The Last Will and Testament of King David (2 Samuel 23; Psalm 57)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 23; Psalm 57

Our Scripture reading comprises the historical narrative of David’s life in 2 Samuel 23, and Psalm 57.

Psalm 57 – God is Our Refuge

The occasion of Psalm 57 is identified in its title: “To the chief Musician, Al-taschith [meaning, “do not destroy”], Michtam [a type of poem] of David, when he fled from Saul in the cave (1 Samuel 22:1; 24:1-3).

Perhaps penned in the latter years of his reign, Psalm 57 was a record of God’s mercies through the years. David, remembered he had been a fugitive from King Saul who had sought to kill him out of jealousy. Hiding in the wilderness, and finding shelter in caves, David cried to the LORD,  “Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee” (57:1).  He recalled his enemies, like savage lions, that had ravaged him with their words (57:4). They had schemed to entrap him, only to perish in their own wicked devices (57:6).

In spite of the sorrows and humiliations he had suffered, David’s foremost desire in those years of exile was that God would be exalted and glorified “above all the earth” (57:5). The closing verses of Psalm 57 are the king’s affirmation of his faith in God. David testified, “My heart is fixed [set; ready], O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise” (57:7). The king’s heart was full of praise, and thanksgiving. He not only wanted his people to know the mercies of the Lord, he promised, “I will sing unto thee among the nations” (57:9).

2 Samuel 23 – The Last Words and Testament of King David

Our study of David’s life is in its finale, as we turn in the Scriptures to 2 Samuel 23. The first sentence of chapter 23 moves me emotionally when I read, Now these be the last words of David” (23:1a).

We have been privileged to examine the soul of the man whom God declared, “a man after [His] own heart” (Acts 13:22; 1 Samuel 13:14). David was far from being a perfect man; however, his tenderness toward the LORD, and his love for God’s Word and Law, are an inspiration to all sincere believers.

Ministering as a pastor, I have been an honored guest at the bedside of many dying saints. I have observed how the proximity of death stirs in a soul a reflection on things that genuinely matter in the light of eternity. The presence of the shadow of death will tend to cut away those things that once held our affections. Accomplishments, honors, and plaques on the wall, have no value when death is near.

For all his achievements, David’s life was not summed up as the giant slayer or victor over the Philistines, but as “the son of Jesse…the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel” (23:1). Though honored to have served as the king of Israel, David drew his joy from being the man to whom the “Spirit of the Lord spake…[and whose] word was in [his] tongue” (23:2)

As with many of the psalms, 2 Samuel 23:3-4, imparted words of wisdom and adoration. Identifying the LORD as, “The Rock of Israel,” David recalled God’s exhortation, “He that ruleth over men must be just, Ruling in the fear of God” (23:3). Simple, but profound! Imagine how different our world would be if men desired to have ruling over them, those who were “just” (righteous in their rulings according to God’s Law), and ruled “in the fear of God.” Such a leader would “be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth” (23:4a).

Time and space restrain an exhaustive study of the balance of 2 Samuel 23, but it is worth noting that David took time to acknowledge those men who had been his “mighty men” (23:9-39). 2 Samuel 23:13 gives the number of great warriors as “thirty,” and yet, the chapter ends stating that they were “thirty and seven in all” (23:39). How might that be? Was the number thirty, or thirty-seven an error? Also, there are a total of thirty-six men named, and not thirty-seven.

Some might disagree with my assessment of the dilemma in the number of David’s mighty men; however, I believe I have an acceptable explanation: When some of David’s mighty men perished in battle (for instance, Uriah the Hittite, 23:39), he would have chosen other men to take their place. I suggest the thirty-seventh man, and the one not named, was Joab, the brother of Abishai, whom I believe was in a league of his own.

Thirty-seven mighty men, from different backgrounds, but all had dedicated their lives to serve David, the great warrior king. David was content to be remembered as the man with whom God had established “an everlasting covenant” (23:5).

Perfect man? No, but that is the kind of leader God uses (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Ministering to a “Woke” Culture (A Biblical Perspective)

* The following article, though addressing a “hot topic,” is not written to make a political statement. I am a spiritual shepherd, and it is my desire to guide people through a maze of moral dilemmas, and to spiritual truths. “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4).

Shaming has become a perpetual practice of the political left in the 21st century. With little regard for historical fact or context, militant agitators have been fomenting unrest in our society, and trumpeting a narrative of cultural and generational guilt. Politicians, educators, news organizations, religious leaders, corporations, and social media moguls are in lockstep pushing a “Woke” agenda. Driven by a socialist political agenda, they are demanding “justice,” and reparations for the poor and disenfranchised.

What is the “Woke” doctrine?

Risking being accused of over simplification, the adherents of “Woke” doctrine place on one generation or people (i.e., countries of origin, race, religion, et al), the burden of bearing responsibility for the sins and failures of earlier generations.

“Woke” doctrine is being taught in schools, adopted by corporations, and demanded by human rights movements. “Woke” is the ideology of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, and its demand for reparations. “Woke idealists” condemn the United States as an imperialist nation, and accuse the USA of egregious crimes against humanity, and of oppressing the less fortunate people and nations of the world. [An elementary knowledge of United States history, particularly that of the 20th century, reveals the USA is the lone super power that, though not perfect, has been a rebuilder, not an occupier of the conquered and the downtrodden.]

Militant “Woke” liberals are demanding that the United States and its citizens must right our wrongs, even if that means punishing this generation for the alleged sins of past generations.

Must a nation and people pay for the sins and failures of previous generations?  Must “We the people” be impoverish to amend for what others contend are our national sins? Does a massive transfer of wealth to impoverished nations and people “fix” the failures of the past?

What does the Bible say?

Is there a spiritual principle to answer a “Woke” culture? Can one generation bear the guilt for the sins of past generations? Do sons and daughters have a moral obligation to compensate for the failures of their fathers who went before them?

The Word of God does have an answer to this controversy, and it is stated simply:

Ezekiel 18:20 – 20The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

What is the spiritual response to the “Woke” doctrine of “love and reparations?”

It is that every generation bears responsibility for its choices, whether they are lawful or lawless, righteous or wicked (Ezekiel 18:20). When a generation chooses righteousness, they enjoy God’s favor. When sons and daughters choose wickedness, they bear God’s judgment, and will suffer the punishment of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:20d).

Are the sins of past generations the burden of sons and daughters?

Absolutely. We read in Lamentations 5:7, “7Our fathers have sinned, and are not; And we have borne their iniquities.”

While sons and daughter bear the burden and influence of the sins of their fathers, they cannot be lawfully punished for the failures of a former generation. Such a demand is not only unjust, but violates the Scriptures and God’s righteous judgment (Deuteronomy 24:16).

Should the Church and its members look upon human history, and acknowledge “human rights” violations? Do we concede the failures of generations that have gone before us? Absolutely!

However, it is God, not man that is judge. He does not condemn one generation for the failures of another.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith
* All rights reserved. May not be republished without acknowledgement, and the permission of the author.

The Cry of a Thirsty Soul: Hope Thou in God! (Psalm 42; 2 Samuel 22)

Scripture reading – Psalm 42; 2 Samuel 22

Today’s Scripture reading consists of two psalms, but only one of the two is found in the Book of Psalms. 2 Samuel 22 continues our study of the life of David, but the chapter itself is in fact a psalm of thanksgiving and praise. Not desiring to exhaust you with both a long devotional, and a lengthy Scripture reading, I will abbreviate my observations. [* Words in brackets are the amplification of the author.]

2 Samuel 22“Who is the LORD?”

David identified the LORD as his Rock, Fortress, Deliverer (22:2), Shield, “Horn (or strength) of my salvation,”High Tower, Refuge, Savior (22:3), and the One to be Praised (22:4). Wow! What a glorious God we serve!

David testified, when he was assailed by enemies, God was his Deliverer. When he called upon the LORD in his troubles, He heard his “voice out of his temple, and [his] cry did enter into his ears” (22:7).

Ponder that thought! When a believer cries to the LORD in distress, the God of heaven is moved! (22:8) He moves to right the wrongs committed by the wicked, and the earth trembles, and heaven is moved by His wrath (22:8).

2 Samuel 22:9-20 draws for us a moving portrait of the LORD and His response to David’s cry. Writing figuratively, God comes breathing out fire and smoke (22:9), and flying “upon the wings of the wind” (22:9-11). His voice sounds like thunder (22:14), and He sends lightning like arrows that frighten men (22:15).

The LORD is the Rescuer (22:17-20), and Rewarder of all who follow after righteousness and keep His laws (22:21-25). He is a JUST God, and rewards men according to their ways and works (22:26-28).

Reflecting over his years in exile, David remembered the LORD’s presence and faithfulness (22:29-43).  In the midst of his hardships, the king had found the LORD to be his Light in darkness (22:29), and his Strength when he faced adversaries stronger than himself (22:38-43).

Consider David’s assertions regarding the character of God (22:31-33). David writes,

2 Samuel 22:31-33 – “As for God, his way [path] is perfect [upright; complete]; the word [commandment] of the LORD is tried [pure; refined]: he is a buckler [shield] to all them that trust [confide; seek refuge] in him.
32  For who is God, save the LORD? and who is a rock, save our God?
33  God is my strength [fortress; rock] and power: and he maketh my way perfect [upright; complete].”

Closing thoughts – What a comfort! God’s way is always perfect, and always best (22:31). His Word is pure, and you can trust Him! And, when you feel weak, remember, “God is [your] strength and power” (22:33).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Psalm 42 – The Cry of a Thirsty Soul

Psalm 42 is a beautiful psalm of worship, and its words and emotions have made it a favorite of believers down through the centuries. [* Words in brackets are the amplification of the author.]

David’s Zeal for Worshipping the LORD (42:1-3)

Psalm 42:1-3 – “As the hart [stag or male deer] panteth [cry; long for] after the water [spring; i.e. fresh water] brooks, so panteth [long for] my soul [life; inner man; heart] after thee, O God [i.e. Elohim; Creator God; Sovereign God].
2  My soul thirsteth [i.e. an intense longing] for God, for the living God [El; Almighty God]: when shall I come and appear [look; behold] before [face; countenance] God?
3  My tears [weeping; i.e. mourning] have been my meat [bread; food] day and night, while they [David’s enemies]continually say unto me, Where is thy God?

David Remembered Happier Times (42:4)

Psalm 42:44  When I remember [recollect; bring to memory] these things, I pour out [spill forth; gush out] my soul in me: for I had gone [pass on; go before] with the multitude, I went [i.e., lead in a procession] with them to the house [household; tabernacle] of God, with the voice of joy [singing; gladness] and praise [hymns of thanksgiving], with a multitude that kept holyday [feast day; celebrate a solemn feast].

David Confessed Discouragement (42:5-7)

Psalm 42:5-75  Why art thou cast down [depressed], O my soul? and why art thou disquieted [troubled; disturbed]in me? hope [wait; tarry; trust; i.e. be patient] thou in God: for I shall yet praise [give thanks] him for the help [salvation; deliverance] of his countenance [face; presence].”
6  O my God, my soul is cast down [depressed; stooped] within me: therefore will I remember [i.e. call to mind; be mindful] thee from the land [country] of Jordan [i.e. the Jordan River], and of the Hermonites, from the hill [mountain range or mount] Mizar [a mountain peak in Lebanon].
7  Deep [i.e. deep water] calleth [calls out] unto deep [i.e. deep water] at the noise [voice; sound; thunder] of thy waterspouts [waterfalls]: all thy waves [breaking waves] and thy billows [rolling waves] are gone over me.

David Hoped in the LORD (42:8-10)

Psalm 42:8-10 8  Yet the LORD will command [charge; appoint] his lovingkindness [unfailing love and mercy] in the daytime, and in the night his song [music; singers] shall be with me, and my prayer [intercession; supplication]unto the God of my life.
9  I will say [promise] unto God my rock [fortress; stronghold], Why hast thou forgotten [or ignore] me? why go [walk; depart; come] I mourning [become dark] because of the oppression [distress; affliction] of the enemy [adversary; foes]?
10  As with a sword [crushing; shattering] in my bones [body], mine enemies reproach [defy; distress; say sharp things]me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?

With a Renewed Spirit, David Asserted His Faith (42:11)

Psalm 42:11 – 11  Why art thou cast down [depressed; stoop], O my soul? and why art thou disquieted [troubled; i.e. be in an uproar] within me? hope [wait; tarry; be patient] thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health[salvation; deliverance] of my countenance [face; presence], and my God.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Cry of a Wounded Heart (Psalm 41)

Scripture reading – Psalm 41

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

Blessed are the Compassionate (41:1-2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Betrayed by a Friend and Confidant (41:9)

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

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

A Doxology of Praise (41:10-13)

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Good morning, Father,” the words God loves to hear. (Psalm 5; Psalm 38)

Scripture reading – Psalm 5; Psalm 38

Departing from my narrative style of devotions, I am posting today’s Scripture readings with only my amplifications of word meanings in brackets and italicized. The Scriptures are in a bold font, and colored fonts are added to emphasize truths I invite you to ponder in your meditations.

Psalm 5 – An Introduction

How do you begin your mornings? I confess, I am the dreaded “morning person.” I generally wake up well before the alarm, and roll out of bed ready to start the day. How do you suppose David began his mornings? The answer: With prayer and meditation in God’s Word.

A Morning Prayer (5:1-3)

Psalm 5:1-3Give ear [hearken; listen] to my words [sayings; speech] , O LORD, consider [understand; regard; discern] my meditation [musings].
2  Hearken [hear; regard; be attentive] unto the voice [sound; noise] of my cry [i.e. cry for help], my King, and my God [i.e. might God]: for unto thee will I pray [make supplication; meditate].
3  My voice [lit. the sound of my voice] shalt thou hear in the morning [dawn; early morning], O LORD; in the morning will I direct [array; set in order; direct] my prayer unto thee, and will look up [behold; keep watch .

A Warning to the Wicked (5:4-6)

4  For thou art not a God that hath pleasure [desire; delight] in wickedness [iniquity; evil]: neither shall evil [wickedness] dwell [sojourn; gather together] with thee.
5  The foolish
[boasters] shall not stand [continue; remain; resort] in thy sight [presence; face]: thou hatest [set against; foe; detest] all workers [doers] of iniquity [wickedness; evil; unrighteousness].
6  Thou shalt destroy
[brake; annihilate] them that speak [say; talk] leasing [lies; deceit; falsehood]: the LORD will abhor [detest; loathe] the bloody [guilty; bloodthirsty] and deceitful [dishonest] man.

An Affirmation of Prayer and Worship (5:7-8)

7  But as for me, I will come into thy house [tabernacle; temple] in the multitude [abundance] of thy mercy [loving-kindness; goodness]: and in thy fear [reverence; i.e. fear of one superior] will I worship [bow down; reverence; prostrate] toward thy holy [consecrated; sanctified] temple.
8  Lead
[guide; bring] me, O LORD, in thy righteousness [justice] because of mine enemies [adversary; hostile foe]; make thy way [journey; road; course of life] straight [pleasing; direct; right; i.e. lawful] before my face.  

A Denunciation of the Wicked (5:9-10)

9  For there is no faithfulness [truth] in their mouth [word; speech]; their inward [heart] part is very wickedness [perverse; calamity; iniquity; destructive]; their throat [mouth] is an open [grave] sepulcher [grave; tomb]; they flatter [smooth] with their tongue [language; speech].
10  Destroy
[punish; make desolate] thou them, O God; let them fall [fall down; be cast down] by their own counsels [purpose; device; plan]; cast them out [drive out; banish; disperse] in the multitude [abundance; greatness] of their transgressions [sin; revolt; rebellion]; for they have rebelled [provoked; disobeyed; i.e. be contentious] against thee.  

An Assurance for the Righteous (5:11-12)

11  But let all those that put their trust [confide; i.e. make God their refuge; hope; flee to] in thee rejoice [be glad; joyful; i.e. make merry]: let them ever [evermore; perpetual; forever] shout for joy [sing; cry out; rejoice; i.e. be overcomers], because thou defendest [cover; i.e. put a hedge about] them: let them also that love thy name [i.e. embodying the person and character of God] be joyful [jump for joy; exult; triumph] in thee.
12  For thou, LORD, wilt bless
[adore; abundantly bless] the righteous [lawful; innocent; just]; with favour [delight; accept; pleasure] wilt thou compass [surround; encircle] him as with a shield [i.e. a prickly guard].

Psalm 38 – An Introduction

Psalm 38 does not indicate the time or circumstances that inspired this song of worship; however, its content indicates it was at a time of trial, sickness, and sorrow in David’s life.

David plead for mercy. (38:1-2)

Psalm 38:1 – O LORD, rebuke [reprove; correct; chasten] me not in thy wrath [anger; indignation; rage]: neither chasten [discipline; instruct; punish] me in thy hot displeasure [fury; wrath; indignation].
2  For thine arrows stick fast [sink; come down] in me, and thy hand presseth me sore [sink; come down].

David was physically weak and troubled. (38:3-8)

3  There is no soundness [wholesomeness] in my flesh [body] because of thine anger [fury; indignation]; neither is there any rest [peace; welfare; happiness] in my bones [body] because of my sin.
4  For mine iniquities
[sin; punishment; perversity; guilt] are gone over [passed over] mine head: as an heavy [grievous; difficult; great] burden [load] they are too heavy [burdensome] for me.
5  My wounds
[stripes; scourging] stink [abhor; loathsome; foul] and are corrupt [decay; consume; fester] because of my foolishness [folly; stupidity; silliness].
6  I am troubled
[bowed down; made crooked; twisted; distorted]; I am bowed down [cast down; depressed; humbled] greatly [exceedingly]; I go mourning [become dark] all the day [time] long.
7  For my loins
[trust; confidence; hope] are filled [overflow] with a loathsome [burning] disease: and there is no soundness  [completeness; wholesomeness] in my flesh [body].
8  I am feeble
[faint; weary; numb] and sore [exceedingly; greatly] broken [contrite]: I have roared [groaned; moaned] by reason of the disquietness [roaring; agitation; growling] of my heart [mind; seat of feelings and affections].
9  Lord [Master], all my desire [lust; greed; longing] is before thee; and my groaning  [sighs; mourning] is not hid [concealed; sheltered; secret] from thee.
10  My heart
[mind; seat of feelings and affections] panteth [throbs], my strength [power; might; ability] faileth[forsake; leave; abandon] me: as for the light [illumination; happiness] of mine eyes [sight], it also is gone [fails; incurable; nothing] from me.  

David had been deserted by his friends and family. (38:11)

11  My lovers [friends; those for whom he had an affection] and my friends [neighbor; companions; peers] stand [continue; remain] aloof from [against; counter to; in the sight of] my sore [wound; infective spot; i.e. leprous]; and my kinsmen [family; kindred] stand afar off [far from].  

David’s enemies sought advantage because of his weakness. (38:12)

12  They also that seek [search; require; desire] after my life [soul] lay snares [traps] for me: and they that seek [require] my hurt [calamity; distress] speak [say] mischievous things [wicked; perverse], and imagine [speak; declare; devise; plot] deceits [false; guile; treachery] all the day long.  

David refused to answer his enemies\critics. (38:13-14)

13  But I, as a deaf man, heard [hearken; obey] not; and I was as a dumb man [speechless; mute] that openeth not his mouth.
14  Thus I was as a man that heareth not
[hearken; obey], and in whose mouth are no reproofs [rebuke; arguments].  

David prayed earnestly for the LORD to intercede. (38:15-19)

15  For in thee, O LORD, do I hope [wait; tarry]: thou wilt hear [answer; reply], O Lord my God.
16  For I said
[speak; command; address], Hear me, lest otherwise they should rejoice [glad; joyful] over me: when my foot [walk; journey] slippeth [moved; fall], they magnify [praise; promote; advance] themselvesagainst me.
17  For I am ready
[prepared] to halt [limp; fall; stumble], and my sorrow [pain; grief] is continually [ever; perpetually; continually] before me.
18  For I will declare
[tell; shew; utter; confess] mine iniquity [fault; perversity; sin]; I will be sorry [afraid; anxious] for my sin.
19  But mine enemies are lively
[alive; living], and they are strong [mighty; increased]: and they that hate [detest; i.e. mine enemies] me wrongfully [lie; lying; deceit] are multiplied [many; increased].  

David’s enemies hated him, not for his sin, but for his righteousness. (38:20)

20  They also that render [reward; recompense; repay] evil [wickedness; hurt; trouble] for good [pleasant; pleasing; right; best] are mine adversaries [attackers; accusers]; because I follow [pursue; run after; chase] the thing that good is [pleasant; pleasing; right; best].  

David appealed to the LORD. (38:21-22)

21  Forsake [leave; relinquish; abandon] me not, O LORD: O my God, be not far [removed; recede; withdraw] from me.
22  Make haste
[hurry; be eager; hasten] to help [aid; assist; support] me, O Lord my salvation [deliverance; rescue; i.e. savior].

Copyright – 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“The Song of the Redeemed” (Psalm 40) – an invitation to Hillsdale’s morning worship services.

https://youtu.be/Zhy4g5C0KH4

What Hath God Wrought?

Good morning, and welcome to Hillsdale! This Sunday, October 3, marks the Smith’s 37th year in ministry here at Hillsdale. Previously, ministering in Sterling Heights, MI in the summer of 1985, I was a twenty-eight-year-old youth\music pastor, and interim pastor at First Baptist of Sterling Heights. My office phone rang that summer, and on the other end of the line was Dr. Alan Bradshaw. Pastor Bradshaw asked if I would be willing to take a vacation to Tampa, FL. After six winters in MI, who could pass up that opportunity?

Thirty-six years later, and twenty-six of those years as senior pastor, I am humbled by God’s grace, and your patience. You allowed me to mature, and the LORD has given me the rare privilege of working with many who were children and teenagers when I came to Hillsdale. The majority of those who voted for me to come in 1985 are now with the LORD, including the man who became my pastor and mentor until his sudden passing June 21, 1995.

“An Unchanging God in an Ever-Changing World”

The changes in the world since 1985 have been dramatic, if not traumatic (especially the past two decades). The world, it seems, has been turned upside down. Technology has pushed the breadth of man’s acquisition of knowledge, and tried to de-personalize humanity. Moral boundaries, once incontrovertible, are facing a militant assault seeking to obliterate all absolutes. Facing an all-out attack on Truth, congregations, Christian schools, preachers, and some professing believers, are willing to compromise core-doctrines of the Word of God.

Let it be shouted in the highways and byways – our God is the “I Am” of Exodus 3:14! He changes not (Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6), for He is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Today’s Morning Service

We are continuing our month-long emphasis on Hillsdale’s missionary vision, highlighting Yaovi Kpogno’s ministry to Togo. In little more than two years since his return to Togo, Yaovi has planted a church, purchased land, built an auditorium – all during COVID!

Our service will conclude this morning with an observance of the Lord’s Supper, after which we will dismiss our guests for a brief vote on the revised Church Constitution and Bylaws.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith
Senior Pastor
www.HeartofAShepherd.com
https://tv.gab.com/channel/HeartofAShepherd1
https://mewe.com/p/heartofashepherdinc

Blood for Blood (2 Samuel 20-21)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 20-21

The prophet Nathan had warned David that the consequences of his adultery, and the murder of Uriah would follow him to his grave (2 Samuel 12:10-14). Absalom was dead! Contrary to the king’s wishes, Joab, one of David’s captains, had killed the son of the David, and buried his body in a ravine under a heap of stones (2 Samuel 18).

David’s soldiers had been victorious on the battlefield, and routed the men of Israel who had sworn devotion to Absalom. Although his reign had been preserved, the death of Absalom thrust upon the king a grief that moved him to cry, “would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (18:33b) Joab rebuked David for grieving the death of his son, and urged him to express his gratitude to his soldiers or risk their resentment (19:7).

2 Samuel 19 concluded exposing a division among the people. The ten tribes to the north, identified as “the men of Israel” (19:41), resented the “men of Judah” (19:42), for David was of that tribe (19:43).

2 Samuel 20 – All Was Not Well in Israel

Sheba, “a man of Belial” (literally, a worthless man), of the tribe of Benjamin (from which King Saul had come), openly opposed David (20:1). Expressing his animosity for the king, Sheba rallied an army to oppose him (20:2). David, having promoted Amasa to lead his army (19:13), commanded him to rally the “men of Judah,” and in three days pursue Sheba, putting down the insurrection before he could retreat to the safety of a walled city.

Amasa, however, proved incapable of rallying the “men of Judah,” for he had been captain of Absalom’s army (20:5). David turned to Abishai, brother of Joab and a trusted captain, and commanded him to pursue Sheba (20:7-8). Amasa arrived too late to lead David’s army, allowing opportunity for Joab to stealthily beguile him close enough to slay him in the sight of the soldiers (20:9-10). David’s men put down the rebellion, and the conflict ended with Sheba being beheaded (20:22).

A Growing Rift between Joab and the King

We should take note of Joab’s flawed character, and his lack of reverence for David. He had slain Absalom, and watched as his men brutalized his body. In 2 Samuel 20, he defied David’s authority, slaying Amasa whom the king had appointed as captain of his army. David certainly had cause for not trusting Joab, but he did nothing to deter the man’s ambitions.

Once again, we are reminded that David had abdicated his moral authority over Joab, when he commanded him to expedite Uriah’s death (2 Samuel 11:14-25). Troubles between Joab and David are on the horizon.

2 Samuel 21 – Famine in the Land

 

Troubles in Israel continued with that nation enduring three years of famine (21:1). Thus, David “inquired of the LORD” (21:1) the cause for the famine.

The LORD revealed the famine was his judgment for a wrong committed by his predecessor, king Saul, against the Gibeonites (non-Israelites who lived in Canaan, 21:1). Because Saul had broken covenant with the Gibeonites, and shed innocent blood, the LORD declared He would not heal the land until David righted the wrong (21:2).

As head of the nation, David humbled himself, and questioned the Gibeonites what they required to right the sin committed against them (21:3). The Gibeonites rejected any offer of silver or gold from the household of Saul, leading David to promise, “What ye shall say, that will I do for you” (21:4).

Blood for Blood (21:5-9)

The Gibeonites, employed an ancient law of mankind (Genesis 9:6), and demanded the deaths of seven sons of Saul (seven men who were direct descendants of Saul). David agreed to the demand (21:6), but spared Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son, who was the grandson of Saul (21:7).

Understanding the land was polluted by innocent blood, David took hold of seven sons of Saul, for “the land [could not] be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it” (21:8-9; Numbers 35:33). Two sons of Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, were slain (21:8a), and five sons identified as “sons of Michal the daughter of Saul (21:8b). Remembering Michal bore the curse of never having children (2 Samuel 6:23), it would seem she had raised five sons as her own (perhaps the sons of her sister Merab, 1 Samuel 18:19).

2 Samuel 21:9 – “9And [David] delivered them [the sons of Saul] into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the hill before the Lord…and were put to death in the days of harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of barley harvest.”

2 Samuel 21 concludes with a historical record of Israel’s conquests over the Philistines, and the slaying of the giants who were of Goliath’s household (21:15-22).

Closing thoughts – Our world is troubled in a way I have not witnessed in my lifetime. Civil unrest, violence, murders, drought, massive storms, famine, and warnings of a shortage of food are constant. Understanding when innocent blood is shed and there is no justice, God will judge the land. We should expect God’s judgment for the millions of unborn children whose lives had been snuffed out in their mother’s womb.

Warning: We are facing God’s judgment that no nation can long withstand (Genesis 9:5-6; Numbers 35:33).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Battle Wounds, and Broken Hearts (2 Samuel 19)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 19

Today’s devotional returns to the historical narrative in 2 Samuel 19. As a point of reference, remember David, his family, and servants were in Mahanaim in Gilead on the east side of the Jordan River, where he had fled during Absalom’s insurrection (17:27).

The news of Absalom’s death overwhelmed David’s heart. More than the heartaches and humiliation he had suffered, the news of his son’s death moved the king who physically trembled with grief (18:33). Absalom was dead, and David bewailed him in his bedchamber, crying, “would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (18:33).

Joab Challenged David’s Perspective (19:1-8)

Returning victorious from the battlefield where he had slain Absalom, Joab, one of three captains of David’s forces, received news: “Behold, the king weepeth and mourneth for Absalom” (19:1). Those loyal to David returned from their victory, only to learn the king was grieving the death of his son (19:2). Ashamed to be gloating in their victory, when their king grieved the death of his son, we read, “the victory that day was turned into mourning unto all the people: for the people heard say that day how the king was grieved for his son. 3And the people gat them by stealth that day into the city, as people being ashamed [as though bearing the king’s displeasure] steal away when they flee in battle” (19:2-3).

Feeling David’s sorrow was unacceptable, and knowing the heartache Absalom had brought upon Israel, Joab reproved the king. His manner betrayed his contempt for the king (remember, Joab had been commanded by David to cover the murder of Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba, 11:14-17).

In appearance, David cared more for his enemies (Absalom and those who followed him), than his faithful servants (19:6). Rightfully, Joab urged the king to greet the soldiers returning from battle (19:7a). Should he fail to honor his servants, Joab threatened, every man in Israel would abandon the king (19:7b). Rising from his bed of sorrow, David sat in the gate of the city, and was present when the men passed before him (19:8).

David’s Patience (19:9-12)

Though there might have been cause for David and his army to pursue, and destroy those who had participated in Absalom’s insurrection, the king chose to wait on the people to invite him to return to Jerusalem as their king. Those who had supported the rebellion now found themselves at the mercy of David. They remembered the good David had done as king (19:9a). Israel, specifically the ten northern tribes, was divided concerning how they would deal with the division between themselves and the king (19:9). They questioned their elders, “why speak ye not a word of bringing the king back?” (19:10)

David had received word that the ten tribes were ready to pursue peace (19:11), and he commanded the priests to go to his own tribe, Judah, and say, “Why are ye the last to bring the king back to his house?” (19:11). The king appealed to the men of Judah, saying, “12Ye are my brethren, ye are my bones and my flesh: wherefore then are ye the last [the last of the tribes] to bring back the king?” (19:12)

Evidencing humility, and desiring to see the division of his kingdom healed, David began a series of encounters that revealed the godly character of the king. (19:13-30)

The king sent a message to Amasa, captain of Absalom’s soldiers (17:25), and appealed to him as a kinsman of Judah, saying, “Art thou not of my bone, and of my flesh?” (19:13) David’s invitation humbled the heart of every man in Judah, and the tribe sent him word saying to the king, “Return thou, and all thy servants” (19:14).

Shimei, the man who had hurled stones and curses at David when he fled Jerusalem (16:5-13; 19:18), was the first to meet the king when he returned to the west side of the Jordan River (19:16, 18-23). No doubt fearing for his life, Shimei admitted his wrong, and confessed his sin, saying, “I have sinned” (19:20). Now, Abishai who had wanted to slay Shimei before, was ready once again to kill Shimei for his betrayal (19:21). David, however, made the decision to spare the life of his adversary (19:22-23). The Scriptures, however, reveal that David did not trust Shimei (1 Kings 2:8), and Solomon would later deal with him (1 Kings 2:36-46).

Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son who had eaten at David’s table, sought to be restored to David. Evidencing the outward signs of distress and sorrow, we read, “Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king, and had neither dressed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came again in peace” (19:24). David questioned, why Mephibosheth had not escaped the city with him (19:25). He answered the king, and detailed how Ziba, his servant had betrayed his trust to court the king’s favor (19:26-28). Requesting nothing for himself, but to be restored to the king’s fellowship, David ordered the matter be concluded. That which had belonged to Mephibosheth was to be evenly divided with Ziba (19:29); sadly, Mephibosheth was slighted for no wrong, and Ziba’s deceit was rewarded.

David also remembered Barzillai the Gileadite, who had sustained him with hospitality when he fled Jerusalem. David desired to honor the eighty-year-old man (19:31-36); however, Barzillai declined the honor, and requested it be given to a man named Chimham. Chimham is not identified, but there is good cause to believe he was Barzillai’s son (19:37-39).

Closing thoughts – Notice there is a rift recorded in the last verses of today’s Scripture reading, between the tribe of Judah, and those identified as “all the men of Israel” (19:41). Judah was the royal tribe, and the kinsman of David, and the appearance that he favored that tribe above the other tribes, will become a cause of future conflicts (19:41-43).

Finally, we have observed a lot of heartache in David’s life, especially in the rebellion and death of his son Absalom. Thousands were lost in that civil war, and at the root of all the conflicts was the king’s adultery with Bathsheba, and his hand in having her husband Uriah killed.

Let us all remember: “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

I Shall Not Be Moved! (Psalm 62; Psalm 64)

Scripture reading – Psalm 62; Psalm 64

There is a familiar refrain in today’s Scripture reading, and it is like many of the psalms authored by David. While I cannot say with certainty the occasion that inspired Psalm 62 and Psalm 64, the subject and content fit the trauma and sorrow he suffered when Absalom led a rebellion against him. Each of the psalms afford us an insight into the wicked bent of men, and their nature. The devotional is taken from Psalm 62. [* Use of brackets indicates the amplification of the author.]

David’s Confidence in the LORD in Times of Trouble (62:1-2)

Though hated by his son, and hunted by those who would kill him, David declared his faith in the LORD, saying:

Psalm 62:1–21Truly [Surely] my soul waiteth [rests] upon God: From him cometh my salvation [help]. 2He [God] only is my rock [fortress] and my salvation; He is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved [not stagger or falter].

Driven from his palace, and hunted by evil men, David’s faith stilled his soul, providing him solace and presenting him rest. If ever there was a man who had cause for a “panic attack” or paralyzing anxieties, it was David. And yet, he was confident the LORD was his Rock, his Fortress, his Salvation, and his sure Defense. With boldness the king proclaimed, “I shall not be greatly moved” (62:2).

Evil Preys Upon Weakness (62:3-4)

David’s song invites you to consider the moral decline of men, and how they prey upon those they seek to destroy.

Psalm 62:3–43How long will ye imagine mischief [lit. verbally assault, shout] against a man? Ye shall be slain[struck down; killed]  all of you: As a bowing [bending] wall shall ye be, and as a tottering [broken] fence. 4They [the wicked] only consult [plan; plot] to cast him down from his excellency [dignity; high character]: They delight [take pleasure] in lies: They bless [praise] with their mouth, but they curse [disdain] inwardly. Selah.

Stop for a moment and meditate on what David revealed about the ways of the wicked. Although his reflections were recorded 3,000 years ago, nothing has changed! What he described as the character of evil men is mirrored everywhere in our world today. Politicians, liberal media, and powerbrokers do not hesitate to lie, distort, and destroy the character of good men and women.

The wicked probe for a man’s weakness, and if they find it, they attack him with a vengeance. If they are unable to find a fault, they will court your favor, pretend to be your friend, and curse you behind your back.

Closing thoughtsWhat can we take from Psalm 62?

It is the nature of evil men to sting a good man’s reputation with lies, and assault his character. We should not be surprised when a godly man is attacked by those whose intent is to break his spirit, and bring him to shame.

What hope is there for believers when they are cruelly attacked? David answers that question in the balance of Psalm 62, and I will offer a brief summary: Wait on the LORD, and hope in Him (62:5). Remember, He is your Rock, Fortress, and Salvation (62:6). “8Trust in him at all times…Pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us” (62:8). Know that all men, “the lowly, and the high [powerful],” are deluded, empty shells, and are “lighter than vanity” (62:9). Never put your faith or confidence in men (62:10).

Remember: God will render “to every man according to his work” (62:12).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Safe to the Rock that is Higher Than I (Psalm 61)

Scripture reading – Psalm 61

The title of Psalm 61 is, “To the chief Musician upon Neginah [a stringed instrument], A Psalm of David.” The setting of the psalm is unclear; however, the prayer indicates it was at a time the king faced grave danger. Perhaps, like preceding psalms, it was penned during the insurrection led by Absalom. Once again, the preserved Word of God makes us privy to David’s desperate cry to the LORD. I invite you to consider Psalm 61 in four parts. [* Use of brackets indicates the amplification of the author.]

A Prayer for Divine Intervention (61:1-2)

Assuming this psalm was inspired during the time the king fled from Jerusalem, and was living in exile, David prayed:

Psalm 61:1-21Hear [Listen] my cry [pleading], O God [Elohim; Mighty God]; Attend [Incline; Listen attentively] unto my prayer [petition; lament].
2From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart [mind; inner man; will] is overwhelmed [weak; faint]: Lead [Guide] me to the rock that is higher [exalted; lifted up] than I.

Writing far from home, “from the end of the earth,” and his heart “overwhelmed” by his troubles, David cried to the LORD: “Lead [Guide] me to the rock that is higher [exalted; lifted up] than I” (61:2). In a very real sense, the king prayed, Lord, take me higher, and to a safer place than I am able to go alone.

A Reflection on the Goodness and Faithfulness of the LORD in the Past (61:3-4)

Psalm 61:3-43For thou hast been a shelter [refuge] for me, and a strong [fortified; mighty] tower [watchtower] from the enemy.
4I will abide [dwell; gather] in thy tabernacle [i.e. tent; the abode of the Ark of God] for ever [all time]: I will trust [seek refuge] in the covert [covering; hiding place] of thy wings. Selah.

Verses 3-4 of Psalm 61 have inspired many great songs and hymns of faith over the centuries. David reflected on the goodness of God he had experienced in life, and was reminded that the LORD had “been a shelter [refuge]…and a strong [fortified; mighty] tower [watchtower] from the enemy” (61:3).

Think about that truth for a moment. In a time of trouble, you can take comfort in the assurance that the LORD is waiting to be your shelter, refuge, and strong tower. Knowing the faithfulness of the LORD, David resolved he would forever abide in His presence (61:4), and trust him to shelter, and cover him as a hen protects her chicks.

An Assurance that God Hears and Answers Prayer (61:5-7)

Psalm 61:5-75For thou, O God [Elohim; Mighty God], hast heard [listened to] my vows: Thou hast given [set; placed] me the heritage [inheritance; possession] of those that fear [revere] thy name [fame; reputation].
6Thou wilt prolong the king’s life [day; time]: And his years as many generations [i.e. generation after generation].
7He shall abide [dwell] before God for ever: O prepare [reckon; assign; count] mercy [favor; goodness; kindness] and truth [trustworthiness; faithfulness], which may preserve [guard; keep; watch] him.

What began as a solemn, and passionate petition for the LORD to hear the king’s prayer (61:1-2), continued with him being comforted that God hears and answers prayers! David reflected on his godly heritage, and that he was of a people who feared and revered the LORD (61:5b). No longer fearing for his life, David asserted with confidence, “6Thou wilt prolong the king’s life: And his years as many generations [i.e. generation after generation]” (61:6). He believed the LORD would, in His mercy and truth, keep watch over him (61:7).

A Renewed Consecration to Worship and Serve the LORD (61:8)

Psalm 61:88So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, That I may daily perform [fulfill; complete] my vows [promises].

David’s thoughts were no longer bound by his troubles, but were refocused on the LORD and His faithfulness. His spirit was renewed, and he resolved to forever sing praises to God, and to keep all he had vowed to do.

Closing thoughts – Do you find yourself in a troubled, difficult place? You might be in the midst of fears, and feel your “heart is overwhelmed” (61:2). Cry out to the LORD, confess your fears, and remember He is waiting to lead you to a “rock that is higher” than you will ever reach alone (61:2c). Feel like hiding? Seek the LORD; He is “a shelter… a strong tower” (61:3), and He wants to shelter you under His wings (61:4).

The Lord is our Rock, and a Shelter in the Time of Storm!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith