Tag Archives: Bitterness

“Silver-haired” Saints and “Silver-tongued” Youth (Exodus 7-9)

Daily reading assignment: Exodus 7-9

Of Pharaoh we read, But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and stubborn and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said” (Exodus 7:13).

The stage is set for ten judgments identified as ten plagues sent by the Lord, the God of Israel, to gradually move the heart of Pharaoh to bow his stubborn will to the will of the LORD (7:14-12:36).

Today’s scripture reading identifies seven of the ten plagues that befell Pharaoh and Egypt in quick succession. The first three of the ten plagues envelopes the whole land of Egypt, affecting even the land of Goshen where the Hebrews lived (7:19-8:19).  Starting with the fourth plague, the LORD “severs” the land of Goshen and spares His people from its sorrows.

Avoiding a long discourse, allow me to simply list the seven plagues that Pharaoh and Egypt suffered, remembering with each the king failed to humble his heart and set the Hebrews free.

1) Nile – water turned to blood; fish die (7:19-25)

2) Frogs and the stench of their dead carcasses (8:1-15)

3) Lice – most likely gnats or other biting insects (8:16-19)

4) Flies – Egypt is said to have biting “dog flies”; Israel is spared. (8:20-32)

5) A pestilence taking the lives of the Egyptian’s livestock (9:1-7)

6) Boils and blisters on man and beast in Egypt (9:8-12)

7) Hail and lightning destroying flax and barley crops in the fields (9:13-35)

Rather than closing today’s text with our focus on the hardened heart of Pharaoh; allow me to invite you to consider the character of Moses and his brother Aaron who stood in the LORD’s place before the king and delivered warnings of the plagues that would follow.  We read concerning Moses and Aaron:

Exodus 7:6-76 And Moses and Aaron did as the LORD commanded them, so did they. 7 And Moses was fourscore years old [80 years old], and Aaron fourscore and three years old [83 years old], when they spake unto Pharaoh.

Eighty years old and serving the LORD!  What an inspiration these men are; not because they were octogenarians (in their eighties), but because they were still doing everything “as the LORD commanded them” (7:6-7)!

Is there a lesson we should take from this?

Absolutely! The sum of a spiritual leader is not his academic credentials, but whether or not he has a heart for the LORD, is skilled in His Word, humble enough for God to use, and bold enough to unapologetically declare the Word of the LORD.

I fear many churches dismiss “silver-haired” saints in favor of “silver-tongued” youth.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

He Cares for You (Exodus 1-3)

Daily reading assignment: Exodus 1-3

A period of change, especially in leadership, is a perilous time. Inexperienced leadership and a lack of appreciation for legacy and history invariably leads to decisions and course changes that are ill advised if not detrimental.

Such is the case in Exodus 1 when we read, Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation…Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph” (Exodus 1:6, 8).

Joseph, a man gifted and blessed by God, providentially rose to become second to Pharaoh in Egypt (Genesis 41:40-43) and the tribes of Israel continued to prosper long after his death (Exodus 1:7-8).

The new Pharaoh did not know Joseph or regard the service he had rendered to Egypt; however, he recognized the population growth of the Israelites in the midst posed a threat to the nation (1:9-10).  Taking extreme measures to limit the growth and influence of the Hebrews, the king commanded a series of heinous steps to limit their population (1:11-22).

Exodus 2 introduces us to a remarkable event: A Hebrew infant adopted by the daughter of Pharaoh (Exodus 2:10). Reminded God is sovereign, infant Moses found favor in the heart of Pharaoh’s daughter and she, having compassion on him, employed Jochebed, the mother of Moses, to be his nurse (2:5-10).

The first 40 years of Moses’ life was that of an Egyptian prince who was favored with the finest education and training in his day (Exodus 2:10; Acts 7:21-22).  In spite of his privileges as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, the heart of Moses was knit with his Hebrew brethren. One day, incensed by an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave, Moses struck and killed the man (2:11-13).

Learning Pharaoh knew his crime (2:14-15), Moses fled Egypt into the wilderness where he spent the next 40 years of his life (2:16-22; Hebrews 11:24-27).  Humbling himself, Moses, the prince of Egypt accepted the humiliation of a hireling shepherd to a Midianite man named Reul (also named Jethro) whose daughter, Zipporah, he married and to whom two sons were born (Gershom – 2:22 and Eliezer– 18:4).

While Moses continued in the wilderness, his Hebrew brethren endured the sorrows and hardships of slavery.  When all hope seemed lost, we read, “And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died” (Exodus 2:23) and “God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob” (Exodus 2:24).

I wonder if Moses was content to live the rest of his life in the anonymity and solitude the wilderness afforded him.  I do not know the answer; however, I do know the LORD had not forgotten Moses or His people.  When the time was come, God called to him and Moses answered, “Here am I” (Exodus 3:4).

As the LORD gave Moses His plan for delivering His people out of Egypt, Moses said, “Who am I?”(Exodus 3:11).

Here is an important truth: It was not important who Moses was. What was important is Who was calling him to serve!

“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you” (Exodus 3:14).

What a wonderful spiritual truth! After forty years of solitude in the wilderness, Moses was content to be a nobody; however, the LORD had a plan and a promise. The man who asked, “Who am I?” would realize his full potential as he put his faith in the LORD who called him!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Be sure your sin will find you out! (Genesis 27-29)

Daily reading assignment: Genesis 27-29

“Esau the Carnal; Jacob the Conniver” (Genesis 27)

The strife between Jacob and Esau continues in our study of Genesis with Jacob and his mother scheming to steal his brother’s birthright (Genesis 27).  Benefiting from his father’s blindness, Jacob posed as Esau and successfully stole his brother’s birthright (27:18-29).

Learning his birthright was mistakenly given to Jacob, Esau vowed vengeance and determined to murder him (27:41).  Before Esau was able to make good on this threat, Rebekah interceded with Isaac and requested that Jacob be sent away to seek safety and find a wife among her people (27:42-46).

Jacob’s flight from home is recorded in Genesis 28.  Cut off from his parents, family, and land (28:1-5);  Jacob is at the end of himself.  In his flight to Haran, the ancestral home of Abraham (11:31; 28:10), the LORD appeared to Jacob in a dream and assured him he was heir to the covenant promises God made to his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac (28:11-15).

Traveling east, Jacob came to Haran, and there he met Rachel, the beautiful young woman who would become his wife (29:9-12).  [As a side note, Rachel was Jacob’s cousin and their marriage in our day would be genetically ill advised; however, nearly 4,000 years ago the bloodlines of humanity were free from many of the genetic disorders that plague our day].

Falling in love with Rachel, Jacob soon realized he had met his match in her father Laban who was a notorious schemer in his own right!  Laban required Jacob labor seven years for the right to take Rachel as his wife (29:15-20).  In a beautiful poetic portrait of love, Jacob agreed to the father’s terms and we read the seven years he labored for Rachel’s hand “seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her” (29:20).

The seven years being ended, Jacob demanded his right to marry Rachel (29:21), but was beguiled by Laban into marrying her elder sister Leah (29:17).  Veiled as a bride, Jacob discovered the morning after his wedding that he had been deceived and had married Leah and not his beloved Rachel (29:24-25).  Demanding his right to marry Rachel, Laban forced Jacob to agree to another seven years of labor for her hand (29:26-30).

A passing phrase in this story forewarns us to the troubles that will follow Jacob’s household in the years ahead: Jacob “loved also Rachel more than Leah” (29:30).

An old idiom reads, “Chickens come home to roost!”  As it is the nature of chickens to roost in their coop each night, it is also true that sinful choices invariably catch up with us all.

Although he was hundreds of miles from home, Jacob fell victim to his father-in-law’s schemes and was reminded of the consequences of his own scheming ways;  Be sure your sins will find you out!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Closing Thoughts on Life’s Trials, Fair-weather Friends, and the LORD’s Unfailing Grace (Job 40-42)

Daily reading assignment: Job 40-42

The LORD continues His interrogation of Job in chapter 40; however, he is now given an opportunity to respond  (40:3-5).  The first words from Job’s lips confessed his unworthiness (“Behold I am vile” – 40:4).  Humbled and at a loss for words, he is silent (40:4-5).

The LORD responds to Job, speaking to the man from the midst of the storm, Job is asked why he questioned His dealings as anything less than just (40:6-8). To summarize the LORD’s questions to Job in a modern context, “Who do you think you are to question me?” (40:9-14).

The beast described as the “behemoth” (40:15) is highly debated among scholars. Given the early writing of the book of Job, it is possible a dinosaur is described. Others suggest the behemoth was a hippopotamus, elephant or perhaps a water buffalo.

The LORD continues to question Job in chapter 41 and invites him to consider the “leviathan” (Job 41:1).  The identity of this great creature is also uncertain; however, some suggest it to be a giant saltwater crocodile.  Perhaps a giant creature of the sea that is extinct, but whose remains are identified today as those of a dinosaur.

Either way, the analogy is meant to draw Job to conclude that man is foolish to question his Creator when he pales in size and strength to the majestic beasts of His creation (41:1-9). The Lord challenged Job, if man cannot tame a “leviathan,” he has no right to question God (41:10-34).

Having heard the LORD’s revelations of Himself and pondered the evidences of His power and might as sovereign of creation, Job confessed, I abhor [despise] myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6).

Accepting Job’s humble confession and repentance, the LORD turned the focus of His wrath upon Job’s “friends” (42:7-9) and commands “Eliphaz the Temanite” (perhaps the elder of the friends) to go to Job with sacrifices, humble themselves, and ask the very man they had condemned to pray for them (42:8-9).  [An additional observation: It is interesting that Elihu, the youngest “friend” of Job’s friends, is not named among those who went to Job in humility.  Elihu had been the most vociferous of Job’s judges; however, he fails to be named among those who sought to be restored to his fellowship].

Evidencing the grace and humility of a sincere repentant man of God, Job “prayed for his “friends” and God blessed him with “twice as much as he had before” (42:10).

Consider with me a few closing thoughts on “Fair-Weather Friends”:

Job 42:11 Then[i.e. the trials now passed and God having prospered Job “twice as much”] came there unto him all his brethren [kindred], and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance [i.e. friends and neighbors] before [before Job’s trials], and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned [i.e. showed sympathy] him, and comforted [pitied] him over all the evil [troubles] that the LORD had brought [i.e. allowed to enter] upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold.”

Where were these “brethren” and “sisters” when Job lost everything?  Where were Job’s acquaintances when he lost his sons and daughters, servants, home, physical health and possessions?  Why appear now to show sympathy and comfort?  Why wait to bring Job “a piece of money” and gold earrings after the LORD has begun to pour out his blessings on him and he has need of nothing?

I close our study of Job’s life rejoicing in how the LORD blessed him and he lived another “one hundred and forty years.” Job lived to witness the birth of “his sons, and his sons’ sons, even four generations” and“died, being old and full [satisfied] of days” (Job 42:10, 16-17).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Daily reading assignment: Job 35-37

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Believer, never lose hope!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Daily reading assignment: Job 21-23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith