! Trust God will take you through the pain, to the other side!

1 Corinthians 10:13 – “There hath no temptation [trouble; trial] taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer [allow] you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape [to pass through the trial], that ye may be able to bear it.”

Will you turn your hurts and sorrows over to the LORD, and trust Him?

I welcome hearing how this wonderful truth has moved your heart to let go of your pain, fears and anxieties, consciously placing your trust in the LORD. You may email me at: HeartOfAShepherdInc@gmail.com

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith