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Tie a Knot and Hang On…God is Working! (Genesis 41-42)

Today’s Bible Reading and Devotional is Genesis 41-42.

The LORD continued to prosper Joseph as he served faithfully in Pharaoh’s prison. Two years passed before the butler remembered Joseph, the man who brought him comfort and interpreted his dream in prison (41:1a).

In God’s providence, dreams disturbed Pharaoh’s sleep which he feared were omens of bad things that would befall him and his kingdom (41:1-8).  Setting the stage, the butler remembered Joseph and Pharaoh commanded he be brought from prison before him (41:9-32).

Joseph credited his skill to interpret dreams to His God  (41:16) and his faithfulness was rewarded as Pharaoh appointed him to serve Egypt, second only to himself (41:33-44).  Promoted when he was only thirty years old (41:46), Pharaoh entrusted Joseph with the granaries of Egypt as the nation prepared for seven years of famine followed by seven years of plenty (41:45-57).  Genesis 41 closes with the revelation; “all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands” (41:57).

God sovereignly and providentially set the stage for Joseph’s brothers to come to Egypt seeking food for their households.  No doubt believing the brother they betrayed was either dead or toiling away as a slave, they did not know their fate would rest in the hands of the brother they sold as a slave (42:1-20).

Joseph recognized his brothers, but wisely concealed his identity.  Through an interpreter he questioned them to learn not only know the fate of his father Jacob, but also his brother Benjamin.  Joseph no doubt wondered if his brothers regretted their sins committed against him (42:21-23).  Speaking in Hebrew among themselves, his brothers did not know the man they presumed was a powerful Egyptian was their brother and understood their remorseful confessions (42:23). Rather than bitterness and vengeance, Joseph “turned himself about from them, and wept” (42:24).

Genesis 42 closes with a dramatic scene as Joseph set in motion a plan to force his brothers to return to Egypt with his brother Benjamin.

Joseph ordered Simeon, the second oldest brother (Reuben being the eldest), be bound, led away, and demanded they not return to Egypt without their youngest brother.  Unable to intervene, they began their journey home and were overcome with grief when they found the money they used to purchase grain in their grain sacks.  Sharing all that befell them in Egypt, their father Jacob was overcome with grief (42:29-38).

We conclude today’s devotional with Joseph beginning to understand not only that God rewards faithfulness, but He also orchestrates events in our lives for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28-29).  Joseph faithfully served the LORD…as a slave, a steward, a prisoner, and as a powerful man of wealth and position.  He was providentially in the place of God’s choosing where he would save and shelter his father, brethren and their families from famine.

I close wondering if someone reading this devotional might find themselves like Joseph, far from the place you might have chosen and wondering what God is doing.  Remember, God is faithful and protection and promotion come from Him.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Innocence Lost (Genesis 34)

Today’s Bible reading is Genesis 33-34, Psalm 13, and Matthew 13.  Our devotional is from Genesis 34.

One wonders if Shakespeare, the great English playwright, did not take his inspiration for “Romeo and Juliet” from today’s love tragedy found in Genesis 34.

The desire for popularity and acceptance is universal among youth.  No matter the culture, the teen years breed a mix of excitement and danger.  Independence, new life experiences, physical growth, raging hormones…and temptations before one’s values are grounded shadow the teen years.

Genesis 34 is a story of opposites attracting and the all-too-often tragic ending.  It is the stuff of love novels…lust, sex, bitterness, revenge, and murder.

Now Jacob was the father of eleven sons (the twelfth son, Benjamin, not yet born) and at least one daughter named Dinah, the central figure in Genesis 34.  The sons of Jacob were chronologically in their late teens to early 20’s in this chapter.

Perpetual strife and jealousies filled Jacob’s home brought on by his having sons of four different wives and concubines.  Growing up in the midst was Dinah, Jacob’s daughter born to Leah, his less favored wife (Gen. 30:21; 34:1).  Dinah’s wandering ways and her involvement with Shechem, a Canaanite prince, introduced into Jacob’s home the first great sorrow upon his return to Canaan.

A wealthy and powerful man (Genesis 33), Jacob made the fateful decision to live in the land among the heathen, a choice that had far-reaching consequences for his household.  Dinah, perhaps no more than 13-15 years old, decided to “spread her wings” and “went out [from her father’s household] to see the daughters of the land” (Genesis 34:1).  Young, beautiful, innocent and naive, Dinah was taken by “Shechem the son of Hamor” and “defiled” (34:2).

Hearing the news, Jacob waited until his sons came from the fields to tell them how Dinah had fallen prey to Shechem’s lust (34:5-7).  Pretending to save face and make peace, the decision was made for Dinah to become Shechem’s wife and the sons and daughters of Jacob’s and Hamor’s households to become one on the condition that Hamor’s men accepted circumcision (34:8-16).

Hamor accepted the stipulation and convinced the men of his household to accept the rite of circumcision, reasoning they would inevitably be enriched by Jacob’s possessions (34:20-23).

The circumcision of Harmor’s household was a ruse by Jacob’s sons who were bent on revenge (34:25-29).  Knowing the men would be incapacitated, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s full brothers, attacked Hamor’s household, killing the men (34:25-26).  Their brothers, Jacob’s other sons, joined them claiming the wives and possessions of the city for spoil.

Genesis 34 ends with Jacob rebuking Simeon and Levi (34:30).  The brothers; however, defended their lies, murder, and pillaging for spoils as honorable acts in light of their sister’s shame (34:31).  On his death-bed, Jacob would remember their sins against them (Genesis 49:5-7).

Galatians 6:7 – Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

To God Be the Glory!

* The following letter is from Hillsdale’s bulletin this Sunday, January 13, 2019.

Welcome to Hillsdale!

I anticipate with JOY our church family being together this Sunday after a month of interruptions and holiday travels!  December is a month of celebration and holds loving memories of childhood for most; however, how blessed we are to celebrate a New Year and the possibilities of a new beginning!  The past is behind us and the slate for 2019 is open before us.

Dr. Michael and Sheri Privett

I continue my new series in the Epistle to the Philippians this Sunday morning and look forward to challenging you with Paul’s contagious JOY and example of “Abounding Love: One Spirit, One Mind, and One Passion”(Philippians 1).   Dr. Michael Privett and his wife Sheri will minister to us in our 6:00pm service.  Dr. Privett was formerly the Director of Church Planting with Gospel Fellowship Missions and is dedicated to training national pastors around the world. [Note – Children’s Choir will meet this evening and throughout the year with few interruptions].

Hillsdale’s Winter\Spring Semester Classes

New Bible study classes begin this Wednesday and I urge you to make a fresh start this New Year. Join us for Dinner (served each Wednesday, 5:00-6:00pm) and choose from a wide variety of new classes. Dr. Ted Martens is teaching a new Bible Institute class that is a study of the Church in the Book of Acts.  Pastor Barber and Linda are teaching and leading a practical class series on Evangelism and Encouragement (a “How to” course).  Mrs. Pat Youstra is leading a Ladies’ Class and a study of Bible Characters through their prayers. Travis and Tanya Henry begin a new parenting class titled “Character Matters”.  Classes begin at 6:30pm.

Pastoral Staff, circa 1983 (Youth Pastor Travis Smith, Senior Pastor Blaine Farley, School Principal Jim Webster)

To God Be the Glory!

Sheilah and I celebrate 40 years in ministry this Sunday.  January 1979, fresh out of Bible College, we arrived at the First Baptist Church of Sterling Heights, MI where we labored under the founding pastor of that ministry, Dr. Blaine Farley. For nearly seven years, God blessed our work as Youth and Music Pastor.  We saw the youth ministry grow from 20 to over 50 teens and at one time had twenty enrolled in Bible colleges.

Dr. Alan Bradshaw

Through circumstances and a providential phone call from Dr. Alan Bradshaw, we came to come to Hillsdale October 1, 1985 and spent the next ten years as the Youth Pastor before Pastor Bradshaw’s sudden home going on June 21, 1995.  As some might say, “the rest is history”.  As Sheilah and I celebrate God’s faithfulness, we are indebted to your love and patience with us through the years.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Senior Pastor

pastorsmith@hillsdalebaptist.org

www.HeartofAShepherd.com

“He saw the multitudes [and] was moved with compassion on them” (Matthew 9:36-38)

Today’s Bible reading assignment is Genesis 21-22, Psalm 9, and Matthew 9.  Today’s devotion is taking from the Gospel of Matthew 9.

Matthew 9 gives us a beautiful portrait of Christ’s compassion for the physical suffering and hurting of His day.  Among the objects of His compassion was a paralyzed man “sick of the palsy” (9:2-7), a leader’s daughter raised from the dead (9:18-19, 23-25), a woman healed from “an issue of blood” (9:20-22), two blind men given sight (9:27-30), a man delivered from a demon (9:32-33), and the healing of “every sickness and every disease among the people” (9:35).

What an extraordinary record of compassion and miracles!  To almost overstate the obvious, we read, “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them” (9:36a).

What a compassionate Savior!  Men’s afflictions moved Jesus; however, His compassion also plunged to the depths of men’s souls who “fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36b).  What lessons might a believer take from Jesus’ extraordinary example of compassion?

Christlike compassion is deeper and broader than empathy.  Cultural icons and American institutions frequently make hit and run “feel good” gestures in the name of charity.  Stars and athletes drop a few coins in a kettle, establish a “Go Fund Me” account, pledge money to a good cause, and hold a Money-thon for an emergency; however, when the popularity of the cause has waned, the hurting are forgotten.

Christlike compassion is deeply invested in the well-being of men’s souls. Author William Barclay observes the compassion Jesus expressed was “no ordinary pity or compassion, but an emotion which moves a man to the very depths of his being.”  (N.T. Words; Philadelphia: The Westminister Press, 1964), p. 276.

What moved Jesus with compassion in Matthew 9:36?  The spiritual condition of the people moved Him.  He observed they “fainted”, tired of pursuits that left them spiritually and emotionally wanting. They were like sheep, “scattered abroad…having no shepherd”.

Knowing, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few” (Matthew 9:37), moved Jesus with compassion.  Harvest speaks of judgment when the sickle is employed to cut grain (Isaiah 17:11; Joel 3:9, 13; Revelation 14:14).   When the harvest comes, good grain is separated and stored, but bad grain is gathered and burned (Matthew 13:24-30).

We should be moved to compassion knowing the harvest and judgment of men’s souls.  Lost sinners are dying everyday without the  Shepherd.

What would Jesus have us do?

Matthew 9:38– “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

“Too Late!” (Genesis 17-18)

* Today’s Bible reading assignment is Genesis 17-18, Psalm 7, and Matthew 7. Our devotional is from Genesis 17-18.

God renewed His covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17 and ten years later when Abraham was nearly 100 years old, God announced the impossible: 90-year-old Sarah “shall be a mother of nations” (17:15-17).  Abraham laughed, saying in his heart, “Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?” (17:17)

Betraying his lack of faith and willing to content himself with less than God’s best, Abraham suggested Ishmael be his heir (17:18).   God, however, renewed His covenant with Abraham stating Sarah would bear him a son and his name would be Isaac (17:19). While God refused Ishmael as Abraham’s heir, He comforted him promising Ishmael would be father to a “great nation” (17:20).

A “theophany”, the LORD appearing in the form of man, occurs in Genesis 18 when He and two angels appeared as men before Abraham’s tent bringing news within Sarah’s hearing that she would bear a son.  We read how Sarah “laughed within herself” at the thought that she, a woman “waxed old” would bear Abraham’s son (Genesis 18:12).  The LORD questioned Abraham, “Wherefore did Sarah laugh?” (Genesis 18:13).

Sarah, was surprise Abraham’s visitor not only knew she scoffed at the promise she would bear a son, but laughed at the thought of it!  The LORD asked Abraham, “Is any thing too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:15) The LORD asserted He would return when the promise son was born (Genesis 18:14).  Sarah, perhaps fearing the visitor who knew her thoughts, denied she laughed at the birth announcement, and the LORD rebuked her lie (Genesis 18:15).

The closing verses of Genesis 18 contain the fateful message the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah would be judged and destroyed for their wickedness (18:20-22).  Knowing his nephew Lot and his family lived in Sodom; Abraham interceded that the LORD might spare the city (18:23-33).  The LORD mercifully agreed to Abraham’s request when he proposed if ten righteous people be found in Sodom the city would be spared God’s judgment.

Ten righteous souls; perhaps the size of Lot’s own family, would have spared a city of lost, hell-bound souls.  Of course, Lot’s presence in Sodom was not ordered of the LORD nor was Lot’s interest the lost souls of his neighbors. Abraham cared for the inhabitants and interceded for the city, but all was lost when Lot was unable to stir the hearts of his own children to flee before God’s judgment (Genesis 19).

Allow me to close by suggesting you and I have a sphere of influence, a providential presence, among lost souls.  While the fate of a city does not rest within our realm, I wonder how many might?

Comparing the two, Abraham and Lot, whom did you most resemble? Abraham who compassionately made intercession for the wicked of that city or Lot who lived in the midst, but waited too late to plead even for the souls of his children?

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

One Hundred Eighty Six (186) Nations and Counting…

“From the Heart of a Shepherd” began 6 years ago as this pastor’s desire to encourage his church family to read and study God’s Word.  In spite of my nominal presence in 2018, 186 nations are represented in http://www.HeartofAShepherd readership.

After a one-year respite in 2018, I have renewed my commitment to write daily devotions for my Hillsdale church family and others I count as friends.

That God would take a self-described Country Parson and give him the privilege of an international opportunity to touch lives is humbling.  Thank you for joining me on this journey through God’s Word.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Know That a Prophet Hath Been Among You (Ezekiel 33:33)

After enjoying a vacation in the Smoky Mountains, I look forward to being back in Hillsdale’s pulpit this Sunday.  We will return to our verse-by-verse study of the Gospel of John, taking up our study with the closing verses of John 9 and introducing one of the most beautiful and beloved passages of the Gospels… the Parable of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18).

Knowing the shepherd is a metaphor for a spiritual leader and the sheep is a metaphor for God’s people throughout the scriptures, I invested several hours focusing on the role of the shepherd and his relationship with the sheep.  In the Parable of the Good Shepherd we identify not only the character of the Good Shepherd (Jesus Christ), we also see the evil characteristics of Israel’s spiritual leaders portrayed as “thieves and robbers” (John 10:8) and as the “hireling” who flees “and careth not for the sheep” (John 10:13).

Israel was cursed with spiritual shepherd’s like those described in John 10.  When the nation needed shepherds to boldly declare the Word of the Lord and condemn the sins of the nation, she instead promoted men to be her pastors who not only failed to lead the nation spiritually, but also exploited her vulnerable state.

The prophet Jeremiah warned the “pastors” (spiritual shepherds) of Israel, “1Woe be unto the pastors [lit. shepherds] that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD…I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:1-2).

Ezekiel prophesied “against the shepherds of Israel” (Ezekiel 34:1-2), condemning the spiritual leaders for putting their self-interests before the needs of the people (34:2).  Israel’s pastors had taken the best of everything for themselves (34:3), neglected the weak and injured (34:4a), failed to seek the lost, pursued sinful pleasures, and failed to call God’s people to be a holy people (34:4).  Israel had become an immoral, lawless nation and God determined to turn the nation and their shepherds over to be afflicted (Ezekiel 34:10).  God, however, did not leave His people hopeless and promised them He would one day deliver them (Ezekiel 34:11-16).

The task of a faithful prophet is not a popular one and God warned Ezekiel he would become the object of scorn (Ezekiel 33).  God challenged the prophet, “I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 33:7).  Ezekiel was admonished, should he fail to warn the wicked in his sin and the wicked man “die in his iniquity”, the blood of the wicked would be on his hands (Ezekiel 33:8).

Ezekiel 33 closes with a malady that in my observation is present in fundamental churches and colleges of our day…a generation that is “talking against” the prophet, expressing a faux-piety of hearing “the word that cometh forth from the LORD” (33:30), and “with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness” (33:31).  God warns Ezekiel, “they hear thy words, but they do them not” (33:32).

From a perspective of outward results, Ezekiel was a failure for Israel did not repent of her sins and her pastors continued in their wickedness.  Ezekiel was promised, when God’s judgment falls upon Israel, all would “know that a prophet hath been among them” (Ezekiel 33:33).

The words of a faithful, prophetic (forth-telling), uncompromising preacher are not welcome in most pulpits and one need not look far in our churches, colleges, and seminaries to understand there are many who “hear thy words, but they do them not” (33:32).  I pray God might find me faithful and some “shall know that a prophet hath been among them” (33:33).

With a shepherd’s heart,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2018 – Travis D. Smith