Tag Archives: Evil

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

A Lesson in Biblical Anthropology (Psalm 40; Psalm 58)

Scripture reading – Psalm 40; Psalm 58

The titles of Psalm 40 and Psalm 58 identify David as the author. Psalm 40 is addressed, “To the Chief Musician, A Psalm of David.” While I cannot say with certainty the date or setting of the psalm, its subject matter parallels the circumstances the king was facing when Absalom led an insurrection against him. [On a personal note; because I am inclined to preach from Psalm 40 this Sunday, October 3, I have chosen Psalm 58 as the focus of this devotional.]

Psalm 58 is titled, “To the chief Musician, Altaschith [i.e. “do not destroy”], Michtam [poem] of David.” The setting of the psalm is uncertain, but David’s observations concerning the nature of the wicked fits well in the midst of the insurrection led by his son Absalom.

Psalm 58 – A a study in Anthropology and a challenge to the 21st century worldview of man.

Modern Anthropology is a study of man’s past, his behavior, biology, intellect, language, culture, and society (notice the study of man as a spiritual being is not a topic addressed by anthropologists). Though humanists deny the existence of a Creator, Biblical Anthropology observes man as a created, spiritual being (Genesis 1:27; 2:7, 21-24). While evolutionists propose unproven (and therefore, unscientific) theories to explain man’s origin and person, creationists accept the Genesis creation account by faith. I believe God created mankind in his likeness (Genesis 1:27), and men and women are eternal beings with soul and spirit (Genesis 2:7).

Two Opposing, Incompatible Worldviews

The world today is dominated by an atheistic, militant, evolutionary worldview, known as Humanism.  Humanists rule secular education, and they view humanity through a lens that not only rejects God as Creator, but discards the observable evidences of man’s spiritual depravity.

The humanists observe societal problems (crimes, violence, murder, rape, child abuse, human trafficking, et al), and explain them as environmental concerns; thus, man is a victim, not of his choices, but of his environment. The Word of God, by contrast, declares man’s problem is a spiritual one of the heart; and all are born sinful, morally depraved beings (Romans 3:10, 23).

Psalm 58 is a brief exposition of the character of sinful man. Penned 3,000 years ago, the psalm affords us an insight into the societal problems of our day, minus the political jargon that denies, and masks the wickedness of men. With that explanation as our background, allow me a brief exposition of Psalm 58.

The Failure of God’s People (58:1)

If the setting of Psalm 58 is the time of Absalom’s insurrection, then the two questions that introduce the psalm are springing from the heart of a father that is dismayed by what has befallen him, his household, and kingdom. The majority of Israel had followed Absalom’s rebellion, and David asked them: “Do ye indeed speak righteousness?” (58:1a) In other words, do you assume your cause is righteous, because you have a great following? Have you forgotten, you are but men yourselves? (58:1b)

The Character of the Wicked (58:2-5)

Man is sinful from conception, and wickedness is fixed in his heart. It is man’s nature to be violent (58:2). From the womb, man is turned aside from God, and is full of lies and deceit (58:3). His tongue is full of poison, like the bite of a viper, and cannot be restrained (58:4-5).

The Judgment of the Wicked (58:6-9)

David’s focus turns from the character of the wicked to God’s judgment, and their certain punishment. The king cried to the LORD to break the teeth of those who desired to devour, and destroy him (58:6). He prayed the strength of the wicked would melt away, like melting snow. When his enemy bends the bow to shoot, David prayed they would be cut in pieces (58:7). He cried to the LORD that his enemies would fade as the trail of a snail, and shrivel in the heat of the day. He longed that those who wished to destroy him would be as a stillborn babe, and their devices never see the day (58:8). Indeed, let the wicked be taken “away as with a whirlwind” (58:9).

The Rejoicing of the Righteous (58:10-11)

The psalm concluded with David anticipating the righteous rejoicing in God’s justice (58:10). Though the godly are not seeking vengeance, they are living in anticipation that the LORD rewards the righteous, and is a sovereign Judge.

Closing thoughts – While humanists, and the disingenuous claim the heart of man is good, God observes the heart of man is “evil continually” (Genesis 6:5) and “deviseth mischief continually” (Proverbs 6:14).

Let all who are redeemed be reminded, the wicked will not escape punishment and the righteous will be vindicated!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Weeping and Wailing: The Death of a Rebel (2 Samuel 18; Psalm 26)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 18; Psalm 26

Our Scripture reading is 2 Samuel 18 and Psalm 26, but today’s devotional is taken from 2 Samuel 18.

2 Samuel 18 – The Defeat and Slaying of Absalom

With his men and their families safely across the Jordan River, David, a skilled strategist, organized his soldiers, and appointed captains over companies of hundreds and thousands (18:1). The army he divided into three parts, and assigned over them three of his most formidable leaders: “David sent forth a third part of the people under the hand of Joab, and a third part under the hand of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, and a third part under the hand of Ittai the Gittite” (18:2). David then declared, “I will surely go forth with you myself also” (18:2).The people objected to the king’s presence on the battlefield, for they understood he would not only be the principal target of the enemy, and should he be killed, all would be for naught (18:3).

David’s Review of His Soldiers, and a Foolish Command (18:3-5)

The king heeded the counsel of the people, and took his place at the gate of the city to review those who were going to war on his behalf (18:4).

Once again, we see a dominant weakness in David’s character when he commanded his generals, Joab, Abishai, and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom. And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains charge concerning Absalom” (18:5).

While desiring compassion for his son, David’s request was foolish, and disheartening to the soldiers fighting, and risking their lives to put down Absalom’s insurrection. We have observed the same weakness in previous devotions. David’s failure with Absalom, enflamed his son’s rebellion, and yet, he continued to desire his leaders would “deal gently [with Absalom] for my sake” (18:5).

Spiritual Lesson – Leaders sacrifice moral authority when they fail to address sin in their life and family.

That truth is seen throughout the Scriptures (for instance, Eli’s failure to confront his son’s sins marked the end of the judgeships in Israel, for the people demanded a king). Allow me the liberty to point out some contemporary instances of the same principle.

Political leaders and judges who are “weak on crime,” and fail to enforce the law of the land, are often plagued by moral failures that are the root cause of their weakness. Our society is plagued by “Absalom’s”, emboldened criminals who have no fear of consequences.

There is a breakdown of formal discipline in school classrooms, because there is a lack of personal disciplines in the lives of teachers and administrators. In a word, undisciplined, immature “Absalom” students are running, and ruining the educational system of our nation, and permitted to do so by educators who have no fortitude.

The Fateful Battle in the Woods of Ephraim (18:6-8)

Two armies, one loyal to David, and the other that supported Absalom’s insurrection, faced one another in the forest of Ephraim (18:6). The battle was short lived, as the king’s experienced forces overwhelmed the poorly led followers of Absalom. Before that day was ended, “twenty thousand men” of Israel were slain (18:7). Though the army of David was greatly outnumbered by Absalom’s soldiers, David’s strategy to attack from three fronts had scattered the battle “over the face of all the country: and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured” (18:8). The rugged terrain of the forest with its ravines had swallowed up Absalom’s soldiers.

The Humiliation and Slaying of Absalom (18:9-15)

The proud son of David, had come to a tragic, and ignoble end. Fleeing the king’s men, Absalom became entangled in “the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth; and the mule that was under him went away” (18:9). Many have suggested that he hung by his thick locks of hair; however, the Scriptures record it was his head that was “caught hold of the oak” (18:9). Rather than Absalom’s hair, it might have been his neck that caught hold in the fork of a limb (Though some may suppose the impact may have broken his neck, and paralyzed him, yet it did not kill him).

Now, all the soldiers of David were aware he had commanded that Absalom was to be dealt with “gently for [his]sake” (18:5). When a soldier of David’s troop found him suspended by the limb, he reported his finding to Joab (18:10). Joab slightly reproved the man for his failure to slay Absalom (18:11), but that servant proved to be a man of principle, who would not disobey his king. He assured Joab that no amount of silver would give him cause to slay the king’s son (18:12). The young man went further in his observation, and revealed he knew Joab’s character, and had he slain Absalom, he would have taken sides against him (18:13).

Joab departed and found Absalom as he had been told. Disobeying the king’s orders, Joab thrust three darts through Absalom’s heart (18:14). Afterward, ten of Joab’s armor bearers finished the job by brutalizing and ultimately slaying Absalom. (18:15).

The End of the Rebellion (18:16-18)

Absalom’s death marked the end of the insurrection, and Joab “blew the trumpet,” signaling for David’s soldiers to withdraw, and allow those who had followed Absalom to return to their tents (18:16-17). Absalom’s body was removed from the tree, and cast into a pit, over which great stones were piled. He had in his youthful zeal, raised up a pillar to memorialize his name in Israel; however, it was the pit and the heap of stones over his body that would serve as his inglorious memorial (18:17-18).

The News of Absalom’s Death (18:19-33)

David and a watchman had waited for an update from the battlefront. One young man, Ahimaaz the son of Zadok, known for being a fast runner (18:27), volunteered to take the news of the outcome of the battle to the king (18:19). Instead, Joab chose Cushi, a non-Hebrew man, to be his messenger, perhaps because he would deliver the news of Absalom’s death without the patriotic zeal displayed by Ahimaaz (18:21). Undeterred, Ahimaaz pressed Joab to allow him to take the news to the king (18:22-23), and soon caught up with Cushi, and was the first to arrive before David with the news that his soldiers had won the day.

As feared (18:20), David’s heart and thoughts went to Absalom, and he enquired what had become of his son (18:32). Though spoken discreetly, the news of Absalom’s death, being as “all that rise against thee to do thee hurt” (18:32) overwhelmed the king with such sorrow that he physically trembled (18:33a). Retreating to the privacy of a bedchamber, he wept saying, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (18:33)

Closing thoughts – We can imagine, and almost hear the wails and cries of grief that poured out from the king. The king’s bereavement and sorrow so impacted the nation, that “the victory that day was turned into mourning unto all the people” (19:2). The king not only felt the sorrow of his son’s death, but the deep remorse of a man who understood all that had befallen his family were the consequence of his sins. Indeed, if he could, the king would have given his life for Absalom’s.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Whose Side Are You On? (2 Samuel 17)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 17

2 Samuel 17 continues the historical record of the insurrection led by Absalom, David’s thirdborn son. We are given a window, a front row seat, concerning Absalom’s war council, and the opposing strategies he was proffered.

Ahithophel’s Counsel for Pursuing David (17:1-4)

Ahithophel, an embittered, but wise man and the grandfather of Bathsheba, counseled Absalom to allow him to pursue David and his entourage that very night (17:1). His strategy was to ambush David before he could organize his “mighty men,” and “smite the king only” (17:2). Ahithophel encouraged the king, by striking the head (the king), he would “bring back all the people [and] all the people shall be in peace” (17:3). Absalom and “all the elders of Israel” agreed to the counsel (17:4); yet, Absalom made a fateful error, and a providential one for David, for he said: “Call now Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear likewise what he saith” (17:5).

Hushai’s Contrary Counsel and Diversion (17:5-14)

Remembering Hushai’s loyalty was to David, he fulfilled his mission by giving opposing counsel to that of Ahithophel. Ahithophel’s counsel was to pursue, and destroy David before he could organize, even before he could pass over the Jordan River. Hushai, however, urged that Absalom had the luxury of time, and an opportunity to gather a superior force, and by strength of power would defeat his father (17:6-12). Appealing to Absalom’s pride, and pursuit of glory, Hushai painted a picture saying that, if necessary, “all Israel [would] bring ropes to that city, and…will draw it into the river, until there be not one small stone found there” (17:13).

Though Ahithophel’s counsel was the wiser of the two, Absalom rejected his advice, and followed Hushai’s strategy, “For the Lord had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the Lord might bring evil upon Absalom” (17:14).

David’s Flight Across Jordan (17:15-29)

The priests, who were on David’s side in the conflict, sent word to him by way of a woman (“wench”) who met with two of David’s men at a well (17:17). After being concealed in the well by the woman, she deceived Absalom’s men with a tale that David’s men had fled the city (17:20). David’s spies returned to his encampment, and warned the king concerning Absalom’s plot (17:21). Hushai warned the king, he and his company must pass that very night over the Jordan before resting (17:22).

Absalom followed his father in a desperate pursuit; however, David and all that were with him had crossed the Jordan to Mahanaim, located on the east side of the Jordan River. There the king and his company not only refreshed themselves, but were comforted by gifts from those who were sympathetic to David (17:27-29).

The Tragic Death of Ahithophel (17:23)

His counsel rejected, Ahithophel, a man who had been one of David’s trusted counselors, understood what Absalom and those who followed him would soon learn…All was Lost. The opportunity to crush David’s forces was when he was in hasty retreat, but that time had passed. Though shamed, and humiliated by the insurrection led by his own son, David and those who were with him were men of war. In the words of Hushai’s counsel to Absalom:

2 Samuel 17:8, 10 – “Thou knowest thy father and his men, that they be mighty men, and they be chafed in their minds, as a bear robbed of her whelps in the field: and thy father is a man of war…all Israel knoweth that thy father is a mighty man, and they which be with him are valiant men.”

Knowing his counsel had been rejected, Ahithophel exited Absalom’s presence, and went home to put his personal affairs in order, and “hanged himself” (17:23).

Closing thoughtsThe problem with Ahithophel was not his counsel, but his spirit.

There was a time he exercised the gifts of discernment, and the wisdom of a man that consulted with the word of God (2 Samuel 16:23). Tragically, he had allowed bitterness and a vengeful spirit to supplant godly wisdom. He had opposed David, God’s anointed, and committed high treason against the king.

Warning – Before choosing sides in a conflict, a wise man assesses his spirit, for only fools oppose the LORD’S side.

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

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

Surviving and Thriving in a Dark Hour (Psalm 3; Psalm 4)

Scripture reading – Psalm 3; Psalm 4

Our recent Scripture readings (2 Samuel 11-14) have considered the tragic events that shadowed David’s adultery, and subsequent murder of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah. Following in their father’s sins, Amnon, David’s eldest son, raped Absalom’s sister Tamar. David’s failure to exercise justice toward that son, became the provocation for Absalom to plot vengeance, and eventually murder his brother Amnon. Absalom then fled Israel and lived in exile three years, and only when he was pressed, did David invite Absalom to return to Jerusalem. The king, however, then refused to see Absalom, and further inflamed his son’s passions until his bitterness led to an insurrection against his father.

What was David feeling and thinking during this time of grief? Indeed, what sorrows, and anxiety might any parent bear when a child breaks one’s heart? Psalm 3 and Psalm 4 instruct us in a righteous response…turn to the LORD, pray, and trust Him. This devotional focuses on spiritual lessons found in Psalm 3. * The following verses contain brackets that are the amplifications of this author.

Psalm 3:1-8 – The Grief and Prayer of a Heartbroken Father

Psalm 3:1-4  – “LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Self-existent, Eternal God], how are they increased [multiplied] that trouble [cause distress; afflict] me! many are they that rise up [stand up as a foe] against me.
2  Many there be which say [speak; tell] of my soul [life; person; being], There is no help [deliverer] for him in God. Selah.
3  But thou, O LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Self-existent, Eternal God], art a shield [buckler; defense] for me; my glory [honor; splendor], and the lifter up [exaltation; to move in a higher direction] of mine head.
4  I cried [called out] unto the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Self-existent, Eternal God] with my voice, and he heard [answered; responded; replied] me out of his holy [sanctuary; sacred place] hill. Selah [i.e. to pause—most likely an instruction to musicians].”

David finds himself surrounded by enemies, and in particular his son Absalom.  The loneliness of the king, and his desperate cry to the LORD rouses the heart of all who are fathers, or have been in leadership and felt the blow and sorrow of betrayal. The king’s flight from Jerusalem bolstered his enemies to deride, “There is no help [deliverer]for him in God” (Psalm 3:2b).

David, however, took solace in the character and promises of God (3:3). His reflections on the character of God strengthened his soul, and he remembered the God of eternity was his “shield”, defender and the sovereign of creation. Though driven from his throne by enemies, David was confident God would exact vengeance, and justice would prevail. Alone, afraid, humiliated, but not defeated, David was certain the LORD saw his plight, and heard his cry. The king summed up his trust and faith when he wrote,

Psalm 3:4 – “I cried [called out] unto the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Self-existent, Eternal God] with my voice, and he heard [answered; responded; replied] me out of his holy [sanctuary; sacred place] hill. Selah [i.e. to pause—most likely an instruction to musicians].”

Got problems? I have a promise! (3:5-8)

It is difficult to grasp how a rebel like Absalom could be the son of David, a man after the heart of God (1 Samuel 13:14).  Sadly, the heartache borne by the king is all too familiar to parents of sons and daughters who reject God. In spite of their parents’ love, sacrifices, and the spiritual lessons that have been engrained in them from their youth, many parents face their own Absalom. Giving full rein to their lusts, and embracing the lies of the world, prodigal sons and daughters heap indescribable heartache and sorrows on their parents (Luke 15:11-21).

For David, all was not lost, for when he looked past his sorrows and reflected on the LORD, his hope was renewed and the king found solace in the LORD and slept (3:5).

Psalm 3:5 – “I laid me down [took rest] and slept [i.e. long sleep; fell asleep]; I awaked [i.e. arise]; for the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Self-existent, Eternal God] sustained [to prop; braced; held up] me.

Sweet sleep; a quietness of heart and thoughts God gives believers who find solace in Him. Perhaps it was David’s prayer that inspired the childhood prayer:  “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, If I shall die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take, Amen.”  Awaking from a much-needed rest, David was refreshed, and though his circumstances had not changed, he was confident the LORD was with him (3:5b).

Psalm 3:6-7 –  I will not be afraid [fear; tremble; frighten] of ten thousands of people, that have set [made; lay; fixed] themselves against me round about [on every side; surround]. 7  Arise [Rise up; stand; perform], O LORD; save [deliver; help; rescue; avenge] me, O my God [Elohim; Mighty God]: for thou hast smitten [slay; kill; beat; strike]all mine enemies [foes; adversaries] upon the cheek bone [i.e. or jaw bone]; thou hast broken [shattered; crushed]the teeth of the ungodly [wicked].

Betrayed by his son, and threatened by an enemy who desired to humiliate and destroy him, David asserted his confidence (3:8).

Psalm 3:8 –  Salvation [help; deliverance] belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing [prosperity; generosity] is upon thy people [tribe; flock]. Selah [pause].”

Closing thoughts – We live in a world that has imparted to its children a spirit of entitlement that is deluded and wicked. The “X-Generation” and the “Millenniums” that followed them are like David’s son Absalom—self-consumed, and filled with pride (Romans 1:30-31). They are consumed with the delusion of rights and privileges they have not earned, nor deserved.  They are the epitome of a nation that has denied God.  They boast, having accomplished nothing and are a grief to their parents.

There may be fathers and mothers reading today’s devotional who, in their own circumstance, identify with David’s sorrow.  To face an enemy is sorrow enough, but when that enemy is your own son or daughter, mere words fail to express the grief and anguish of a parent’s broken heart. I do not know the struggles you are facing, but if you know the LORD you can rest in this…He is with you, and answers prayer! The LORD Jehovah, Eternal, Self-Existent, and Mighty God is on your side!

Cry to the LORD, and lay down and sleep, for He will sustain you (3:4-5).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Be sure your sin will find you out!” (2 Samuel 13)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 13

The prophet Nathan had admonished David for his adultery, and warned him that his hands were stained with the blood of Uriah (2 Samuel 12:7-9) saying, “10Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me…Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house” (2 Samuel 12:10-11). David repented of his sins, but only after he was publicly exposed (2 Samuel 12:13). Though the law demanded an adulterer’s death (Leviticus 20:10), the grace of God spared the king’s life (12:13b). Nevertheless, the consequences of David’s sins followed him to his grave.

Nathan had foretold, “by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme” (12:14). The immediate consequence of David’s sin was the death of the child borne by Bathsheba (12:14-15,18a); however, that was but the beginning of the sorrows David would face within his own household.

2 Samuel 13 begins with a familiar expression: “And it came to pass” (13:1).

What God declares will inevitably “come to pass,” and the king would not be able to escape the guilt that his own sins had become a pattern his sons would follow.

Tragic is an apt description of events that are recorded in 2 Samuel 13. We find here incest (Amnon, the eldest son of David entrapped and raped Tamar, his half-sister, who was the sister of Absalom, (13:1-14); murder (for Absalom sought revenge against Amnon, and ordered his servants to kill his brother (13:15-29); and irreconcilable sorrows (for not only was Amnon killed, but Absalom fled from Israel, leaving David to mourn not only the death of his eldest son, but also the loss of Absalom (13:31-39).

Closing thoughts from 2 Samuel 13

Many spiritual lessons are found in today’s Scripture reading. Amnon’s friendship with a crafty man provoked him to inconceivable wickedness. He had failed to put away wicked lusts (for incest is a grievous sin forbidden by the Law, Leviticus 18:9). When he was questioned by his cousin Jonadab, a man described as “a very subtil [crafty]man” (13:3), Amnon verbalized the wickedness in his heart, and thus breached a moral barrier to sin (13:4). You see, it is one thing to regard sin in your thoughts, but another to speak of it. Rather than reprove Amnon, Jonadab enticed him with a wicked plot, that would inevitably defile the virgin, Tamar. When she protested, Amnon raped her, and then “hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her. And Amnon said unto her, Arise, be gone” (13:15). Amnon’s infatuation with his sister was not love, but wicked lust, and her rape was an act of physical violence! There was no remorse in Amnon’s heart, and after stealing his sister’s purtiy, he humiliated her, and had his servants cast her out of his home (13:11-17).

We must not overlook a sad pattern of failure that emerges in David’s life. The king had failed to confront the sins of his household, and I suggest his weakness was a result of his own moral failures. He had sacrificed his moral authority, and was made weaker in his administration of justice.

When he learned that Amnon, his eldest son, had raped his sister, he was furious…but did nothing! (13:21) His failure to act as a loving, caring father, and a righteous judge (for so was his role as king), provoked his son Absalom, to avenge his sister’s honor (13:18-20, 22-29). Two years passed (13:23), and Absalom plotted to slay his brother. Oh what weeping, and sorrow came over David when he learned Amnon was dead (13:31, 36). David’s failure cost him two sons: Amnon was dead, and Absalom was departed (13:37-39).

“Be sure your sin will find you out!” (Numbers 32:23)

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Thou art the man!” (Psalm 51)

Scripture reading – Psalm 51

Psalm 51 is a prayer of brokenness.

Biblical brokenness is contrition of heart, and always involves confession, seeks forgiveness, and offers a plea for restoration.

Psalm 51 introduces us to a man brought low by sin.  David’s adultery with Bathsheba, her conception of his son, and his failed attempt to conceal his sin had led to the death of Uriah the Hittite.  David’s sins were secret no more, and the prophet Nathan’s bold condemnation exposed his depravity before all in his court.

Lord Acton, the late 19th century British historian, made the observation, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Such is true of monarchs, politicians, leaders, teachers, and yes, pastors. The same, however, is also true of men and women who, in their own little fiefdoms, find themselves in roles that go unchecked. David found himself at the pinnacle of success and power, and accountable to no one. Though the words of the prophet, “Thou art the man!”  (2 Samuel 12:7) had humiliated him, they were the words that awakened in the king a godly sorrow to repentance.

Be forewarned: If given the right provocation, the potential of egregious wickedness lies within us all.

When David wrote, “I was shapen in inquity: and in sin did my mother conceive me” (51:5), he acknowledged the nature of sin that is present within us all. A millennium later, the apostle Paul wrote the same, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).

David had maintained his cover of sin for nearly a year, and though in the throes of guilt, he proudly maintained a regal façade, passing judgment on other men’s sins.

One wonders how long David might have continued his charade if God had not commanded his prophet to confront the king.  Remembering oriental monarchs held absolute authority, and the power of life and death rested with them, we appreciate the tenuous position in which Nathan found himself.

The words, “Thou art the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7), echoed in the king’s hall, and resonated in David’s heart.  He cried to the Lord, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness… 2  Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:1-2). David acknowledged that only God can remove the guilt and stains of sin. He confessed his sins, praying, “3  For I acknowledge my transgressions…4  Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight…” (51:3-4a). He was haunted by his guilt, and his sins against Bathsheba and Uriah paled in comparison to his sins against God.

A Petition for Forgiveness and Renewal (51:10-12)

David prayed, “10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me… 12  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (51:10, 12a). He longed for that which God alone could give—not only to be forgiven, but to have his happiness and joy restored.

A Passion for Serving the LORD (51:13-17)

With his sins forgiven, David’s thoughts turned to teaching others the ways of a loving, merciful, just, and holy God (51:13). He prayed for that which only grace might impart: Deliverance from guilt (51:14a), a desire to praise God’s righteousness in song (51:14b), and for the LORD to bless the words of his mouth (51:15). He acknowledged, the LORD does not desire a multitude of sacrifices, but a “broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart” (51:16-17).

Closing thoughts – As king, David found himself insulated from accountability. He had neglected his duties (2 Samuel 11:1), and his moral failure occurred when was alone. He had been too proud to acknowledge, confess his sins, and accept the consequences of his moral failures (2 Samuel 11:6-22). God, however, loved the king, and sent his prophet to confront him, that David might be restored.

Truth – If you are concealing sin, be forewarned: You are living on borrowed time before the consequences of sins catch up with you, and affect your loved ones (Galatians 6:8; Psalm 32:3-4). Won’t you humble yourself before God, confess your sins, knowing He has promised, “whoso confesseth and forsaketh [his sins] shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith