Tag Archives: Bitterness

Time for a Spiritual Self-Portrait (Galatians 4-6)

Scripture reading – Galatians 4-6

Today’s Scripture reading completes our study of Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Our devotional commentary will focus on Galatians 5:19-25.

Paul challenged believers in Galatia to “Stand Fast…in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (5:1).

There were many things that might have shaken the faith of first century believers living in the Roman province of Galatia. There was the ever-present threat of persecution, the rejection of family and friends, and the ever-present pressures and influence of living in the midst of a sinful, pagan culture. Understanding the cultural temptations that surrounded them, Paul’s letter urged believers to “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (5:16). What is the “lust of the flesh” that the Spirit will enable a believer to overcome?

The “lust of the flesh” is manifested in what Paul defined as “the works of the flesh” (5:19-21).

1) Galatians 5:19bSexual immorality (“adultery, fornication”) and moral debauchery (“uncleanness, lasciviousness”)

2) Galatians 5:20aReligious sins (“idolatry, witchcraft”)

3) Galatians 5:20b-21aRelationship sins (“hatred [hostility], variance [contentious], emulations [envy; jealousy], wrath, strife, seditions [divisions], heresies [departure from the Truth], 21 Envyings”)

4) Galatians 5:21Moral corruption (“murders, drunkenness, revellings [drunkenness; sinful indulgence]”)

Did you notice the sins of first century Galatia are the sins of our 21st century world?

The heart of man has not changed, and the nature of sin is passed from generation to generation, from father and mother, to the son and daughter. Though “the works of the flesh” are characteristic of our fallen world and society, they have no place in a believer’s life. Paul warned, “of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (5:21b).

After admonishing believers concerning the “works of the flesh,” Paul turned his focus to a brief exposition of the spiritual graces that the Holy Spirit should manifest in the life of a believer when he is fully-yielded to the work and leading of the Spirit of God.

The Spirit-Filled Life (Galatians 5:22-23)

Notice that the Holy Spirit will produce a spiritual transformation in a believer’s life (5:22-23).

Galatians 5:22-23But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy [gladness of heart], peace [tranquility], longsuffering[patient; restrains from vengeance], gentleness [kindness, without harshness], goodness [good deeds toward others], faith[conviction], 23Meekness [not soon angry; humility], temperance [self-control]: against such there is no law.

When a man is genuinely saved, and the Holy Spirit is present, there will be “fruit of the Spirit.” The degree of fruit produced, and evidenced in a believer’s life, will be dependent on their walk with the LORD, and obedience to His Word.

Realizing that the “works of the flesh” have no place in a believer’s life, there should be a transformation that is noticeably evident:

Where there was hatred, there is love. Where there was wrath, there is joy. Where there were divisions, there is peace. Where there was wrath, there is patience. Where there was contentiousness, there is gentleness. Where there was envy, there is goodness. Where there was heresy, there is faith. Where there was murder and hate, there is meekness. Where there was drunkenness and self-indulgence, there is self-control.

How can this be? How might a believer get victory over the “works of the flesh,” and his life and spirit evidence the “fruit of the Spirit?” Paul’s answer:

Galatians 5:24–2524 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Friend, I encourage you to take a few minutes and do an honest, self-evaluation of your life and spirit. Is the “fruit of the Spirit” apparent in your life?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” (Luke 23; John 18-19)

Scripture reading – Luke 23; John 18-19

Today’s Bible reading brings us to the third of the Gospel accounts concerning those things Christ suffered for our sins, according to the Scriptures (Isaiah 53). Having declared Jesus was innocent of political sedition (Luke 23:4), the charge brought against Him by the chief priests (John 18:29-30), Pilate sought an escape from the demands of His accusers (23:1-5).

Declaring, “I find no fault in [Jesus]” (23:4), the chief priests defied Pilate saying, “He stirreth up the people…beginning from Galilee to this place” (23:5). When Pilate heard Jesus was a Galilean, he sent Him to King Herod, a puppet ruler of Galilee appointed by Caesar, and a man who was the Roman governor’s political nemesis (23:6-7).

Though his hands were bloodied from beheading John the Baptist, Herod had longed for an opportunity to encounter Jesus, and had hoped to witness one of His miracles (23:8). The King’s eagerness quickly soured when Jesus refused to answer or acknowledge his authority (23:9). Incensed by the snub, and having heard the charges brought against Jesus by the chief priests and scribes (23:10), Herod and his “men of war” began to mock and deride the LORD (23:11).

An ancient adage, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” comes to mind when I read Luke 23:12: “And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.”

Pilate and Herod became friends, because they shared in the greatest travesty of justice in human history. They were forever guilty of the most egregious act, having condemned the holy, altogether sinless Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Pilate, having declared, “I find no fault” in Him (23:4), attempted to shirk his responsibility to exercise judicial integrity (23:13-16). Unfortunately, when he failed, he lacked the moral character and fortitude to do the right thing, and release Jesus (23:17-23).

Luke 23:24–2524 And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they [chief priests and scribes] required. 25 And he [Pilate] released unto them him [Barabbas] that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will [to be crucified].

As much as we might be tempted to look upon Pilate with disdain, and wonder about his sudden friendship with the likes of Herod, we should look into our own souls. The pressure to compromise with evil men and women, is never too far from any of us.

How often have you denied Jesus because you lacked the courage and moral fortitude to do right, even while others were choosing to do wrong? How easy is it to long for popularity and acceptance, at the sacrifice of obeying God’s Word and walking in His Truth?

Tradition insinuates that Pilate died an insane, broken, miserable soul. His conscience was no more able to bear his guilt, than his soul could escape God’s judgment.

Romans 12:1–2 1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Judas: Remorse is Not Repentance (Matthew 27; Mark 15)

Scripture reading – Matthew 27; Mark 15

Rich with drama, the passages we are reading today bring us to the spiritual crossroads of human history. The unfolding drama is providentially God’s redemptive plan of salvation for man’s sin, conceived in the heart of our Creator before the foundation of the world was laid.

Today’s devotional could focus on many aspects of this path to the Cross; however, I must limit myself to one thought: Judas, his remorse, and death.

The chief priests and the Sanhedrin, having condemned Jesus to die (Matthew 27:1-2), had taken Him away to the palace of Pontius Pilate where He would be tried, and sentenced to death by the civil authority.

Judas had watched with remorse, the effect of His decision to betray Jesus into the hands of His enemies (27:3). For three years, he had been privileged to be Christ’s disciple. Along with the other disciples, he had listened to Him teach, and witnessed miracles that could not be explained apart from God’s power and anointing. Nevertheless, Judas was, like so many, a follower, but not a believer that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God.

Judas, seeing Jesus was condemned, and desperate to make right his wrong, went to the chief priests and elders with the thirty pieces of silver burning in his hands. He confessed to them, “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood” (27:4a).

Poor, sad, miserable soul; Judas realized too late the scorn those religious hypocrites held not only for Jesus, but also for him. They answered Judas with contempt, “What is that to us? see thou to that” (27:4b).

What terror of soul! Those religious pretenders cared nothing for Judas’ soul and offered him no counsel (27:5a). He realized too late that there was no place, and no one to whom he could go to find relief for his wickedness. Unable to bear the weight of his sin, and his betrayal of “innocent blood” (27:4a), Judas realized no act of contrition could ease his guilt. Casting down the thirty pieces of silver, he fled through the streets of Jerusalem, “and went and hanged himself” (27:5b; Acts 1:16-19).

Magnifying the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, though set upon the murder of Jesus, they disingenuously debated among themselves the unlawful expenditure of blood money, the silver Judas had returned and hurled at them (27:6b). In a plan to conceal their sin, they proposed an act of charity and purchased “the potter’s field, to bury strangers in” (27:8). Unknowingly, they had fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah (27:9-10) that was recorded by Zechariah, stating:

“So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. 13 And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord” (Zechariah 11:12–13).

The public would learn the secret of their purchase, and called the place, “The field of blood” (27:8).

What sorrow, depravity, and travesty of justice and piety! Such is the way of the wicked, and the sorrow of remorse without sincere repentance. Judas was filled with regret; however, he failed to confess his sin to God. With no recourse except repentance, Judas found himself in a state of hopelessness. His remorse was too little, and his repentance came too late.

Friend, don’t make that mortal mistake. Confess your sin to God, and turn to Him knowing Christ has borne the penalty of your sin on the cross.

1 John 5:11–1311 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Extravagant, Sacrificial Love (Mark 11; John 12)

Scripture Reading – Mark 11; John 12

Having departed Jericho (Luke 19:1-28), Jesus and His disciples made their final journey to Jerusalem, and arrived in Bethany “six days before the Passover” (John 12:1). Bethany, located on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives and some two miles east of Jerusalem, was the home of Martha, her sister Mary, and their brother Lazarus “whom [Jesus] raised from the dead” (12:1b).

The resurrection of Lazarus from the dead had been a catalyst for many to believe Jesus was the Messiah (John 11:45). Howbeit, there were others who rejected Jesus, and they “went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done” (John 11:46).

John 12:1-8 – Supper at the Home of Simon the Leper

We find Jesus and His disciples having supper (John 12:2) at the home of a man that Mark identified as “Simon the leper” (Mark 14:3). Knowing a leper would be an outcast in Jewish society, we must presume that Simon was no longer a leper, and had been the object of Jesus’ compassion and been healed. John makes mention that Martha was serving, and “Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with Him” (12:2b).

The meal was suddenly interrupted when Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, took “a pound of ointment of spikenard very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment” (12:3).

Mary’s actions were an example of extravagant, sacrificial love (12:3-4), and an expression of her gratitude to Jesus for raising her brother Lazarus from the dead.

Mary sacrificed her most precious possession (12:3a), for spikenard was a costly fragrance imported from India (and according to Judas, worth 300 pence, or 300 days wages, 12:5). Mary was also a picture of humility and loving devotion, for she used her hair to wipe our LORD’S feet (12:3b).

Unfortunately, the beautiful portrait of loving devotion on Mary’s part was interrupted by the protests of a swindler, a phony, and a fraud named Judas, one of the Twelve (12:4-6).

John 12:4-5  – Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should [would]betray him, 5  Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence [one year’s wages], and given to the poor?

Judas resented Mary’s homage to Jesus, and his hypocrisy influenced the other disciples who, in the words of Mark, “had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?” (Mark 14:4)

Matthew recalled the disciples expressing the same sentiment in his Gospel, and saying, “To what purpose is this waste? 9  For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor” (Matthew 26:8-9).

The first words of Judas recorded in the Gospels, reveal the covetousness of his heart. John would look back on this moment and later write of Judas, “This he said, not that he cared for the poor [poor people]; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein” (12:6 ).

Judas’ biting rebuke of Mary’s sacrificial love and actions, earned him the wrath of Jesus who rebuked him saying, “Let her alone: against the day of my burying [burial] hath she kept [made preparation] this. 8  For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always” (12:7-8).

I close, inviting you to consider how Mary offered the LORD not only her most precious possession, but that she seized the opportunity to identify with Christ’s sacrifice: She anointed Him for His burial (12:7).

While others were deaf to Jesus prophesying His hour, the hour of His sacrifice for the sins of the world, was come; Mary had faith that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the Lamb of God.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

You Think Life’s Not Fair? Wait to Eternity! (Matthew 20-21)

Scripture reading – Matthew 20-21

Perhaps it is due to my privileged upbringing on a small farm in rural South Carolina, but the story of the farmer who hired day laborers to work in his vineyard is among my favorite of the parables (Matthew 20:1-16).  The contextual timeline is near the beginning of Christ’s final journey from Galilee to Jerusalem.

Background for Matthew 20

The LORD, had traveled south along the eastern shore of the Jordan River, and encountered a man that Luke identified as a “rich young ruler” (Luke 18:18). His identification as a “ruler” was most likely indicative of his role as a leader in his local synagogue. The young man came asking Jesus, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16)

Boasting he had kept all the Commandments, Jesus asked him to give up the thing he loved most, his possessions: “Sell that thou hast, and give to the poor…and come follow me” (Matthew 19:21). Sadly, “when the young man heard [i.e. and understood] that saying, he went away sorrowful [grieving; sad]: for he had great possessions [estate; property]” (Matthew 19:22).

As the rich man turned and walked away, Jesus declared to His disciples, “a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:23).   Peter, often the spokesman for the disciples, then inquired of Jesus, “Behold we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?” (Matthew 19:27)

The disciples had left everything and endured three years of sacrifice to follow Jesus.  They had forfeited their homes, families, and friends.  They had endured hardships and suffered mocking, scorn, and persecution.  All this had left Peter wondering; “LORD we have been with you from the beginning, what is our reward?”  That question is the backdrop for the Parable of the Laborers (Matthew 20:1-16) that serves as an illustration of God’s grace and justice.

Matthew 20:1-16 – The Parable of the Laborers

The owner of a vineyard realized his harvest was greater than his family and servants could harvest in a timely manner.  In our parable (Matthew 20:1-16), the farmer goes into the village on five occasions, in the same day, to hire men to work in his vineyard.  The first workers were hired at the 6:00am shift (Matthew 20:1-2) and agreed to work in the vineyard for a “penny a day” (actually one “denarii”, the daily salary of a Roman soldier and a large sum for a day laborer).  Four additional hires would follow that day: 9:00am, 12 Noon, 3:00pm and the final hire at 5:00pm. All were hired without a stated salary, but with the promise the owner of the vineyard would give them “whatsoever is right” (Matthew 20:4, 7).

With 6:00pm marking the end of the workday, the owner’s foreman was directed to pay the laborers beginning with those who were hired at 5:00pm, meaning the last hour (Matthew 20:8).  To their amazement, the one’s who worked only one hour were paid the same wage (a penny or denarii) as those who labored at the 6:00am hour.

Demonstrating the jealousy and covetousness that abides in the heart of sinful man, those who had negotiated a penny wage at 6:00am had “supposed that they should have received more” (Matthew 20:10).  Those jealous workers began murmuring and complaining against the owner of the vineyard, and accusing him of being unjust, protesting they should have received more (Matthew 20:11-12).

Matthew 20:13-16 – A Lesson in Grace and Salvation

The owner of the vineyard had paid the 6:00am workers what they had negotiated and agreed to; however, it was his business how he chose to reward the other laborers (Matthew 20:15).

Application: Whether a sinner comes to Christ as a child or, like the penitent thief on the cross in his last hour, every believer is assured of heaven and eternal life (Matthew 20:16). Why?

Because every sinner is saved by a gift of God’s grace, and no sinner can earn or merit salvation and forgiveness of sin. Whether you have served the LORD since being saved as a child, or you have come to accept Christ as Savior in the latter years of life, all sinners are saved on the same basis: God’s mercy and saving Grace, His favor that no works can merit.

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Titus 3:5Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The Fearless, Fearful and Foolish” (Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9)

Scripture reading – Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9

History gives abundant testimony of the tension, conflict, and hostility the world holds toward God, His Word, and His people. In today’s Scripture reading (Matthew 14, Mark 6, and Luke 9), the animosity of human authority toward God and His prophet takes center stage.

The ministry of John the Baptist had been powerful, and the prophet had not minced words when confronting the sins of his day. Not even the most prominent politician in Israel had been spared the prophet’s condemnation (Matthew 14:4).

Herod Antipas, the son of King Herod the Great, was “the tetrarch” of Galilee, a tetrarch being a ruler of one-fourth of a Roman province (Matthew 14:1). Herod had divorced his wife and married Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife (Matthew 14:3-4; Mark 6:17). Their incestuous marriage had not only been an affront to God (Leviticus 18:16), but also to the Jewish people.

John the Baptist had tenaciously condemned such wickedness in Israel and said to Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have her” (Matthew 14:4). Herod became so exasperated with John’s public rebukes that he had the prophet bound and imprisoned (14:3). Though he wished to put him to death, Herod “feared the multitude, because they counted him [John] as a prophet” (14:5). Herodias, on the other hand, had no political qualms and she “would have killed him; but she could not” (Mark 6:19), “for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy” (Mark 6:20).

Now a great banquet was held for Herod’s birthday, and the daughter of Herodias, after being instructed by her mother to dance before Herod and his guests, had instructed her to ask for the head of John the Baptist when the king offered to reward her (Matthew 14:6-7). Following her mother’s instructions, the daughter of Herodias, demanded, “Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger” (Matthew 14:8). Too proud to confess his error, Herod complied with the daughter’s wicked request, and “sent, and beheaded John in the prison” (Matthew 14:10).

The news of Christ’s ministry and His miracles had reached the ears of the king (Mark 6:14) and Herod “said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him…he said, It is John [the Baptist], whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead (Mark 6:14–16).

Herod’s alarm, that Jesus was John the Baptist, struck fear in the heart of the wicked king. He was haunted by guilt knowing he had murdered an innocent man, and a prophet of God. Rather than confessing his sin; however, Herod wrestled with guilt, and was troubled by fear (Proverbs 29:25). He feared John when he was alive (Mark 6:20), and he was terrified when he heard of the miracles of Jesus, believing John the Baptist was raised from the dead. The king had silenced John’s tongue, but he could not quiet his own guilty conscience.

Later on, when Jesus was arrested, He would have one meeting with Herod (Luke 23:6-11); however, at that time the LORD “answered him nothing” (Luke 23:9). The blood of John the Baptist was on his hands, and the soul of the king was damned by his wickedness.

Let us take a spiritual lesson from Herod: We might find temporal solace in the diagnosis of a psychologist or psychiatrist, and even salve our conscience with prescription drugs or other enhancers; however, if the root problem is sin, there is only one answer:

“Submit [subdue; yield] …to God. Resist the [temptations] devil”…acknowledge your sins, and let the tears of mourning pave the way to God’s forgiveness and joy (James 4:7-10).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

They Would Have Destroyed Him (Matthew 12; Mark 3; Luke 6)

Scripture reading – Matthew 12; Mark 3; Luke 6

Today’s Scripture reading entails parallel readings of the same events. Each Gospel account gives us an individual record of the life and ministry of Christ from the perspective of its human author, but as a whole, they evidence the inspiration of the Holy Spirit presenting us with a harmonious view of what appears to be a three-dimensional portrait. Today’s devotional commentary is from Matthew 12:1-21.

Matthew 12

Though the public ministry of Jesus was still in its infancy, nevertheless, the enemies of the LORD were present from the beginning. Performing miracles as a sign that He was the long-awaited Messiah foretold by the prophets of Israel, Jesus was enjoying a great following of the people. There was, however, antagonists who viewed Him as a threat to their position and influence among the people.

The Pharisees were Christ’s principal adversaries, and they would plot to discredit and destroy Him throughout His earthly ministry, up to His divine appointment with the Cross. It was their antagonism and hatred for Jesus that was the catalyst of the confrontation we find in Matthew 12.

The LORD’s fourth commandment to Israel, “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8), was the issue the Pharisees raised against Jesus when they accused Him and His disciples of breaking the Law (12:1-2) according to their standards. Passing through a farmer’s field enroute to the synagogue on the Sabbath, Jesus’ disciples were hungry and “began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat” (12:1). Ever looking for an occasion to accuse Jesus of wrong doing, the Pharisees seized upon the opportunity to accuse His disciples of breaking the Sabbath Day commandment based on their oral tradition.

Rather than bow to his critics, Jesus reminded the Pharisees that the issue was not the fourth commandment, but their stringent interpretation of the Sabbath Day commandment.  The fourth commandment did not prohibit a man from providing for his physical hunger (after all, David had taken bread from the Temple and ate that which was dedicated to God, 12:3-4), and the priests ministered on sabbath days as their service to the LORD, (12:5-6) as outlined in the Levitical standards in the Torah.

Entering into the synagogue on the same day, Jesus encountered a man whose hand was paralyzed (12:9-10). Rather than show compassion for the man, the Pharisees demanded of Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? That they might accuse him” (12:10b).

Citing a common practice in that rural culture, Jesus demanded of His critics, would you not save a sheep that had fallen into a pit on the sabbath? Is a man not better than a sheep? (12:11-12) Jesus then declared, “it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days” (12:12b). He then spoke to the man with the withered hand, “Stretch forth thine hand,” and his hand was healed completely (12:13).

And how did the enemies of Jesus respond not only to His teaching, He being “LORD even of the Sabbath” (12:8), but also the healing of the man with the paralyzed hand? (12:13)

Matthew 12:1414Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him. (note – Mark 3:5-6; Luke 6:11)

Oh, the hypocrisy! On one hand they demanded their interpretation of the Sabbath Law should usurp the will of God; and in the other they plotted to destroy Jesus and violate the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13).

How did Jesus respond to the wicked, malicious intent of His enemies? He “withdrew himself” from them (12:15).

I have found the decision to withdraw oneself is a difficult one, especially when an enemy is unrelenting in his plot to “destroy” you. The manner of Christ is one we should emulate, after all, the Spirit of God is gentle, not brazen.

Romans 12:18–19 – “18If it be possible [knowing is not always possible], as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath [God’s anger]: for it is written, Vengeance is mine (Deuteronomy 32:35); I will repay, saith the Lord.”

Note from the author: For those following the chronological Scripture reading schedule, remember that some events in the Gospel accounts are not in chronological order. Also, chapter and verse numbers have been added by editors to assist us in studying the Scriptures, but sometimes those helpful numbers break up the flow of events. For instance, the Sermon on the Mount is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew 5-7; however, the Gospel of Luke records a portion of that same sermon in Luke 6:20-49. None of those facts take away from the inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures; however, I hope my explanation might give you some rationale for the reading schedule.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Sir, I Have No Man” (John 5)

Scripture reading – John 5

The title of today’s devotional commentary is haunting. “Sir, I have no man” (5:7), are words spoken by a man whom the Scriptures described as having “had an infirmity thirty and eight years” (5:5)!

John 5

Jesus and His disciples had returned to Jerusalem for the Passover (5:1). Making His way to the Temple, Jesus passed through the sheep gate (notice the word “market” is in italics in your Bible and was added by translators). The pool of water (5:2) in our story was located near the “sheep gate” through which sheep were led into the city and to the Temple Mount to be sacrificed.

The pool was called, “Bethesda,” meaning “House of Mercy” (5:2), was shaded by five porches. As Jesus passed by, He gazed upon a miserable lot of souls who had gathered there, “a great multitude of impotent folk [sick; feeble], of blind, halt [lame], withered [shrunken limb], waiting for the moving [stirring] of the water (5:3).

Why was this crowd of suffering souls waiting at the pool called Bethesda?

John writes, they were “waiting for the moving of the water. 4For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had” (5:4).

In the midst of this multitude of needy souls, there was one man who had been afflicted with an ailment for thirty-eight years (5:5). Described as having an “infirmity,” he was suffering from a chronic, debilitating disease, perhaps a stroke. John 5:7 describes the same man as “impotent.”

An earlier devotion revealed that Jesus “knew what was in man” (John 2:25). John 5:6 reveals that Jesus knew the man and his suffering: “Jesus saw [beheld; lit. knowing the man and understanding his need] him lie, and knew [perceived; understood] that he had been now a long time [much time] in that case.” Taking pity on the man, Jesus asked, Wilt thou [Do you wish] be made whole [sound]?

Though his outward affliction was obvious, it was the anguish of the man’s soul that I find troubling: He had “no man” (5:7).

There was no one who looked upon his helpless state, and waited with him at the pool, eager to assist him to the healing waters when they were stirred. No man had mercy. None who were suffering were willing to defer their distress, and prefer the man who had suffered thirty-eight years.

I invite you to consider with me three divine attributes Jesus exhibited on that day. The first, Jesus was Omniscient: He “saw” the man and knew not only how long he had been afflicted, but also the reason for his suffering (“sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” – 5:14).

A second divine attribute is Grace. Only one man was the object of Jesus’ grace that day. Though Jesus knew the man, and his sin, He took pity on the man and asked, “Wilt thou be made whole?” (5:6c, 8) Why this man, when there were so many who were suffering? He was no more deserving than any other, but it was grace, not merit that moved Jesus to heal the man. An interesting side note, when asked if he wished to be healed, he answered with a despairing grievance: “I have no man!” (5:7)

Thirdly, Jesus displayed authority over disease and divine Omnipotence when He commanded, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk” (5:8). “Immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked” (5:9). Thirty-eight years he had suffered, and with the power of Jesus’ spoken Word, he was instantaneously made whole.

There is much more to this story, especially the scene that follows when the religious hypocrites of that day, rebuked the man who had been healed for carrying his bed on the Sabbath (5:10). I wonder, how many times those religious leaders had passed Bethesda, and never took pity on the multitude of souls gathered there?

How many hurting souls do you and I pass every day, but never take pity on their sorrows? They may not be sick, maimed, blind, or crippled; but do we pass by being insensitive to their troubles?

How many might say, “I have no man who cares for my soul?”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

No Karma: My God Has Got the Whole World, In His Hands (Esther 6-10)

Daily reading assignment – Esther 6-10

The world calls it, “Instant Karma,” an ideology attributed to Buddhism and Hinduism. Instant Karma suggests a “payback” for one’s past actions. Of course, what one has done in the past might be good or bad, and the “payback” serve as its reward.

Instant Karma seems to suggest a “Cause and Effect” that is fatalistic and devoid of the influence of divine sovereignty and intervention. As a believer, I have faith in God’s promises. I know God is sovereignly directing the course of humanity to His purpose and end. I am confident, “that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

There is an undeniable principle of “Cause and Effect” in this world and it is summed up in this: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

Esther 6

Esther 6 is a beautiful example of God working in the heart of a king. King Ahasuerus (also known as Xerxes I), found himself in a place many of us have found ourselves…enduring a sleepless night.

It is revealed that the king’s insomnia (6:1) was used by God to direct his thoughts and the heart of the king to His divine end. From the king’s perspective, however, it was just another sleepless night, and thus he determined to have his servants read historical records that chronicled his reign.

Providentially, for there is no other explanation for it, the name of Mordecai, Queen Esther’s adopted father, came to the king’s attention. Ahasuerus, was reminded how Mordecai had intervened to foil a plot to assassinate the king (2:21-23). Recalling the event, the king wondered aloud, “What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this?” (6:3).

Learning from his servants that Mordecai had not been honored for his service (6:3), the king determined to immediately correct that slight and reward him. Providentially, in that very moment, Haman, the adversary of the Jews who had successfully plotted to have the king sign a decree to exterminate all the Jews, entered the king’s court (6:4-5).

Haman was approaching on a mission to request that Mordecai be hanged from the gallows he had constructed in his courtyard (6:4-5). In a wonderful twist of what some might call “Instant Karma,” Haman listened as the king desired his advice on the means of honoring a servant in “whom the king delighteth to honour” (6:6).

Haman mistakenly believed he was the man the king desired to honor, and suggested a lavish, public parade.

 Esther 6:8-9Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head: And let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honour, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour.”

Ah, the irony when Haman was commanded to be the one to honor Mordecai, the very man whom he was plotting to hang (6:10-11)!

Esther 7-10

The balance of Esther 6 and the remaining chapters (Esther 7-10) give testimony to the sovereignty of God as He providentially directed the thoughts, plots and plans of men to His divine purpose and end.

Haman’s wicked scheme to annihilate the Jews was not only thwarted, but he fell victim to the very gallows he had constructed to hang Mordecai (Esther 7:7-10).

Dear friend, all men are free will agents; however, God can and does steer the course of human choices to accomplish His plan and purpose.  King, president, governor, judge, sheriff, employer, teacher, pastor, or parent…none are beyond the sovereign purpose and will of God.

Solomon taught his son, “The king’s heart is in the hand [power; rule; authority; under dominion] of the LORD, as the rivers [streams] of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will [pleasure; desire; favor]” (Proverbs 21:1).

No man acts independent of God; after all, “He’s Got the Whole World, In His Hands!”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Individual Responsibility: A Parable of “Sour Grapes” (Ezekiel 18-20)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 18-20

Today’s Scripture reading is a lengthy one, consisting of 95 verses, housed in three chapters (Ezekiel 18-20). I will limit the focus of this devotional commentary to Ezekiel 18.

Ezekiel 18 – Who Are You Going to Blame?

There was no dispute over Israel and Judah’s provocation of God’s justice and the judgment of His people. The people had broken their covenant with God, disobeyed His Law and Commandments, and provoked the LORD to wrath. The LORD commanded Ezekiel to go to the people and confront their insinuation that the troubles that had befallen them were an injustice to them for the sins of their forefathers (18:1-2a).

There was a parable in Babylon among the people of the captivity that said, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?”  (18:2). In other words, the younger generation was blaming their fore-fathers for the troubles and miseries they were suffering. The implication was that God was not just, and was punishing children for the sins of their parents.

Sadly, that same spirit is pervading our own society. Blame shifting has become epidemic in our culture. The evils committed 150 years ago by the forefathers of this generation has fostered a spirit of entitlement that some suggest excuses wrath, violence, bitterness, rioting, and even murder.

Ezekiel 18 addresses the matter of individual responsibility and personal accountability to God.

God commanded Ezekiel to declare the universality of man’s wickedness and the inevitable consequences of sin: “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (18:4).

Though all have sinned, nevertheless, the LORD is just and His judgments are right and true. God promised to bless the man that chooses righteousness and obeys His statues and judgments (18:5-9).  However, every son and every generation will bear God’s judgment for its sins, and God will not hold a father accountable for the sins of his son (18:10-13).

Should a son see his father sin, but the son chooses the way of righteousness, he will not bear his father’s guilt (18:14-17), but the father will be punished for his own sins (18:18-20).

 So, who are you going to blame for your troubles and sorrows?

There is no denying a family suffers for the choices of its members; however, we each bear the burden of choosing how to respond to the troubles and sorrows that arise in our lives.

God is just and “the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son” (18:20). The LORD is merciful and compassionate (18:21). He is ready to forgive our sins when we repent and has promised, our sins “shall not be mentioned” or remembered against us (18:22).

Let’s stop wallowing in the mire of self-pity, blaming others for our sinful choices and the consequences that befall us!  God is just and He judges every man and woman “according to his ways” (18:30a). If we repent of our sins and turn from our sinful ways, the LORD promises, sin “shall not be your ruin” (18:30b)!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith