Tag Archives: Bitterness

“Times have changed,” but man has not. (2 Samuel 3)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 3

With the LORD’s guidance, David, his men, and their families relocated to Hebron, in Judah where he was crowned king of Judah (2:1-3).

Six Sons Born to David in Hebron (3:1-5)

“Now there was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David: but David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker” (3:1).

As was the custom of ancient monarchs, David had taken several wives, to whom were born six sons while he lived in Hebron (3:2-5). Of the six sons, I invite you to commit to memory the names of two: “Amnon, David’s firstborn son (3:2), and Absalom, his thirdborn son (3:3). Amnon and Absalom will become bitter rivals, as sin shadows David’s life, home, and throne in the years ahead.

The Provocation and Betrayal of Abner (3:6-11)

The ongoing war between Ishbosheth and “the house of Saul,” and “the house of David” (3:6), gave an opportunist like Abner a means to assert himself “strong for the house of Saul” (3:6). Riding on a wave of growing influence in Israel, Abner committed a grave offense against Ishbosheth, and took a woman of Saul’s harem (3:7), a concubine (a wife of lesser standing). Ishbosheth’s feeble response to the Abner’s offense, was no more than to question, “Wherefore hast thou gone in unto my father’s concubine?” (3:7).

Abner’s response to Ishbosheth revealed his disdain for the king, for he asked, “Am I a dog’s head, which against Judah do shew kindness this day unto the house of Saul thy father?” (3:8) In a word, Abner defied the king, and dared Ishbosheth to charge him “with a fault” (3:8). He then committed an offense that should have cost him his life; he threatened to betray Ishbosheth, and vow allegiance to David (3:9-10). Ishbosheth, failed to respond to Abner’s threats, “because he feared him” (3:11).

Abner Betrayed Ishbosheth (3:12-21)

Abner made good on his threat, and “sent messengers to David” (3:12), and offered to betray Ishbosheth if David would covenant with him and unite Israel (3:12). David agreed with Abner, but with one stipulation: that his first wife, “Michal Saul’s daughter,” would be restored to him (3:13-14; 1 Samuel 18:25, 27). David understood, having Saul’s daughter as his wife, strengthened his claim to Israel’s throne. When Ishbosheth received David’s demand for his wife to be restored to him, he obliged his enemy, and most likely sent Abner to convey Michal to David, though Saul had given her to another (3:15-16).

Abner made public his plans to betray Ishbosheth (3:17-18), and came to David with an entourage of twenty men. They sealed their agreement with a feast, and soon after Abner departed to betray Ishbosheth (3:19-21).

Joab’s Indignation, Deception, and Dishonorable Murder of Abner (3:22-27)

At the time of David and Abner’s meeting, Joab had been away with a raiding party. When he returned to David’s camp, he was furious to learn that David was in league with Abner, the man who had killed his brother (2:22-23). Joab dared to challenge David, and asked, “What hast thou done? behold, Abner came unto thee; why is it that thou hast sent him away, and he is quite gone?” (3:24)

Joab went on to accuse David of being naive, and asserted, “25Thou knowest Abner the son of Ner, that he came to deceive thee, and to know thy going out and thy coming in, and to know all that thou doest” (3:25). The Scriptures do not reveal David’s response to Joab’s enquiry; however, Joab was furious. He determined to deceive, ambush and kill Abner to avenge his brother’s death (3:26).

David Rebuked Joab, and Honored Abner, as a Fallen Champion (3:28-39)

When David learned that Joab had slain Abner, he was grieved and declared he was free of his blood (3:28), but pronounced a curse on Joab and his household (3:29). David understood his desire to unite Israel was imperiled by Joab’s evil actions, and he demanded the nation, and Joab and his men, would honor Abner by outward signs of mourning (3:30-31).

David publicly lamented the manner in which Abner had been betrayed, and cried out against it saying, “Died Abner as a fool dieth? 34Thy hands were not bound, Nor thy feet put into fetters: As a man falleth before wicked men, so fellest thou. And all the people wept again over him” (3:33-34).

David’s mourning moved Israel to judge that he had not betrayed Abner, for “all Israel understood that day that it was not of the king to slay Abner the son of Ner” (3:37). David confessed, “I am this day weak, though anointed king; and these men the sons of Zeruiah [Zeruiah was David’s sister, 1 Chronicles 2:16] be too hard for me: the Lord shall reward the doer of evil according to his wickedness” (3:39). Joab would be a thorn for David the rest of his life, and when he was old and dying, he challenged Solomon to avenge Abner’s death (1 Kings 2:5).

Closing thoughts: When I read the Scriptures, I am reminded that “times have changed,” but man has not.

Jealousy, anger, bitterness, plots and plans for revenge, and murder are the way of the world, and sinful man. Weak men often become leaders, and are invariably in the company of evil men who seek their own advancement. It is true of kings, presidents, pastors, and employers! You would be wise to be a student of men’s character.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Out of Sorrows, A New Beginning (2 Samuel 1-2)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 1-2

Our study of 1 Samuel concluded with the deaths of King Saul, his sons, and a humiliating defeat for Israel when that nation’s soldiers fled the battlefield in disarray (1 Samuel 31:7). Three days later, news of Israel’s defeat, and the deaths of Saul and his sons reached David in Ziklag (2 Samuel 1:1).

2 Samuel 1 – The King is Dead: An Elegy

The news bearer was an Amalekite soldier. He had come to David with a fabricated claim that he had slain Saul in an act of mercy, sparing the king the indignity of falling into the hands of the Philistines (1:1-10). The truth was, as we read in 1 Samuel 31, Saul had fallen upon his own sword (1 Samuel 31:4). Nevertheless, to support his claim, the Amalekite had in his possession Saul’s crown, and a bracelet David would have recognized as the fallen king’s (1:10).

Saul had been an enemy of David for more than a decade, nevertheless the news of his death, and the death of Jonathan moved David to mourn, weep, and fast until that evening (1:11-12). Rather than rejoice in the death of his enemy, David mourned, and ordered the man who claimed to have slain the king to be put to death (1:11-16).

The Song of the Bow (1:17-27)

As the poet and musician, he was, David turned to poetry and expressed in an elegy his profound sorrow for the deaths of Saul and his son Jonathan (1:17-27). To memorialize the household of Saul, David commanded the words of the elegy be taught to “the children of Judah” (1:18).

The concluding verses of 2 Samuel 1 expressed David’s grief at the loss of Jonathan, his friend and confidant (1:25-27).  There have been some who try to paint David’s lament as a twisted validation of sodomy, but it is not. Sodomy is condemned in the Old Testament (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Deuteronomy 23:17; Romans 1:26-27), and we can be certain such a sin would not have been a subject put to music for children to sing.  David’s love for Jonathan was one of mutual affection and trust, and such a friend is rare indeed!

2 Samuel 2 – Two Kings and a Divided Nation

With the deaths of the king and his sons, David recalled he had been anointed by the prophet Samuel to succeed Saul as king of Israel (1 Samuel 16). Being the spiritual man he was, David turned to the LORD for wisdom, and asked two questions: “Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah? And the Lord said unto him, Go up. And David said, Whither shall I go up? And he said, Unto Hebron” (2:1) With the LORD’s blessing, David, his two wives (2:2), and his men and their families moved to Hebron where he was crowned king by the men of the tribe of Judah (2:2-4).

David immediately faced opposition from Abner, Saul’s nephew (2:8) who moved to make Ishbosheth, Saul’s surviving son, king (2:9-10).  Abner’s opposition to David, coupled with Ishbosheth’s weak character, plunged the nation into a civil war that lasted over seven years (2:10-11).

Civil War (2:12-32; 3:1)

There were constant skirmishes between the men of Judah who served David as king, and those who served Ishbosheth, the son of Saul. Two strong generals incensed the conflict on both sides (2:12-17). Joab, David’s nephew by his sister Zeruiah (1 Chronicles 2:16), and Abner, the captain of Ishbosheth’s army, had become bitter enemies.

Coming upon a pool of water at Gibeon (2:12-13), Joab and Abner determined to set their soldiers in battle against one another (2:14-16). Abner was defeated, and fled the battle (2:17), with Joab, and his brothers, Abishai, and Asahel pursuing (2:18). Asahel, described as “light of foot as a wild roe” (2:18) pursued hard upon Abner intending to kill him (2:19-21).

Abner, desiring to spare Asahel for the respect he held for Joab, attempted to dissuade him, but “he refused to turn aside” (2:22-23). Abner then stabbed Ashael with the blunt end of his spear, and he died (2:23).

With Ashael dead, and Joab in pursuit, Abner fled to the “children of Benjamin,” who rallied to his side to face Joab (2:25). Abner persuaded Joab to turn back, lest he too die (2:26). Joab sounded the trumpet, and his men retired from the battle (2:27).

Joab and David’s men returned to their encampment victorious, having lost only nineteen men (2:30), while three hundred and sixty men of Benjamin had died (2:31). The victory, however, was a bitter one for Joab, who “took up [the body of his brother] Asahel, and buried him in the sepulchre of his father, which was in Bethlehem” (2:32a). As we will soon see, a vengeful spirit took hold of Joab, and would overshadow his relationship with David in the years ahead.

Closing observations: Though he would wait years to reign over a united Israel, the LORD, and time was on David’s side. He wisely sought the LORD for wisdom, and direction (2:1).

You and I would be wise to do the same…pray, and wait on the LORD.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Psalms of Rejoicing and Praise (Psalms 18; 121)

Scripture reading – Psalms 18; 121

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

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

Psalm 18 – A Hymn of Rejoicing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 121 – A Pilgrim’s Psalm

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 28; Psalm 63

1 Samuel 28 – Dead Man Walking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was a “dead man walking.”

Psalm 63

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

When Life is Not Fair (Psalm 35, 54)

Scripture reading – Psalm 35, 54

Today’s Scripture reading continues David’s plea for the LORD to save him from the plots, and traps his enemies had set for him. The title of Psalm 35 is simply, “A Psalm of David.”

Psalm 35

When David penned Psalm 35 is not known; however, his plea for the LORD to render him justice, and save him from his enemies is a familiar theme. Pursued by an army vastly larger than his troop of six hundred men, David found himself in a desperate place. Three times he maintained his innocence with the phrase, “without cause,”and reminded the LORD the injustices he had suffered.

David wrote, “7For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit, which without cause they have digged for my soul” (35:7). David beseeched the LORD, “19Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me: Neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause” (35:19).

Friend, it is one thing to face trouble, and suffer for one’s wrongdoing; however, it is quite another when we have done no wrong, and someone desires to destroy us. Unfortunately, you will learn there are times when those whom you trust and love as friends, are often the ones who will betray you.

David asserted, “12They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling [sorrow] of my soul” (35:12). David had wallowed briefly in a “pity pit” when he reflected on the injustices he had suffered (35:13-16). He remembered mourning for his enemy when he was sick, and how he had fasted and prayed for him (35:13). He had sorrowed for the man who had become his enemy, in the way one would love and mourn for a mother (35:14). Yet, his enemy had rewarded him evil for good (35:12), and rejoiced in his sorrows. He had gathered others against him as a pack of wild animals would hunt, and ravage their prey (35:15-16).

How do you respond to injustices?

It is tempting to wallow in self-pity, and allow anger and bitterness to take hold of your soul. David wrestled with the injustices; however, he turned his focus to the LORD, and called on Him to save him (35:1-3, 17-28). He realized there was nothing he could do to appease his enemies, for they had no desire for peace (35:20).

David had searched his heart for wrongdoing, and then he turned to the LORD knowing He is a faithful, and true Judge, and said, “24Judge me, O Lord my God, according to thy righteousness; and let them not rejoice over me” (35:24).

Trusting the LORD would hear and answer his prayer, David remembered there were some who had not betrayed him. Looking beyond his sorrows, he looked forward to the day he would be delivered from his enemy, and his friends would “shout for joy, and be glad” (35:27). He was not yet free from his troubles, but he promised the LORD he would boldly speak of His righteousness, and “praise [Him] all the day long” (35:28).

Psalm 54

The title of Psalm 54 states not only the recipient, “the chief musician,” but also the stringed instrument, “Neginoth,” that was to accompany the psalm. Psalm 54 was a reflection on the sorrow and disappointment David suffered when the Ziphites, men of the tribe of Judah, betrayed him to Saul, and said to the king, “Doth not David hide himself with us?” (1 Samuel 26)

Psalm 54 is a fitting conclusion to today’s devotional, for it closes with David declaring, 4Behold [Look, and see], God is mine helper7For he hath delivered me out of all trouble: And mine eye hath seen his desire upon mine enemies” (54:4, 7).

If you are in the throes of a conflict with someone who has no desire for peace, turn to the LORD. Yes, life is not fair, but you can be assured that God is just. Don’t fall into a “pity trap,” and despair. Call on the LORD, for He is waiting to help, and He is always good, and just.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Integrity is a Rare Virtue (1 Samuel 26)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 26

1 Samuel 26 presented David with a second opportunity to kill his enemy, and in spite of the appeal of his servant to take King’s Saul’s life, he refused, reasoning it would be a serious sin if he stretched “forth his hand against the LORD’S anointed” (26:9-24).

The Occasion (26:1-19)

David had come to Judah to seek safety among his kinsman; however, for a second time, the Ziphites, a family of the tribe of Judah, betrayed his hiding place to Saul (26:1). Whether out of fearing Saul, or seeking his favor, the treachery of one’s own was especially egregious. Saul, breaking his covenant with David (24:17-22), mobilized three thousand soldiers to pursue and kill David (26:2-5).  When David confirmed Saul’s encampment, he sought for a companion who would accompany him to the camp of his enemy (26:4-6).

While the king slept, David and Abishai slipped in and out of the king’s encampment, taking away Saul’s spear and his cruse of water (26:12). Ascending to a hill overlooking Israel’s encampment, David cried out, and awakening the army, taunted Abner, the king’s general, for his failure to protect Saul from harm (26:13-16).

Recognizing David’s voice, Saul disingenuously asked, “Is this thy voice, my son David?” (26:17)

Though he was his enemy, David honored the king, saying, “It is my voice, my lord, O king” (26:17). Rather than accuse the king, David asked, “Wherefore doth my lord thus pursue after his servant? for what have I done? or what evil is in mine hand?” (26:17-18) Appealing to the king’s spirit, David challenged the evil reports of other men, who had turned the heart of the king against him (26:19).

Saul’s Confession (26:21-25)

Saul confessed, he had “played the fool, and [had] erred exceedingly” (26:21). David then presented Saul’s spear, and proved he could have taken the king’s life (26:22), but had instead determined he “would not stretch forth [his] hand against the Lord’s anointed” (26:23). David had demonstrated integrity toward the king, and Saul acknowledged his testimony saying, “Blessed be thou, my son David: thou shalt both do great things, and also shalt still prevail” (26:25).

Though he had opportunity to kill his enemy, David had chosen to appeal to the king (26:18), and with humility requested,  “Let not my blood fall to the earth before the face of the Lord: for the king of Israel is come out to seek a flea, as when one doth hunt a partridge in the mountains” (26:20). The two men parted, and “David went on his way, and Saul returned to his place” (26:25).

Integrity is a rare virtue in our day, and there are few men whose lives are guided by immutable principles. David was such a man, and he was in the LORD’s words, “a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). He was not a perfect man (as we will see in 1 Samuel 27); however, He loved the LORD. From His youth, he was an honorable son, a loyal friend, and a faithful servant.

Heroic in his deeds, humble in his walk, David was a man of integrity.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“I am for Peace; They are for War” (Psalm 120)

Scripture reading – Psalm 120

Psalm 120A Song of Degrees

The title of Psalm 120, “A Song of degrees,” is the first of fifteen psalms with that title (Psalms 120-134). To clarify the meaning of “degrees,” and there are several different views and explanations suggested by scholars, I will state one of the most probable. Each year the children of Israel went up to Jerusalem for two feasts.  To maintain their focus on the Lord, they recited psalms as they drew near to Jerusalem.  The fifteen psalms were most likely those that they would have recited on their ascent to Jerusalem.

Psalm 120 is generally accepted as David’s reflection on the news that Doeg the Edomite had betrayed him to King Saul, and then massacred Ahimelech the priest, and the other priests of Nob (1 Samuel 22:9-23).

David suffered slander, and had been hunted by an unrelenting enemy determined to kill him. He had fled from Saul, and passed through the priestly town of Nob where he received bread, and the sword of Goliath (1 Samuel 21:1-9). When he received news how eighty-five priests and their families were slain because of Doeg’s lies (1 Samuel 22:9-10), David was overcome with grief. He “cried unto the Lord,” and later wrote: The LORD “heard me” (120:1).

What are we to do when we fall victim to “lying lips, [and]… a deceitful tongue?” (120:2) The answer, pray to the LORD to deliver you, knowing He hears, and answers prayer! David remembered his flight into the wilderness, and the wagging tongues of the wicked that were like “sharp arrows” (120:3-5). His enemy hated peace, and had no interest in resolving conflict; however, David confessed what should be our longing: “I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war” (120:7).

Take a moment to reflect on that last statement: “I am for peace” (120:7a). We should be a peace loving, peace seeking people. We don’t clamor for quarrels, nor do we relish conflicts. However, we cannot sacrifice biblical principles, and have spiritual integrity with the LORD.

David learned what those who seek the Lord should accept. While we might seek peace, the wicked “are for war” (120:7b). The enemies of God, and His people have no interest in peace. They are for war, and strife, and conflict is their way.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Wicked Will Not Go Unpunished (Psalm 52) – * Bonus devotional.

Scripture reading – Psalm 52

Psalm 52 records the prayer and meditations of David when he learned that Doeg, the Edomite, had betrayed him to King Saul (1 Samuel 21-22). The accusations of that wicked man had deceived the king, and he believed Ahimelech the priest had conspired to assist his enemy.

Doeg had witnessed Ahimelech giving David five loaves of bread, and the sword of Goliath as he requested (1 Samuel 21:3-4, 8-9); however, the priest had not done so as an act of ill will toward the king. Nevertheless, Doeg used the occasion to accuse Ahimelech, and he provoked the king’s fury (1 Samuel 22:16). When Saul’s soldiers refused to slay the priests, Doeg did the king’s bidding, and killed eighty-five priests and their families (1 Samuel 22:18-19). One man survived the slaughter, Abiathar, the son of Ahimelech (1 Samuel 22:20-23).

It was the news of this tragic event that inspired Psalm 52.

Psalm 52:1-4 chronicles David’s assessment of the character of Doeg, and reveals that the wicked take pleasure in injuring the righteous. They employ their tongues to destroy the believers (52:1-2), and prefer lies over truth. They are liars, and love to deceive (52:3-4).

While the righteous take no pleasure in the suffering of the wicked, it is the judgment of God that reminds them He is just (52:5). Believers will see the LORD’S judgment, revere Him, and be satisfied His justice will be served (52:6). Doeg had committed a great evil, and God abandoned him to the consequences of his wicked ways (52:7).

News of the deaths of Ahimelech, and the priests of Nob had troubled David, but he took solace in the LORD’S loving mercies (52:8). He vowed, 9I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it: And I will wait on thy name; for it is good before thy saints” (52:9).

Closing thoughts:

Believer, God is ever good, and it pleases Him when His people make it a habit to praise Him before His saints (52:9)! Remember, the wicked make light of their transgressions, and take pleasure in lies and deceit. Though we are often tempted to complain, and declare—unfair, and unjust, in those times, take comfort in the confidence that the LORD is just, and the wicked will not go unpunished.

Take a few minutes, and rehearse all the good the LORD has done in your life!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Caution: Revenge straight ahead! (1 Samuel 23-24)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 23-24

Envy, bitterness, and revenge, like conjoined triplets, have been the haunt of man since Cain slew his brother Abel (Genesis 4). Jealousy consumes, and bitterness festers, until revenge lifts its venomous head destroying lives, friendships, marriages, and families.

Today’s Scripture reading offers a contrast between the spirit of two men: Saul, the king of Israel whose envy consumed, and festered into a murderous rage; David, who practiced what Paul encouraged when he penned, “avenge not yourselves…for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord(Romans 12:19).

Background – David, and four hundred fighting men, had taken refuge in Judah among his brethren (22:5), while Saul’s desperation to kill him was frustrated in a tirade against his own tribesmen of Benjamin, and his son Jonathan. Adding to his wickedness, the king ordered the slaughter of the priests and families who had resided in Nob (22:16-19).

1 Samuel 23 – The Hunt to Kill David

David’s Victory over the Philistines at Keilah (23:1-6)

Encamped in the hills of Judah, David received news how the Philistines had raided Keilah, a city of Judah located on the border of Philistia, and it was during the time of harvest (23:1). Angered by the intrusion upon his people, David sought the will of the LORD, and asked, “Shall I go and smite these Philistines? And the Lord said unto David, Go, and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah” (23:2).

With only four hundred men, David’s men resisted going to war against the Philistines whose numbers would have been far greater than their own (23:3-4). Nevertheless, David and his men went to Keilah, and God gave him a great victory over his enemy (23:5). Rather than applaud David for protecting Keilah, and securing Israel’s border, Saul took the occasion to call Israel to war against him and his men (23:7-8).

A Warning of Betrayal and a Friend’s Encouragement (23:9-18)

David, demonstrating the discernment of a man after the heart of God, called upon the LORD for direction (23:9-11), and He confirmed the men of Keilah would betray him into the hand of Saul (23:12). By this time, David’s four hundred men had become a small force of six hundred men, and they withdrew into “the wilderness of Ziph in a wood” (23:15), and there Jonathan sought him out (23:16), and with a humility that few men might have, he encouraged David saying, “Fear not: for the hand of Saul my father shall not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee; and that also Saul my father knoweth” (23:17). The two friends renewed their “covenant before the LORD,” and Jonathan returned to his house (23:18).

Betrayed by the Ziphites, and Pursued Around the Mountains (23:19-29)

David and his men sought refuge in “the wilderness of Ziph” (23:15), and soon after his meeting with Jonathan, the men of Ziph plotted to betray David to Saul (23:19-21). True to his evil character, the king disingenuously accused David of his own sin, saying, “he dealeth very subtilly” (23:22). Wisely, David continued on the move, staying ahead of Saul until he diverted his men to war against the Philistines (23:23-28). With Saul departed, David moved his band of men to a beautiful oasis known as En-gedi (23:29). Located in southern Israel and overlooking the western shore of the Dead Sea, Engedi made a perfect hiding place for David (23:29).

1 Samuel 24 – A Story of Two Natures

David and his band of six hundred men were hiding in the caves of En-gedi when King Saul received word that he was in the midst of the rocky crags of that oasis. Choosing three thousand handpicked fighters, Saul set out to find and destroy David once and for all (24:1-22).

With Saul and his army encamped in the valley, David and his men retreated into the darkness of a large cave overlooking Saul’s camp. There is no delicate way to state what occasioned Saul putting himself within David’s reach, other than to state simply, the king chose David’s hideout to relieve himself. With his guards stationed outside the cave, Saul was not aware he had retreated into his enemy’s lair.

David’s men urged him to strike a mortal blow to the king (24:4), and they were stunned when he refused (24:7). Indeed, his heart was so tender that the mere act of cutting off the hem of Saul’s robe troubled him (24:5).

1 Samuel 24:6 – “And he said unto his men, The LORD forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the LORD’S anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD.”

I invite you to consider how David reflected humility, and honored the king in four ways (24:8-10).

First, he addressed the king with respect due his office saying, “My lord the king” (24:8). He also honored the king in his manner when he stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed himself” (24:8).  The third way he honored the king’s office was in how he entreated the king with a question, not an accusation, and asked“Wherefore hearest thou men’s words, saying, Behold, David seeketh thy hurt?” (24:9) Finally, he proved the evil reports the king had entertained about him were false, when he had opportunity to kill the king, he spared him (24:11).

Truth – If you want to know the character of a man, observe his actions when his enemy is most vulnerable. Rather than bitterness, David maintained a tender heart, and as long as Saul was king, he honored him as God’s anointed. Rather than revenge, David turned Saul over to the LORD to deal with him (24:12, 15).

Remember – Vengeance is God’s business.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith