Tag Archives: Holy

Take Time to Be Holy

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Ecclesiastes 5-6

When I was young and with a lifetime ahead of me, reading the Book of Ecclesiastes was a chore.   I confess; I read its verses, but did not relish its truths.  The ponderings of Solomon, his youth spent and his heart laden with the weight of sin, was depressing.

Solomon’s counsel in his old age stands out in sad contrast to the proverbs of wisdom he taught his sons when they were young.  Rather than exhortations of wisdom and cautions to walk in the way of the LORD, Ecclesiastes calls to mind the counsel of foolish parents who say, “Do as I say, not as I do.”  Such is the counsel of too many fathers and mothers in our day.

Ecclesiastes, the Book I found discouraging in my youth, has become a challenge for me to examine my walk with the LORD and walk in wisdom.  I hope you will find today’s reading, Ecclesiastes 5-6, will be the same for you.

Solomon stated his counsels in Ecclesiastes 5 so clearly there is little commentary you need from this country parson to grasp and apply them to your life.  Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 instructs us regarding the preparations of our heart and attitude when worshipping the LORD.

Permit me to suggest four ways we offend God when we worship Him.

The first, we offend the LORD when we open our checkbook before we open our heart to Him (5:1).  

Ecclesiastes 5:1 – “Keep [guard; watch] thy foot [i.e. be careful] when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear [listen; obey], than to give the sacrifice of fools [silliness]: for they [fools] consider not that they do [commit] evil [sin; wickedness].

The definition and practice of “worship” in American churches has changed dramatically in the past 30 years.  What was once a deliberate act of solemnity, conscious a holy God “looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b) and knows our thoughts and motives (Jeremiah 17:10), has become raucous entertainment with “worshippers” dancing to the beat of drums and the blare of deafening music.  Oh how far we have strayed from the call to, Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

Secondly, we offend the LORD when we speak before we think (5:2).

Ecclesiastes 5:2 – “Be not rash [hasty; eager] with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty [swift; quick] to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.”

God may seem distant; however, He hears every word!  Too many of us are so busy making requests and “doing ministry” we fail to take time to be quiet and listen to the soft voice of God’s Spirit.

Saying one thing and doing another is a third offence committed by those who worship the LORD in haste with little thought of heart preparation (5:4-7a).

Ecclesiastes 5:4-7 – “When thou vowest [promise] a vow unto God, defer not [dont be slack] to pay [perform] it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay [render] that which thou hast vowed.
5  Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
6  Suffer not [do not allow or permit] thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel [i.e. a messenger or servant of God], that it was an error [mistake]: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work [labor] of thine hands?   7  For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities [meaningless; no purpose]: but fear thou God.”

God remembers every prayer, every vow, and every thought.  Before you open your mouth and make a vow, remember, God will not forget the vows you make.  Jesus taught His disciples:

Matthew 12:36-37  – But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Finally, we offend God when we fail to revere and worship Him in humility and sincerity.  We read, “but fear thou God” (5:7b).

When you come before the LORD to worship Him, whether in the quietness of your daily devotions or in the congregation of His saints on Sunday, slow down, take time to be quiet, weigh every word, and humble yourself before Him.

Psalm 46:10Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

God is Sovereign and The Most Powerful Monarch Bows to His Will.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Chronicles 33-36

Unlike his father Hezekiah, under whose reign Judah experienced revival (2 Chronicles 30:1-9) when he destroyed the places of idol worship (2 Chronicles 31), Manasseh began to reign as king of Judah when he was twelve years old, reigning fifty-five years, but he “did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD” (33:2).

There were no bounds to the depths of depravity to which Manasseh stooped.  He rebuilt the groves of prostitution where Baal was worshipped, desecrated the Temple, practiced human sacrifice, sacrificing his own children to idols, participated in witchcraft, and led Jerusalem to commit wickedness “worse than the heathen” (33:9).  What a horrible biography of depravity and wickedness, practiced by the young king and tolerated by his advisors and the masses!

I marvel how a godly king like Hezekiah who led Judah in spiritual revival; might have a son like Manasseh who succeeded his father as king and proceeded down a path of evil that exceeded the wickedness of the heathen (33:9).  If you will allow a personal observation (after all, this is a commentary); I am oft amazed how men in authority influence a people, spawn a movement of prejudice and hatred, and leave in their wake the destruction of families, communities, nations and the deaths of millions of men and women.

As a product of the 20th century and a student of its history, I reflect on the century past (the rise of Communism, Nazi-fascists, militant Islamists, and our present-day conflict with anarchists of all stripes…political and religious) and understand the tragic consequences that befall nations that choose wicked, unprincipled, godless leaders.  King Solomon taught his son the same, writing:

Proverbs 29:2 – “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.”

In spite of his evil ways, we read, “the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken” (33:10).  What a testimony of God’s patience and longing to forgive and restore His people!  Being reminded God’s ways are not our ways, the LORD sovereignly moved on the heart of “the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks and fetters and brought him to Babylon” (33:11).  Reminding us to not give up on wayward sinners, in the throes of his suffering and humiliation, Manasseh “besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, 13  And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God” (33:12-13).

Having repented of his sins, God restored Manasseh to the throne in Jerusalem and he began a crusade to fortify the walls of the city, removing the traces of his own wickedness in tearing down places of idol worship,  repairing the Temple altar and commanding “Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel” (33:13-16).

Manasseh, by example and edict, led the nation to turn from their sins and return to the LORD; however, he was unable to reverse the effect of his sins on Amon, his son who did “evil in the sight of the LORD, as did Manasseh his father…And humbled not himself before the LORD” (33:21-23) until his servants assassinated him in the palace (33:24).

Being reminded of God’s grace, Josiah, the son of Amon and grandson of Hezekiah, turned from the sins of his father and followed his grandfather’s example and “did that which was right in the sight of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 34-35:1-19).  Josiah’s death on the battlefield (35:20-24) and how the prophet Jeremiah and the people mourned his death is recorded in 2 Chronicles 35:20-27.

2 Chronicles 36 records the final days of Judah as a nation before Babylonian captivity.  Long prophesied by the prophets, the burning of the Temple, ruin of the palaces, destruction of Jerusalem, and the people being led away captive to Babylon for seventy years were fulfilled (36:1-24).

Today’s scripture reading concludes with a reminder:  God is sovereign and the most powerful monarch bows to His will.

2 Chronicles 36:22-23 – “ 22  Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, 23  Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Called to Be Holy

Monday, November 6, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 10-12

Moses’ final challenge to Israel before his departure continues in today’s scripture reading, Deuteronomy 10-12.

deut-10-12.jpgLest the people believe God chose Israel because they were more righteous than the heathen nations, Deuteronomy 9 concludes with Moses reminding the people how the previous generation sinned against the LORD while he was receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.  Provoked by the wickedness of the people, Moses had cast the LORD’s Commandments to the ground (Deuteronomy 9:17) and prayed for God to not utterly destroy the nation (9:18-29).

Moses continues in Deuteronomy 10 reminding the people how the LORD showed mercy to Israel following the people’s idolatry and directed him to prepare two tables of stone on which the Ten Commandments would be written a second time (10:1-5).  The first four of the Ten Commandments establishing man’s relationship with God (Exodus 20:1-11); the sixth through the tenth commandments man’s relationship with his fellow-man (Exodus 20:12-17).

Breaking the first tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, Moses demonstrated that Israel broke the nation’s covenant with the LORD and, apart from His mercy and grace, deserved God’s judgment.  As a testimony of God’s grace and forgiveness, God commanded Moses, “Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, and come up unto me into the mount, and make thee an ark of wood. 2  And I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables which thou brakest, and thou shalt put them in the ark” (10:1-2).

The generation Moses addressed in Deuteronomy 10 were the children of those who disobeyed God, refused to enter the Promise Land, and died in the wilderness.  With the exception of Joshua and Caleb, Moses was the last of that generation and the LORD had determined he would not be allowed to enter the land with Israel.  With the urgency of a father who loves his children and knows his opportunity to teach and guide them is waning, Moses challenged the people to obey the LORD with five imperatives (10:12-13).

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 – “And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, 13  To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?”

Moses then rehearsed the character of Israel’s God  (10:14-22).

The God of Israel is Creator and “the heaven of heavens…and the earth also, with all that therein is” is the LORD’S (10:14).   He is “God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible [i.e. to be feared]”.  He is Just and “regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: 18  He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow [those who are weak and unable to defend themselves].”

The exhortation for Israel to love the LORD and keep His commandments continues in Deuteronomy 11 as Moses reminds the people of God’s past mercies; how He delivered the nation out of Egypt and led them through the wilderness (11:1-7).

Exhorting the people to obey the LORD’S commandments and keep His statutes (11:8), Moses rehearsed God’s promise to “give unto them and to their seed, a land that floweth with milk and honey” (11:9).  Reminding them  the promise of God’s blessings was conditional (11:10-17), he challenged them to keep the commandments and the LORD will send rain (11:10-15); “serve other gods…And then the LORD’S wrath be kindled against you…that there be no rain” (11:16-17).  Moses warned, “27  A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: 28  And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God” (11:27-28a).

Moses reminded Israel they were chosen by God and called to be a holy nation.  When they possessed the land they were to “observe to do all the statutes and judgments” which the LORD commanded them (11:31-32).

Is there a lesson for 21st century believers to take from God’s covenant with Israel and Moses’ challenge for the people to obey His commandments?

Absolutely!  To their credit, many Bible fundamental pulpits have a renewed compulsion to trumpet the “Gospel”, however, I am afraid the clarion warning of God’s judgment is falling silent.  Preachers and evangelists of this present generation herald God’s Grace and the believer’s Liberty in Christ, but neglect to remind the saints the same God Who is Loving and Merciful is also Holy and Just!

Believers are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9); however, that does not mean the LORD allows a believer to choose a middle ground between worldliness and holiness.  As Israel was to be a holy nation and obey the LORD’S commandments (Deuteronomy 12); believers are commanded to be “holy in all manner of conversation” (1 Peter 1:15).

1 Peter 1:14-16 – “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:
15  But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
16  Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Remember When Preachers Warned God’s Judgment Was Imminent?

Friday, November 3, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Zephaniah 1-3

Our devotional reading in 2 Chronicles 29-32 (see October 31, 2017) was timely, given today’s scripture reading in the Book of Zephaniah follows chronologically my commentary on King Hezekiah’s reign in Judah.  The introductory verse of Zephaniah sets the time of this prophetic book during the reign of King Josiah, the grandson of Hezekiah.  A brief lineage of the prophet Zephaniah is given in the opening verse of this book that bears his name.

Zephaniah 1:1 – “The word of the LORD which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.”

Zephaniah was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah and served as prophet to Judah during the reign of Josiah (1:1b).  Some suggest the “Hizkiah” mentioned in Zephaniah 1:1 is King Hezekiah; if so, Zephaniah was born of royal lineage.  King Josiah, like his grandfather Hezekiah, sought to lead Judah back to the LORD and perhaps it was the influence of Zephaniah that was the impetus for the king’s longing for revival.

The prophecies of Zephaniah not only warn Judah of God’s approaching judgment (1:2-2:15), but prophetically warn the day is coming when God will judge all nations.  Zephaniah declared the severity of God’s wrath in terms that left no doubt the time of judgment was imminent.  Quoting the LORD, Zephaniah prophesied:

Zephaniah 1:2-3 – “I will utterly consume all things…man and beast…fowls of the heaven, the fishes of the sea…I will cut off man from off the land, saith the LORD.”

In spite of the prophet’s warnings and King Josiah’s effort to call the nation to repent, the revival was short-lived.   Following Josiah’s death, the people returned to idolatry and soon after the armies of Babylon plundered the land, destroying the Temple and Jerusalem, and leading the people into captivity.

The prophecies of Zephaniah, though imminent for Judah, foretold God’s judgment not only against Judah, but all nations of the world.  Having herald God’s warning of judgment against Judah, Zephaniah turned his message toward other nations, prophesying God’s judgments against the Philistines (2:4-8), Moab and Ammon (2:8-11), and Ethiopia and Assyria (2:12-15).

Judah, specifically the capital city of Jerusalem, becomes the prophet’s focus in Zephaniah 3.  The inhabitants of Jerusalem were privilege to have the Temple in their midst and priests and prophets ministering among them.  In spite of God’s grace and mercies, the citizens of Jerusalem worshipped idols and took pleasure in wickedness.

Zephaniah describes Jerusalem as “filthy and polluted” (3:1), disobedient, incorrigible [“she received not correction”] and faithless (3:2).  Her rulers like “roaring lions” (3:3), her judges like “evening wolves”, her spiritual leaders “light [reckless] and treacherous [deceivers]” (3:4) and her priests “polluted [defiled; desecrated] the sanctuary…have done violence [violated; wrong] to the law” (3:4).

Lest some say the LORD is unjust, Zephaniah testifies, “The just LORD is in the midst…every morning doth He bring His judgment to light” (3:5).

Having prophesied God’s judgment of Judah and the nations, Zephaniah foretells God would one day gather the nations of the world for a universal judgment… “all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy” (3:8).

Zephaniah concludes with a prophecy yet to be fulfilled, promising the LORD will one day gather Israel, restore His people to their land, and dwell in the midst (3:14-20).

On a personal note, when I was a young believer I often heard preachers heralding the prophecies of God’s final judgment on the nations and humanity.  Knowing the wickedness and violent straits of today’s world, I am surprise the pulpits of Gospel preaching churches have grown silent regarding the wrath and final judgment of God.  [Perhaps the word “surprise” is an overstatement since sissy preachers hardly have the stomach or the courage to preach against sin, let along a lukewarm congregation tolerate preaching on God’s judgment.]

To the church of Laodicea, which I believe is the church of the last days, the LORD commanded the apostle John to write…

Revelation 3:15-16 “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

I am afraid a “lukewarm” generation is filling the pulpits and occupying the pews of churches and schools that were once leaders of Bible fundamentalism, but have become “neither cold nor hot…[and are] rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Revelation 3:15-16).

We need a generation of preachers who have the zeal, courage and devotion to call believers to repent and warn the nations of the earth the judgment of God is imminent!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Preachers who lack the courage of spiritual convictions and discernment will lead their ministries to ruin.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Daily reading assignment – 2 Chronicles 29-32

Our study of the histories of Israel and Judah continues with 2 Chronicles 29.  As a reminder, Israel is a divided kingdom.  Following the reign of Solomon, the ten tribes in the north rebelled and became known as Israel or Ephraim; the two remaining tribes in the south, Judah and Benjamin, united as one kingdom, became known as Judah with Jerusalem serving as the capital city.

It is Judah, during the reign of Hezekiah, that is the subject of 2 Chronicles 29-32.  Permit me to set the stage for the spiritual revival that takes place in today’s devotional. 

The reign of Ahaz, the father of Hezekiah, had been a curse to Judah for “he did not that which was right in the sight of the LORD, like David his father” (2 Chronicles 28:1).  That a man born of David’s lineage could commit such wickedness is a testimony to the tragic nature of sin that indwells the heart of man apart from God.   Ahaz not only turned from the LORD, but also “burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen” (28:3).

We read, “For the LORD brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel; for he made Judah naked, and transgressed sore against the LORD” (28:19).  Rather than repent, Ahaz did all he could to destroy the LORD’s Temple, cutting in pieces vessels used in the Temple and shutting up the doors (28:24).

When Ahaz died, his son Hezekiah began to reign and “did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done” (29:2).  Rather than follow in his father’s sins, Hezekiah turned to the LORD and began repairing the Temple (29:3) and set his heart to “make a covenant with the LORD God of Israel” (29:10).

Hezekiah’s first command was to summon the Levites and direct them to cleanse the Temple (29:4-11).  Having cleansed the Temple (29:12-17), the priests reported to Hezekiah who “went up to the house of the LORD”, offered sacrifices (29:18-25) and commanded the Levites to lead the congregation in worship with musical instruments and song (29:26-30).

Restoring the observance of the Passover, Hezekiah invited all Israel and Judah to turn to the LORD and come to Jerusalem and worship (30:1-9).  While some in Israel heeded the king’s call to humble themselves and worship the LORD, there were many who “laughed them to scorn, and mocked them” (30:10-11).

Notice revival in Judah began with the king and the nation’s spiritual leadership.  Heeding the king’s invitation to return to the LORD, the people assembled in Jerusalem to observe the Passover and tore down altars of idolatry in the land.   When the Passover lamb was killed, those who ministered the Passover were pricked in their hearts and “were ashamed, and sanctified themselves” (30:15) because they “had not cleansed themselves” (30:17-18).

On a personal note, rather than bemoaning the backslidden state of our churches and schools, might it not be the crux of the problem, the reason our churches are spiritually dead and our schools, colleges and seminaries are carnal is best addressed to those who stand in the pulpits? 

In the manner of a pastor calling sinning saints to come home to the LORD, “Hezekiah prayed for them [the Levites], saying, The good LORD pardon every one” and “spake comfortably unto all the Levites” (30:18, 22).  The phrase, “spake comfortably”, might mislead some to think the king made the Levites comfortable; however, the word translated “comfortably” is the Hebrew word for the heart or mind.  In other words, the king did not appeal to their emotions, but to their hearts.

Judah’s revival continues in 2 Chronicles 31 as the places of idol worship are destroyed (31:1) and the sacrificial offerings brought by the people was so great there was a problem in how to dispose of the tithes and offerings (31:2-10).

An enemy of Judah, “Sennacherib king of Assyria” (32:1), invades Judah in chapter 32 and began to undermine the nation’s confidence in the king and the LORD (32:2-19).   Responding as spiritual men, Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah “prayed and cried to heaven, 21  And the LORD sent an angel, which cut off all the mighty men of valour, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria…22  Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem…” (32:21-22).

2 Chronicles 32 closes with a stunning account of Hezekiah becoming ill because he failed to render to the LORD the glory He alone was due (32:25) for Judah’s victory over Assyria.  The king’s illness was terminal, “sick to the death” (32:24); however, when the king “humbled himself” (32:26) God restored his health.

Permit me to close with a personal observation.  King Solomon taught his son who would be king, When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2).

I have observed that precept validated many times in my lifetime.   In contradiction to the assertion of some that a leader’s character doesn’t matter; I suggest the evidence is overwhelming… A leader’s character does matter!   Whether the leader of a nation, state, city, church or school…a leader’s character leaves an indelible impression on a people.  Leaders who choose righteousness and justice are a source of joy; however, wicked leaders will inevitably bring a people to sorrow and ruin.

Don’t take my word.  Examine the devastating influence of past presidents or the destructive influence of pastors or administrators who, lacking the courage of spiritual convictions and discernment, lead their ministries to ruin.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Obedience bears the assurance of God’s blessing.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 4-6

We began reading the Book of Deuteronomy last Monday and continue in the same this day with our study focusing on chapter 4-6.  As a reminder, we are in the midst of Moses’ challenge and final words of exhortation to Israel before God takes him home to Himself.

Having rehearsed God’s providences and faithfulness to His chosen people, Moses communicated to Israel he was not allowed to enter Canaan because He had sinned against the LORD (Deut. 3:25-27).  The LORD, however, promised to give Moses a vision of the land He promised the nation.   One of the final acts of Moses’ leadership was God’s command for him “charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see” (Deut. 3:28).

Moses’ exhortation continues in Deuteronomy 4 when he reminds the people of their special covenant relationship with the LORD.

Deuteronomy 4:1 – “Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you.”

Unlike any other, the LORD chose Israel and privileged that nation to know Him personally for He revealed His character and person in His Word and “statutes and judgments”.   The people knew the LORD and were custodians of His Laws and Commandments (4:7-14).

Moses exhorted Israel to not take lightly their covenant responsibility to know and obey the LORD’s commandments, warning, the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God” [He will not accept second place in the lives of His people] (4:24).

Less the people be disheartened, Moses reminded the people the LORD is not only a “consuming fire, even a jealous God”, He is also merciful, longsuffering, and forgiving.

Deuteronomy 4:31 – “(For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) He will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.”

Who is Israel’s God?  He is the Creator and the God of heaven (Deut. 4:21).  He is God alone and “there is none else beside Him” (4:35).  He is Sovereign of heaven and earth (4:39).

Moses rehearsed God’s covenant, the giving of His Commandments at Mount Horeb, and the commandments themselves in Deuteronomy 5.

Deuteronomy 6 states not only the responsibility of knowing, keeping and obeying the “commandments, the statutes, and the judgments” (6:1) of the LORD, but also the individual responsibility of parents imparting to their sons and daughters the LORD’s commands.

When a Pharisee asked Jesus which of the commandments was the greatest (Matthew 22:36-37), He quoted Deuteronomy 6:5.

Deuteronomy 6:5 – “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”

Each generation was to not only obey the commandments out of a heart of love, they were also to communicate the commands, statutes, and laws of the LORD “diligently” to their children (6:7-9).  The Word of God was to be the subject of every household in Israel.   The commands, statutes, and laws were the standard and spiritual guide for every area of life…sitting down, walking, lying down at night or rising at dawn.  No area of a man’s life was to go unchecked.

Deuteronomy 6:17-18 – “Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee. 18  And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the LORD: that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest go in and possess the good land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers,”

I close with two spiritual lessons in today’s study.  The first, remembering the providences of the LORD and how He delivered Israel out of Egypt and slavery is a frequent theme of Moses’ final address to Israel in the Book of Deuteronomy.  The same should be true of 21st century believers; we need to remember the LORD’s providences in our lives, how He saved us from the condemnation and bondage of sin through Christ’s sacrificial death, burial and resurrection (Romans 3:23-28).

A second lesson is, Obedience bears the assurance of God’s blessing.  Moses challenged Israel to obey the LORD’s instructions, assuring the people their God was intimately invested in the “good [of Israel] always” and their preservation as His chosen people (6:24).  The apostle Paul gives that same assurance to believers in Romans 8:28.

Romans 8:28 – “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

“Peace In The Midst of the Storm”

September 10, 2017

A Sunday Devotional Thought from Mark 4:35-5:1

Canceling worship services this Sunday, September 10, 2017 is something I did not want to do; however, facing the uncertainty of Hurricane Irma’s direction and arrival in Tampa Bay, Hillsdale’s pastoral leadership felt it wise to not place upon our church family an expectation to leave your places of safety.

I am writing this devotional knowing I will miss the opportunity to worship, sing, and study God’s Word with you this Sunday, but purposing to remind you the LORD gives peace to those who put their faith in Him, even in the midst of storms.  Storms, trials and troubles are, after all, our lot because we live in a sin cursed world.

The focus of this Sunday devotional is Mark 4:35-5:1.   Jesus had been teaching parables throughout the day and when the crowd became too large and pressed upon Him, He sat in a fishing boat and taught them near the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Exhausted from teaching, Jesus asked His disciples to cross the lake to the other side, some seven miles away.  Lying down in the boat, Jesus slept.

Although named a Sea, the body of water known as the Sea of Galilee is a large lake, only 14 miles long and 7 miles wide.  This body of water; however, is notorious for violent storms that without warning turn the lake into a raging sea.

Lying 700 feet below sea level, the Sea of Galilee has a sub-tropical climate that is warm and pleasant year-round, much like our own Tampa Bay.   Encircled by the Galilean mountains and the Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee is part of the Jordan rift.  To the north is the snow-covered peak of Mt. Hermon whose melting snows feed the tributaries that form the Jordan River, running southward into the Sea of Galilee and finally into the Dead Sea.  Cold winds from mountain peaks in the north drift down through hillsides funneling cold air into the warm sub-tropical air of the Sea of Galilee causing sudden, violent storms.  It is a storm such as this we find the disciples and Jesus.

Luke writes, “as they sailed He [Jesus] fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy” (Luke 8:23).  Matthew writes of the same incident, “there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep” (Matthew 8:24).

The magnitude of the storm is evident when we remember at least four of the disciples were experienced fisherman on the Sea of Galilee; however, not even veteran fishermen were able to salvage the desperate situation in which they found themselves.  Cold winds whipped up the waves threatening to overwhelm the ship while exhausted disciples fought to keep the vessel afloat.  Finally, when all seemed lost, we read, “they came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, Master, master, we perish…” (Luke 8:23-24).

Physically and emotionally exhausted, the disciples realized they could not save themselves and cried out to Jesus: “Master [lit. – Teacher], carest though not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38)

Embodied in that question is sadly, a revelation of their lack of faith and understanding of the LORD.   In their distress, they questioned the LORD’s compassion, “Carest thou not” (Mark 4:38).  Years later, Peter would write, The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

It was not a lack of compassion, but a lack of faith that was the problem.  The disciples viewed the storm as a challenge and threat to their physical well-being.  The LORD was not surprised by the storm, nor overwhelmed; He had a far greater purpose for the storm…a lesson in faith.

Mark 4:39-40 – “And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40  And He said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

Jesus knew the weakness of His disciples’ faith and their failure to trust Him.   When He rebuked the storm and the winds immediately ceased and the water was stilled, “they feared exceedingly [terrfied], and said [lit. kept saying] one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41)

They had heard Him teach, but did not know Him.  Witnessed His miracles, but failed to understand His divine power and nature.  What manner of man is this?

The disciples should have known the man sleeping in the hindermost part of the boat and whose command, “Peace Be Still” the winds and waves obeyed was no mere man…He was Jesus, the Son of God, Creator.

King David wrote of the LORD, “Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people” (Psalm 65:7).

Another psalmist wrote, “O Lord God of host….Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them” (Psalm 89:8-9).

Many reading this Sunday devotional are in the midst of a very real storm.

My church family in Tampa Bay is awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Irma.  Many in Houston are nigh overwhelmed by the devastation left by Hurricane Harvey.  Some are in storms deeply personal in nature…a crisis of health, problems at home, in marriage or a financial crisis.   Many are ill-prepared for storms because their faith is anchored on a shallow, unbibilical theology duping them to believe “Something good is going to happen!”

Friend, God does not promise to spare us from trouble or trials; however, He promises to be with us!  Before ascending to heaven Jesus promised His disciples, “lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20b).

What spiritual benefits can we derive from storms?

Storms remind us we are weak and incapable of saving ourselves.  Storms are opportunities to know God personally and intimately.  Storms invite us to turn our focus from oursevles to the LORD.   The disciples experienced what David as shepherd wrote, “thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4).

I assure you, the safest place in the world is in the will of God and yes, He sometimes leads you into the midst of storms!

I close inviting you to listen to Evangelist Ben Everson singing, What Manner of Man Is his?”

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith, Senior Pastor

Hillsdale Baptist Church

Tampa, FL

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith