Tag Archives: God is Just

The Judas Iscariot Psalm: The Treachery of a Friend (Psalm 109; Psalm 110)

Scripture reading – Psalm 109; Psalm 110

Today’s Scripture reading considers two psalms by David. Psalm 109, titled, “To the Chief Musician, A Psalm of David,” was intended to be a song for worship, praise, and thanksgiving to the LORD. Psalm 110, was titled simply, “A Psalm of David.”

Both of the psalms are often referred to as Messianic psalms, each carrying an immediate and prophetic application. For instance, Psalm 109 is identified by some as the “Iscariot Psalm,” noting there is much in the psalm that gives us a prophetic picture of Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus Christ, the Messiah King. Our devotional will be taken from Psalm 109.

Psalm 109 – The “Iscariot Psalm”

Psalm 109 gives us an agonizing testimony of a king who had known the sorrow and disappointment of betrayals. Like Christ who suffered the betrayal of Judas, and the denials of Peter, David suffered many disloyalties in his lifetime. King Saul, provoked by jealousy, turned against David and would have killed him. Absalom led an insurrection against his father, and Ahithophel, one of David’s trusted advisors, betrayed him and cast in his lot with his son. Shimei, a Benjamite, cursed David, and hurled stones and accusations against the king as he fled his palace in Jerusalem. I will suggest a brief outline of Psalm 109.

A Prayer for Deliverance from Enemies (109:1-5)

The psalm begins with David appealing to the LORD saying, “Hold not thy peace” (i.e., don’t be silent, 109:1). He then describes the sins of his enemies: slander, lies, deceit (109:2), and unprovoked hatred (109:3).

What was David’s response to the injustices he suffered? He prayed (109:4), and protested the cruelty of his enemies, saying, “they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love” (109:5).

A Prayer of Judgment Against One’s Enemies (109:6-20)

David, professed his virtue, and appealed to God to judge his enemies for their injustices. In the manner of an imprecatory prayer, David prayed: Let the wicked be judged by their own (109:6-7). Let his “days be few; and let another take his office” (109:8). After Judas betrayed Jesus, he hanged himself (Matthew 27:5), and fulfilled this prophecy. His days were few, and thus a believer named Matthias, took his apostleship (109:8; Acts 1:20-26).

The children and household of the wicked fall under the shadow of God’s judgment. David prayed, let the children of the wicked “be fatherless” and suffer loss (109:8-9). Let their estate fall victim to extortioners (109:11), and lineage be soon cut off (109:12-13). May the children of the wicked bear the curse, and judgment of their father’s sins (109:14-15).

What manner of men are the wicked? They lack compassion for the needy, and curse the innocent. They are resentful when others prosper (109:16-17). Predictably, they fall victim to their sinful ways, and their shame will be inevitably displayed for all to see (109:18-19).

A Prayer of Hope, Praise, and Thanksgiving (109:21-31)

Turning his focus from the wickedness of his enemies and the injustices he had suffered, David appealed to the LORD to make him the object of His mercy (109:21). Praying with a broken heart, David pled for compassion, and confessed his unworthiness, saying, “I am poor and needy; and my heart is wounded within me” (109:22). The king’s sorrows made him appreciate the brevity of life, and that it is like the passing of a shadow (109:23). Although he was king, he had become the object of scorn, and like those who mocked Christ when He was dying on the Cross, David’s enemies reproached him, and “[shook] their heads” (109:25).

Closing thoughts – David called on the LORD to be merciful, that His mercies might be a testimony to his enemies (109:26-27). He reasoned, he could accept the curses of his enemies, as long as he knew the LORD would bless him (109:28). The psalm closes with David resolving, though his enemies assailed him, he was confident the LORD would stand at his right hand (Hebrews 8:1; 10:12; 12:2), and save him from all who condemned him (109:30-31).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Does God Repent? (2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21

Today’s Scripture readings are parallel accounts of the same tragic event. David commanded a census be taken, numbering the warriors in Israel. Because 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 are essentially mirror images of the same events, I will take today’s devotional from each.

David was an old man, and the shepherd boy of Bethlehem was a long past memory. Now in the latter years of his life and reign, the king made a proud, foolish decision and commanded, “Go, number Israel and Judah,” and in doing so provoked the “anger of the LORD…against Israel” (24:1). From where, or whom, did this provocation arise? The writer of 2 Samuel states, “he moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah” (24:1).

Who was “he?” The historian of 1 Chronicles revealed the inspiration for numbering the people was the Satan. We read, “Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel” (1 Chronicles 21:1). How did this happen? Why would a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22), find it his heart to do that which was contrary to the will of God? Various explanations might be put forward, but I suggest the central one is PRIDE. Satan targeted a “dead ringer,” a common area of weakness for most men, and provoked the natural inclination of the proud king’s heart.

Satan had provoked the natural inclination of a proud king’s heart.

“Joab, the captain of the host (i.e. army),” questioned the king’s motive for the census (24:3; 1 Chronicles 21:3), appealing to him with gracious words, saying, “Why doth my lord the king delight in this thing?” (24:3) Joab knew the king’s command was a provocation of God’s judgment, and suggested, “The Lord make his people an hundred times so many more as they be…why then doth my lord require this thing? why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel?” (1 Chronicles 21:3; 2 Samuel 24:3).

The census lasted nine months and twenty days, and when the number was given, David’s heart was convicted, and he prayed, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly” (24:10).

Though the king confessed numbering the people was a great sin, nevertheless, God’s nature would not dismiss the consequences of his sin. We read, “the word of the LORD came unto the prophet Gad, David’s seer” (24:11). David was mercifully given the opportunity to choose which of three judgments would befall him and Israel (21:10-12): Seven years of famine, three months of being overrun and pursued by adversaries, or three days of pestilence (24:12-13). David chose three days of pestilence, reasoning he would rather trust in God’s mercies, than fall into the hand of an enemy (24:14).

2 Samuel 24:15 – “So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men.”

The angel’s path of death and destruction spanned Israel, slaying 70,000 men, but as he neared Jerusalem, “the Lord beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the Lord stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite” (1 Chronicles 21:15).

God did not repent of wrong doing, but in His mercy He changed His mind, and halted His judgment for David’s sin. David and the elders of Israel had called upon the LORD, and as the shepherd king of Israel, he prayed, “Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, O Lord my God, be on me, and on my father’s house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued” (1 Chronicles 21:17).

The prophet Gad returned with a message from the LORD, and instructed David to buy the “threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite (the Jebusites being the original inhabitants of Jerusalem)” and build an altar there (24:18).[Note – 1 Chronicles 21:18 names one “Ornan” as the owner of the threshingfloor; they are the same man.]

David purchased the threshing floor, and there he sacrificed to the LORD the oxen he had bought. According to 1 Chronicles 21:26, the LORD sent fire from heaven and consumed the oxen as a sign of that David’s offering had satisfied God’s wrath (1 Chronicles 21:26).

Closing thoughts – What became of the land David purchased? Let us take a moment for a brief lesson from history:

The threshingfloor of Araunah had been the place God had tried Abraham, and he had offered his son Isaac (Genesis 22). This was also the place the LORD promised Jacob, “I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (Genesis 28:15). When Jacob awakened, “he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. 17And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:16-17). This same place would later be the site Solomon would build the Temple (1 Chronicles 22:1-2; 2 Chronicles 3:1).

Of course, it was not far from a place that would one day be beloved as Calvary, where Jesus Christ was crucified, suffered, and died for our sins, and the sins of the world.

“O how marvelous! O how wonderful!  Is my Savior’s love for me!”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD Who is Holy, Hears and Answers Prayers (Psalm 99)

Scripture reading – Psalm 99

The focus on the LORD’s Second Coming, and His reign on the earth continues in Psalm 99 (a topic that is the subject of Psalms 93-100). The psalms were, as the name implied, songs of worship and praise to the LORD. They have been cherished by sincere believers for millennia, and continue to be the focus of worship, prayer, praise, and meditations on the LORD. Some psalms commemorate special events in Israel’s history, and many are deeply personal for their authors. Especially in the life of King David, we have been granted an audience into his genuinely moving times of sorrow and joy, conviction and repentance, distress and thanksgiving. Those themes continue to resonate in the hearts of believers 3,000 years later.

Psalm 99

I suggest Psalm 99 be considered with four major themes.

The LORD Reigneth. (99:1)

The psalm commences with an incontrovertible truth: “The LORD reigneth” (99:1a). That statement is the foundation of all that follows in the psalm. The LORD is King of heaven and earth, and Sovereign of creation. The people of the earth should tremble with fear and reverence (99:1b). The LORD sitting “between the cherubims,” reminds us of the Ark of God, and its Mercy Seat upon which two cherubim were fashioned, representing God’s heavenly throne in the Tabernacle (99:1c; Exodus 25:18-22).

The LORD is Great. (99:2-5)

Consider the majesty of God: “The LORD is great in Zion” (the mount upon which Jerusalem is built, and where He will reign during His millennial kingdom, 99:2a). He is above all nations and people (99:2b). His name is “great and terrible; for it is holy” (99:3). The name of the LORD is holy, and it is not to be taken in vain (Exodus 20:7). The LORD is mighty, and “loveth judgment” (99:4a). He is just, fair, honest, and righteous (99:4b). He is holy, and there is none like Him. Let all who believe, exalt the LORD, and fall at his feet (99:5).

The LORD is to Be Adored for What He has Done (99:6-9)

While the focus of the first five verses has been upon the LORD’S person, Psalm 99:6-9 turned the focus of worshippers to what the LORD has done.

Three examples of men who worshipped, obeyed, and served the LORD are given. Moses and Aaron are identified as priests, and named with them was the prophet Samuel, all whom called upon the LORD, “and He answered them” (99:6).

The LORD “spake unto them (Moses and Aaron) in the cloudy pillar: They kept his testimonies [laws and commandments], and the ordinance [statutes] that he gave them” (99:7). The “cloudy pillar” (Exodus 33:9-10; Nehemiah 9:12) was a visible reminder of the LORD’S presence with Israel when the people wandered in the wilderness forty years. We are reminded that God is both merciful and just, for Moses and Aaron faced the consequences of their sins, and were not permitted to enter the Promise Land (99:8).

“The LORD our God is Holy.” (99:9)

Psalm 99 concludes with an exhortation to all who love the LORD: “9Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy hill [Zion; the setting of the Temple and sacrifices]; For the Lord our God is holy” (99:9).

Closing thoughts – Private and congregational worship is to be a central focus of all believers. The LORD is holy, and yet He loves us in spite of our sins and failures.

Aaron murmured against Moses, and fashioned a golden calf when the people rebelled (Exodus 32:4, 8, 19), and yet, he “called upon the LORD, and He answered” him (99:6). Moses disobeyed the LORD, and struck the rock in anger when the people were thirsty (Numbers 20:2-12), and though his sin prevented him from entering Canaan, the LORD forgave him (99:6, 8).

Isn’t it comforting to know, in spite of your failures, the LORD hears and answers prayers? Why? He is our God!

Is He your God?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Last Will and Testament of King David (2 Samuel 23; Psalm 57)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 23; Psalm 57

Our Scripture reading comprises the historical narrative of David’s life in 2 Samuel 23, and Psalm 57.

Psalm 57 – God is Our Refuge

The occasion of Psalm 57 is identified in its title: “To the chief Musician, Al-taschith [meaning, “do not destroy”], Michtam [a type of poem] of David, when he fled from Saul in the cave (1 Samuel 22:1; 24:1-3).

Perhaps penned in the latter years of his reign, Psalm 57 was a record of God’s mercies through the years. David, remembered he had been a fugitive from King Saul who had sought to kill him out of jealousy. Hiding in the wilderness, and finding shelter in caves, David cried to the LORD,  “Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee” (57:1).  He recalled his enemies, like savage lions, that had ravaged him with their words (57:4). They had schemed to entrap him, only to perish in their own wicked devices (57:6).

In spite of the sorrows and humiliations he had suffered, David’s foremost desire in those years of exile was that God would be exalted and glorified “above all the earth” (57:5). The closing verses of Psalm 57 are the king’s affirmation of his faith in God. David testified, “My heart is fixed [set; ready], O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise” (57:7). The king’s heart was full of praise, and thanksgiving. He not only wanted his people to know the mercies of the Lord, he promised, “I will sing unto thee among the nations” (57:9).

2 Samuel 23 – The Last Words and Testament of King David

Our study of David’s life is in its finale, as we turn in the Scriptures to 2 Samuel 23. The first sentence of chapter 23 moves me emotionally when I read, Now these be the last words of David” (23:1a).

We have been privileged to examine the soul of the man whom God declared, “a man after [His] own heart” (Acts 13:22; 1 Samuel 13:14). David was far from being a perfect man; however, his tenderness toward the LORD, and his love for God’s Word and Law, are an inspiration to all sincere believers.

Ministering as a pastor, I have been an honored guest at the bedside of many dying saints. I have observed how the proximity of death stirs in a soul a reflection on things that genuinely matter in the light of eternity. The presence of the shadow of death will tend to cut away those things that once held our affections. Accomplishments, honors, and plaques on the wall, have no value when death is near.

For all his achievements, David’s life was not summed up as the giant slayer or victor over the Philistines, but as “the son of Jesse…the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel” (23:1). Though honored to have served as the king of Israel, David drew his joy from being the man to whom the “Spirit of the Lord spake…[and whose] word was in [his] tongue” (23:2)

As with many of the psalms, 2 Samuel 23:3-4, imparted words of wisdom and adoration. Identifying the LORD as, “The Rock of Israel,” David recalled God’s exhortation, “He that ruleth over men must be just, Ruling in the fear of God” (23:3). Simple, but profound! Imagine how different our world would be if men desired to have ruling over them, those who were “just” (righteous in their rulings according to God’s Law), and ruled “in the fear of God.” Such a leader would “be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth” (23:4a).

Time and space restrain an exhaustive study of the balance of 2 Samuel 23, but it is worth noting that David took time to acknowledge those men who had been his “mighty men” (23:9-39). 2 Samuel 23:13 gives the number of great warriors as “thirty,” and yet, the chapter ends stating that they were “thirty and seven in all” (23:39). How might that be? Was the number thirty, or thirty-seven an error? Also, there are a total of thirty-six men named, and not thirty-seven.

Some might disagree with my assessment of the dilemma in the number of David’s mighty men; however, I believe I have an acceptable explanation: When some of David’s mighty men perished in battle (for instance, Uriah the Hittite, 23:39), he would have chosen other men to take their place. I suggest the thirty-seventh man, and the one not named, was Joab, the brother of Abishai, whom I believe was in a league of his own.

Thirty-seven mighty men, from different backgrounds, but all had dedicated their lives to serve David, the great warrior king. David was content to be remembered as the man with whom God had established “an everlasting covenant” (23:5).

Perfect man? No, but that is the kind of leader God uses (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Ministering to a “Woke” Culture (A Biblical Perspective)

* The following article, though addressing a “hot topic,” is not written to make a political statement. I am a spiritual shepherd, and it is my desire to guide people through a maze of moral dilemmas, and to spiritual truths. “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4).

Shaming has become a perpetual practice of the political left in the 21st century. With little regard for historical fact or context, militant agitators have been fomenting unrest in our society, and trumpeting a narrative of cultural and generational guilt. Politicians, educators, news organizations, religious leaders, corporations, and social media moguls are in lockstep pushing a “Woke” agenda. Driven by a socialist political agenda, they are demanding “justice,” and reparations for the poor and disenfranchised.

What is the “Woke” doctrine?

Risking being accused of over simplification, the adherents of “Woke” doctrine place on one generation or people (i.e., countries of origin, race, religion, et al), the burden of bearing responsibility for the sins and failures of earlier generations.

“Woke” doctrine is being taught in schools, adopted by corporations, and demanded by human rights movements. “Woke” is the ideology of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, and its demand for reparations. “Woke idealists” condemn the United States as an imperialist nation, and accuse the USA of egregious crimes against humanity, and of oppressing the less fortunate people and nations of the world. [An elementary knowledge of United States history, particularly that of the 20th century, reveals the USA is the lone super power that, though not perfect, has been a rebuilder, not an occupier of the conquered and the downtrodden.]

Militant “Woke” liberals are demanding that the United States and its citizens must right our wrongs, even if that means punishing this generation for the alleged sins of past generations.

Must a nation and people pay for the sins and failures of previous generations?  Must “We the people” be impoverish to amend for what others contend are our national sins? Does a massive transfer of wealth to impoverished nations and people “fix” the failures of the past?

What does the Bible say?

Is there a spiritual principle to answer a “Woke” culture? Can one generation bear the guilt for the sins of past generations? Do sons and daughters have a moral obligation to compensate for the failures of their fathers who went before them?

The Word of God does have an answer to this controversy, and it is stated simply:

Ezekiel 18:20 – 20The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

What is the spiritual response to the “Woke” doctrine of “love and reparations?”

It is that every generation bears responsibility for its choices, whether they are lawful or lawless, righteous or wicked (Ezekiel 18:20). When a generation chooses righteousness, they enjoy God’s favor. When sons and daughters choose wickedness, they bear God’s judgment, and will suffer the punishment of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:20d).

Are the sins of past generations the burden of sons and daughters?

Absolutely. We read in Lamentations 5:7, “7Our fathers have sinned, and are not; And we have borne their iniquities.”

While sons and daughter bear the burden and influence of the sins of their fathers, they cannot be lawfully punished for the failures of a former generation. Such a demand is not only unjust, but violates the Scriptures and God’s righteous judgment (Deuteronomy 24:16).

Should the Church and its members look upon human history, and acknowledge “human rights” violations? Do we concede the failures of generations that have gone before us? Absolutely!

However, it is God, not man that is judge. He does not condemn one generation for the failures of another.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith
* All rights reserved. May not be republished without acknowledgement, and the permission of the author.

The Cry of a Wounded Heart (Psalm 41)

Scripture reading – Psalm 41

Today’s devotional is taken from Psalm 41, and is believed to have been penned by David when he was at a low point in life. Some have suggested the king was recovering from sickness, and was physically and emotionally exhausted.

Blessed are the Compassionate (41:1-2)

Psalm 41:1-2 – “Blessed [Happy] is he that considereth [understands; comprehends] the poor [weak; sick; needy]: the LORD will deliver [save; rescue] him in time of trouble [injury; misery; misfortune].
2  The LORD will preserve [keep watch; guard] him, and keep him alive [revive; restore; sustain]; and he shall be blessed [prosperous; happy] upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver [abandon] him unto the will [desire] of his enemies [adversary; foe].

Rehearsing the LORD’s promise that He hears and heeds the cries of His people, especially those who have shown compassion to others (41:1), David reminded all who worship the LORD that He keeps watch over them. Not only does God “preserve” and sustain them, David promised they shall be blessed! (41:2). And, should an enemy seek advantage in one’s hour of weakness, David assured believers the LORD never abandons His own to the will of an adversary (41:2).

A Comfort to the Sick and Afflicted (41:3-4)

Psalm 41:3-43 The LORD will strengthen [support; uphold] him upon the bed [couch; canopy] of languishing [illness; sorrow]: thou wilt make [turn; i.e. describing the care of a nurse] all his bed in his sickness [disease; malady].
4  I said, LORD, be merciful [gracious; show favor] unto me: heal [cure; purify] my soul [life]; for I have sinned [committed sin; guilty] against thee.”

David had tossed and turned on his bed, as sorrow and disappointment washed over him.  He had spent sleepless nights praying, and waiting on the LORD to heal him (41:3).  He had searched his soul, confessed his sin, and believed God would show Him mercy and restore him (41:4).

The Cruelty of Hypocritical Friends (41:5-8)

Psalm 41:5-6 – Mine enemies speak [charge] evil [sin; wickedness] of me, When shall he die [be slain], and his name [fame; honor] perish [destroyed]?
6  And if he [enemy; adversary] come to see [look upon; behold] me, he speaketh [declare] vanity [deceit; lies]: his heart gathereth [collect; heap; take up] iniquity [sin; wickedness] to itself; when he goeth [go forth] abroad [in the streets], he telleth [speak; say; talk] it.

David did not identify his enemies, but he revealed they took pleasure in his illness. They were cruel, and desired his name would perish with his life. Those men were not enemies of another country, but friends, perhaps some of his inner circle. They were close enough to see his pain, pretend to pity him, only to go their way and gloat in his troubles.

Psalm 41:7-8 –  “All that hate me whisper [mumble] together [i.e. in chorus] against me: against me do they devise [imagine; fabricate] my hurt [misery; trouble].
8  An evil [wicked] disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth [lays down] he shall rise up no more.”

We expect cruelty in the world, but it was David’s friends who reveled in his sorrows. Rather than empathy, they took pleasure in adding to his miseries (41:7). Such is the way of embittered souls (41:8).

Betrayed by a Friend and Confidant (41:9)

Psalm 41:9 –  “Yea, mine own familiar [close] friend, in whom I trusted [a confidant], which did eat [devour; consume] of my bread [food; meal], hath lifted up his heel [foot] against me [magnified himself].

Psalm 41:9 gives us a glimpse into the personal nature of the betrayal that had befallen David. Ahithophel’s betrayal, a man whom the king would have counted as a “familiar friend” (41:9), would have been a bitter experience for David. He had been the king’s confidant, but was also Bathsheba’s grandfather. No doubt embittered by David’s sins against his household, Ahithophel had joined Absalom’s insurrection against the king (2 Samuel 16:23). In David’s words, such an adversary had “lifted up his heel” and sought to grind the king under his heel.

A Doxology of Praise (41:10-13)

Psalm 41:10-13 – “But thou, O LORD, be merciful [be gracious; show me favor] unto me, and raise me up, that I may requite them. [reward them for the evil his enemies had done]
11  By this I know that thou favourest [delight in] me, because mine enemy doth not triumph over me.
12  And as for me, thou upholdest [support; give him justice] me in mine integrity [innocence], and settest me before thy face [presence] for ever.
13  Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen.”

Closing thoughtsPsalm 41 has given us a window into the heart of a broken man. There are many who can identify with David’s disappointments, and empathize with his sorrows; however, David did not stay there! When the king turned his thoughts from his sorrows to the LORD, his hope renewed. He was confident the LORD would show him grace, and mercy. Take a lesson from David’s life, and remember:

God favors those who put their trust in Him (41:11-13).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Blood for Blood (2 Samuel 20-21)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 20-21

The prophet Nathan had warned David that the consequences of his adultery, and the murder of Uriah would follow him to his grave (2 Samuel 12:10-14). Absalom was dead! Contrary to the king’s wishes, Joab, one of David’s captains, had killed the son of the David, and buried his body in a ravine under a heap of stones (2 Samuel 18).

David’s soldiers had been victorious on the battlefield, and routed the men of Israel who had sworn devotion to Absalom. Although his reign had been preserved, the death of Absalom thrust upon the king a grief that moved him to cry, “would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (18:33b) Joab rebuked David for grieving the death of his son, and urged him to express his gratitude to his soldiers or risk their resentment (19:7).

2 Samuel 19 concluded exposing a division among the people. The ten tribes to the north, identified as “the men of Israel” (19:41), resented the “men of Judah” (19:42), for David was of that tribe (19:43).

2 Samuel 20 – All Was Not Well in Israel

Sheba, “a man of Belial” (literally, a worthless man), of the tribe of Benjamin (from which King Saul had come), openly opposed David (20:1). Expressing his animosity for the king, Sheba rallied an army to oppose him (20:2). David, having promoted Amasa to lead his army (19:13), commanded him to rally the “men of Judah,” and in three days pursue Sheba, putting down the insurrection before he could retreat to the safety of a walled city.

Amasa, however, proved incapable of rallying the “men of Judah,” for he had been captain of Absalom’s army (20:5). David turned to Abishai, brother of Joab and a trusted captain, and commanded him to pursue Sheba (20:7-8). Amasa arrived too late to lead David’s army, allowing opportunity for Joab to stealthily beguile him close enough to slay him in the sight of the soldiers (20:9-10). David’s men put down the rebellion, and the conflict ended with Sheba being beheaded (20:22).

A Growing Rift between Joab and the King

We should take note of Joab’s flawed character, and his lack of reverence for David. He had slain Absalom, and watched as his men brutalized his body. In 2 Samuel 20, he defied David’s authority, slaying Amasa whom the king had appointed as captain of his army. David certainly had cause for not trusting Joab, but he did nothing to deter the man’s ambitions.

Once again, we are reminded that David had abdicated his moral authority over Joab, when he commanded him to expedite Uriah’s death (2 Samuel 11:14-25). Troubles between Joab and David are on the horizon.

2 Samuel 21 – Famine in the Land

 

Troubles in Israel continued with that nation enduring three years of famine (21:1). Thus, David “inquired of the LORD” (21:1) the cause for the famine.

The LORD revealed the famine was his judgment for a wrong committed by his predecessor, king Saul, against the Gibeonites (non-Israelites who lived in Canaan, 21:1). Because Saul had broken covenant with the Gibeonites, and shed innocent blood, the LORD declared He would not heal the land until David righted the wrong (21:2).

As head of the nation, David humbled himself, and questioned the Gibeonites what they required to right the sin committed against them (21:3). The Gibeonites rejected any offer of silver or gold from the household of Saul, leading David to promise, “What ye shall say, that will I do for you” (21:4).

Blood for Blood (21:5-9)

The Gibeonites, employed an ancient law of mankind (Genesis 9:6), and demanded the deaths of seven sons of Saul (seven men who were direct descendants of Saul). David agreed to the demand (21:6), but spared Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son, who was the grandson of Saul (21:7).

Understanding the land was polluted by innocent blood, David took hold of seven sons of Saul, for “the land [could not] be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it” (21:8-9; Numbers 35:33). Two sons of Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, were slain (21:8a), and five sons identified as “sons of Michal the daughter of Saul (21:8b). Remembering Michal bore the curse of never having children (2 Samuel 6:23), it would seem she had raised five sons as her own (perhaps the sons of her sister Merab, 1 Samuel 18:19).

2 Samuel 21:9 – “9And [David] delivered them [the sons of Saul] into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the hill before the Lord…and were put to death in the days of harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of barley harvest.”

2 Samuel 21 concludes with a historical record of Israel’s conquests over the Philistines, and the slaying of the giants who were of Goliath’s household (21:15-22).

Closing thoughts – Our world is troubled in a way I have not witnessed in my lifetime. Civil unrest, violence, murders, drought, massive storms, famine, and warnings of a shortage of food are constant. Understanding when innocent blood is shed and there is no justice, God will judge the land. We should expect God’s judgment for the millions of unborn children whose lives had been snuffed out in their mother’s womb.

Warning: We are facing God’s judgment that no nation can long withstand (Genesis 9:5-6; Numbers 35:33).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

I Shall Not Be Moved! (Psalm 62; Psalm 64)

Scripture reading – Psalm 62; Psalm 64

There is a familiar refrain in today’s Scripture reading, and it is like many of the psalms authored by David. While I cannot say with certainty the occasion that inspired Psalm 62 and Psalm 64, the subject and content fit the trauma and sorrow he suffered when Absalom led a rebellion against him. Each of the psalms afford us an insight into the wicked bent of men, and their nature. The devotional is taken from Psalm 62. [* Use of brackets indicates the amplification of the author.]

David’s Confidence in the LORD in Times of Trouble (62:1-2)

Though hated by his son, and hunted by those who would kill him, David declared his faith in the LORD, saying:

Psalm 62:1–21Truly [Surely] my soul waiteth [rests] upon God: From him cometh my salvation [help]. 2He [God] only is my rock [fortress] and my salvation; He is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved [not stagger or falter].

Driven from his palace, and hunted by evil men, David’s faith stilled his soul, providing him solace and presenting him rest. If ever there was a man who had cause for a “panic attack” or paralyzing anxieties, it was David. And yet, he was confident the LORD was his Rock, his Fortress, his Salvation, and his sure Defense. With boldness the king proclaimed, “I shall not be greatly moved” (62:2).

Evil Preys Upon Weakness (62:3-4)

David’s song invites you to consider the moral decline of men, and how they prey upon those they seek to destroy.

Psalm 62:3–43How long will ye imagine mischief [lit. verbally assault, shout] against a man? Ye shall be slain[struck down; killed]  all of you: As a bowing [bending] wall shall ye be, and as a tottering [broken] fence. 4They [the wicked] only consult [plan; plot] to cast him down from his excellency [dignity; high character]: They delight [take pleasure] in lies: They bless [praise] with their mouth, but they curse [disdain] inwardly. Selah.

Stop for a moment and meditate on what David revealed about the ways of the wicked. Although his reflections were recorded 3,000 years ago, nothing has changed! What he described as the character of evil men is mirrored everywhere in our world today. Politicians, liberal media, and powerbrokers do not hesitate to lie, distort, and destroy the character of good men and women.

The wicked probe for a man’s weakness, and if they find it, they attack him with a vengeance. If they are unable to find a fault, they will court your favor, pretend to be your friend, and curse you behind your back.

Closing thoughtsWhat can we take from Psalm 62?

It is the nature of evil men to sting a good man’s reputation with lies, and assault his character. We should not be surprised when a godly man is attacked by those whose intent is to break his spirit, and bring him to shame.

What hope is there for believers when they are cruelly attacked? David answers that question in the balance of Psalm 62, and I will offer a brief summary: Wait on the LORD, and hope in Him (62:5). Remember, He is your Rock, Fortress, and Salvation (62:6). “8Trust in him at all times…Pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us” (62:8). Know that all men, “the lowly, and the high [powerful],” are deluded, empty shells, and are “lighter than vanity” (62:9). Never put your faith or confidence in men (62:10).

Remember: God will render “to every man according to his work” (62:12).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Safe to the Rock that is Higher Than I (Psalm 61)

Scripture reading – Psalm 61

The title of Psalm 61 is, “To the chief Musician upon Neginah [a stringed instrument], A Psalm of David.” The setting of the psalm is unclear; however, the prayer indicates it was at a time the king faced grave danger. Perhaps, like preceding psalms, it was penned during the insurrection led by Absalom. Once again, the preserved Word of God makes us privy to David’s desperate cry to the LORD. I invite you to consider Psalm 61 in four parts. [* Use of brackets indicates the amplification of the author.]

A Prayer for Divine Intervention (61:1-2)

Assuming this psalm was inspired during the time the king fled from Jerusalem, and was living in exile, David prayed:

Psalm 61:1-21Hear [Listen] my cry [pleading], O God [Elohim; Mighty God]; Attend [Incline; Listen attentively] unto my prayer [petition; lament].
2From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart [mind; inner man; will] is overwhelmed [weak; faint]: Lead [Guide] me to the rock that is higher [exalted; lifted up] than I.

Writing far from home, “from the end of the earth,” and his heart “overwhelmed” by his troubles, David cried to the LORD: “Lead [Guide] me to the rock that is higher [exalted; lifted up] than I” (61:2). In a very real sense, the king prayed, Lord, take me higher, and to a safer place than I am able to go alone.

A Reflection on the Goodness and Faithfulness of the LORD in the Past (61:3-4)

Psalm 61:3-43For thou hast been a shelter [refuge] for me, and a strong [fortified; mighty] tower [watchtower] from the enemy.
4I will abide [dwell; gather] in thy tabernacle [i.e. tent; the abode of the Ark of God] for ever [all time]: I will trust [seek refuge] in the covert [covering; hiding place] of thy wings. Selah.

Verses 3-4 of Psalm 61 have inspired many great songs and hymns of faith over the centuries. David reflected on the goodness of God he had experienced in life, and was reminded that the LORD had “been a shelter [refuge]…and a strong [fortified; mighty] tower [watchtower] from the enemy” (61:3).

Think about that truth for a moment. In a time of trouble, you can take comfort in the assurance that the LORD is waiting to be your shelter, refuge, and strong tower. Knowing the faithfulness of the LORD, David resolved he would forever abide in His presence (61:4), and trust him to shelter, and cover him as a hen protects her chicks.

An Assurance that God Hears and Answers Prayer (61:5-7)

Psalm 61:5-75For thou, O God [Elohim; Mighty God], hast heard [listened to] my vows: Thou hast given [set; placed] me the heritage [inheritance; possession] of those that fear [revere] thy name [fame; reputation].
6Thou wilt prolong the king’s life [day; time]: And his years as many generations [i.e. generation after generation].
7He shall abide [dwell] before God for ever: O prepare [reckon; assign; count] mercy [favor; goodness; kindness] and truth [trustworthiness; faithfulness], which may preserve [guard; keep; watch] him.

What began as a solemn, and passionate petition for the LORD to hear the king’s prayer (61:1-2), continued with him being comforted that God hears and answers prayers! David reflected on his godly heritage, and that he was of a people who feared and revered the LORD (61:5b). No longer fearing for his life, David asserted with confidence, “6Thou wilt prolong the king’s life: And his years as many generations [i.e. generation after generation]” (61:6). He believed the LORD would, in His mercy and truth, keep watch over him (61:7).

A Renewed Consecration to Worship and Serve the LORD (61:8)

Psalm 61:88So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, That I may daily perform [fulfill; complete] my vows [promises].

David’s thoughts were no longer bound by his troubles, but were refocused on the LORD and His faithfulness. His spirit was renewed, and he resolved to forever sing praises to God, and to keep all he had vowed to do.

Closing thoughts – Do you find yourself in a troubled, difficult place? You might be in the midst of fears, and feel your “heart is overwhelmed” (61:2). Cry out to the LORD, confess your fears, and remember He is waiting to lead you to a “rock that is higher” than you will ever reach alone (61:2c). Feel like hiding? Seek the LORD; He is “a shelter… a strong tower” (61:3), and He wants to shelter you under His wings (61:4).

The Lord is our Rock, and a Shelter in the Time of Storm!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Psalm 40; Psalm 58

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

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

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

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

Two Opposing, Incompatible Worldviews

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

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

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

The Failure of God’s People (58:1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith