Tag Archives: Flesh

Two Things God Hates: A Covetous Heart and Lying Lips (2 Kings 5-8)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 5-8

Our Scripture reading covers four chapters; however, today’s devotional will focus only on 2 Kings 5.

2 Kings 5

With Elijah’s dramatic departure into the presence of the LORD (2 Kings 2), Elisha became the principal prophet in Israel. Several miracles, including those recorded in 2 Kings 4, validated that Elisha was Elijah’s successor and proved the power of God rested upon him.

The news of God’s anointing upon Elisha reached the household of a man named Naaman, “captain of the host of the king of Syria” (5:1). We read that Naaman “was a great man [noble; but perhaps great in size as well] with his master, and honourable [exalted; respected]…a mighty [heroic; valiant; champion] man in valour [virtuous; strong], but he was a leper” (5:1).

Every man has his flaws and challenges; however, for Naaman his was a physical affliction…leprosy. Apart from a miracle, there was no cure. A leper would eventually face exclusion from the living, as the dreaded disease slowly ate away his face, limbs, and extremities of his body.

Providentially, a slave girl from Israel shared with Naaman’s wife that there was a great prophet in Samaria who could heal her husband (5:2-3).  Hearing there was hope for the captain of his armies to be healed, the king of Syria sent Naaman to Israel with gifts and a letter to the king requesting that his servant might be healed of leprosy (5:4-6).  Knowing the request was an impossible one for him to fulfill, the king of Israel “rent his clothes” fearing the king of Syria was provoking a conflict with Israel (5:7).

When Elisha understood the king of Israel’s distress, he requested that Naaman be sent to his household, assuring the king, “let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel” (5:8). Imagine the drama as Naaman, the great captain of Syria, arrives at Elisha’s house. His plight with leprosy was no doubt visible and this great warrior found his body plagued with a curse that not only stole his dignity, but would inevitably rob him of life.

Rather than the dramatic miracle healing he had hoped, Elisha sent a messenger and commanded Naaman to take a path of humiliation and “Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean” (5:10). Naaman’s response brings to light the fact that Naaman not only had an affliction of the flesh, his soul was also cursed and blinded with another disease…pride.

Naaman was enraged (5:11-12). Instead of some great, ceremonial act of healing, the prophet’s demand that he wash himself in Israel’s small Jordan River (5:9-10) was an affront to the man of Syria. Fortunately, Naaman’s servants prevailed upon him and persuaded their master to obey the prophet.  When Naaman came forth from the Jordan “his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (5:13-14).

Miraculously healed, Naaman offered to reward Elisha for his service; however, the prophet refused his gifts (5:15-16).  Naaman then responded with a moving statement of his faith in the LORD, Jehovah, the Self-existent, Eternal God of Israel, and swore that he would never again offer sacrifices to other gods (5:17-18).

The closing verses of 2 Kings 5 turns the spiritual lens of this passage from Naaman’s dramatic statement of faith to the petty, covetousness of “Gehazi, the servant of Elisha” (5:20). Knowing Elisha had refused Naaman’s reward for healing him of leprosy, Gehazi determined he would not allow the moment to pass without seeking opportunity to enrich himself (5:20-22).

Without Elisha’s knowledge, Gehazi followed after Naaman and when the captain of Syria saw him he halted. Stepping down from his chariot, Naaman greeted Elisha’s servant with a question of shalom, “Is all well?” (5:21). Gehazi responded with shalom, “All is well” (5:22), but then lied by suggesting Elisha had sent him for a portion of the reward. Naaman granted Gehazi’s request who then took and hid the gifts (5:23-24) before returning to Elisha (5:25).

With the keen discernment of a spiritual man, Elisha questioned his servant “whence comest thou” (5:25). Gehazi lied, answering, his master, “Thy servant went no whither” (5:25). Knowing the covetous, disingenuous spirit of Gehazi, Elisha pronounced God’s judgment on his unfaithful servant who was immediately smitten with the leprosy that had plagued Naaman (5:26-27).

There are many spiritual lessons we might take from 2 Kings 5. One is that Naaman’s sinful pride nearly robbed him of not only the physical healing of his body from leprosy, but also the spiritual healing that came to his soul when he believed and confessed, he would only offer sacrifices to the LORD hereafter (5:17).

Another spiritual lesson is the reminder that God hates covetousness and lying lips: Gehazi coveted Naaman’s reward and then lied to Elisha. The consequences of his sins was not only that leprosy would plague him the rest of his life, but his children would also bear the curse of their father’s sins (5:27).

I close being reminded there are seven things the LORD despises and that will invite His judgment (Proverbs 6:16-19).

Proverbs 6:16-19 – “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: 17  A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18  An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19  A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A New Era, A New Prophet: Elisha (2 Kings 1-4)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 1-4

With no introduction, the Book of 2 Kings picks up where 1 Kings ended.  The old prophet Elijah is in the last days of his earthly ministry and his protégé Elisha is prepared to take up his “mantle,” literally and figuratively (2 Kings 2:13). Due to the length of today’s reading, I will focus on a few highlights from each of the four chapters.

2 Kings 1

Israel’s King Ahaziah, the son of Ahab and Jezebel (1:2), reigned two years before he fell through the lattice work of an upper window and suffered what would be a terminal injury (1:2). Wondering if he might recover from the fall, the king sent servants to enquire of the pagan god Baalzebub (1:2).  Yahweh, however, intervened and sent Elijah to confront the king’s messengers.  After reproving the king for sending his servants to enquire of Baalzebub, Elijah announced that a premature death would befall the king (1:3-4).

When his couriers returned, Ahaziah questioned why they had returned so soon (1:5). The messengers then explained how they had met a prophet who rebuked them for turning to Baalzebub and then prophesied the king’s death (1:6).

Distressed, Ahaziah demanded “what manner of man was he which came up to meet you, and told you these words?” (1:7) Hearing the physical description of the prophet, Ahaziah exclaimed, “It is Elijah the Tishbite” (1:8).

Determined to exact revenge on the prophet, the king sent a captain and fifty soldiers to demand that Elijah come to the king. Elijah boldly contested the demands of the wicked king and declared, “If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty” (1:10). A second time, Ahaziah sent a captain and fifty soldiers demanding Elijah come to the king and those men were also consumed when “the fire of God came down from heaven” (1:12). When King Ahaziah sent the third captain and his fifty soldiers to meet Elijah, they came with humility and a reverential fear of the man of God (1:13-14).

Elijah, bearing the power of God on his life and ministry, stood courageously before the king who was laying upon his bed and prophesied, “Forasmuch as thou hast sent messengers to enquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron, is it not because there is no God in Israel to enquire of his word? therefore thou shalt not come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die” (1:16). Ahaziah died and Jehoram, his younger brother, reigned in his stead as King of Israel (1:17).

A brief explanation: You will notice in 1 Kings 1:17 the mention of two men named Jehoram. There was the Jehoram who became the king of Israel after his brother Ahaziah died. Another Jehoram was the son of Jehoshaphat, the godly king who reigned in Judah.

2 Kings 2

2 Kings 2 records the momentous occasion when God sent a fiery chariot to take up Elijah to heaven. Witnessing Elijah’s departure, Elisha was blessed with a double portion of the old prophet’s spirit (2:9-11).

2 Kings 3

Elisha served as God’s prophet before the kings of three nations in 2 Kings 3. The kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom all learned God had a prophet in the land and that prophet was Elisha.

2 Kings 4 – Four miracles performed by Elisha. 

The first miracle, multiplying a widow’s oil to pay her debts and save her sons from becoming bond slaves (4:1-7).  The second miracle, blessing a childless, elderly woman and her husband with a son, as a reward for their serving as Elisha’s benefactors (4:8-17).  Raising that same elderly couples’ son from the dead was Elisha’s third miracle (4:18-37).  The fourth miracle was turning a poison pottage into one that nourished the “sons of the prophets” (4:38-44).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Living Life in A Rearview Mirror (Ecclesiastes 7-12)

Scripture Reading – Ecclesiastes 7-12

Today’s Scripture reading covers the latter half of the book of Ecclesiastes; however, my devotional commentary will focus on the closing chapters, Ecclesiastes 11-12.

While the book of Proverbs chronicles Solomon’s wise instructions for a son that would one day be king, the book of Ecclesiastes reflects the pondering of that same man facing the inevitable close of his earthly life–the frailty of old age and death.

Solomon’s reflections on his earthly sojourn began with the observation, “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). He concludes with the same, “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 12:8).

Empty, vain, unsatisfactory, meaningless, hopeless, and worthless… What a tragic commentary on life from a man born into privilege, power, and wealth!  What might we learn from such a man?  What words of wisdom can we glean from one deemed so wise, with so much to say?

For the sake of brevity, I invite you to consider three exhortations from King Solomon: Rejoice (11:9-10); Remember (12:1); and Revere (12:13-14).

Rejoice in your youth, but know God will be your Judge (11:9-10).

 Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 – Rejoice [Be Glad; Joyful], O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. 10  Therefore remove [depart] sorrow [anger; wrath] from thy heart, and put away [do away; remove] evil [sin; wickedness] from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.

Remember your Creator while you are young (12:1).

Ecclesiastes 12:1 – Remember now [Think of; have respect of] thy Creator in the days [years] of thy youth, while the evil days [adversity; troubles; distresses] come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure [delight; desire] in them;

Revere God, Keep His Commandments and Be Ready for His Judgment (12:13-14).

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 – Let us hear [Listen; obey; publish] the conclusion [end] of the whole matter [account; speaking]Fear [Revere] God, and keep [observe] His commandments [Laws; Precepts]: for this is the whole duty [purpose] of man.
14  For God shall bring every work [act; deed] into judgment, with every secret thing [hidden; concealed], whether it be good [right], or whether it be evil [sin; wickedness].

Vanity of vanities; what a tragic summary of a man’s life if his life is empty and meaningless!

To his credit, Solomon was not silent regarding the sorrows and joys of this life. He warned and exhorted the generations that would follow… Rejoice in your youth…Remember your Creator and His Commandments…and Revere the LORD knowing He will “bring every work into judgment” (12:14).

A closing exhortation to youthful readers: Adopt spiritual principles that will guide you to paths of righteousness, and avoid the ways of the foolish who squander their lives in sinful dissipations that leave them with sorrows and regrets.

Enjoy your youth, but remember your Creator for “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Wisdom’s Appeal to Sinners (Proverbs 7-9)

Scripture Reading – Proverbs 7-9

We are continuing our daily reading in the Proverbs of Solomon with Proverbs 7-9 being the subject of today’s devotional commentary.

Proverbs 7 – The Calamity of Sexual Immorality

“Thou shalt not commit adultery,” the Seventh Commandment, states clearly God’s plan for humanity’s sexuality and the posterity of the human race.  From the beginning, the companionship of one man and one woman for life has never been in doubt (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:18, 20-25).

Human history, however, reveals not only a rejection of marriage, but also the tragic toll of sexual immorality. Crushed dreams, divided hearts, broken families, physical disease, and despair has been the haunt of all who reject the sanctity of marriage. The lesson is indisputable:

Give rein to lusts that cannot be righteously satisfied and you will be consumed by them.

Proverbs 7 serves as a graphic tale of a young man’s folly. Whether a personal observation of the sorrows that followed in the wake of his father’s adultery or a consequence of his own sinful choices, Solomon gives us a portrait that serves as a warning to all who reject godly wisdom and choose the path of immorality. The king warned his son, the house of an adulterer is “the way to hell” (7:27).

Proverbs 8 – Wisdom Anthropomorphized

My theme for Proverbs 8 is expressed in a word consisting of seventeen letters and five syllables. What is the definition of anthropomorphized? It means to take on human characteristics. Wisdom does that in Proverbs 8, and is in my interpretation, the embodiment of the pre-incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Solomon introduces us to Wisdom in the first three verses of the chapter (8:1-3), and then she (Wisdom) begins to speak throughout the balance of the chapter (8:4-36). You will notice the personification of Wisdom expressed in personal pronouns throughout Proverbs 8.

Proverbs 8:4 – “Unto you, O men, I call.”

Proverbs 8:7 – “My mouth shall speak truth.”

Proverbs 8:12 – “I wisdom dwell with prudence.”

Proverbs 8:17 – “I love them that love me: and those that seek me early shall find me.”

Proverbs 8:34 – “Blessed is the man that heareth me.”

Proverbs 8 concludes with wisdom’s invitation and warning:

Proverbs 8:35-36  For whoso findeth me [Wisdom personified in Jesus Christ] findeth life [spiritual and eternal life – 1 John 5:11], and shall obtain [get] favour [acceptance; good pleasure; goodwill] of the LORD. 36 But he that against me [Christ the Lord] wrongeth [violates] his own soul [life; person; mind; spirit]: all they that hate [to reject; are enemies or foes] me [wisdom] love death [pestilence; ruin; hades].”

Proverbs 9 – Wisdom’s Invitation

Solomon continues his personification of Wisdom in chapter 9 and we find her building a house described as having “seven pillars” (9:1). [In the Scriptures the number seven indicates completeness or wholeness.]

Consider this chapter as an offering of two spiritual scholarships to two opposing schools of thought and philosophy.

The first scholarship is to the University of Godly Wisdom (Proverbs 9:1-6) and the second to the School of Folly (Proverbs 9:13-18). You will notice that Proverbs 9:7-12 serve as transitional verses between the two schools.

As you read Proverbs 9, ponder this question: In what school of thought or philosophy are you enrolled?

Are you enrolled in the University of Godly Wisdom? Are you a student in the School of Folly where gullible, simple men dwell?  [The “simple” are those who lack godly wisdom, are slaves to sin, and follow a course of sorrow, destruction, and eventual death.]

It is not too late to become a student in the LORD’S University of Godly Wisdom by humbling yourself and accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior. Christ taught His followers, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst… All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:35, 37).

I invite you, enroll in the University of Godly Wisdom without delay by opening your heart to the Lord.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Ever Wonder, “What If Things Were Different?” (2 Samuel 13-15)

Daily reading assignment: 2 Samuel 13-15

We begin with some background to today’s Scripture reading. While we do not know the extent to which David’s adultery was known in the palace (2 Samuel 11), we do know his sin with Bathsheba was no secret. In fact, one of David’s servants questioned the king, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” (2 Samuel 11:3)

That servant’s enquiry gave opportunity for David to reassess his mood, but the king was unwilling to entertain the servant’s probing suspicion. Dismissing the servant’s convicting question, the king refused to cease from his unlawful behavior.

There was someone else who had knowledge of David’s descent into wickedness. Joab, the commander of David’s army, received the king’s order to place Uriah in the heat of the battle and then withdraw leaving him exposed to the enemy (11:14-15).

Joab was no man’s fool. Though He obeyed David’s orders, he no doubt wondered the king’s motive for betraying Uriah (11:17-24). Joab was faithful to his king, but he did not forget David’s sin and would one day defy him when he chose Solomon to succeed him as king (1 Kings 2:28-29).

While having confessed and repented of his sins, David could not escape the consequences of his choices. Though his sins were forgiven, their effects would haunt him through the lives of his children.

2 Samuel 13 – Consequences of David’s Sin and the Fulfillment of Nathan’s Prophecy

Remembering Nathan’s prophecy as our context, “the sword shall never depart from thine house” (2 Samuel 12:10), we begin to see the far-reaching consequences of David’s sins. Death and sorrow would become the haunt of David’s family.

Remembering the sins of a father are suffered to the third and fourth generations (Exodus 20:5), we find Amnon, the king’s firstborn son, dallying in sexual lusts. Tragically, the object of the prince’s depraved cravings was Tamar, his half-sister and the sister of Absalom (2 Samuel 13:1-2).

Consumed with sexual passions, Amnon confessed to Jonadab, a cunning friend and his cousin, his forbidden lusts for his half-sister (13:3-4). Rather than dissuade him, Jonadab encouraged Amnon with a plan to entrap Tamar and give him an opportunity to lie with her (13:5-14).

Tamar, a virgin daughter of the king, protested her brother’s attempts, but Amnon “would not hearken unto her voice: but, being stronger than she, forced her, and lay with her” (13:14).

Like all crimes of passion, Amnon’s “love” proved to be no more than vile, unbridled lust. After he had robbed Tamar of her purity, he rejected her, ordering his servants, “Put now this woman out from me, and bolt the door after her” (13:17). Notice “woman” is in italics and was added by editors. In fact, Amnon said, “Put now this woman out from me” (13:17), treating Tamar with contempt.

Her innocence stolen by her brother and no longer named among the king’s virgin daughters, “Tamar put ashes on her head, and rent her garment of divers colours [royal robes worn by the king’s daughters]…and laid her hand on her head, and went on crying” (13:18-19).

Hearing the wickedness committed by Amnon against his half-sister, Absalom, David’s thirdborn son and Tamar’s brother, determined to seek revenge for the disgrace she had suffered (13:20, 22).

On a personal note, I believe David’s moral failures were the cause for his impotent response to the news of his daughter’s rape (13:21). When he realized Amnon would face no consequences for raping his sister, Absalom plotted to avenge her and ordered his servants to kill his half-brother, Amnon (13:28-29).

With Amnon dead, Absalom fled to Geshur, the realm ruled by his maternal grandfather (13:37). David mourned the death of Amnon and the heartbreak that had befallen his household (13:37). While Absalom lived in Geshur for three years, David longed for his son’s return (13:39).

I will pick up our study of the conflicts and sorrows in David’s household on a later date. I close will a brief highlight of the balance of today’s scripture.

2 Samuel 14-15 – Absalom Returns to Jerusalem, But is Snubbed By His Father, and Leads a Coup.

2 Samuel 14 concludes with David being persuaded to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem (14:1-14). Joab contrived a fictional tale of a woman that David discerned was meant to induce him to send for his son Absalom (14:15-20).

David made the fateful decision to allow Absalom to return to Jerusalem; however, the king’s refusal to receive him embittered his son (14:24).

Bent on vengeance, Absalom encouraged and entertained the affections of the people (14:25-27), plotted the overthrow of his father’s throne (15:1-12), and eventually led a coup to become Israel’s king (15:13-37).

Several “What if’s” come to mind as I close today’s commentary:

What if David had heeded his servant’s probing question, “Is Bathsheba Uriah’s wife?”

What if David’s children had recognized the awful consequences of their father’s sins and chosen righteousness?

What if Amnon had a godly friend, instead of a crafty partner in sin? What if he had the kind of friend who would speak the truth (Ephesians 4:15)? The kind of friend who defines your sinful thoughts and affections for what they are, wicked and vile!

What if David had responded to the news of Tamar’s rape by not only becoming angry, but passing judgment on his son’s horrific, incestuous sin?

What if David had pursued Absalom and demanded justice for the murder of Amnon?

I wonder: Are there some “what if’s” that haunt your life? What if you humbled yourself and confessed your sins? What if you went to a loved one and asked forgiveness for your deceitful ways? What if you began to speak the truth in love and put away lies?

What if?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

How Far Will You Go? (2 Samuel 11-12; 1 Chronicles 20)

Daily reading assignment: 2 Samuel 11-12; 1 Chronicles 20

2 Samuel 11 – “And it came to pass, after the year was expired”

The opening phrase of today’s Scripture (11:1) appears contradictory to the enormity of events that were about to unfold in David’s life. His choices and consequences would forever change his future.

“Came to pass” is an apt description of the passing of life. No one knows what a day may bring forth, but each day presents us with an array of choices and their consequences that inevitably leave their mark on our existence.

If it were possible, we would readily strike this tragic moment from David’s life. What sin! What sorrow! But 2 Samuel 11 is a startling reminder to each one of us, of who we might become if we fail to consciously abide in the presence of the LORD and remember He sees and knows all.

We have followed the king from his humble start as a youthful shepherd, rejoiced when he slew the Philistine giant, and sensed Israel’s great future when the prophet Samuel anointed him to be that nation’s next king.

We have been with David when he took to flight from King Saul and hid in the caves of the wilderness. We followed his transition from boyhood to manhood. We rejoiced with his string of victories in 2 Samuel 10 as the fugitive of Israel became that nation’s warrior king, for “the LORD preserved David whithersoever he went” (1 Chronicles 18:13b).

All Israel celebrated David’s conquests in 2 Samuel 10; however, 2 Samuel 11 introduces an observation that is sadly, a forewarning of tragedy about to befall David. We read, “at the time when kings go forth to battle…David tarried still at Jerusalem” (11:1).

David is at least fifty years old and has faithfully served as king for twenty years.  His name has been a common household word in Israel since slaying Goliath, and his exploits on the battlefield inspired songs that celebrated his valor (1 Samuel 18:7). David, however, was but a man. We should take a lesson from his life that will serve as a warning to all:

Grave consequences inevitably befall the man who underestimates the sinful bent of his nature (Psalm 51:5).

Disobeying the law (Deuteronomy 17:16-17), David had given rein to the pleasures of the flesh and taken to himself “more concubines and wives” (2 Samuel 5:13). He had foolishly indulged in carnal pleasures and neglected his duty to the nation.

David was at the pinnacle of his success, enjoying God’s blessings, and Israel was strong and prosperous. However, we find David lounging on his bed when he should have been with his men on the battlefield (11:2).

The king’s idleness and lack of accountability became the catalyst for a tragic series of wicked decisions that would forever scar his life, family, and reign (2 Samuel 11:3-15).

How far will a “man after God’s own heart” fall?

Lust, adultery, deceit, guile and murder were sins that haunted David to his grave.  The consequences of his sins that passed to his family, servants and Israel were incalculable. Guilt, shame and eventually humiliation, would shadow David to his grave. We read:

“The thing that David had done displeased the LORD” (11:27).

David attempted to maintain a facade of routine for nearly a year as he sat on his throne conducting the affairs of state.  On the outside, things might have appeared as usual; however, David was conscious of God’s displeasure and would later write:

Psalm 32:3-4 – “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.  [4]For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.”

2 Samuel 12 – “The LORD sent Nathan unto David” (12:1a).

In His timing, God sent a man of courage and integrity to speak to the king. Evidencing both wisdom and caution, the prophet Nathan approached David with a story that contrasted a rich man’s abuse of a poor man (12:1-6). Intrigued by the story and incited to anger, David passed sentence against the rich man, proclaiming, “As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: 6 And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity” (12:5b-6).

Having pronounced sentence, David and his attendants fell silent when Nathan raised his voice and boldly confronted the king, saying, “Thou art the man” (12:7).

David’s heart was smitten with conviction for he was indeed the man: adulterer; murderer; hypocrite and a wretched, miserable soul (12:8-12). His heart was convicted, and his proud, hypocritical façade crushed (12:13). David realized the sorrow his sin would bring on his family (12:15-17).  The king prayed,

Psalm 51:3-4For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.  [4] Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

I close inviting you to turn the spotlight of truth and focus it on your heart and life. 

First, a warning: Realize the danger of idleness and the tragedy when one trifles with sin and temptation. I challenge you, “Flee also youthful lusts” before it is too late (2 Timothy 2:22)!

Second, a reminder: Solomon warned his son, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper” (Proverbs 28:13a).  When it comes to sin, the question is not “if,” but “when” the consequences of secret sins will befall you.

Third, a blessed promise: “Whoso confesseth [sins] and forsaketh them [sins] shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13b).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Sin Will Rob You of Everything You Hold Dear. (1 Samuel 28-31)

Daily reading assignment: 1 Samuel 28-31

Knowing Saul was bent on killing him, David and his warriors had withdrawn from Israel and for sixteen months lived among the Philistines (27:8-11). Having earned the trust of Achish, king of the Philistines, David and his men prospered. Indeed, the opening verses of 1 Samuel 28 finds David being invited by Achish to go to battle with the Philistines against Israel (28:1-2).

1 Samuel 28 – A Portrait of Desperation

(c) Paintings Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Samuel is dead and Saul and all Israel lament his passing (28:3). Having put away some of the evil present in the land, Saul sees the armies of the Philistines gathered against Israel. Out of fear and desperation, Saul made a pretense of seeking the LORD (28:4-6); however, heaven was silent.

The king had rejected the LORD, and now the LORD rejected him. “The LORD answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim (meaning the high priest), nor by prophets” (28:6).

Desperate and seeking a revelation for the battle he would soon face, Saul disguised himself and reverted back to the practice of divination, the practice he had just recently put out of the land. Saul sought the counsel of a witch (28:7-10; Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:31). Asked whom he was seeking, Saul requested Samuel be called from the dead (28:11). When Samuel’s visage appeared the witch realized her guest was the king (28:12).

Saul confessed, “God is departed from me, and answereth me no more” (28:15). Rather than give hope, Samuel warned the battle that would follow would bring the death of Saul and his sons, and the throne of Israel would pass to David (28:17-18). Saul learned the tragic consequences of his sins for himself, his sons, and the nation.

1 Samuel 28:19Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.

Terrified, Saul “fell straightway all along on the earth” (28:20).

1 Samuel 29 – A Providential Dismissal from Battle

Unlike King Achish, the princes of the Philistines did not trust that David would war against Israel and demanded he and his men be removed from the battle lest they turn their swords against them (29:1-5).

Achish yielded to his leaders’ demands and dismissed David and his men (29:6-7).  David pretended to protest his dismissal from the battle (29:8) and retreated from the field early in the morning (29:11).

1 Samuel 30 – Tragedy in Ziklag

After a three days journey to their homes in Ziklag, David and his men found the Amalekites had attacked their city, destroying their homes by fire and taking their wives, sons, and daughters captive (30:1-4). Overcome with grief, the hearts of David’s men were stirred to revenge, and some would have stoned him (30:6a).

How did David respond? Like a man after God’s own heart: “David encouraged himself in the LORD his God” and “enquired at the LORD” (30:6, 8).  Learning where the Amalekites had taken their loved ones (30:9-16), God answered David’s prayer and restored to him and his men their families and possessions (30:17-20).

1 Samuel 31 – The King is Dead!

One might feel compassion for Saul in the latter years of his life and reign.  The king was old, and the strength and vitality of his youth had faded.  He had made David, the man who had served him faithfully, his enemy. Saul was haunted by the knowledge the LORD was no longer with him (28:6).

On the next day, the battle went against Israel, and Saul received word his sons were dead and the army was in disarray (31:1-2).  Having suffered a mortal wound from an arrow, Saul commanded his armor bearer to slay him, but his servant refused.  Realizing he would soon fall into the hands of his enemy, Saul fell upon his own sword (31:3-4).  Adding to his ignoble death, when Saul’s body was discovered on the battlefield, the Philistines cut off his head, stripped his body of his armor, and “put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth: and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan” (31:10; 1 Chronicles 10:8-10).

Sin and disobedience cost Saul everything. He lost his army (31:1), his sons (31:2), his life (31:3-4), and his honor (31:9-10).

Numbers 32:23 warns: “Your sin will find you out” and James concludes, when it is finished, brings forth death (James 1:15b).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Minimizing the Sinful Character of An Enemy is Not Only Foolish, It is Dangerous. (Psalm 56, 120, 140-142)

Scripture reading assignment – Psalm 56, 120, 140-142

Psalms 120

Our scripture reading today is taken from a section of fifteen psalms, Psalms 120-134, titled “A Song of Degrees”.  The designation “degrees” might refer to one’s elevation or ascent to higher ground and the psalms in this section are believed by some to have been sung by priests ascending the steps to the Temple.

The author of Psalm 120 is believed to be King David and was written as a reflection on a time of trouble and affliction.   The title of Psalm 120 in by Bible is, “David prays against Doeg and reproves his tongue.”  Who was this Doeg and why did he cause David such distress?

We first met “Doeg the Edomite” (1 Samuel 21:7) when he overheard David’s request for bread from Ahimelech, the high priest (21:3-6). Doeg, identified as “a certain man of the servants of Saul” (1 Samuel 21:7), soon after conveyed the news of Ahimelech’s aid as the act of a traitor against the king.  When Saul’s soldiers refused to attack the priests, Doeg rose up and slew eighty-five priests in a brutal act of vengeance (22:16-18).

With that as our background, we understand when David writes, “In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and He heard me” (Psalm 120:1).

David was downcast when he learned the fate of Ahimelech and the priests who had given him bread. Doeg perpetuated the lie that David was Saul’s enemy. David prayed for the LORD to deliver him from his enemies (120:2) and wondered what would become of his enemy (120:3).

David longed for peace, but confessed those who sought him were bent to mischief and hated peace (120:3-7).

Minimizing the Evil Character of An Enemy is Not Only Foolish, It Is Dangerous.  (Psalms 140-142)

Psalm 140 is thought to be the occasion when David fled from the presence of King Saul and was a fugitive in the wilderness.  Scholars believe David penned Psalm 141 when his son Absalom rebelled and forced him to flee Jerusalem.  The circumstance of Psalm 142, is uncertain; however, its message is clear; whenever David faced troubles and the threats of enemies, the first thing he did was pray (Psalm 142:1).

Psalm 140 – Know Your Enemy

David prays, “Deliver me, O LORD, from the evil man” (140:1).

David not only knew his enemy, he defined the character of his enemy: “evil, violent, wicked, and proud.”

Psalm 140:1 – Deliver me, O LORD, from the evil man [wicked; immoral]: preserve me from the violent man [unjust; cruel; malicious];

Psalm 140:2 – Which imagine [devise; plot; purpose] mischiefs [evil; wickedness] in their heart; continually [always; daily] are they gathered together [assembled] for war [battle; fighting].

Psalm 140:3 – They have sharpened [pierced] their tongues [talk; speech] like a serpent; adders’ [viper] poison [fury; wrath; rage; indignation] is under their lips. Selah.

Psalm 140:4 – Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from the violentman; who have purposed [devised; plotted] to overthrow [cast down; i.e. with intent to harm; to drive away] my goings [steps].

Psalm 140:5 – The proud [arrogant] have hid a snare [trap] for me, and cords [a noose]; they have spread a net [i.e. a trap for catching animals] by the wayside; they have set gins [traps] for me. Selah.

David did not make the mistake of some who underestimate their enemy’s malicious ways and evil intent.  He understood his enemies were ever scheming, plotting, fighting, and threatening. He knew they would not tire in their attacks until they realized their objective…to see David overthrown and destroyed.

David’s portrayal of his enemies might shock us in today’s world; however, it should not. Underestimating the evil designs and influence of a foe can prove catastrophic.

I fear there is a naiveté regarding the depths of depravity in the hearts of sinful men. Living in a society set upon political correctness at the rejection of moral absolutes, has produced a reticence among preachers and believers when it comes to identifying and confronting the sins of our nation.

David reminds us it is not enough to know the enemies of the LORD and His people. We must identify what manner of people they are…evil, wicked, violent, and proud (140:1-5).

Paul’s challenge to Timothy from his prison cell in Rome should be our mandate:

2 Timothy 4:2, 5 – Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine…5  But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD is God and There is None Other! (1 Samuel 15-17)

Daily reading assignment: 1 Samuel 15-17

1 Samuel 15 – “To Obey is Better Than Sacrifice”

The LORD directed Samuel to go to King Saul and command him to lead Israel to war with the Amalekites, revenging how that nation had attacked His people when they “came up from Egypt” (15:2; Exodus 17:8-14). Saul’s marching orders were nothing short of the complete annihilation of Amalek. He was not to spare one “man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (15:3).

Saul’s army, now two hundred thousand strong (15:4), experienced a glorious victory over the Amalekites. Saul, however, disobeyed the LORD’s command and spared Agag, the Amalekite king, and the best of the livestock (15:9).  We read the king spared “all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them” (15:9).

Saul’s act of disobedience and his foolish attempt to hide his sin by lies and blame shifting (15:12-15) bring us to a spiritual principle that should be seeded in the heart of every believer:

1 Samuel 15:22-23 – “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 23  For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is asiniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”

1 Samuel 15 closes with a miserable portrait of the disastrous consequences of disobedience and rebellion.  Saul had disobeyed the LORD’s command, and now the LORD rejected him from being king (15:23).  Even in confessing he had sinned, he refused to humble his arrogant heart and accept unqualified responsibility for his wicked choices (15:24).

Making a pretense of spiritual piety, Saul asked Samuel to “turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD” (15:25). When Samuel refused, the king forcibly grasped the prophet’s upper robe, renting it in two (15:26-27). Provoked by Saul’s desperation, Samuel rebuked the king and prophesied his throne had been given “to a neighbor of thine, that is better than thou” (15:28).

Reminding us the LORD is longsuffering, but His justice is not to be trifled with, Samuel prophesied, “the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent” (15:29).

1 Samuel 15 ends on a tragic note when we read, “Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death; nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel” (15:35).

1 Samuel 16 – The Lord has Chosen a New King

Although he would reign for several more years, we find King Saul was a miserable soul, conscious the LORD had withdrawn His blessing from him as Israel’s king.

The LORD stirred up Samuel’s spirit, asking the prophet, “How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel?” (16:1a) He had genuinely mourned what had befallen Saul; however, the nation needed to look forward, and God informed Samuel He had chosen Israel’s new king (16:1c).

What a touching, but sad commentary on Samuel’s strained relationship with the king.  While the prophet mourned Saul’s ruin, he also feared the king would kill him should they cross paths (16:2).

Unlike Saul, whose physical presence impressed the people, God would choose a man not based on outward appearance, but rather, on his heart and love for the LORD. The youngest son of Jesse, and the shepherd of his father’s sheep (16:6-11). David is the man whom God chose to lead Israel (16:12). Taking a “horn of oil,” Samuel anointed David to be king in the presence of his father and brothers (16:13).

Now the Spirit of the Lord left Saul, and the spiritual emptiness of his soul was filled with “an evil spirit” (16:14) that continually troubled and saddened him. Realizing the healing powers of soothing music, Saul’s servants counseled him to seek a skillful musician to play the harp and calm his spirit (16:15-17).

God providentially orchestrated that David, the LORD’S anointed, would be the musician (16:18-19).  The stage was providentially set by the LORD for David, a mere shepherd boy, to be schooled in government and the role of a king (16:20-23)!

1 Samuel 17 – From Court Musician to a National Hero

We find the Philistines’ great army arrayed against Israel in 1 Samuel 17.

Israel’s king was sullen, and the nation was terrified. The people had lost confidence in Saul. Unlike the man he had been, the king showed no initiative to face the Philistines, let alone Goliath, the giant warrior of Gath (17:3-7).

There is much drama in this well-known story that pits a giant adversary against a shepherd boy whose faith in the LORD was greater than the enemy he faced. David’s success before all Israel would in God’s sovereign plan move a shepherd boy from court musician to a household name in Israel.

I leave you with a thought: When you face giants (and we all do), the important thing is not the size of your enemy, but the strength of your faith and confidence in God.

The LORD is greater than all your giants!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

When the Wrath of God Falls Upon His Servants (1 Samuel 1-3)

Daily reading assignment: 1 Samuel 1-3

Our “Chronological Read-thru the Bible” schedule brings us to 1 Samuel.  The history, personalities, and principles found in 1 Samuel are too rich to summarize in brief devotional commentaries, but, that is my challenge.  Please do not rush your reading or overlook the treasure trove of spiritual truths found in 1 Samuel 1-3.

1 Samuel 1 – Several historic names come to the forefront in our introductory reading.

Elkanah (1:1), whose lineage was Levite through Kohath a son of Levi.  Elkanah had two wives (1:2): Peninnah, who had given him several sons and daughters, and his favored wife Hannah, who was barren (1:2-8).

Hannah was the object of abuse from Peninnah and she grieved her barrenness (1:7-8). Every year at the time of their pilgrimage to Shiloh where the Tabernacle was located, Hannah prayed with tears asking the LORD to give her a son, promising to dedicate him to the LORD and consecrate him as a Nazarite (1:9-11).

The LORD heard and answered Hannah’s prayers (1:19), and she gave birth to a son she named Samuel, meaning “heard of God” (1:20). I am sure there are mothers reading today’s scripture whose hearts resonate with Hannah’s when she prays:

1 Samuel 1:27-28 – “For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him: 28  Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD…”

1 Samuel 2 – From Joy to Tragedy

Hannah broke into a song of praise and thanksgiving (2:1-10) after dedicating Samuel to the LORD.  Scholars suggest he was three years old when she left him to serve in the Tabernacle at Shiloh, while she and Elkanah went home to Ramah.  There the LORD remembered Hannah’s sacrifice and honored her with “three sons and two daughters,” in addition to Samuel (2:21).

1 Samuel 2:12-17 takes on an ominous tone, and I wonder if Hannah did not struggle entrusting Samuel to Eli’s care. Eli, who was high priest and judge in Israel, had two sons serving as priests, Hophni and Phinehas. We read, they “were sons of Belial [lit. wickedness; worthless; ungodly]; they knew not the LORD” (2:12). Those sons were notoriously wicked and abused their priestly office, not only provoking the people who brought sacrifices (2:12-17), but inviting God’s judgment on their father and his lineage (2:22-36).

Old is No Excuse (2:22-36)

Don’t dismiss the mutual burden Eli shared with his sons and their wickedness as priests. Some might argue, “Eli was very old, and we should not be hard on the man” (2:22). Such was not the case in the LORD’S judgment.

Eli was aware of the sins committed by his sons (2:22-23) and his weak, emasculated rebuke of them was not only despicable, it was tragic (2:23-24). No wonder we read of his sons, they “hearkened not unto the voice of their father” (2:25). They had no fear of God and no respect for their father.

Here is a spiritual lesson leaders and board members of churches and institutions should heed before it is too late.

Eli compromised the priesthood by failing to rebuke and restrain his sons’ wickedness. Is that not the sin that is haunting ministries in our day? Might it be the spiritual decline of our churches, schools, and Bible colleges has its roots in the same failures we observe in Eli?

Warning: Spiritual leaders may be tempted to sacrifice the spiritual integrity of their institutions as an accommodation of their own children’s sins.

The LORD set Himself against Eli for his failure as a father and high priest.  He determined to slay Eli’s sons because Eli had honored his sons above the LORD (2:29). Eli was told his household would be disgraced (2:30) and his sons would die before they were old, and on the same day (2:32, 34).

1 Samuel 3“Speak, For Thy Servant Heareth” (3:10)

Never to leave His people in want, God was preparing Samuel to be His servant (2:26; 3:1a). Still in his youth, Samuel’s heart was tender, and when the LORD called him he was ready to hear and obey (3:1-10).

The first revelation to Samuel is distressing. God revealed His judgment on Eli and his sons would cause Israel to tremble (3:11).  Because he had known the wickedness committed by his sons in the priesthood and had failed to restrain them (3:12-13), Eli had been warned God’s judgment would not be satisfied until his lineage was cut off forever (3:14).

The next morning, Eli asked Samuel, “What is the thing that the LORD hath said unto thee?” (3:17) Samuel told him everything, and Eli resigned himself to God’s judgment, saying, “It is the LORD: let Him do what seemeth Him good” (3:18).

1 Samuel 3 concludes reminding us that God honors and rewards faithfulness to His Word (3:19-21).

1 Samuel 3:19 – “And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and did let none of His words [words and instructions of the LORD] fall to the ground [perish or be despised].”

The LORD was once again present in Shiloh, “for the LORD revealed Himself to Samuel” (3:21).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith