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“What Beautiful Feet You Have, My Love!”

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Song of Solomon 7-8

Today’s reading brings us to the close of our Old Testament “Read Thru the Bible” daily scripture reading assignments.  What a wonderful accomplishment on your part!  Not only did you persevere in your commitment to read the scriptures, many of you followed the daily meditational meanderings of this pastor’s daily devotional commentary.

As a reminder, there are three methods of interpretations for the Song of Solomon.   The Allegorical interpretation suggests the Song of Solomon describes God’s relationship with His people and is a story or parable meant to describe either God’s relationship with Israel or Christ’s relationship with His bride, the Church.  A Typical interpretation suggests the bride of Solomon is a type or picture of the Church and the groom is Jesus Christ.

The third, and the one I settled on for my devotional commentary, is a Literal interpretation.  In other words, I suggest the Song of Solomon is a true love story; the romance of Solomon as a young king and his love for a young Shulamite peasant girl who will become his queen.

The phrase, “Love is blind”, is often credited to William Shakespeare who employed it on several occasions in his plays; however, the phrase first appears in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Merchant Tale (1405) and states in the old English, “For loue is blynd alday and may nat see.” [i.e. “Love is blind all day, and may not see.”]

Author Pauline Thomason, perhaps more realistic than the previous quote, weighed in with her own observation: Love is blind, marriage is the eye-opener.”

An anonymous author states a sentiment for the state of blind love more fitting to the love expressed by Solomon in today’s scripture reading:

“They are wrong who say that love is blind. On the contrary, nothing – not even the smallest detail – escapes the eyes; one sees everything in the loved one, notices everything; but melts it all into one flame with the great and simple: I love you.”

I will not take the time to write an extensive commentary on Song of Solomon 7; however, anyone who has been in love will no doubt identify with the king’s words.  Solomon is “in love” and he takes no time to notice, let along number, the blemishes of his beloved wife.

Some might spin an interpretation of the opening verses of Song of Solomon 8:1-3, into an insidious attempt to suggest an incestuous love; however, I assure you it is not!

The Shulamite’s desire for Solomon to be as her brother, one whom she could show public affection, reminds us her husband is king and his office demands a certain reserve and decorum in public.  Of course, her’s is a young love and she yearns to shower her love upon Solomon; he is not only her king, he is her beloved husband (8:4)!

Song of Solomon 8:6-7 states what should be true of every marriage; the covenant of marriage is singular in nature… “forsaking all others”.  “Love is strong as death” (8:6b) and only death can quench its flame.  The love of husband and wife is a lifelong passion whose embers can never be quenched, save by death alone (8:7).

This wonderful portrait of love and romance between the young king and his queen concludes with a beautiful sentiment…

Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices” (8:14).

Hollywood’s portrayal of love and marriage is lust and a far cry from what the Creator intended for husband and wife.  Sadly, the Millennium generation’s demand for instant gratification and pleasure has embraced lust.  Having no moral boundaries, young men and women are sacrificing innocence, passion, and joy for empty, no commitment “one night stands” that inevitably leave them hollow and abandoned.

It is my observation the testimony of the 21st century church is hardly better.  I have known many portraits of lasting love and romance in the course of my ministry; however, this generation is a different story.  In fact, the rate of divorce in Bible-preaching churches rivals the world.  What a sad testimony of love and marriage we give the world.  After all, Christian marriages should be earthly portraits of Christ’ love for His Church…self-sacrificing, passionate, honorable, and enduring.

Ephesians 5:25, 33 – “ 25  Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it… 33  Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”

I close by taking liberty that comes with being the author of this devotional commentary… To the wife of my youth, who remains my joy after 40 years of marriage, “I love you more than ever!”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Personal Reflections on This Christmas Day

December 25, 2017

Dear family, friends, and Heart of a Shepherd Readers,

Merry Christmas!  I plan to post today’s devotional commentary (Deuteronomy 32-34) later this morning; however, feeling somewhat nostalgic, I wish to post a personal note on this my 61st Christmas Day.  (This is a personal blog post, neither theological or ethereal, and I am not offended if you pass this by without reading).

The quiet of my home this Christmas morning invites reflections on Christmas’ past when this day brought joy as childhood dreams were fulfilled.  Oh, the joy of waking up early Christmas Day morning and finding under the tree gifts my parents had purchased, far exceeding anything they experienced in their childhoods.  I smile when I remember how politically incorrect gifts abounded…Cowboy cap guns, Daisy BB Guns, and my first 20-gauge shotgun.  My favorite gift of all…a 26-inch red bicycle with its own headlight!

God blessed my parents with health and longevity and I am able to express to them today my gratitude.  I appreciate their effort to fulfill childhood dreams when I know my frivolity came at personal sacrifice I could not have known nor did I appreciate at the time.  I love you mom and dad…and, in the words of the late actor Bob Hope, “thanks for the memories”.

Another reminiscence of childhood is my wonder how my maternal grandparents, Roland and Sadie Whitley, presented every grandson and granddaughter a special gift at Christmas (I believe the number was 17 grandchildren).  My grandfather was a hardworking, honest man who was a farmer by day and a factory worker at night.  My grandmother, taking my grandfather’s modest income, spent the year shopping in anticipation of her large family gathering in the living room, unwrapping gifts with childhood glee.  Memories indeed…

My love and gratitude to Sheilah, the beautiful wife of my youth (Proverbs 5:18), who worked within the humble salary of a youth pastor our first 18 years of marriage.  Somehow, you made Christmas a special time for our children, stretching dollars, but filling the space beneath the tree with a myriad of wrapped gifts and surprises (and no, we did not give the fat jolly man any credit for our sacrifice).

Finally, a word of gratitude to our parents, Ted and Fairis Smith and Archie and Sylvia Ipock.  Sheilah and I raised your grandchildren in Michigan and Florida, but we seldom failed to make the long trek home to the Carolinas for Christmas.  Thank you; thank you for sacrificial love, opening your homes to our family, and sacrificing to give our children coveted memories.  Thanks for sweet memories…

With the love of a son, husband, father, and grandfather,

Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Here Comes the Bride!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Song of Solomon 5-6

We continue our study in Song of Solomon reading chapters 5-6 for our devotional study. As a reminder, I have taken the approach this is a literal, romantic story of a bride’s love for a shepherd, a shepherd whom she realizes on her wedding day is King Solomon!  The king and his wedding entourage came for his bride in Song of Solomon 3 and in chapter 4 he took her for his wife.

Song of Solomon 5:1 concludes the glorious wedding day feast as the king bids his guests good night and retires into his palace with his beautiful Shulamite bride.

Song of Songs 5:1 – I [the king] am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends [members of the wedding party]; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.

The love story of the bride and her groom continues with Song of Solomon 5:2.  King Solomon rejoices in his young bride; however, as it is with all marriages, the honeymoon has ended and life takes on the ebb and flow of routine.

The king comes to his new bride’s bedchamber after a long day.  Anticipating the love and greeting of his wife, he knocks at the door of her chamber, but she has retired for the night and at first does not want to be disturbed (5:2b-3).  She hears him trying to open the door and her heart yearns for him (5:4); however, when she opens the door she finds he has departed (5:5-6).

Longing for the company of her husband, she goes out into the night to find him.  In the absence of the king, the guards and watchmen, do not recognize her and answer her inquiry roughly (5:7).   Longing for her husband, she confides to her attendants, “I am sick of love” (5:8b) and ponders in her thoughts the allure of his physical beauty (5:10-16).

The bride’s lonely night and search has passed in Song of Solomon 6 and she rejoices to find her husband, the king, in his royal gardens (6:1-3).  

 Seeing his wife approach, the king romances her with declarations of his love and praises her for her beauty (6:4-7).  He assures her, though there are many wives, concubines, and virgins in his harem (6:8), there are none to compare with her (6:8-9).

What a beautiful picture of love and romance in a marriage!

I close today’s devotional commentary with a few observations.  

The first, marriage is more than a covenant; it is a blending of two lives into one.  The life experiences and backgrounds of Solomon and his bride could hardly be starker.  He is a young king and has known the life of the palace from his infancy; she is a commoner, a poor commoner who knows nothing of a queen’s life.  He is a vibrant, confident king; she is quiet and insecure in her new role as the queen.

A second observation is the king’s loving patience extended to his young bride.  He came to her bedchamber, but she had retired.  He could have forced his way into her room; however, he retreated.  When she came to him the next morning, the king greeted her lovingly, reassuring her with loving words and praising her for her beauty and virtues.

On a personal note: When I was a young pastor, an older and wiser pastor told me, “Look into the faces of wives sitting in a church congregation and you will know if the marriages and families in that church are healthy and happy.”  I have found that is true.

Pressures of family and work can steal a couple’s joy and quench their romance; as a result, many married couples lose their passion.  The young bride in our love story urged her attendants, tell the king, “I am sick of love” (5:8b); literally, I am “love sick”…longing for her husband’s love.

Honeymoons end, but a happy marriage will preserve romance and courtship.

Take a lesson from today’s scripture:  A happy marriage demands the dedication of two souls and a lifetime of patience and romance.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

A Portrait of True Love

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Song of Solomon 3-4

Today’s scripture reading continues in the Song Solomon, chapters 3-4.  As a reminder of my approach and interpretation of this book, I have chosen to take a “Literal interpretation”, meaning I believe Solomon penned this romantic book as a king to a young woman who had become the object of his love. For the sake of brevity, my focus will be Song of Solomon 3.

We find the young bride-to-be dreaming and longing for her unknown suitor in the early verses of chapter 3 (remember, she had first met Solomon when he was alone in the countryside dressed as a common shepherd). Allow me to suggest the following outline.

I. The Dreams of Young Love (3:1-3).

Solomon’s fair young maiden dreams of her groom “upon her bed” (3:1) and, because time has passed, she fears she has been forgotten by him (3:1).  She dreams she went out to seek her suitor (3:2-3) and when she finds him, she brings him to her “mother’s house” (3:4). Her dream continues in verse 5 with my second observation:

II. The Patience of Young Love (3:5).

Rejoicing she has found her beloved she encourages young maidens (“ye daughters of Jerusalem”) to Be Patient in the matter of love and marriage… “stir not up, nor awake my love” (3:5b) and Wait “till he please” (3:5c).

We have seen the dreams of youth and the exhortation that true love is patient and waits.  Notice thirdly, the romantic beauty of the maiden’s wedding day.

III. The Joy and Happiness of Young Love (3:6-11).

Our young maiden has dreamed about her mysterious shepherd. He has courted her lovingly and patiently and she dreams of the day he will come with his wedding party to claim her as his bride, but not knowing the day or the time of his coming.

One day she lifts her eyes towards the horizon and sees a cloud of smoke, coming “out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke” (3:6a).  The air is laden with the fragrance of burning incense, “perfumed with myrrh and frankincense” (3:6b).

In the midst, she sees the royal litter, the “bed, which is Solomon’s” (3:7) borne by sixty “valiant men”, war heroes, men of renown in Israel escorting the king with swords upon their thighs (3:8).

Our young maiden realizes her suitor is not a shepherd, but the king of Israel who is coming for her as his bride (3:9)!  The moment is filled with pageantry; while the soldiers bear the bed meant for his bride, the king is in their midst carried by a chariot made of the finest “wood of Lebanon” (3:9).

As with a bride of our day who plans her wedding down to the minutest detail, even the limousine that will carry her away, our young bride observes the beauty of the bed (or chariot) that will convey her and the king to his palace.  The canopy over the bed supported by beams overlaid with silver (3:10), the canopy of gold, and its cushions of purple, all adorned for the king by “the daughters of Jerusalem” (3:10).

Our young bride, overwhelmed by the joy her groom is Solomon the king, urges her attendants, “ye daughters of Zion” (3:11a), to behold their king wearing the crown given to him by his mother (3:11b), perhaps specially adorned by her on her son’s wedding day.

What an incredible story of love and marriage!  Was this not, in days past, the dreams of innocent young girls?  Stories like Cinderella abound with a fairy-tale storyline of a peasant girl who falls in love with a young prince or king and whose courtship with a stranger is rewarded with her own crowning as princess and queen.

Sad to say, but our society has robbed little girls of their innocence and discretion; and parents have failed to instill in their sons the qualities of a genteel, caring spirit.

I am afraid Christian homes have followed the same; unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices to guard the purity of sons and daughters, our youth know little about young, innocent, pure love that is patient and waiting.

Too many weddings in our churches lack innocence and tenderness because brides and grooms have indulged in lusts at the sacrifice of true love.

God has given us not only a portrait of love (the sacrifice of His Son for our sins – John 3:16; Romans 5:8; Ephesians 5:25), but also the definition of love in action

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 – “4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5  Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7  Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8  Charity never faileth…”

Young person, true love is patient, kind, serving, self-sacrificing, pure, honest, long-suffering, hopeful, lasting, and perpetual…never ending…and never stops loving.

 Wait…wait…wait…and you will never be sorry when true love finds you!

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Is Your Child a Pedigree or a Mutt?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Nehemiah 10-13

Our scripture reading in the book of Nehemiah comes to a close today focusing on chapters 10-13.

Nehemiah 10 gives us the names of eighty-four men, spiritual leaders, politicians, husbands and fathers, who made a solemn oath and put their names to a covenant they made with the LORD (10:1-29).  Having sealed their covenant with the LORD, they “separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God” (10:28).

Israel’s dedication to the LORD was absolute, affecting every area of their lives…their families (10:28-30), businesses (10:31; 13:15-21), and finances (13:32-39). 

Having built the Temple and completed the walls of the city, the next need was for some to commit themselves to rebuilding and repopulating the city of Jerusalem; after all, you cannot have a great city without a great population.  Jerusalem was a “holy city” (11:1), a city dedicated to the LORD and the citizens of that city were to live stricter lives than their fellow Jews who lived outside the city.  With much of the city still in ruins, Jerusalem was more a place of poverty than it was a place of privilege.

Three segments of Israel’s populace were required to repopulate the city:  1) The “rulers of the people” (11:1); 2) A tenth of Israel’s population that was drafted by casting lots (11:1); 3) And others who volunteered and “willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem” (11:2).

Nehemiah 11-12 presents us with a great list of men, some named and others known only by their deeds; men whose names Nehemiah inscribed in his book lest they be forgotten. Four hundred and sixty-eight described as “valiant men” (11:6).  Eight hundred and twenty-two men who ““…did the work of the house” of God using their talents and gifts for the LORD’s work (11:12).  There were men who “…had the oversight of the outward business of the house of God.” (11:16); some serving as counselors, teachers, and others the general ministries of the Temple. Others described simply as “porters” (11:19); describing the menial nature of their ministries as doorkeepers and janitors,  but all important and noted by the LORD!

Friend, don’t make light of the menial tasks some bear in their service for the LORD and His church.  “Valiant men” and “porters” had their role and ministry in the Temple and were necessary to fulfill God’s purpose that Jerusalem be restored to her glory as the “holy city” (11:1).

Nehemiah 12 gives a chronicle of priests and Levites (12:1-26) and the worship service when the walls of Jerusalem were dedicated (12:27-47).

Nehemiah 13 closes with a reminder the work of ministry and serving the LORD and His people is never finished.  Nehemiah’s task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem was complete; however, he had no time to glory in his success!  Evidencing the character of a great servant of the LORD, Nehemiah began another phase of ministry…addressing and confronting the spiritual compromise already taking hold in Israel.

Consider four spiritual leadership qualities found in Nehemiah’s character in Nehemiah 13. 

The first leadership quality is courage; Nehemiah was a courageous leader (13:4-9).   As governor of Israel, Nehemiah traveled to Babylon to report to the king of Persia the state of affairs in Jerusalem; however, when he returned he found an “evil” allowed by the high priest Eliashib.

Nehemiah 13:7 – And I came to Jerusalem, and understood of the evil that Eliashib did for Tobiah, in preparing him [Tobiah] a chamber in the courts of the house of God.

Imagine finding Tobiah, an Ammonite and enemy who had opposed Nehemiah rebuilding the wall (Nehemiah 2:10, 19; 4:3) living in the Temple!  Nehemiah did not wait for a committee to make a decision or seek a diplomatic solution…He courageously confronted Tobiah, throwing him and his possessions into the street (13:8), and ordered the Temple rooms cleansed (13:9).

A second leadership quality is discernment (13:10-14).  Nehemiah writes,

 Neh. 13:10 – And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field.

A good leader gets the facts and ask questions when he perceives a problem.  Nehemiah rebuked the leaders and the people (13:10-14) when he comprehended their failure to give tithes and offerings forced those employed in the Temple to labor in their fields to the neglect of their public ministries.

A third leadership quality is Nehemiah maintained spiritual priorities (13:15-22). Finding the Jews had secularized the Sabbath, treating it like any other day of the week (13:16), Nehemiah confronted the leaders and said, “What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day?”

Nehemiah did not trifle with the matter of sin. He labeled their actions an “evil thing”, a profaning and defilement of the Sabbath, the LORD’s Day.

Finally, Nehemiah was a man of conviction and boldly confronted compromise (13:23-28).  The compromise of God’s people was so grave they had allowed their sons and daughters to intermarry with the heathen in the land.  Nehemiah observed,

Nehemiah 13:24 – And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews’ [Hebrew] language, but according to the language of each people.

Some of the Jews lost their children to the ways of the heathen; speaking a mixed language of “Ashdod” (the Philistine language) and Hebrew, Jewish youth had assimilated not only the sinful ways and customs of the ungodly, they had also adopted their language.  Being the candid spiritual leader he was, Nehemiah took their sinful compromise as a personal affront to himself and to God.  Nehemiah writes,

Nehemiah 13:25 – And I contended [treat with contempt] with them, and cursed [reviled] them, and smote [physically struck] certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves.

I fear there are few Nehemiah’s in Bible fundamental churches, Christian schools and Bible colleges.  We are in short supply of courageous men who are discerning, focused on spiritual priorities at the expense of personal sacrifice, and conviction who refuse to compromise with the ungodly.  Pulpits that once thundered with sermons calling a generation of youth to personal holiness and sanctification, now whimper with a message of accommodation that sacrifices and minimizes personal spiritual disciplines.

Nehemiah contended with the people for allowing the ungodly to influence and marry their sons and daughters (Nehemiah 13:25).

I don’t mean to offend anyone, but after 38 years of ministry, it has been my observation dog breeders of champion pedigrees give more attention to the selection of the dam (i.e. female) and sire (i.e. male) for breeding their dogs than many Christian parents give to the character of friends who eventually date and marry their sons and daughters.

What a tragedy!  No wonder the divorce rate in the church is as high as the world!  Nehemiah challenged the people, “we would not give our daughters unto the people of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons” (Nehemiah 10:30).  The tragedy is, many families failed to heed Nehemiah’s admonition and lost their children (13:25).  I am afraid the same is true of our homes, churches, and schools.

2 Corinthians 6:14 – “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Choices Always Have Consequences

Monday, December 11, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Deuteronomy 26-28

Our scripture reading is Deuteronomy 26-28 and continues Moses’ final challenge to Israel before his departure.  As noted in previous devotional commentary on the book of Deuteronomy, Moses is charging Israel with laws and spiritual principles that are to guide the people as they become a nation in their own land (Deuteronomy 26:1).

Moses reminds Israel when they come into the land God has promised, they are to give tithes of the fruit (or profit) of their labor.  Remembering the blessing of the harvest comes from the LORD (Dt. 26:1-11), the firstfruits offering was taken to the place of worship, given as a sacrifice and supported the priestly tribe of Levi and their households.

In the third year, a special tithe was given coinciding with tither’s confession he had honored the LORD’s commandments and obeyed them.  The tithe given in the third year was used locally to meet immediate needs in one’s own community and to support “the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled” (26:12-15).

Beginning with Deuteronomy 26:16 and continuing to Deuteronomy 31:13, Moses expounds to the nation the benefits of obeying the LORD and keeping His commandments.  With the promise God had chosen Israel “to be His peculiar people…and to make thee high above all nations…” (Dt. 26:16-19), Moses admonished the people to “be an holy people unto the LORD thy God” (Dt. 26:19b).

Lest the people forget all the LORD had done for them, the elders of Israel were to erect a memorial pillar of stones on the west side of the Jordan River serving as a reminder of LORD’s promises and commandments (Dt. 27:1-2).  An altar was to be built to sanctify the place and the laws and commandments were to be inscribed on the stones as a lasting testimony (27:2-10).

Reminding the people “Choices have Consequences”, the elders of the twelve tribes were charged to teach the people obedience to the Law brought the LORD’s blessing and disobedience His curse and judgments (27:14-26).

Moses pronounced a series of twelve curses should the people disobey the LORD and reject His Law and Commandments (Dt. 27:15-26).  The following sins invited God’s judgment:

1) Idolatry, a violation of the first and second commandments is cursed (27:15).

2) Dishonoring one’s parents is cursed (27:16), a violation of the fourth commandment (Ex. 20:12).

3) Stealing the property and possessions of another by deceit is cursed, a violation of the sixth commandment (27:17; Ex. 20:15).

4) Taking advantage of one infirmed or disabled is cursed (27:18).

5) The fifth curse is upon one who is unjust in how they treat “the stranger, fatherless, and widow” (27:19; Ex. 22:21-24).

The sixth through ninth curses address sexual purity, a violation of the  seventh commandment (27:20-23; Ex. 20:14).

6) Incest with one’s stepmother is cursed (27:20; Lev. 18:8-9, 17; 20:11).

7) Bestiality is cursed (27:21; Lev. 18:23).

8) Incest between siblings and parents is cursed (27:22).

9) Incest with one’s mother is cursed (27:23).

The fifth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Ex. 20:13), is the subject of the tenth and eleventh curses (Dt. 27:24-25).

10) Intentional murder of one’s neighbor is cursed (Dt. 27:24).

11) Hiring an assassin to kill another is cursed (Dt. 27:25).

The twelfth and final curse is addressed to any child of Israel who failed God’s Law and Commandments (Dt .27:26).

Deuteronomy 27:26 – “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them…”

Deuteronomy 28 enumerates God’s blessings for the people and nation who obey His Laws and Commandments (Dt. 28:1-14).  The promise of God’s blessings on Israel if the people obeyed His Law and Commandments is stunning!  The nation had so much to aspire to, if only they obeyed the LORD.

If Israel “observe and to do all His commandments”, God promised He would “set thee on high above all nations of the earth” (28:1).  The blessings of the LORD are described as so great Israel would be overtaken by them (28:2)!  Every area of the nation’s life would be blessed… “in the city…in the field” (28:3).  Universal fruitfulness was promised to Israel…the womb of women, cattle, sheep and the fruit of the fields would reap a harvest of God’s blessings (28:4-6).

Israel’s enemies would fall before them and their storehouses and treasuries would overflow (28:7-14).  All this was promised to Israel, if the people obeyed the LORD’s Law and Commandments.

The balance of Deuteronomy 28 predicts the curses that would come upon Israel should the nation turn from the LORD and disobey His Law and Commandments (28:15-68).  In the same way God promised to bless the nation if the people obeyed Him, the opposite was true should they disobey Him.

If the nation continued in the LORD’s Law and Commandments, the LORD promised His blessings would overtake them (28:2); however, should they disobey the LORD they were assured “all curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee” (28:15).  The city, fields, storehouses, wombs of wives and livestock…all cursed (28:16-18).  The coming and going of the people…cursed (28:19)… “until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly” (28:20).  The promise of God’s judgment for disobeying His Laws and Commandments continues another forty-eight verses!

Sadly, Israel would turn from the LORD and all the curses noted in today’s scripture reading befell the nation!

Friend, it is not popular and few preachers have the courage to state it so, but “Choices Have Consequences” and no nation, people, or family should expect to disobey the LORD’s Law and Commandments and be blessed!

The message of the scriptures is one of redemption through the blood of Christ!  The Gospel is a message of God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness…and there is nothing required of a sinner to be saved than believing Christ, the sinless Son of God died for their sins, was buried and raised from the dead victorious over sin and the grave. The apostle Paul wrote to believers in Ephesus,

Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace [God’s unmerited favor] 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.”

However, “Choices Have Consequences” and ignoring that truth does not change it. 

 The pulpits of fundamental churches, schools and Bible colleges are filled with a generation of preachers failing to remind the saints while salvation is “by grace”, God’s blessings are conditional.  “Good works” is evidence of the genuineness and sincerity of our salvation.  Paul writes,

Ephesians 2:10 – “For we [believers] are his workmanship [product; result of God’s grace], created [made and renewed] in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them [i.e. our life in Christ is to be a testimony of good works].

I close with a reminder of the manner of people believers are to be:

Romans 12:1-2 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith

Christmas Series at Hillsdale – “Five Portraits of God’s Grace”

Dear Hillsdale family, friends and Heart of a Shepherd Followers,

My Christmas Series this year, taken from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 1, is titled, “Five  Portraits of God’s Grace”, based on the five mothers named by Matthew in the lineage of Jesus.

The story of Christ’s birth is essentially the story of Redemption: God’s love for sinners, expressed in sending His Only begotten Son Jesus Christ, born of the virgin Mary, who lived a perfect, sinless life, was crucified for our sins, and raised from the dead on the third day.  The five women named in Christ’s lineage remind us of God’s grace extended to sinners.

My focus in the 10:30 AM service this Sunday, December 10 is on Rahab the harlot (Matthew 1:5), the second object of God’s grace named by Matthew.  I look forward to sharing how God in His grace moved on the heart of the harlot of Jericho and, hearing how God blessed and preserved Israel, came to believe Israel’s God was “God in heaven above, and in earth beneath”  (Joshua 2:11).

God was at work in Rahab’s heart, drawing her to saving faith.  Because she believed in the LORD, she tied a scarlet cord about her window as a sign of her faith, trusting God to save her and her family. We read,

Joshua 6:25 – And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father’s household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.

By God’s grace through her faith, God saved the harlot Rahab from death and she came to live in the midst of Israel (Joshua 6:25), married Salmon, a man of the royal tribe of Judah (Matthew 1:5), and is wondrously named as a mother of the lineage of Jesus Christ.

My friend, Rahab came to be named among Israel in the same way all sinners are saved…God’s grace through faith!

Romans 4:5 – “But to him that worketh not [knowing no works of the law save], but believeth on Him [Jesus Christ] that justifieth the ungodly, his faith [in Christ’s blood] is counted for righteousness [justified and forgiven].”

I trust you will join us this Sunday as we continue our study of “Five Portraits of God’s Grace”.

Don’t forget, Hillsdale’s Fine Arts Ministries will present this Sunday night, 6:00 PM, “Home for Christmas”.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith