Tag Archives: Friendship

“There Are Some Things Money Can’t Buy, for They Are More Precious Than Gold” (Proverbs 19-21)

Scripture Reading – Proverbs 19-21

Today’s Scripture reading challenges me with an impossible task: How to choose one or two proverbs when the chapters assigned are too rich to mine in a year, let alone, in one daily devotional! Today’s commentary will focus on Proverbs 19:3-4 and I pray its application will be a blessing.

Proverbs 19:3-4 offers us insight into the heart and mind a foolish person. Solomon observes two characteristics of a fool [one who is silly and whose path is folly].

Proverbs 19:3 “The foolishness [silliness; folly] of man perverteth [distorts; overthrow] his way [journey]: and his heart [mind; thoughts; seat of his feelings] fretteth [rage; be troubled] against the LORD.”

The fool has a distorted view of life. His heart, thoughts and emotions rage against the LORD [Jehovah—Eternal God; Self-existent God]. He is double minded (James 1:84:8), denying His Creator in his heart and thoughts (Psalm 14:1), while blaming God and others for his woes.

A second parable offers a lesson in friendship—contrasting the rich and the poor.

Proverbs 19:4  “Wealth [riches; possessions] maketh [adds to; increases] many friends [companions]; but the poor [needy; helpless] is separated [scattered; dispersed] from his neighbour [companion; friend].”

“Wealth maketh many friends” and Solomon warns his son that riches and possessions are like magnets. Though wealth buys friends, they often prove to be temperamental, shallow friends. Friends whose aspirations are self-centered and motivated by what they hope to gain.

Poverty is not inviting and economic failure often breeds loneliness. While fair weather “friends” flatter the rich, the poor find themselves the bane of society and “separated from [their] neighbor.” The poor often find they are lonely and rejected by their friends and family.

The parable of the Prodigal son comes to mind when I ponder Proverbs 19:3-4.

The Prodigal was a proud, disobedient, rebellious son (Luke 15:11-32). Setting his heart on the world and its lascivious ways, he despised his father, demanded his inheritance and left home (Luke 15:12-13).

For a season he was the life of the party until he had wasted all his father had given him (Luke 15:13b-14). With no money, friends or hope—the prodigal found himself impoverished and estranged from his father and God (Luke 15:14-16).

Financially destitute and spiritually broken, a longing arose within the heart of the prodigal to return to his father’s house (Luke 15:15-19). Drawing near to home, the prodigal greeted his father with a confession of sin and unworthiness, but his father greeted him with grace, love, and forgiveness (Luke 15:20-24).

Lesson – There are some things money cannot buy, for they are too precious to affix a price.

Money cannot buy GRACE, for it is a gift that is GIVEN. Money cannot buy LOVE, for biblical love calls for an act of self-sacrifice. Money cannot buy FORGIVENESS, for it is imparted as an act of freewill.

If your life is graced by a friend whose love is enduring, matchless and true, you are blessed! For believers, such a friend is Jesus Christ whose love for sinners held Him to the cross as He died for the sins of the world.

Bad News: The gift of forgiveness and salvation exceeds more than all the world can afford.

Good News: Salvation is freely given to any who call upon the LORD to be saved.

Romans 5:8-9 – “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Biblical Perspective on Class Envy and Friendships (Proverbs 13-15)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 13-15

Our study of King Solomon and the wisdom he expressed in his proverbs continues with today’s Scripture reading, Proverbs 13-15. Our devotional commentary will consider two proverbs from Proverbs 13 that are taken from my devotions posted at www.HeartofAShepherd.com. As a reminder, brackets are used by this author to amplify meanings and definitions.

 “A Biblical Perspective on the Cause of Class Envy” (Proverbs 13:4)

Proverbs 13:4  “The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.”

Honest hard labor has fallen out of favor in our nation.  Rather than encouraging employees to give employers an equal measure of labor for wages paid, politicians and socialists provoke class envy asserting the “working class” is oppressed. Proverbs 13:4 reminds us that nothing has changed about the heart of an indolent man when it comes to fruit for his labor. His lot is to always be in want.

Proverbs 13:4 – “The soul [mind; heart; appetite] of the sluggard desireth [craves], and hath nothing [lazy, foolish men are never satisfied]: but the soul [mind; heart; appetite] of the diligent [one who acts decisively] shall be made fat [be satisfied].”

Notice the sluggard (lazy) desires and craves what others afford only through labor.  He wants the same things, but he is too indolent to work and save to satisfy his passions. He “hath nothing” and becomes a burden to his family and society.

The contrast to the sluggard is the diligent man.  The diligent man is by definition, decisive and quick to act.  He is industrious, using his time, talents and resources wisely. While the sluggard is left wanting, the hardworking are made fat, satisfied and content with the fruits of their labor.

If your parents imparted to you the discipline of hard work in your youth—thank them!  They have given you a gift that has shaped your life and character in a way you will only appreciate when you are older.

“A Friend’s Character Will Either be a Blessing or a Curse” (Proverbs 13:20)

The theme of Proverbs 13:20 is Influence [the sway or effect one has on another]. Notice the truth Solomon imparts regarding the influence of friendships:

Proverbs 13:20 – “He that walketh with [befriends; is a companion of] wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”

Every good parent will be concerned and vigilant about the friends and influences in their son or daughter’s life. Why? The power and responsibility to influence others is a fact we all share!  People influence us Verbally by what they say or communicate [examples–letters, emails, social media].  In addition, a friend’s Actions and Attitudes have an influence on us.

Too few parents are willing to accept the responsibility of examining honestly their child’s friendships and understanding that friends have a powerful influence on a child’s character and ultimate destiny.

Solomon’s proverb is direct: A wise man will seek the company of likeminded men–those who evidence wisdom and discernment; however, a “companion of fools shall be destroyed” [the picture drawn by the word “companion” is of cattle that graze together. Ever notice how a herd of cattle grazing in a large pasture stand together, often feeding in the same direction?].

The apostle Paul warned believers in Corinth: “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners (1 Corinthians 15:33).

The word “communications” can also be translated “companions”; the word “manners” can be translated “morals”. Literally, don’t be misled: wicked, sinful friends will defile one’s moral judgment [i.e. spiritual discernment; the ability to discern right and wrong].

Lesson – The character of one’s friendships is a mirror of one’s own character. 

Friendships have the power to edify or destroy. If you run with fools, you are a fool! If you choose the company of those who have godly wisdom and discernment, they will influence you to be the same.

Reflect on the people who bear influence upon your life, thoughts and values. Are your friends spiritually minded men and women? Is their influence edifying? Do your friends strengthen you spiritually?  Are you under sound Biblical exposition and influenced by godly relationships?

Psalms 1:1 – “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”

Copyright – Travis D. Smith

Long Live the King! (2 Samuel 8-9; 1 Chronicles 18)

Scripture Reading – 2 Samuel 8-9; 1 Chronicles 18

You will notice a parallel in today’s scripture readings from 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles. 1 Chronicles 18 is a straightforward, unembellished record of David’s victories as king. 2 Samuel 8-9 gives us historical facts that paint a moving portrait of a godly king.

2 Samuel 8 – David’s Success and Victories as King

If a boy in Israel was looking for a hero, he would need to look no further than King David. David’s life is a testimony to what God will do with a young man when he loves the LORD and is fully yielded.

The first years of David’s reign were marked by continued success. After God denied him the opportunity to build a temple (2 Samuel 7:4-7), David accepted the rejection with humility and set about establishing himself as king and securing his rule over Israel.

Confident in God’s promises and obedient to His Laws and Commandments, David conquered one adversary after another (2 Samuel 8). The first to fall to Israel were the Philistines who resided in territories to the west and south (8:1). Eventually, a line of kings and kingdoms either fell to Israel or began paying tribute to the king.

The Moabites, descended from Lot and occupying land on the east side of the Jordan, were the next to be defeated (8:2). Other nations inhabiting lands north and east of Israel included King Hadadezer of Zobah whose kingdom occupied a portion of ancient Syria and reached to the river Euphrates (8:3). Hadadezer’s kingdom boasted “a thousand chariots, and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen” (8:4). Rather than leave the King of Zobah defenseless, David had his chariot horses “houghed,” clipping their hamstring and thus preventing the horses from being used in battle again (8:4-5).

Continuing his conquest and securing Israel, the Amalekites (8:12) and Edomites (8:14) accepted servitude to David and Israel. 2 Samuel 8:13 observes that, “David gat him a name,” meaning he developed a reputation as a warrior king, when he defeated a Syrian army “in the valley of Salt (i.e. the Dead Sea area), being eighteen thousand men” (8:13).

What was the secret to David’s achievements? Was he successful because of his skill as a general and warrior on the battlefield? Did the loyalty of his leaders or the size of his army make him victorious?

The secret to the king’s victories over his enemies is summed up in this: “The LORD preserved [saved; delivered; gave victory to] David whithersoever he went” (2 Samuel 8:14).

David’s victories fulfilled God’s covenant promises with Israel that were made to Abraham, Moses and David (Gen. 15:17-21; Deut. 1:6-8; 11:24; 1 Kings 4:20-21). From Egypt in the south to the Euphrates River in the east, the lands God promised Israel, David acquired for his kingdom.

2 Samuel 9 – A Compassionate, Merciful King

A moving, heart-touching story in 2 Samuel 9 paints for us a spiritual portrait of the manner of man King David was in Israel. He was strong enough to lead a nation and subdue his enemies, but also a compassionate and merciful king.

With his kingdom secure, David’s thoughts turned to extending grace and peace to the household of his predecessor, King Saul (9:1), and in particular the oath he had made with the friend of his youth, Jonathan, son of Saul.

David enquired if any of Saul’s household were alive. When he learned that Mephibosheth, a son of Jonathan, was alive (9:2-6), he immediately sent for him and invited him to take his place in the palace at the king’s table (9:6-8).  The Scriptures give us unique insight into David’s character.

David was a man of integrity, a promise keeper. As the grandson of Saul, Mephibosheth could have been viewed as a legitimate heir to the throne; nevertheless, David remembered his promise to show mercy to Jonathan’s household (1 Samuel 20:14-17).

David was also a man of compassion. Mephibosheth, a cripple and “lame on his feet” (9:3), was invited to dine at the king’s table. He had been injured in a fall when his nurse fled the palace with him after his father Jonathan and grandfather Saul died in battle (2 Samuel 4:4).

Ancient oriental kings would have had no tolerance for the infirmed in their midst, let alone eating at their tables. Such was not the heart of King David. Not only did David bequeath the royal lands of his grandfather, King Saul, to him as his inheritance (9:7-9), but we read, “Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem: for he did eat continually at the king’s table; and was lame on both his feet” (2 Samuel 9:13).

Unlike a fairy tale with a “happily ever after” ending, the kindness and grace David extended to Mephibosheth will later be betrayed when the king’s enemies lead a coup and attempt to make Jonathan’s son king (2 Samuel 16:1-4; 19:24-30).

Compassionate, faithful and obedient-those are the qualities God cherishes and blesses. What manner of man or woman are you?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Put a Smile On Your Face! It’s Contagious!” (Proverbs 15:13)

Proverbs 15:13- A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.

Dear Heart of a Shepherd Readers, I am blessed to have a loving family, great co-workers, and a loving church family whom I have served for nearly 35 years. I have dear friends whose friendships encourage laughter and remind me to make my physical health and well-being a priority. 

There are many not so fortunate and I am writing to encourage you with a devotional reminder taken from Proverbs 15:13. Don’t fall victim to an assault of negative news! Take charge of your health and well-being during the Coronavirus Crisis..

Today’s proverb gives us a lesson on matters of the heart and challenges us to take note—a man’s countenance is often a reflection of his heart. Solomon writes:

Proverbs 15:13 – “A merry [glad; joyful] heart maketh a cheerful [pleasing, good] countenance: but by sorrow [hurt, emotional wounds] of the heart [mind, thoughts, emotions] the spirit [breath, courage] is broken [afflicted; wounded].”

I remember visiting Myrtle Beach, SC as a child and walking though the old pavilion where full-length mirrors were configured to distort the image of the ones who took time to pose.  The exaggerated images reflected in the carnival mirrors were hilariously funny–extremely tall and skinny, squat and plump, a gargantuan head supported by a pea-size body—all distortions of reality.

I have also found family photos, especially when displayed in a succession of years, to be a fascinating study in the dynamics of a family’s life.  Old black and white photos bear the image of childhood faces reflecting the purity, trust and innocent abandon of youth.  However, that same child in later photographs may reveal a countenance that is altogether different—bright, cheerful eyes replaced by hollow, lifeless eyes.  A happy, youthful grin had fallen prey to a sneer and smirking glare.  One wonders, what dynamics in that child’s life and family had altered their countenance in so dramatic a form?

Capture the countenance of a man or woman in a sincere, unguarded moment and you will have a proof test of the emotional and spiritual inclination of their heart.  A joyful heart will reflect itself in a happy countenance!

The countenance that can be a mirror capable of reflecting a merry heart, can also be a canvas that bears the image of a broken heart, burdened with sin and depression.  Sorrows, disappointments and unresolved conflicts weigh heavy on a man’s heart and can break his spirit.  An unforgiving spirit can proverbially, “suck the wind out of your sails”.

Feel like you need a facelift? Take the following principles and I promise you—they will improve your countenance!

Ephesians 4:26-27, 31-32  “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27  Neither give place to the devil…31  Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32  And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

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

Daily reading assignment: Job 40-42

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Clock is Running Down…Are You Ready? (Job 14-16)

Daily reading assignment: Job 14-16

Reflecting on the temporal nature of this earthly life, Job declared man’s life is “of few days, and full of trouble” (14:1). Like the bloom of a flower that is soon cut down, the bloom and strength of one’s youth fades and we are no more (14:2).  Job reminds us that God has numbered the days, months, and years of man (Job 14:5)!   

No wonder anxiety and depression are epidemic today!

While our world is dominated by amusements (things that divert our thoughts), reminders life is temporal abound.  The sound of a siren racing to an accident; the presence of a roadside cross memorializing the site where a loved one perished; a procession of mourners behind a hearse…all remind us our days are numbered (Psalm 90:12and our lives are like a vapor (James 4:14).  

Job pondered that a tree that is cut down will often spring forth into life and new growth (14:7-9). What about man?  Is there life for man beyond the grave (14:10-12)?   

While we have the privilege of the written words of God’s revelation, death and the resurrection were mysteries to Job. In spite of his limited knowledge, he believed God was merciful and gracious and would remember him in death (14:14-15).

Although they purported to comfort him, Job’s friends have served as his prosecutors, judges, and jury…condemning the man though he was already stricken by his losses and wretchedness.  One of Job’s three “friends”, Eliphaz the Temanite, once again takes up his dispute with Job accusing him of pride (Job 15:5-6), hypocrisy (15:34-35) and warning him all he had suffered was a consequence of sin (15:17-35).  

Job’s response to Eliphaz is recorded in three pleas in chapters 16-17. 

The first plea is for mercy. Rather than comfort him; Job’s friends were unsympathetic to his plight and their words only added to his misery (16:1-14).  Reproving them, he postulated if they had suffered the sorrows and losses that had befallen him their words would be tempered with sympathy  and understanding (16:4-5).  

An old adage asserts, “Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes.”  

It is tempting to be an insensitive, callous critic when we have not borne the pain, sorrow and disappointments of another. For example, I have known some who supposed themselves parenting experts and in their rush to judgment failed to moderate their criticisms; that is…until they grappled with their own teenagers. 

It is easy to dole out self-righteous opinions until we suffer pains and disappointments. Christ taught in His Sermon on the Mount:  “Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:1-2).  

The knowledge we will face the judgment of a just God should incite caution when we are tempted to judge others.  How much better to heed Paul’s exhortation: Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 16  Be of the same mind one toward another…” (Romans 12:15-16a).   

In the words of Job, “my witness [recorded testimony] is in heaven, and my record [Advocate; i.e. Jesus Christ] is on high” (Job 16:19b1 John 2:1-2).

Copyright 2020 by Travis D. Smith

The Cry of a Wounded Soul (Psalm 41)

Today’s Bible reading is Leviticus 23-24, Psalm 41, and Mark 13. Our devotional is from Psalm 41.

Psalm 41 challenges believers to consider their relationship with others and how they respond to them who disappoint and betray.

King David was at a low point in his life, physically and emotionally, when he composed this psalm. Rehearsing the LORD’s promise to hear and heed the cries of His people in their hour of need (41:1), David remembered God keeps watch over His people and delivers them out of trouble in His time (41:2).  David writes,

Psalm 41:1-4 – “Blessed [Happy] is he that considereth [understands] the poor [weak; needy]: the LORD will deliver [save] him in time of trouble [sin; wickedness; evil]. 2  The LORD will preserve [keep; guard] him, and keep him alive [sustain]and he shall be blessed [prosperous] upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver [abandon] him unto the will  [desire] of his enemies [adversary; foe]3 The LORD will strengthen [support; uphold] him upon the bed [couch; canopy] of languishing [sorrow]: thou wilt make [turn; overthrow] 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 tossed and turned upon his bed; as sorrow and disappointment washed over his soul.  He spent sleepless nights praying and waiting on the LORD (41:3).  Searching his soul, David confessed his sin and believed God would show Him favor and restore him (41:4).

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; 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.”

Every saint who strives to serve the LORD and walk with integrity will inevitably face the bitter distress of betrayal.   When you feel the sorrow of duplicity, remember the LORD felt the caress of Judas’ kiss upon His own cheek.

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.8  An evil [wicked] disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth [lays down] he shall rise up no more.”

It is a terrible way when embittered souls wait the day they can take satisfaction in the fall of a pastor or a fellow believer (41:8).

Psalm 41:9 gives us insight into the personal nature of the betrayal that befell David.

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].

David’s adversary wanted to grind the king under his heel and humiliate him.  His enemy waited for the satisfaction of the king’s demise.  Although not identified by name, I believe David’s enemy was either Absalom, the king’s own son (2 Samuel 15) or Ahithophel, the king’s trusted counselor (2 Samuel 16:23).

Let’s take a lesson from David’s life and remember betrayal and sorrow is the affliction of saints who walk with integrity and minister to others with abandon.

Be watchful you do not become embittered when you suffer injustices and betrayals; after all, the LORD suffered the same and He will never abandon you (Psalm 41:10-13).

Copyright 2019 – Travis D. Smith

Is it Time to Put Honey Back into Your Honeymoon?

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Song of Solomon 1-2

Our “Read-Thru the Bible” in a year is drawing to a close (hard to imagine we are 25 days from the start of a New Year)!  If you are among those who followed faithfully the daily reading schedule this year, congratulations!  I hope you are feeling a sense of accomplishment.

Today’s scripture reading introduces the Song of Solomon, our final book of poetry in the Old Testament scriptures.  As its name suggests, the author is Solomon, the son of King David and Bathsheba, and God’s chosen successor to his father’s throne.

God blessed Solomon with wisdom that exceeded all men. As a young Oriental king, he enjoyed wealth beyond imagination and there was no pleasure he was not afforded.  Following the custom of his day, Solomon formed alliances with heathen kings and took unto himself their daughters who brought with them their idols into his palaces (1 Kings 11:1-2).  With a harem of 700 wives and 300 concubines, we read of the king, “when Solomon was old… his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father” (1 Kings 11:4).

The Song of Solomon is a book of romance written when Solomon was a young king.  Because it is so descriptive of courtship and the intimacy of marriage, the book is seldom taught or preached in church (at least in mixed company).

There are various views on how to interpret the Song of Solomon.  Some suggest an Allegorical interpretation, stating the Song of Solomon describes God’s relationship with His people.  Some Jewish rabbis believed the Song of Solomon was an allegory [story or parable] describing God’s relationship with Israel.  Early church fathers took the approach the Song of Solomon describes Christ’s love for His church.

Others suggest a Typical interpretation and believe the Song of Solomon is a love poem written by the king to a young woman he loved.  A “typical” interpretation would suggest the book describes Christ’s love and relationship with the Church.

For the sake of our study, I suggest a Literal interpretation.  In other words, I believe the Song of Solomon is a story of romance, a love story; a celebration of love between the young king and the wife whom he loved and who loved him.  Chapters 1-2 record the beginning of the courtship.

Solomon, disguised as a Shepherd, passes a vineyard [perhaps one he had leased out to a family] and notices a beautiful young peasant woman (a Shulamite – 6:13).  She did not recognize her king and, embarrassed at the attention of the stranger and the darkness of her skin from laboring in the sun, she ran away (Song 1:5-6).

Like many a young woman dreaming of love, she dreams of meeting the stranger who showed an interest in her, not realizing she had fallen in love with her king (Song 1:7-9, 15).

The couple begin to romance one another with poetry in Song of Solomon 2.  In the following dialog, notice how the couple in love focus on the positives.

Young Maiden“I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.”  (Song 2:1)

Solomon“As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.” (Song 2:2)

Young Maiden(Song 2:4, 8-9) – “4 He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love…8 The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. 9My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice.   (Song 2:4, 8-9)

Solomon(Song of Solomon 2:10-14) 10  My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
11  For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
12  The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
13  The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
14  O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.”

Young Maiden“My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.”  (Song 2:16)

I close with a principle from today’s scripture reading that can “affair proof” your marriage: “Be Positive!”

Young couples fall in love, not because they have found a perfect partner, but because they choose to focus on the positives and disregard the negatives.

No one is perfect and spend enough time with someone their negatives will become obvious. When that happens, you have a choice:

Dwell on the negatives or choose to look past them.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

You Need to Be Needed!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ecclesiastes 3-4

Our reading in the Book of Ecclesiastes continues today with Ecclesiastes 3-4.   Rather than a book of happy reflections, Solomon bares his heart in Ecclesiastes and gives us an opportunity to ponder the empty soul of an elderly man whose lusts have taken him far from the LORD.  In a statement of the obvious, Solomon writes, To every thing there is a season [a time appointed], and a time to every purpose [matter; purpose; pleasure] under the heaven [sky] (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

I did not appreciate the passing of time and the seasons when I was young; however, I sometimes catch myself reflecting on the past as I grow older.  Whether physically or in my thoughts, I go home and visit places that hold meaning from my youth.  Familiar places; unmarked landmarks hold precious, childhood memories.  When I visit cemeteries and see familiar names inscribed on tombstones, voices long silenced by death resonate in my thoughts…Ricky Flynn, Mazzie Plyler, Leola Sapp, Parnell Threatt, Roland and Sadie Whitley, Dena Plyler remind me… “A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted” (3:2).

Consider with me some truths we can glean from Solomon’s ponderings.  The first, apart from God man’s life is aimless, purposeless.  Solomon asks, “What profit [gain; advantage] hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?” (3:9).  In other words, what does a man have to show for his toil in this earthly life?

Another truth, God has placed in the heart of man the reality of eternity and a longing He alone can satisfy.  Solomon writes,

Eccles. 3:11 – He hath made every thing beautiful in his time [season]: also he hath set [put] the world [lit. eternity] in their heart [mind; thoughts], so that no man can find out [suffice or satisfy] the work [deeds; activity] that God maketh from the beginning to the end.”

Men and women turn to drugs, alcohol and amusements attempting to fill the void in their souls only God can satisfy.  The successful, beautiful and powerful of the world learn too late that wealth, material possessions, fame and popularity are fleeting and temporal.

Eccles. 3:19-20 – “For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. 20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.

We can take many lessons from today’s scripture; however, I will focus on only one: You Need to Be Needed!  Consider three principles of truth from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

The first, working with others is satisfying and more rewarding than working alone (4:9-10). Solomon writes,

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 – “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. 10  For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.

Like oxen who are stronger and more productive when they share the same yoke, people working together are more satisfied in their work (4:9).  Working together discourages selfishness and self-centeredness (4:10) and provides an opportunity of encouraging others.

A second truth concerning the Need to Be Needed is, working with others encourages perseverance and protects (4:11-12).

Ecclesiastes 4:11-12 – “Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone12  And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken”

Investing your life and time in others gives you the privilege and comfort of the “huddle” in hard times.  Like a husband and wife who find warmth together on a cold night, we encourage and are encouraged when we “huddle”… laughing together, crying together, working together makes us stronger!  When an enemy threatens and difficult times come, a sincere friend will do all they can to huddle with you and keep you from falling or failing (4:12).

A third truth, God made us individuals; however, He never meant for us to be alone.

 Everything God created in the beginning was perfect and good (Genesis 1-2).  However, after creating Adam, “the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone…” (Genesis 2:19).

We are happiest when needed!  We are more effective in our work and less likely to give up when we work with others striving for the same goals.  Someone has said, A friend is someone who comes in when the rest of the world has walked out.”

While breaking baseball’s “color barrier,” Baseball legend and Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, faced jeering crowds in every stadium.  While playing in his home stadium in Brooklyn, Robinson committed an error and his own fans began to ridicule him.

Standing at second base, alone and humiliated, shortstop “Pee Wee” Reese came over and stood next to Robinson.   Putting his arm around Robinson, “Pee Wee” faced the crowd until the fans grew silent.  Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career.

Investing your time and life in loving and helping others can help you overcome bouts of loneliness, discouragement and depression!

Friend, you Need to be Needed!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Don’t enable your children’s sins!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Proverbs 29-30

Today’s devotional commentary focuses on one verse, Proverbs 29:3 and was first posted on this blog April 29, 2014.

As I was considering today’s devotional it occurred to me how little has changed in the world since Solomon’s writings nearly 3,000 years ago.  We share the same concerns in our day as those addressed by Solomon in his.  Granted, we are more sophisticated and enjoy the conveniences of modern technology; however, the problems of humanity are the same.  Poverty, rebellion, wickedness, oppression, heartache, sorrows and immorality are ever-present.  How can this be, you ask?

Times have changed, but the sinful nature of man is the same from generation to generation.  All humanity shares the bloodline of Adam and bear his nature and the curse of sin (“For since by man came death…For as in Adam all die” – 1 Corinthians 15:21-22).

Today’s proverb is timeless, as is all wisdom.

Proverbs 29:3  “Whoso loveth wisdom rejoiceth his father: but he that keepeth company with harlots spendeth his substance.”

Solomon returns to contrasting a wise son with a foolish son.  Someone might mistake Solomon’s observation of a son who loves wisdom with the more recent phenomenon of what I will describe as “perpetual students”—young adults who make going to school and pursuing degrees a career rather than the means to a career.  No, this son who is a delight to his father is more than a learner—he loves and adheres to godly wisdom and counsel.   A wise son who “loveth wisdom” rejoices the heart of his father!

The contrast to a son who walks according to wisdom is the son who is a heartache to his father and walks an ungodly path where he wastes his inheritance [“his substance”] in the company of the immoral.   I believe this son was a child of privilege and grew up in a home of affluence.  Like the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), he has no appetite for wisdom and, once free of his parent’s constraints, follows sinful pleasures until all is spent.

Sound familiar?  I have observed this pattern far too often over the years.  It has become commonplace for well-meaning parents longing for their child’s affections and desiring to keep peace in the family, to become enablers of an adult child’s waste and wantonness.

There may be parents and grandparents reading today’s proverb who feel as though you are looking at the reflection of your home and family in a mirror.   I know the pain of disappointments hurt, but you must accept that no amount of “substance” will earn your rebellious son or daughter’s affection.   At the same time, you must weigh your stewardship of the material possessions God has entrusted to you as a sacred trust.

Don’t enable your children’s sins!  Love them, care for their basic needs, but don’t become an enabler of sin.

I challenge sons and daughters reading this devotional to love godly wisdom, obey your parents and heed godly counsel.

Ephesians 6:1-3 – “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2  Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) 3  That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith