Tag Archives: Friendship

The Tragic Consequences of Generational Sins (Job 20; Job 21)

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Scripture reading – Job 20; Job 21

Our study of the trials and troubles of Job continues with today’s Scripture reading (Job 20-21). Admittedly, the text is dark, but the insights we gain from our study are illuminating. The chapters before us are lengthy, and at best, time and space permit only a brief commentary. As you read chapter 20, remember Zophar (the third of Job’s friends) is coming from an earthly, human vantage. His purpose was not to impart spiritual wisdom, but to assert that Job’s afflictions were the reward of the wicked.

Job 20

Job 20 is the record of the second and final response of Zophar the Naamathite (his first speech was recorded in Job 11). Zophar was offended by Job’s admonition in the closing verses of chapter 19. Job had maintained his innocence, and warned his “friends” would face God’s wrath for their harsh judgments (19:28-29). Zophar’s rebuke came swift and furious (20:1-3).

Job 20:4-29 – The Fate of the Wicked

Like his friends, Zophar inferred Job’s afflictions were to be expected by those who are wicked. His contentions revealed three erroneous opinions concerning the state and reward of the wicked.

First error: The wicked always come to destruction. (20:4-11)

Zophar suggested the rejoicing of the wicked is brief (20:4), the honors bestowed on them perishes with them, and they are soon forgotten (20:5-8). Neither of those statements are necessarily true. In fact, the wicked often live out their lives enjoying ill acquired wealth, and their funerals and tombs are often grand spectacles to behold.

Second error: The wicked do not prosper. (20:12-23)

Continuing his erroneous observations, Zophar suggested the prosperity of the wicked is brief (20:12), inevitably bites like a poisonous viper (20:13-16), and he dies in want.

The error in Zophar’s observations is evident when we remember the LORD’s parable of a rich fool (Luke 12:16-21). Beguiled with the pleasures of his riches, the rich man ordered his barns be torn down to build greater barns, and said to his soul, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:19). Rather than die in want, the rich fool died as he lived, enjoying his wealth until he heard in eternity that he was the poorest of men: “20But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20–21).

Third error: Only the wicked suffer devastating sorrows, and catastrophic losses. (20:24-29)

Zophar maintained the wicked are struck down (20:24-25), and all he has is destroyed (20:26).  He declared the wicked feels everything is against him, until his riches are consumed by God’s wrath (20:27-28). (While it may be argued how the wicked often suffer loss; I suggest it is more often true they are rewarded by the system of this fallen world, and hailed for their ill-gotten gains, John 15:19a).

Of course, the implication of Zophar’s argument was that Job’s sorrows were a wicked man’s afflictions, and such is the lot or “heritage” God has “appointed” for the wicked (20:29).

Job 21 – Rather than Suffer, the Wicked Prosper

Job 21 recorded Job’s response to Zophar’s fallacies. He demanded his friends be silent that he might speak, and challenged them, sarcastically, after he had spoken, “mock on” (21:1-2). Job confessed his struggle was with God, and not with men (21:3-6).

Contrary to Zophar’s assertions, he observed the wicked and their children often live long lives, and enjoy prosperity (21:7-13). He contended the riches of the wicked cause their hearts to be calloused, and “they say unto God, Depart from us; For we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. 15What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? And what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?” (21:14-15) The wicked fail to acknowledge they deserve nothing. Indeed,  all they have is a testimony of God’s grace and longsuffering, and the prosperity of the wicked moves them to reject God (21:16).

Closing thoughts (21:17-34) – Warning: Do not assume the wicked go unpunished.

The consequences of sin are inevitable, and the wicked are “as stubble before the wind, And as chaff that the storm carrieth away. 19God layeth up his [the wicked’s] iniquity for his children: He rewardeth him, and he shall know it” (21:18-19).

Generational Sins: Children are not punished for the sins of their parents; however, they often suffer the influence of their sins (Jeremiah 31:29-30; Deuteronomy 24:16). Three times the Law stated: “The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” (Numbers 14:18; Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9).

Warning: The consequences of your sins may be borne by your children.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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Suffering, Serving, Soaring, and Success in Troubled Times (2 Timothy 1; 2 Timothy 2)

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Scripture reading – 2 Timothy 1; 2 Timothy 2

Our chronological Scripture reading brings us to, “The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Timothy.” 2 Timothy is Paul’s second letter to Timothy, and the apostle’s final epistle. The date of 2 Timothy is uncertain, but is generally thought to have been written between A.D. 65-68. It was certainly authored during Paul’s second imprisonment in Rome. Today’s Scripture reading is 2 Timothy 2; however, I have determined to give priority to the first chapter of the letter as my introduction and subject of the devotional. The personal nature of the letter is moving, and is Paul’s “Last Will and Testament.” Here we have recorded the final words of one of history’s greatest men, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ” (1:1a).

2 Timothy 1

We do not know the impact Paul’s letter had on Timothy, who is believed to have been the pastor of the church at Ephesus at the time. Accepting Paul’s death was imminent (4:6-7), I am certain Timothy’s eyes clouded with tears when he read, “Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: 10For Demas hath forsaken me… 11Only Luke is with me” (4:9, 10a, 11). Paul then wrote a startling detail: “No man stood with me, but all men forsook me” (4:16).

Persecution, abandonment, loneliness, imprisonment, and imminent death had become Paul’s reality. The old apostle longed for the company of his “dearly beloved son” (1:2). Yet, like a father to a son, Paul was concerned for Timothy’s spiritual well-being, and bid him, “Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord” (1:2).

This letter was infused with Paul’s gratitude for Timothy, whom he assured, “without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day” (1:3). Reflecting on his own spiritual heritage (1:3a), the apostle reminded Timothy of his spiritual lineage passed down from his grandmother and mother (1:5; 3:15).

A Letter from Death Row (1:6-15)

After 43 years of ministry, I have learned the words of a dying man or woman can leave an indelible impression on one’s soul, especially from one we love. Surely that was true for Timothy. When he read Paul’s letter, I believe the heart of that younger preacher was stirred. Paul moved from expressing confidence in Timothy’s faith, to exhorting him to be bold in his faith, walk, and ministry. Briefly, notice Paul’s appeal to Timothy beginning with verse 6 and continuing to verse 15.

Five Spiritual Requisites (disciplines) for Ministry (1:6-15)

Be Charged Up (1:6-7) – Given the nature of Paul’s letters to Timothy, scholars believe the young preacher was prone to be timid in the face of opposition. If so, Paul feared he might lose his fervency for the Lord and ministry. Therefore, the apostle charged him to remember he was ordained by men who had seen in him the “gift of God” (perhaps spiritual or ministry gifts, 1:6; Romans 12:6-8). Paul reminded Timothy, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (1:7).

Be Courageous (1:8-10) – Paul urged Timothy to not give into shame on two fronts. The first, don’t be “ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” (knowing the name of Christ invited scorn, 1:8a). The second, don’t be ashamed of Paul, a “prisoner” of the Lord. To identify Paul as his teacher and mentor might have been cause for embarrassment. Instead, the apostle urged Timothy to be a “partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God” (1:8). In other words, only with God’s power would Timothy be able to accept his share of suffering for the Gospel (1:8b).

To support his call for courage, Paul reminded Timothy of the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty for suffering saints (1:9-10). When they suffer, believers must remember we are saved, “called with an holy calling,” and suffer“according to [God’s] own purpose and grace” (1:9a).

Be Convicted of One’s Calling (1:11) – Paul had no doubts concerning the ministry to which he was called, and appointed. He declared, I am appointed,” not by man, but his appointment was received from the Lord, and he was therefore “preacher [herald], and an apostle, and a teacher [instructor] of the Gentiles” (1:11).

Be Confident (1:12) – The apostle was a prisoner, not for any wrongdoing, but because he had been faithful to his calling. Therefore, he declared, I “suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (1:12). Not only did he refuse to be ashamed, Paul’s faith was in Christ, and he was confident his life was secure until his work was ended.

Be Committed (1:13-15) – I close today’s devotion with three essential qualities that make for success, regardless of one’s endeavor. The first trait of success is Dedication –Paul wrote, “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (1:13). A second trait of success is Devotion – summed up in the word “Keep,” meaning to guard or watch. We read, “That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us” (1:14). (The “good thing” must have been the gift of spiritual discernment the Holy Spirit imparts to a believer who is a student of the Gospel, doctrines, and teachings of God’s Word.)

Finally, to be successful, requires a determination to Be Faithful (1:15). Paul illustrated the requisite for determination in identifying two spiritual failures, “Phygellus and Hermogenes” (1:15). The apostle had been deserted by many (“all they” was probably a hyperbole, many he felt as though everyone had deserted him); however, in particular, two men whom Timothy must have known had left Paul in his hour of need. We know nothing more about Phygellus and Hermogenes, other than their desertion had left Paul with a bleak outlook on his life and ministry.

Believer, everyone wants to be successful (after all, no one sets out to be a failure). Yet, how many are willing to undertake the spiritual disciplines required for success.

How about you?

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Don’t Quit! (Galatians 6)

Scripture reading – Galatians 6

Today’s Scripture reading concludes our study of the Epistle to the Galatians. Previous chapters answered enemies who attacked the doctrine of salvation by grace, and were an exposition on the Law and grace of God through Christ. You will see Galatians 6 is practical, and needs little commentary. The focus of this devotional is Galatians 6:1-9, where Paul urged the believers of Galatia to be faithful and compassionate toward others, and in particular fellow believers.

Restoring Sinning Believers (6:1)

Paul urged spiritually-minded believers to be gracious, and patient with those who were overcome by the temptation to sin (6:1). Ruling out a spirit of judgment that is too often seen in churches, Paul encouraged “spiritual” believers to address the fault of another in a “spirit of meekness” (6:1b). The goal for going to a sinning believer is not to judge and condemn, but to the end they might be restored to the fellowship of believers (6:1b). Lest a believer be tempted to be harsh or judgmental, Paul urged, “considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (6:1).

Loving Encouragement (6:2)

Notice restoring a backslidden believer is to be done not only with a spirit of meekness (6:1), but is also a labor of love. Paul writes, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (6:2). The word “bear” indicates the need of coming alongside a faltering believer, and steadying them as they have stumbled. Such an effort is to be done with patience, love and compassion, which is “the law of Christ” (6:2b).

What is the “law of Christ?” It is the sum of all of the commandments stated in one directive regarding man with man, to “love thy neighbour as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18). Jesus quoted Leviticus when He taught His disciples, “Thou shalt love they neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 19:19). When He was questioned near the end of His earthly ministry, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matthew 22:36), Jesus answered, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

A Call to Humility and Self-examination (6:3-5)

Because the nature of man is prone to be proud, harsh and judgmental, Paul admonished the Galatian believers, “3For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself” (6:3). You see, when we have a right perspective on who we are, we realize we are nothing apart from Christ and His righteousness. Pride and self-righteousness have no place in the fellowship of believers.

How can believers avoid an attitude of pride and a spirit of judgment? Paul exhorted, “4But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5For every man shall bear his own burden” (6:4-5). We need to honestly examine ourselves, and avoid the error of fools, for comparing ourselves with other is foolish, and “not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).

The Duty of Believers to Support Those Who Minister (6:6-8)

Continuing the practical application of our devotional, Paul challenged believers to remember those who were faithful teachers “in all good things,” and “communicate unto him” (6:6). To “communicate” meant to share in the financial support of those who dedicated their lives to instructing believers in the highest truths and moral principles of God’s Word (Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Timothy 5:17).

Within the context of supporting faithful teachers, Paul taught the spiritual principle known as “Sowing and Reaping” (6:7-9). Unfortunately, those verses are seldom taught in their context, notice what Paul wrote:

Galatians 6:6–87Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

Stated simply, the duty of believers is to support their ministers, knowing God will not be ridiculed (mocked, 6:6a). Taking a lesson from the farm, what a farmer sows, he reaps (i.e., sow wheat, you harvest wheat; the more you sow, the more you reap). Then, as a believer sows (in this context, supports those who minister the Word), so he will reap (6:6b). Please the flesh and you will reap the consequences. Obey the Word, feed the spirit, and your will reap eternal life (6:8).

Closing promise (6:9) – We conclude our devotional commentary with Paul’s exhortation, “let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (6:9). It is the promise of the harvest that encourages the farmer to labor long hours and days in his field. So it is the spiritual promise of reaping “if we faint not” (6:9b) that encourages and stirs hope. When the time is right, faithful believers will reap eternal rewards. Don’t Quit!

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“What Beautiful Feet, My Love!” (Song of Solomon 6; Song of Solomon 7)

Scripture reading – Song of Solomon 6-7

Continuing our love story, Solomon’s bride dreamed she had searched for her husband throughout the city. Not knowing she was the bride of the king, the watchmen of the city mistreated her (in her dreams), and the “daughters of Jerusalem” scoffed when she asked, “find my beloved…tell him, that I am sick of love [love sick]” (5:8). Of course, this was a dream, and none would dare mistreat the wife of the king.

Song of Solomon 6 – Who is this Wonderful, Beautiful Bride?

Through eyes of pure love (5:10-16), she described Solomon’s physical appearance to the maidens of Jerusalem who asked (in the bride’s dream), “1Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? Whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee” (6:1). Our young bride finds her husband in his royal gardens (6:2), and rejoices in his love saying, 3I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine” (6:3a).

Solomon’s Loving Assurances (6:4-10)

The king extolled her beauty, comparing his bride to two beautiful walled cities of Israel (6:4), with beautiful banners unfurled. Looking into her eyes, he found himself captivated (6:5), and her hair thick and flowing, like the goats in Gilead (6:5b). He gushed over her, and assured her she was preferred more than a harem of “threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number” (6:8). Why? For she, unlike any other, was “undefiled.” She was the object of her mother’s praise, and that of the daughters of Jerusalem, queens, and concubines (6:9).

Song of Solomon 7 – Solomon’s Admiration of His Bride’s Beauty

As we continue today’s Scripture reading, remember there are three methods of interpretation for the Song of Solomon. There is the Allegorical interpretation, suggesting The Song of Solomon described God’s relationship with His people, and is a parable.  The Typical interpretation suggests the bride of Solomon was a type or picture of the Church, and Solomon, the groom, was a type or picture of Jesus Christ. The third interpretation is a Literal one; in other words, that this was a true love story describing Solomon’s love for a young Shulamite girl who became his queen.

A Bridal Description (7:1-9)

With the blush of her innocence and virtue entrusted to her husband, Solomon is described as looking upon the physical beauty of his wife with pride, and satisfaction (7:1-5). Extolling his delight in his bride, Solomon boasted, writing, “6How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights!” (7:6) In his eyes, she was stately like a palm tree (7:7), and he tenderly assured her of his love (7:8-9).

A Bride Secure in Her Husband’s Love (7:10-13)

With loving trust, she abandoned herself to her husband (7:10). She invited Solomon to take her away, saying, “Let us lodge in the villages…get up early to the vineyards…There will I give thee my loves” (7:12).

Closing thoughts – The phrase, “Love is blind,” is often credited to William Shakespeare who employed it on several occasions in his plays. However, the phrase first appeared in Milton Chaucer’s Merchant Tale (1405) – “Love is blind all day, and may not see.” With a different, humorous perspective, author Pauline Thomason, writes:“Love is blind, marriage is the eye-opener.”

Permit me to close with an observation of my own. Solomon was certainly not blind, for not one detail of his young wife’s beauty escaped his eye (7:1-5); from her sandaled feet (7:1) to her long locks of hair, he prized her beauty (7:5). She had the tanned dark skin of a peasant, the callous hands of a laborer, but the beauty and virtuous character of a princess. Solomon was in love, and love does not count the blemishes of one’s beloved.

How about the love of your life?  Is your romance vibrant?  Is your courtship still alive?

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“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