Tag Archives: Bitterness

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

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

Chickens Coming Home to Roost (Psalm 55; 2 Samuel 16)

Scripture reading – Psalm 55; 2 Samuel 16

Our daily Scripture readings continue to focus on the life and reign of David, king of Israel. 2 Samuel 16 continues the narrative with David’s hasty flight from Jerusalem, as Absalom, his thirdborn son, had stolen the hearts of the people and led an insurrection against his father. Psalm 55, the second half of today’s Scripture reading, is believed to have been written by David during this heart wrenching time in the king’s life. Today’s devotional will focus upon 2 Samuel 16.

2 Samuel 16

David’s heart was grieved when he learned Ahithophel, a trusted counselor and the grandfather of Bathsheba, had joined Absalom’s rebellion (15:30-31). To counter Ahithophel’s counsel, David commanded Hushai the Archite, a faithful friend and servant, to return to Jerusalem and join himself to Absalom and serve in his court as a spy (15:32-34, 37).

An Act of Deceit (16:1-4)

As David, his family, and entourage of warriors fled Jerusalem, they encountered “Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth” (16:1). You might remember that Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan, and the grandson of king Saul. Though Mephibosheth had cause for a legal claim to the throne, he had recognized David as king, and he had extended to him the lands and properties that would have been his as Jonathan’s heir (2 Samuel 9:1-13). Ziba had been commanded by the king to serve Mephibosheth as the caretaker of his master’s estate (9:9-13).

Coming alone, and bearing a large amount of food and wine, seemed suspicious to David, who asked Ziba, “where is thy master’s son?” (16:3) Ziba went on to betray his master, suggesting Mephibosheth had planned to use Absalom’s insurrection as an occasion for him to usurp the throne (16:3). Hasty in his response, and failing to investigate the sincerity of Ziba’s answer, David bequeathed to him the lands and properties of Mephibosheth (16:4). We will see that the king would later reverse his decision when he heard Mephibosheth’s account (2 Samuel 19:24-30).

The Insanity of a Bitter Spirit (16:5-9)

Time and space do not permit a full exploration of the deplorable scene when Shimei, a man kin to Saul and a Benjamite, confronted David at one of the lowest points of the king’s life (16:5-14). Hurling curses at David, and casting stones from a safe distance at him and his entourage, Shimei called the king a murderer, and a worthless man (16:7). Shimei contended the humiliation David had suffered was the justice he rightly deserved (16:8). While David suffered the insults in silence, Abishai the son of Zeruiah, and brother of Joab, required the king’s blessing to defend his honor: “let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head” (16:9).

David’s Gracious and Humble Response (16:10-14).

Trusting in God’s sovereignty, David refused to seek revenge, and accepted Shimei’s abuse as from the LORD (16:10). In his sorrow, he reflected on his shame and saying to Abishai, “Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him” (16:11).

David determined to accept his humiliation, saying, “12It may be that the Lord will look on mine affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day” (16:12). Only when the king crossed the Jordan River did he, “and all the people that were with him…[refresh] themselves” (16:14; 17:22).

Absalom’s Seizes His Father’s Throne, and His Gross Wickedness (16:15-23)

Absalom wasted no time in crowning himself king, and it seemed all Israel came to honor him (16:15), among whom was Ahithophel, Bathsheba’s grandfather (16:15). Hushai, David’s friend and spy, presented himself to Absalom saying, “God save the king, God save the king” (16:16). Flattering the youthful impudence of Absalom, Hushai convinced him that he had taken leave of David to serve him (16:17-19).

Ahithophel, desiring to heap greater sorrow and shame upon David and bearing bitterness for the king’s adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband Uriah, counseled Absalom to disgrace his father further (16:20-21). Ahithophel suggested Absalom would endear himself to Israel, by the young man entering his father’s harem, and committing incest with the king’s concubines (16:20-21). Heeding the detestable counsel of Ahithophel, Absalom went into his father’s harem “in the sight of all Israel” (16:22).

Closing thoughts – For a season, it seemed Ahithophel’s counsel “was as if a man had inquired at the oracle [sanctuary; the holy place] of God” (16:23). The old counselor was indeed wise, but his counsel would soon be spurned by Absalom (17:14). Ahithophel was a wise man, but bitterness had poisoned his soul. His days were numbered, and knowing he had committed treason against God’s anointed, he would commit suicide, rather than face the consequences of his treason (17:23).

In conclusion, consider David’s response to Shimei’s curses and abuse (16:11-12). Though he was king, he accepted with humility that there was truth in Shimei’s accusations. He was a “bloody man” (16:7), and his hands were stained with the blood of Uriah. As none other, he understood the sorrows, and humiliations he had suffered were the consequence of his own wickedness, and a fulfillment of God’s judgment (2 Samuel 12:7-12). He had committed sins in secret, but they were now the catalyst for public sorrow and shame.

In the words of a poet, “the chickens had come home to roost.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Got enemies? Feel depressed? Think on this! (Psalm 13; Psalm 28)

Scripture reading – Psalm 13; Psalm 28

The titles of today’s Scripture reading identify David as the author. Psalm 13 is titled, “To the Chief Musician, A Psalm of David,” and Psalm 28 is simply titled, “A Psalm of David.” Both psalms deserve our focus; however, I must limit the devotional to Psalm 13. * Words in brackets are the amplifications of the author, for the purpose of giving a deeper insight into the text.

Psalm 13 – An Impassioned Cry for Help

The setting of Psalm 13 is not given, but it was certainly at a time when David was facing an enemy and circumstances that left him shaken and sorrowing daily. I have observed in prior devotionals that the insurrection led by Absalom, David’s third born son, led the king into an emotional valley fraught with loneliness. Psalm 13may be from that season of sorrow and humiliation.

David’s Protest: Feeling Abandoned (13:1-2)

Psalm 13:1-2 – “How long wilt thou forget [ignore; leave] me, O LORD [Jehovah; Eternal God]? for ever? how long wilt thou hide [conceal] thy face [countenance; presence] from me?
2  How long shall I take [consider; set; place] counsel [plan; purpose; determine] in my soul [mind; life; person; heart], having sorrow [grief; affliction; anguish] in my heart [mind; understanding] daily? how long shall mine enemy [foe; adversary] be exalted  [lifted up; become proud] over me?”

David knew the LORD had not forsaken him; nevertheless, his thoughts, feelings, and emotions were running contrary to his faith. Four times he asked the LORD, “How long…How long…How long…How long?” (13:1-2) It seemed the LORD had forgotten him, and was refusing to look upon the man He had chosen to be king of Israel (13:1). Sorrows gripped the king’s heart; he felt there was no way forward (13:2a). Adding to his distresses was the knowledge that his enemies delighted in his humiliation (13:2b).

David’s Prayer (13:3-4)

Turning from protesting his loneliness, and feelings of abandonment, David appealed to the LORD to hear and answer his prayer (13:3-4).

Psalm 13:3-4 – “Consider [look; behold] and hear [respond] me, O LORD my God: lighten [illuminate; brighten; give light] mine eyes, lest I sleep [grow old or stale] the sleep of death [ruin];
4  Lest mine enemy [foe; adversary] say [declare], I have prevailed [overcome; to have one’s way] against him; andthose that trouble [distress; afflict] me rejoice [glad; delight] when I am moved [shaken; strength decay].”

We find in this passage what many today would label depression (described as melancholy in the 19th century). In his spiritual and emotional state, the king felt the light, and life had gone out of his eyes, and he prayed, “lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep of death” (13:3). David longed for the LORD to lift the engulfing darkness within his soul. He yearned to return to a season of joy and fellowship. The knowledge there were those who rejoiced in his troubles and sorrows, only added to his despair (13:4).

Two Choices: Give up, or Step Out in Faith (13:5-6)

What did David do next? He had already protested his loneliness, and feelings of abandonment. He had prayed for the LORD to lift him out of the darkness that bound his soul. What more could he do?

Psalm 13:5-6 “But I have trusted [confident; secure; hope; lean on; put trust] in thy mercy [loving-kindness; favor; grace]; my heart [mind; understanding] shall rejoice [glad; delight] in thy salvation [help; deliverance].
6  I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully [reward with good] with me.”

David’s circumstances had not changed. He was physically weary and emotionally drained. Yet, the king made the decision to get up, and declared his faith in the LORD, not only by word, but by his deeds: “I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. 6  I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me”  (13:5-6).

Closing thoughts – What an inspiration you and I have in David’s testimony and example! His trials and troubles were not over, nor had his emotions suddenly become elated by a season of prayer. Nevertheless, in his prayer he had shifted his focus from his circumstances, to reflecting on the character of God. With that, he determined to face the day, and his enemies.

If you struggle with disappointments, and feelings of depression, you are not alone. We all face the temptation to wallow in sorrows, and indulge in “victimhood” – in fact, 21st century culture encourages it. Medical science, having no spiritual foundation, can do no more than make a diagnosis, and give a prescription that might temporarily mask the sorrow and loneliness of a deep struggle. What is the answer?

Be honest about where you are, and how you got there (13:1-2). Pray sincerely, knowing the LORD hears and answers prayer. Then, trust Him, turning your thoughts to Him (13:5; Romans 8:28-29). Finally, vow to the LORD, “I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully [reward with good] with me.” (13:6).

Sing Unto the LORD!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Political Correctness is a Moral Cancer (Psalm 12)

Scripture reading – Psalm 12

Make no mistake, “political correctness” is neither new, nor correct.  Psalm 12:1-8 exposes “political correctness” for what it is—a vehicle for attacking Truth and silencing those who believe God’s Word and accept its morality as just and right.

Psalm 12 is titled, “A Psalm of David,” and is the cry of a king who witnessed the retreat of a godly remnant, and in the king’s words, were all but extinct. David lamented:

Psalm 12:1 – “Help [deliver; save; avenge], LORD; for the godly man [saint] ceaseth [come to an end]; for the faithful [true; people of faith; believers] fail [disperse; disappear] from among the children of men.”

The date and setting that inspired Psalm 12 is not given, but the time of Absalom’s insurrection would certainly stir the sentiments we find in this passage. David cried out to the LORD to save the faithful, and avenge those who obey His law and revere Him (12:1).

Psalm 12:2-4 – “They speak [say; declare] vanity [deceit; evil] every one with his neighbor [friend; companion]: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.
3  The LORD shall cut off all flattering
[smooth] lips [language; speech], and the tongue that speaketh [declares; tells] proud [great; magnify] things:
4  Who have said
[declared; tell], With our tongue will we prevail [strengthen; act insolently]; our lips are our own: who is lord [master; sovereign; owner] over us?

Remembering the manipulative ways of Absalom (2 Samuel 15:1-2), and the way he won the heart of the people by self-promotion at the expense of the king’s reputation (2 Samuel 15:3-5), we can identify David’s description of the smooth lips and double-tongued nature of the wicked (12:2).  With a “double heart,” and insolent “flattering lips” the wicked assail the godly, rejecting the authorities in their lives (12:4).

The believers of our day would do well to take a page out of David’s “playbook” and realize the nature of man has not changed!  The wicked are emboldened by their peers (12:2), and should they go unchallenged by the righteous, they will prevail against those in authority (12:4b).

Though the wicked revel in their lies, and boast with their lips, David assured the godly, “The LORD shall cut off all flattering [smooth] lips [language; speech], and the tongue that speaketh [declares; tells] proud [great; magnify]things” (12:3). Believer, take solace in this; The LORD will “cut off,” expose, and take vengeance against those who deny Him and rail against His people.

Psalm 12:5 – “For the oppression [spoil; destruction] of the poor [afflicted; depressed; needy], for the sighing [groaning; cries] of the needy [beggar; destitute], now will I arise [stand up], saith the LORD; I will set [array; appoint] him in safety [salvation; safety; liberty; prosper] from him that puffeth [scoffs; kindles as a fire] at him.”

David reminded his faithful followers that God is patient, longsuffering, and merciful toward sinners. However, He is just, and He will avenge the wicked who oppress the poor and needy. In this instance, the “poor and needy” are not necessarily financially challenged or destitute, but are afflicted and oppressed by the actions of the wicked.

The wicked boast, and oppress others, not understanding that the LORD is longsuffering, and extends liberty to sinners for a season. However, He declares He will rise up against the wicked, and pour out His wrath on those who “puffeth” and scoff at the poor and afflicted (12:5).

Psalm 12:6-7 – “6  The words [speech; commands] of the LORD are pure [clean; fair; no falsehood] words: assilver tried [refined] in a furnace of earth, purified [purged; refined] seven times.
7  Thou shalt keep
[preserve; guard; protect] them [the poor and needy of vs. 5] , O LORD, thou shalt preserve [guard; protect] them from this generation [age] for ever.”

Unlike the speech of the wicked (12:2-4), the words of the LORD (His Laws and Commandments) are pure, like refined silver that has passed through the furnace seven times (12:6).  The words of the wicked are full of vain promises; however, the Word of the LORD is faithful and true from generation to generation (12:7).

Psalm 12:8 – “The wicked [immoral; guilty; criminal] walk [go; behave] on every side [every place], when the vilest [worthless] men are exalted [raised up; high; emboldened].”

You need only read Psalm 12:8 to understand what has become of our world! Citizens of this world have invited the wrath of God by promoting the vilest of men and women to rule over them. God’s people should not be surprised, nor wonder why lawlessness abounds in the 21st century. David states the principle cause for pervasive wickedness: “The wicked [immoral; guilty; criminal] walk [go; behave] on every side [every place], when the vilest [worthless] men are exalted [raised up; high; emboldened]” (12:8).

Closing thoughts – My own country has “exalted…the vilest men,” prompting lawlessness as wickedness runs unchecked in our communities. A spirit of rebellion, promoted as a demand for rights, has seized upon the spiritual vacuum in our youth, while fanning the flames of anarchy in the hearts of our children. When the godly are silent, the wicked are strengthened, and will “walk on every side.” Continue to elect the “vilest men,” and lawlessness will prevail.

In spite of how “badly” things might go in society, God’s people should never forget the LORD’S promises are forever true. King David aptly stated: God’s words are “pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of wrath, purified seven times (12:6). Those who trust in the LORD, He will “keep…and preserve” (12:7).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Don’t Worry, Our God Changes Not! (Psalm 102)

Scripture reading – Psalm 102

The author of Psalm 102 is not known; however, the title of this psalm may offer insight into the period in which it may have been composed. The title reads, A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord.” Speculative on my part, but I am in agreement with some scholars who suggest its author may have been one of the children of Israel who was living in Babylon during the captivity.

A Cry of Lamentation (Psalm 102:1-11)

Assuming the psalm was penned by an exile, I understand the pitiful cry of its author who has earnestly prayed, and longed for the LORD to lend a sympathetic ear and answer his prayer (102:1-2). Reflecting on his miseries, the psalmist painted his physical and emotional state (102:3-8).

He felt his life was passing, and his bones were wasting away (102:3). His heart was depressed, and his appetite lost (102:4). Physically, he had been reduced to skin and bones (102:5). Like a sparrow that had lost its mate, he moaned there was no one to comfort him (102:6-7).

The psalmist did not identify his adversary; but his enemy had been unrelenting in his attacks (102:8). He had become inconsolable. He could not hide his sorrows, and his tears flowed till they ran into his drink (102:9). Like a fading shadow, or grass that withers in the heat of the sun, he felt he was perishing (102:11).

A Confession of Faith, Hope, and Trust (Psalm 102:12-22)

In the midst of his darkest hour, the psalmist looked past this mortal, temporal life, and prayed, 12But thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever; And thy remembrance unto all generations” (102:12). With his hope renewed, he confessed his confidence that the LORD had appointed a time when He would “have mercy upon Zion” (Zion was a reference to the mountain range upon which Jerusalem and the Temple had been built, 102:13). Knowing the LORD would not forsake Israel forever, the author believed He had set the time He would renew His favor, and Jerusalem would be rebuilt (102:14-16).

Looking beyond sorrows, the psalmist was confident, though God was enthroned in heaven, His eye was always upon His people, and He heard their groanings (102:19-20). Stirring hope anew, our author looked forward to the time the LORD’S name would be declared in His city, and the people would worship, and serve Him (102:21-22).

The Majesty of God Overshadows Human Frailty (Psalm 102:23-28)

Have you ever been through dark times? Do you recall how you felt as though you were riding a rollercoaster, and experiencing the physical, emotional, and spiritual ups and downs of life?

Our psalmist began Psalm 102 with a prayer and cry for sympathy, but then his faith carried him to spiritual heights, and he believed the LORD had heard, and would answer his prayers. Yet, from a pinnacle of rejoicing, the present realities of his sorrows suddenly plunged him into a sensation that his strength would fail him (102:23a), his life would be shortened (102:23b), and he would not live to see Israel restored to her homeland (102:24).

Then, the psalmist remembered. He remembered God had revealed Himself as the Creator (Genesis 1), and He had “laid the foundation of the earth: And the heavens [were] the work of [God’s] hands” (102:25). He foresaw the temporal nature of the earth, the stars, and the planets, and that they would all “perish…[and] wax old like a garment” (10:26; Luke 21:33). He believed the LORD would change the earth and the heavens like you and I change our clothes (102:26; 2 Peter 3:13).

I believe our author was familiar with Isaiah’s prophecies, for the LORD had revealed to that prophet, “17For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: And the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind” (Isaiah 65:17). He surely knew the LORD had promised Israel, “22For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, Shall remain before me, saith the Lord, So shall your seed [Israel] and your name remain” (Isaiah 66:22).

Closing thoughts – The earth and the heavens are temporal, and the days of a man’s life pass “like a shadow” (102:11); however, the LORD is immutable and eternal, for His “years shall have no end” (102:27).

Be confident! Every promise of God is backed up by His divine character, and He is immutable, and eternal!(102:28)

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Timeless Lessons in History (1 Chronicles 9-10)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 9-10

1 Chronicles 9 – Post-Exilic Jerusalem

Our study of genealogies in 1 Chronicles began with Adam (1:1), the sons of Noah and their ancestries (1:5-26), to Abraham and Isaac (1:27-34), and the sons of Jacob, who were the fathers of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (2:1-8:40).

We read in 1 Chronicles 9:1, “1So all Israel were reckoned by genealogies; and, behold, they were written in the book of the kings of Israel and Judah, who were carried away to Babylon for their transgression.”

With those words, our study of the history of Israel has carried us forward in time beyond the reigns of kings in Israel, and Judah, to Israel’s return from Babylonian captivity. 1 Chronicles 9 is the genealogical record of the children of Israel who returned from Babylonian exile to resettle, and rebuild Jerusalem (9:4-34). Accepting the decree of Cyrus, king of Persia, we find the names of those families and heads of households who set their hearts to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-2).

Five tribes were represented in the families that repopulated Jerusalem: Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh (9:3). (The mention of Ephraim and Manasseh is notable, for they were among the ten tribes of northern Israel that had been taken captive by Assyria).

The Levites were among those who returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity, and 1 Chronicles 9:10-34 gives us the names of their families and heads of households. Briefly, among the Levites who returned to Jerusalem were the priests (9:10-13), musicians (9:14-16; Nehemiah 11:15-18; 12:28-29), and porters who are also identified as “keepers of the gates of the tabernacle” (9:17-23). The porters, or gatekeepers, were supervisors of the Temple chambers and treasuries (9:24-32). There were Levites who were trustees of Temple vessels, and the preparations of elements used in worship and offering sacrifices (9:28-32). Singers are specifically identified in 1 Chronicles 9:33.

Once again, the historian gives us a record of King Saul’s genealogy (9:35-44; 8:29-40).

1 Chronicles 10 – King Saul’s Death, and the Rise of David to the Throne

Rolling the calendar back from the repopulation of Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity, our study in 1 Chronicles returns to an event that will be familiar to those who have followed my devotionals in 1 Samuel. The writer of 1 Chronicles returned to the Philistines’ victory over Israel (10:1-2), and the deaths of King Saul and his sons (10:1-6). Perhaps to explain the end of the house and lineage of Saul, and the rise of the Davidic line, we are reminded that Saul fell upon his own sword, and died (10:5-6). Great humiliation followed when the bodies of Saul and his sons were found. The Philistines stripped Saul and his sons of their armor (10:9a), and after beheading Saul (10:9b), they placed his head and armor in the temple of Dagon, the fish god (10:10). Learning of the humiliation that had befallen their king, the men of Jabeshgilead “arose, all the valiant men, and took away the body of Saul, and the bodies of his sons, and brought them to Jabesh, and buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh, and fasted seven days” (10:12).

Closing thoughts: Consider with me three reasons for King Saul’s death, and the end of his dynasty (10:13-14).

We read, “Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord” (10:13a). Though his failures were many, most likely the transgression that is to be noted here was his failure to kill Agag, the king of the Amaelities, and his sparing the best of the spoils for himself, contrary to God’s command that all were to be killed (1 Samuel 15). We also remember how Saul had disobeyed the law of the LORD, and sought “counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to inquire of it (10:13b; 1 Samuel 28:5-10). Finally, Saul died because he “inquired not of the Lord: therefore he slew him” (10:14a).

Thus, the dynasty of Saul was ended, and the LORD “turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse” (10:14).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Life Got You Down? (Psalm 43:1-5) – Part 2 of 2 devotional posts.

Scripture reading – Psalm 43

There is no title given for Psalm 43, nor is the author identified. For me, I am content to read this brief psalm, and find encouragement when I realize I am in good company when it comes to facing discouragement and loneliness.

The psalmist writes, Judge [litigate; vindicate; deliver] me, O God [Elohim; the Godhead], and plead [defend; contend; argue] my cause [contest; controversy; dispute] against an ungodly nation [heathen; Gentile]: O deliver me from the deceitful [dishonest] and unjust [wicked; perverse; unrighteous] man” (43:1).

The author appealed to God to hear his prayer, and deliver him from a wicked, “unjust” enemy.  The enemy was not named; however, the tactics of the enemy are the same as those you and I might face. Lies, libel, slander, threats, and attacks on one’s integrity are the modus operandi of the enemies of God, and His people.

Rallying his heart, the psalmist continued his prayer, For thou art the God of my strength [fortress; stronghold; safety]: why dost thou cast me off [forsake; turn away; reject]? why go [behave] I mourning because of the oppression [distress; affliction] of the enemy [adversary]?” (43:2)

The writer felt forsaken, and alone (43:2). What he believed regarding God’s character, he found to be at odds with what he was feeling. He acknowledged the LORD was his Judge (43:1), Strength (43:2), Guide (43:3), Joy (43:4), Hope (43:5a), and Salvation (43:5b). He prayed for the LORD to restore him, and to “send out [spread] thy light and thy truth: let them [light and truth] lead [guide; bring]me; let them [light and truth] bring me unto thy holy [sacred; consecrated] hill [mount], and to thy tabernacles [residence; earthly place representing the presence of God]” (43:3).

The psalmist appealed to God to illuminate his way, and guide him with His Truth to the safe haven of God’s “holy hill” and the “tabernacles” where the saints of God gathered to worship (43:3). Though despairing, the psalmist rallied his heart, and looked past his sorrows. He set his heart upon the joy of worshipping, offering sacrifices, and singing His praises to God (43:4).

Psalm 43:4 – “4 Then will I go unto the altar [place of slaughter or sacrifice] of God, unto God my exceeding [blithesome] joy [gladness]: yea, upon the harp [string instrument] will I praise [give thanks; confess; revere; worship] thee, O God my God.”

Having turned his focus from his enemy and his troubles, the psalmist counseled his soul with two questions: Why art thou cast down [depressed; brought low], O my soul [life; person; heart]? and why art thou disquieted [troubled] within me? hope [wait; patient; tarry; trust] in God: for I shall yet praise [give thanks; worship] him, who is the health [deliverer; salvation] of my countenance [face], and my God” (43:5).

Robert Burton, an Oxford scholar of the 17th century, and author of The Anatomy of Melancholy, wrote: If there be a hell upon earth, it is to be found in the melancholy man’s heart.”

Friend, I do not know your fears, or that which troubles your soul, but I encourage you not to stay there. Turn your thoughts from self-pity, give yourself a “good talking to,” and trust the LORD!

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Fool’s Decree: “No God!” (Psalm 14 and Psalm 16)

Scripture reading – Psalm 14; Psalm 16

Our devotional will consider two psalms of David, Psalm 14 and Psalm 16. The occasion of these two psalms is not given; however, Psalm 14 was certainly penned when David was king, for it is titled, “To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.”

Psalms 14

The Fool’s Decree, Depravity, and Dilemma (14:1-3)

Psalm 14 presents the universal definition of a fool: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They [fools] are corrupt, they have done abominable works, There is none that doeth good.”

We have the decree of the fool: He has “said in his heart, There is no God” (14:1b). “No God” is not merely something he said, but something that rises from within the man’s heart. He has rejected the Almighty, Supreme God, not only in his attitudes, and actions, but within his very heart, mind, and thoughts. He is not a fool because he is mentally deficient, or lacks academic accomplishments. No, he is a fool because in practice and principle, he has rejected God.

Notice the depravity of the fool is displayed in his wicked ways. Fools tend to be morally corrupt. Rejecting God, they have opened their hearts to all manner of wickedness. They are purveyors of abominable works. In Paul’s letter to believers in Rome, he described the abominations of those who reject God: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22-31). There is a universal commonality of all who reject God, and it is, “there is none that doeth good” (14:1).  Men may boast of their good deeds, but those who reject God, are fools.

Consider also the fool’s spiritual dilemma (14:2-3). Deny God at your peril, for your Creator is omniscient, and He knows all! Think of it: God ponders, and considers the hearts of all men, and asks: “Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge?” (14:4a). In other words, are they utterly void of understanding, and overwhelmingly stupid in their actions to continue in iniquity?

Psalm 14 is also an indictment of fools: They devour God’s people (14:4b). They have no fear of God. They provoke the LORD to wrath (14:5). They shame all who look to the LORD as their refuge (14:6).

The final verse of Psalm 14 expresses a Messianic aspiration (14:7); a longing that the LORD would rule in Israel, and restore the joy and prosperity He alone can give.

Psalm 14:7Oh that the salvation [help; deliverance] of Israel [descendants of Jacob] were come out of Zion [mountain of Jerusalem]! When the LORD bringeth back [restores] the captivity [exile] of his people, Jacob [the patriarch of Israel] shall rejoice [be glad; be joyful], and Israel shall be glad [brighten; rejoice].

Don’t despair! The LORD has promised He will return, and when He does He will right the wrongs, and establish a kingdom of peace for a millennium before His final judgment.

Psalms 16Don’t fret! God is a sure refuge for believers!

“Michtam of David,” is the title of Psalm 16. Some commentaries suggest the title is a “Golden Psalm of David.”

David wrote:Preserve [guard; protect] me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust [hope; confidence]. 2  O my soul, thou hast said [promised] unto the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal, Self-existent God], Thou art my Lord [Master; God]: my goodness [favor; pleasing] extendeth not to thee [a believer has no goodness apart from the LORD]” (16:1-2).

In a world overwhelmed with strife, threats of terror, and hopelessness, what a comfort it is to be assured the LORD never abandons His people! God is a watchman and refuge. I am not sure what circumstances moved David to express his “delight” in the LORD, but his joy was sustained by his confidence in Him. David took comfort knowing the LORD was faithful, and his grace was sufficient to cover his failings and shortcomings (16:2b).

Not only was the Lord David’s refuge, He was all the king needed. David writes, “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup…the lines [measure; inheritance; portion] are fallen [divided; allotted] unto me in pleasant [delightful; lovely] places; Yea, I have a goodly [fair; pleasing] heritage [inheritance]” (16:5-6).

What a blessed place; to be where God is blessing! There are innumerable things for which we should be thankful; however, it is easy to allow the world to crowd out our joy with its sin and temptations.  I fear too many realize too late the blessings of the LORD.

Psalm 16 ends with a doxology of praise, and I encourage you to read and meditate on those verses. Notice especially Psalm 16:10, a Messianic promise of resurrection that was fulfilled in Christ’s resurrection from the dead: “10For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; Neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption(16:10; Acts 2:25-28).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“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