A Word of Advice for Self-flattering Youth (Job 35-37)

Daily reading assignment: Job 35-37

Job’s “fourth friend,” the younger “Elihu,” began his monologue in chapter 32 and continues his criticism of the beleaguered man through chapter 37. Displaying youthful pride and knowing little of sorrows or suffering, Elihu continues his verbal assault over what he perceives as the sins of Job that precipitated his troubles (I confess, I too have grown weary of Elihu’s pride).

Elihu supposes to quote Job (35:1-3), but his words are hardly those of Job when he suggests the man has said, “My righteousness is more than God’s” (35:2).  Job has searched his heart and declared his innocence (10:7; 12:4; 27:6); however, nowhere has he claimed to be more righteous than God!

Indicative of youthful pride, Elihu’s words and manner evidence “selective hearing.”  Rather than ponder and heed the words of his elder, Elihu’s thoughts race to make his case against Job and his friends.

In the opening verses of chapter 36, Elihu presumes to “speak on God’s behalf” (36:1-2) and begs his small audience to be patient, perhaps sensing his “friends” felt they had heard enough from the young man (36:2a).  Lacking humility and implying he is “perfect in knowledge” (36:3-4), Elihu continues to assert that Job’s trials were a testament to the manner God deals with the wicked (36:5-17).

The younger Elihu’s arrogant monologue dribbles on through chapter 37.  Sensing a restlessness in his audience, he again urges Job and his friends to be patient and “hear attentively” (37:2).

With eloquence, Elihu displays a great knowledge of God, His sovereignty over creation and His mighty person (37:3-13).  Like a college sophomore who has learned much, but knows little; Elihu demonstrates he is nearly void of wisdom. The humility he urges in Job, he lacks himself!

I close with a quote attributed to the late president Theodore Roosevelt that is fitting counsel for youth who feel they have wisdom superior to their elders:

“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care!”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Troubles and Sorrows Got You Down? (Job 32-34)

Daily reading assignment – Job 32-34

Job 32 introduces us to Elihu, a fourth “friend” of Job and the youngest of the men.  Elihu has been deferentially silent to this point; however, he now joins the others by not only condemning Job, but also his “friends” who have failed to convince Job of his sin.

Job 32 marks the beginning of Elihu’s monologue and his judgment and condemnations will fill six chapters (Job 32-37).

Elihu’s introductory statements reflect the proud, zealous spirit of inexperienced youth (32:1-3, 5).  In his own words, he confesses, “I am full of matter…my belly is as wine which hath no vent; it is ready to burst” (32:18-19).

The young man boasts, though he is a man of clay like Job (33:6), he will nevertheless, offer insight that has so far not been introduced into the matter of Job’s suffering.  Rehearsing Job’s defense (33:8-11), Elihu accuses the poor man of striving against God (33:13).

Elihu contends that God not only stirs the conscience of sinners with dreams and visions (which He did in ancient times before the canon of scriptures was complete; ex. 1 Corinthians 13:10; Hebrews 1:1-2); He also employs sorrows and sufferings to awaken humility and conviction within the heart of man (33:19-22).

Before I rush pass this point, allow me to pause and take a moment to reflect on Elihu’s observation. While not all trials and troubles are indicative of sin and God’s chastening; believers should not dismiss them without honestly pondering…

Why is God allowing hurts and disappointments to assail my soul? (note – Hebrews 12:5-13)

We live in a sin-cursed world and trials and troubles are the lot of mankind and we can take heart knowing God is sovereign.  We are confident that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

However, let us not dismiss trials and fail to recognize they are often tools God employs to bring His child to humility and divert them from a path that could potentially bring them, their marriage, and family to ruin.

Elihu speaks truth when he reminds Job the LORD is gracious (33:24-25), merciful (33:28), and hears the prayer of repentant souls (33:26-27).  He invites Job to speak in his own defense (33:32); however, before he is able to do so, his young “friend” rushes on pressing his case against the old man (Job 34).

If you are shadowed by troubles and sorrows, search your heart and remember…

Psalm 34:17-19 – “The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. 18  The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. 19  Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Rare Opportunity You Should Not Miss (Hillsdale Baptist Church, Tampa, FL)

Dear Hillsdale Family and Friends,

Sheilah and I are winding down our last days of vacation before we return to Tampa and pick up the sacred mantle of serving as your pastor.  We have enjoyed our days with family (our parents are now in their mid-80’s) and quiet time in the GA mountains.  I am especially appreciative of the pastoral staff who has faithfully ministered to you in my absence and been especially tasked with visiting and encouraging families who are experiencing trials.  Hillsdale is blessed to have godly, faithful pastors.

While I will miss your fellowship this one last Sunday, you are in for a special blessing as Evangelist Dr. Ron Comfort will be preaching at Hillsdale in both the 10:30am and 6:00pm worship services.

Dr. Comfort is the founder of Ambassador Baptist College, a longtime friend of Hillsdale, and a man whom I greatly admire.  He has been greatly used by the LORD and his life and ministry are a testimony of unapologetic faithfulness to the Word of God.  We discussed the possibility of Bro. Comfort sharing and preaching his salvation testimony in the morning service and, after reading his biography, you are going to be amazed at God’s work of grace in his life.

I look forward to introducing two new sermon series next Sunday, January 19.  In the 10:30 AM service we will begin a study of Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (an incredible book that was the catalyst for the Great Reformation). In our 6:00 PM services I plan to begin a new study of the Book of Proverbs  titled “Heavenly Wisdom for Earthly Problems” (subtitled: “Uncommon, Common Sense”).

In closing, I am amazed God has blessed me to serve Hillsdale as a shepherd for nearly 35 years (serving as Youth Pastor, October 1985-September 1995 and Senior Pastor, October 1995 to this new decade)!  Thank you for your love, faithfulness, and patience as you have allowed me to both grow-up and grow old!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

 

“Adultery is to a Marriage What Fire is to a Home” (Job 31)

Job 31 is the conclusion of Job’s defense against the accusations of his “friends” that his sufferings must be the consequence of unconfessed sin.

The opening verse of Job 31 is one every man should vow in his soul before God:

I made a covenant [a binding agreement] with mine eyes [i.e. within his soul]; why then should I think [consider; inquire] upon a maid [a virgin; an unmarried woman]?” (Job 31:1)

What a powerful vow for 21st century believers to embrace…purity in heart, thoughts and emotions! Pornography over the internet via computers, tablets, and phones is destroying the innocence of our youth and the pervasive nature of that sin has become a cancer to marriages and families. It is not an exaggeration to conclude…

Marital infidelity is epidemic in the 21st century church.  

Some might protest that pornography is not as “bad” as adultery; however, our Lord taught in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5:27-28 – “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: [Exodus 20:14 – 7th Commandment] 28  But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

Adultery was not to be tolerated among God’s people and under Old Testament Law was punishable by death: “the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 20:10).

Adultery destroys a man’s reputation, scars his life, and brings reproach he will carry to his grave.

Proverbs 6:32-33 – “But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding [without moral principle]: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul [life]. 33 A wound and dishonour [disgrace] shall he get; and his reproach [shame] shall not be wiped away.”

Asserting his innocence and marital fidelity, Job declared, let him suffer the consequences of his sin if he had lusted after another man’s wife (Job 31:9-12)!

Job 31:12 – “For it [adultery] is a fire that consumeth [eats; devours; burns up] to destruction, and would root out [pluck up; uproot] all mine increase [good; income].”

Too many learn too late the truth Job declares in verse 12—

Adultery is like a consuming fire and divorce will rob you of the fruits of your labor.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Remember the Good Old Days? – part 1 (Job 29-31)

Today’s devotional reading assignment is Job 29-31.

Do you remember the “Good Old Days”?   You know, the days when you were young, strong, carefree, deluded and naïve?  Remember what life was like before you learned how much life could hurt?

In today’s scripture reading (Job 29-31), Job continues his defense against his “friends” insinuations that his sorrows and losses are indicative of unconfessed sins. Job began his defense in chapter 27 and continues his sad monologue through chapters 29, 30 and 31. (Note – I will address the length of today’s Bible reading assignment in two devotional thoughts).

Preacher and author Warren Wiersbe writes of Job’s defense:

He “climaxed his speech with sixteen ‘if I have…’ statements and put himself under oath, challenging God either to condemn him or vindicate him. It was as though Job were saying, “We’ve talked long enough! I really don’t care what you three men think, because God is my Judge; and I rest my case with Him. Now, let Him settle the matter one way or another, once and for all.”  [The Bible Exposition Commentary – Wisdom and Poetry].

Like many who grow frail in age or because of trials, Job began to reflect on “the good old days”.  He recalled the blessings and joys he had taken for granted before trials and troubles robbed him of his family, possessions and health. He remembered his youth and how God had favored him (29:2-4a).   He considered the fellowship he had with God and the joy his children brought to his life (29:4b-5).

He looked back on the standing he once had in life; how young men retired from his presence, old men stood to honor him (29:5-8), and nobles weighed his counsel with gravity (29:9-11, 20-25).  He cherished the opportunities he had to bless those less fortunate (29:12-16).

Job 30 marks a decided turn from cherished reflections of his past to the horrid reality of his present circumstances.  Though his character had remained unaltered, he had lost everything that once defined his outward man.   Job confronted the choice we might all face… live in the past and entertain bitterness or honestly and humbly assess his present condition.

Job’s life had become the fodder of fools. He encountered derision from men who once honored him (30:1-15).  He had been charitable to many, but now faced his own poverty (30:16-25).  In need of pity and compassion (30:26-31), sorrows threatened to drowned Job’s soul in tears (30:27-29). He was well-nigh hopeless.

Hopelessness is an intolerable place; for when hope is lost, all seems lost.

Paul challenged believers in Rome, be “fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope” (Romans 12:11-12a).  To believers in Corinth, Paul wrote, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20  But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept”  (1 Corinthians 15:19-20).

Believer, never lose hope!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The Fear of the Lord, That is Wisdom” (Job 24-28)

Daily reading assignment: Job 24-28

Contrary to Eliphaz’s assertion that the trials Job has suffered are characteristic of the reward of the wicked, Job states the opposite has been his observation (Job 24:2-16).

Job 24:2-4 –  “2  Some [i.e. the Wicked] remove the landmarks [property boundaries]; they violently take away flocks, and feed thereof [upon what they have stolen]. 3  They drive away the ass [donkey] of the fatherless [orphan], they take the widow’s ox for a pledge [i.e. a surety; as an insurance guaranteeing repayment]. 4  They turn the needy out of the way: the poor of the earth hide themselves together [mistreat the poor and helpless].”  Indeed, sometimes the wicked seem to escape punishment!

“Bildad the Shuhite”, one of Job’s “friends”, pretends to speak words of wisdom concerning the person and nature of God in Job 25.  Only six verses in length, Bildad devotes the first three verses to God’s dominion and power (25:1-3), followed by verses 4-6 that focus on God’s justice and man’s natural, wretched state (25:4-6).

Job’s response to Bildad’s empty counsel begins in Job 26.   After answering his accuser (26:1-4), Job begins a discourse declaring not only the nature of God as Creator, but stating facts about creation that were not fully proved until the emergence of modern science.

Consider the following revelations found in Job 26: 1) The earth hangs on nothing (26:7); 2) God gives and withholds water in the clouds as it pleases Him (26:8-9); 3) God has determined the boundaries of the oceans (26:10, 12a; Proverbs 8:29).

Job’s defense to Bildad’s judgments continues through Job 28.

Professing he had searched his heart and found no sins that would invite God’s judgment, Job is at a loss to understand why God has allowed so great a sorrow to shadow his life.  Seeking answers, Job asks,

Job 28:12, 20 – “But where shall wisdom be found?… 20  Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding?”

Friend, knowledge might be obtained for the excessive price of an Ivy League education; however, wisdom is priceless and cannot be purchased (28:15-19)!   In the words of Charles Spurgeon, the 19th century English Baptist preacher, “Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.”

What is the repository of wisdom and how might it be acquired?  The answer: “the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).

I am witnessing a generation of pastors, teachers, and evangelists who preach “GRACE” and “LIBERTY” to the neglect of instructing sons and daughters in the precepts of God’s Law and Commandments. I fear…

The failure to teach the statutes and judgments (Law and Commandments) of God has created a void of knowledge and fostered a liberty that has become a license to sin. 

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“A Heart Tried in Trials is Precious as Gold” (Job 21-23)

Daily reading assignment: Job 21-23

Job has answered the slanderous judgments of “friends” who imply his trials must be attributable to some sin he has not confessed (Job 20:4-29).  Job answers Zophar’s false declarations in chapter 21, contradicting his “friend’s” assertions that the path of the wicked is marked by suffering, sorrows, and a life cut short.

Job contends the way of sinners appears to succeed in this sinful world.  The wicked seem to prosper, grow old and, in spite of their sins (21:7-21), their deaths differ little from that of other men (21:22-34).

I have observed the same as Job: Liars, cheats, and swindlers appear to prosper in this world, while their victims languish in the wake of their path of deceit and destruction.  I have witnessed single moms impoverished and naïve men deceived by wicked men who evidence no guilt of conscience or visible consequences for their sins.  In fact, the wicked often appear to prosper while the righteous are impoverished!

Caution: All is not what it seems and a day of judgment is appointed for sinners. 

God is “longsuffering…not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9) and His patience exceeds our own; however, He is just and sin demands its payday. Job observes,

Job 21:30-3230  That the wicked is reserved [spared] to the day of destruction? they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath [God’s wrath; fury]. 31  Who shall declare his way to his face [face of the wicked]? and who shall repay him what he hath done? 32  Yet shall he [the wicked] be brought to the grave, and shall remain in the tomb.

Eliphaz continues his assault on Job’s noble character in chapter 22. Refusing to accept his protest of innocence, Eliphaz suggests Job has committed some wickedness and God has judged him.  Eliphaz states a litany of sins Job might have committed to invite God’s wrath (22:6-20) and urges him to confess his sin and turn to God (22:21-30).

Weary of protesting his innocence, Job expresses his longing to seek God’s presence and plead his cause knowing He is just and never changes (Job 23).  Job declares with conviction,

“But he knoweth [perceives and understands] the way [path; journey] that I take: when he hath tried [test; proved; examined] me, I shall come forth as gold [i.e. pure and refined by the fire of testing] (Job 23:10).

What is true of gold is true of the heart…the more it is fired the purer, softer, and more valuable it is.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith