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Chickens Coming Home to Roost (Psalm 55; 2 Samuel 16)

Scripture reading – Psalm 55; 2 Samuel 16

Our daily Scripture readings continue to focus on the life and reign of David, king of Israel. 2 Samuel 16 continues the narrative with David’s hasty flight from Jerusalem, as Absalom, his thirdborn son, had stolen the hearts of the people and led an insurrection against his father. Psalm 55, the second half of today’s Scripture reading, is believed to have been written by David during this heart wrenching time in the king’s life. Today’s devotional will focus upon 2 Samuel 16.

2 Samuel 16

David’s heart was grieved when he learned Ahithophel, a trusted counselor and the grandfather of Bathsheba, had joined Absalom’s rebellion (15:30-31). To counter Ahithophel’s counsel, David commanded Hushai the Archite, a faithful friend and servant, to return to Jerusalem and join himself to Absalom and serve in his court as a spy (15:32-34, 37).

An Act of Deceit (16:1-4)

As David, his family, and entourage of warriors fled Jerusalem, they encountered “Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth” (16:1). You might remember that Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan, and the grandson of king Saul. Though Mephibosheth had cause for a legal claim to the throne, he had recognized David as king, and he had extended to him the lands and properties that would have been his as Jonathan’s heir (2 Samuel 9:1-13). Ziba had been commanded by the king to serve Mephibosheth as the caretaker of his master’s estate (9:9-13).

Coming alone, and bearing a large amount of food and wine, seemed suspicious to David, who asked Ziba, “where is thy master’s son?” (16:3) Ziba went on to betray his master, suggesting Mephibosheth had planned to use Absalom’s insurrection as an occasion for him to usurp the throne (16:3). Hasty in his response, and failing to investigate the sincerity of Ziba’s answer, David bequeathed to him the lands and properties of Mephibosheth (16:4). We will see that the king would later reverse his decision when he heard Mephibosheth’s account (2 Samuel 19:24-30).

The Insanity of a Bitter Spirit (16:5-9)

Time and space do not permit a full exploration of the deplorable scene when Shimei, a man kin to Saul and a Benjamite, confronted David at one of the lowest points of the king’s life (16:5-14). Hurling curses at David, and casting stones from a safe distance at him and his entourage, Shimei called the king a murderer, and a worthless man (16:7). Shimei contended the humiliation David had suffered was the justice he rightly deserved (16:8). While David suffered the insults in silence, Abishai the son of Zeruiah, and brother of Joab, required the king’s blessing to defend his honor: “let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head” (16:9).

David’s Gracious and Humble Response (16:10-14).

Trusting in God’s sovereignty, David refused to seek revenge, and accepted Shimei’s abuse as from the LORD (16:10). In his sorrow, he reflected on his shame and saying to Abishai, “Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him” (16:11).

David determined to accept his humiliation, saying, “12It may be that the Lord will look on mine affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day” (16:12). Only when the king crossed the Jordan River did he, “and all the people that were with him…[refresh] themselves” (16:14; 17:22).

Absalom’s Seizes His Father’s Throne, and His Gross Wickedness (16:15-23)

Absalom wasted no time in crowning himself king, and it seemed all Israel came to honor him (16:15), among whom was Ahithophel, Bathsheba’s grandfather (16:15). Hushai, David’s friend and spy, presented himself to Absalom saying, “God save the king, God save the king” (16:16). Flattering the youthful impudence of Absalom, Hushai convinced him that he had taken leave of David to serve him (16:17-19).

Ahithophel, desiring to heap greater sorrow and shame upon David and bearing bitterness for the king’s adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband Uriah, counseled Absalom to disgrace his father further (16:20-21). Ahithophel suggested Absalom would endear himself to Israel, by the young man entering his father’s harem, and committing incest with the king’s concubines (16:20-21). Heeding the detestable counsel of Ahithophel, Absalom went into his father’s harem “in the sight of all Israel” (16:22).

Closing thoughts – For a season, it seemed Ahithophel’s counsel “was as if a man had inquired at the oracle [sanctuary; the holy place] of God” (16:23). The old counselor was indeed wise, but his counsel would soon be spurned by Absalom (17:14). Ahithophel was a wise man, but bitterness had poisoned his soul. His days were numbered, and knowing he had committed treason against God’s anointed, he would commit suicide, rather than face the consequences of his treason (17:23).

In conclusion, consider David’s response to Shimei’s curses and abuse (16:11-12). Though he was king, he accepted with humility that there was truth in Shimei’s accusations. He was a “bloody man” (16:7), and his hands were stained with the blood of Uriah. As none other, he understood the sorrows, and humiliations he had suffered were the consequence of his own wickedness, and a fulfillment of God’s judgment (2 Samuel 12:7-12). He had committed sins in secret, but they were now the catalyst for public sorrow and shame.

In the words of a poet, “the chickens had come home to roost.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

How Far Will a Man Fall? (2 Samuel 11-12)

Daily reading assignment: 2 Samuel 11-12

2 Samuel 11 – “And it came to pass, after the year was expired”

“Came to pass” is an apt description of the passing of life. No one knows what a day may bring forth, but each day presents us with an array of choices and consequences that leave their mark on our existence.

Events were about to unfold in David’s life that would inevitably follow him to his grave, and forever cast a shadow over his reign as king. If it were possible, we might strike this tragic moment from David’s life. What sin! What sorrow!

2 Samuel 11 challenges all believers to consciously abide in the presence of the LORD.

We have followed the king from his humble beginnings as a shepherd, and witnessed the surprise of his father and brothers when Samuel anointed him to be the next king of Israel. When he slew Goliath, the Philistine giant, he had become a household name in Israel. His transition from boyhood to manhood, brought a string of victories, as the fugitive of Saul emerged to become Israel’s warrior king, for “the LORD preserved David whithersoever he went” (1 Chronicles 18:13b).

Israel had celebrated David’s victories in 2 Samuel 10; however, 2 Samuel 11 introduced a sad foreboding of tragedy that would befall him. We read, “at the time when kings go forth to battle…David tarried still at Jerusalem” (11:1).

Probably in his fifties, and having served twenty years as Israel’s king, David’s exploits on the battlefield had inspired songs that celebrated his valor (1 Samuel 18:7); however, he was but a man. There are many spiritual lessons we could take from 2 Samuel 11-12, and some should serve as a sobering warning to all believers.

Grave consequences inevitably befall a man who underestimates the sinful bent of his nature (Psalm 51:5).

Disobeying the law (Deuteronomy 17:16-17), David had given rein to the pleasures of the flesh and taken to himself “more concubines and wives” (2 Samuel 5:13). He had foolishly indulged in carnal pleasures, and neglected his duty to the nation.  He was at the pinnacle of his success, and enjoying God’s blessings. Israel was strong and prosperous. However, when his army went to war, David remained behind in the comfort of his palace (11:2). The king’s idleness and lack of accountability became the catalyst for a tragic series of decisions that would forever scar his life, and unravel his reign (2 Samuel 11:3-15).

How far will a “man after God’s own heart” fall?

I will not take the time to outline the obvious in the story of David’s sins recorded-in 2 Samuel 11, but lust, adultery, deceit, guile, and murder are all found here (11:4-17).  Those were the sins that haunted David to his grave.  The consequences of his sins, for himself, his family, servants and Israel were incalculable (11:18-25). Guilt, shame, sorrow, and humiliation shadowed David to his grave. We read:

“The thing that David had done displeased the LORD” (11:27).

David attempted to maintain a facade of routine for nearly a year as he sat on his throne, and conducted the affairs of state.  On the outside, things might have appeared as usual; however, David was conscious of God’s displeasure and later wrote:

Psalm 32:3-4 – “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.  [4] For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.”

2 Samuel 12 – “The LORD sent Nathan unto David” (12:1a).

In God’s timing, He sent a man of courage and integrity to speak to the king. Evidencing both wisdom and caution, the prophet Nathan approached David with a story that contrasted a rich man’s abuse of a poor man (12:1-6). Intrigued by the story and incited to anger, David passed sentence against the rich man, proclaiming, “As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: 6 And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity” (12:5b-6).

Having pronounced sentence, David and his attendants fell silent when Nathan pointed his finger, and raised his voice, boldly confronting the king, saying, “Thou art the man” (12:7).

David’s heart was smitten with conviction; he was indeed the man: adulterer; murderer; hypocrite and a wretched, miserable soul (12:8-12). His heart was convicted, and his proud, hypocritical façade crushed (12:13). David soon realized the sorrow his sin would bring on his family (12:15-17).  The king then prayed,

Psalm 51:3-4For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.  [4] Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

Closing thoughts – I invite you to turn the spotlight of truth on your heart. Realize the danger of idleness, and the tragedy that comes when we trifle with sin and temptation. I challenge you, “Flee also youthful lusts” before it is too late (2 Timothy 2:22)!  Solomon would later warn his son, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper” (Proverbs 28:13a).  When it comes to sin, the question is not “if,” but “when” the consequences of secret sins will befall you. I close with a blessed promise:

Proverbs 28:1313He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Guiding Principles for Life and Friendships (Psalm 101; Psalm 105)

Scripture reading – Psalm 101; Psalm 105

Singing and thanksgiving remain our theme as we continue in the Book of Psalms for the Scripture reading. Psalm 101 is ascribed to David as the author. Although the writer of Psalm 105 is unnamed, many believe it may also be attributed to David. Today’s devotional will focus on Psalm 101.

Psalm 101 – A Resolution of Thanksgiving and Dedication

Imagine living under a ruler whose passion was not his career or legacy, but foremost his love and gratitude for the LORD. Such were the “golden years” of David’s reign in Jerusalem. The date and setting of this psalm is not known, but I believe it was in the early years, if not the beginning of the king’s reign over Israel.

While the purpose and overriding theme of Psalm 101 is a song of praise for the “mercy and judgment” of the LORD (101:1), you will notice the assertions of the king concerning his personal life and choices (101:2-8). There are nine assertive “I will” statements, and six “shall” statements.

David Purposed to Live a Righteous Life (101:2-3)

David determined as a matter of conviction that he would act in a “perfect way” [blameless], and conduct his life with a “perfect [innocent] heart” (101:3). The king set for himself an intolerance for observing or tolerating a “wicked thing before [his] eyes.” He was resolute, saying, he would “hate” the sins he observed in others (101:3).

Think about it: How much would your life and family change if you dedicated yourself to David’s standard of personal holiness and righteousness? Will you set your heart to walk a higher moral road, even if it means walking alone? Remember, what you tolerate, and the influences others have, will inevitably affect your life choices.

David Adopted Guiding Principles and Convictions (101:4-5, 7)

Though penned 3,000 years ago, the guiding principles we observe in the king’s psalm should resonate in the hearts of all believers. David’s “I will” and “I shall” statements leave no room for ambiguity. David was a man of conviction, and as king, there were always those who desired his favor and sought for power and position in his administration. David realized those closest to him would influence him with their counsel, and their character.

Psalm 101:4-5, 7 lists the manner of men the king would not tolerate in his emissaries. The following were cause for disqualification in the king’s court: “A froward [crooked, deceitful] heart,” and a “wicked [evil] person” (101:4). Slander [gossip], and proud and self-indulgent servants had no place in his household (101:5). Liars and deceivers were also unwelcomed in the king’s court (101:7).

Spiritual Qualifications for Servants to the King (101:6)

The psalm has so far focused on qualities the king determined were undesirable, and cause for disqualification. Psalm 101:6 states two qualities the king required in his servants: “6 Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me.”

The men David desired in his fellowship and company were faithful, tried and true men of conviction. He required men “that walketh in a perfect way” (101:6) to serve him and the people. The word “walketh” in the King James Bible gives an accurate insight into the character of those who served the king. Regardless of a man’s talents, none would serve the king who fell short of a blameless testimony when measured by God’s laws and judgment.

Closing thoughts – It was not enough for the king to declare the qualifications and disqualifications of those closest to him. He determined he would actively oppose wickedness: “8 I will early destroy [silence] all the wicked of the land; that I may cut off [exterminate] all wicked doers from the city of the LORD” (101:8).

An invitation: Guiding principles and convictions must be weighed, and determined for our lives and families. If you follow David’s pattern, you must establish and state your personal convictions (101:3). Will you determine to live a blameless life, and keep your heart pure and innocent?

You must also decide the influences in your life (101:4-5, 7). The king determined he would not tolerate liars, gossips, the proud, or deceivers. In fact, he stated he would actively oppose the sin and wickedness of evil men.

He also set a spiritual standard for the character of those closest to him (101:6). They were to be faithful: faithful to the LORD, to His Law and Commandments. Their lives were to be a “perfect” testimony.

An application – Have you adopted guiding principles for your friendships? I encourage you to examine your personal convictions (“I will” and “I shall”), and the character of those closest to you. What manner of people are your friends?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Make a Joyful Noise Unto the LORD! (Psalm 100)

Scripture reading – Psalm 100

Psalm 100 is one of the most beloved of the psalms, and has inspired many great anthems, hymns and choruses of praise.  Knowing this a brief Scripture reading, I am taking liberty to use a bold font for the Scripture text, and adding my amplification of word meanings in italics within brackets.

Psalm 100 – An Invitation to Worship the LORD

Imagine entering the outer court of the Tabernacle, or approaching Solomon’s Temple on the Sabbath or Feast day. We would have found ourselves in the midst of a throng of people joyfully singing some of the psalms of degrees as they ascended the Temple mount. Nearing the top of the Mount, we would have heard the sound of instruments, and the voices of singers calling on the congregation to worship the LORD.

A Call for Thanksgiving (100:1-2)

Psalm 100:1-2 1Make a joyful noise [shout] unto the LORD [Jehovah; Yahweh; Eternal God], all ye lands [earth; country; world]. 2 Serve [labor; become servants] the LORD with gladness [joy; rejoicing]: come [enter; come in] before his presence [face] with singing [joyful voice; shouts of joy].

Not only Israel, but all nations were summoned to offer thanksgiving to the LORD. As the people gathered at the Tabernacle or Temple, they were encouraged to give thanks to the LORD in three ways: Shout for joy (100:1a); Serve the LORD with rejoicing; and Sing before Him in His presence (100:2).

A Cause for Thanksgiving (100:3)

Psalm 100:3 3 Know [perceive; understand] ye that the LORD he is God [Elohim; mighty God]: it is he thathath made us [wrought; squeeze or mold], and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Why should the people of the earth worship and praise the LORD? We are to praise the LORD for His Person: He is Jehovah, Elohim, Almighty God. While some men boast they are “self-made men,” the psalmist reminds us that God is our Creator, and “it is He that hath made us” (100:3b).

Your skills, talents, gifts, intellect, and opportunities are all tokens of God’s grace. Believers should give thanks, and find comfort in the knowledge that the LORD is our Shepherd, and we are “the sheep of His pasture” (100:3; Psalm 23).

A Command in the Mode of Thanksgiving (100:4)

Psalm 100:4 4 Enter [come] into his gates with thanksgiving [praise; offerings; i.e., hymns of thanksgiving], and into his courts [towns; villages] with praise: be thankful [give thanks] unto him, and bless [praise] his name [i.e., Person; God’s character; attributes].

I identify four aspects of sincere worship in Psalm 100:4. We are to worship the LORD in our substantive acts of “thanksgiving,” and in our offerings, when we enter His sanctuary (100:4a). We worship Him when we sing praises to Him (100:4b). We honor Him when we express our prayers and testimonies from thankful hearts (100:4c). Another aspect of worship is when we rehearse in our hearts His divine attributes, and praise His name (100:4d).

Imagine the zeal of a congregation that unashamedly praises the LORD in offerings, spirit, songs, and praise!

A Consideration of the LORD’S Moral Character (100:5)

Psalm 100:5 5 For the LORD is good [better; best; pleasing]; his mercy [lovingkindness; favor; love and grace] is everlasting [perpetual; always; eternal]; and his truth [faithfulness] endureth to all generations [age].

Our brief psalm of praise and thanksgiving closes reminding us that the LORD has given us cause for thanksgiving (100:5). He is “good,” benevolent, and pleasing. He is both just, and “merciful” (for if He were only just, we would have cause for fear; however, He is merciful, and forgiving). He is the very essence of “truth,” for He is honest, faithful, and sincere “to all generations” (100:5).

Closing thoughts: Take a few minutes and ponder as an individual or family all the things for which you should be thankful. Isn’t it humbling and comforting to know the God of heaven, is not only your Creator, but He loves and cares for you like a shepherd tends his sheep?

The next time you worship the LORD in the congregation of His people, remember Psalm 100, and sing. Sing unto the LORD, serve Him with gladness, and praise His name!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Don’t Worry, Our God Changes Not! (Psalm 102)

Scripture reading – Psalm 102

The author of Psalm 102 is not known; however, the title of this psalm may offer insight into the period in which it may have been composed. The title reads, A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord.” Speculative on my part, but I am in agreement with some scholars who suggest its author may have been one of the children of Israel who was living in Babylon during the captivity.

A Cry of Lamentation (Psalm 102:1-11)

Assuming the psalm was penned by an exile, I understand the pitiful cry of its author who has earnestly prayed, and longed for the LORD to lend a sympathetic ear and answer his prayer (102:1-2). Reflecting on his miseries, the psalmist painted his physical and emotional state (102:3-8).

He felt his life was passing, and his bones were wasting away (102:3). His heart was depressed, and his appetite lost (102:4). Physically, he had been reduced to skin and bones (102:5). Like a sparrow that had lost its mate, he moaned there was no one to comfort him (102:6-7).

The psalmist did not identify his adversary; but his enemy had been unrelenting in his attacks (102:8). He had become inconsolable. He could not hide his sorrows, and his tears flowed till they ran into his drink (102:9). Like a fading shadow, or grass that withers in the heat of the sun, he felt he was perishing (102:11).

A Confession of Faith, Hope, and Trust (Psalm 102:12-22)

In the midst of his darkest hour, the psalmist looked past this mortal, temporal life, and prayed, 12But thou, O Lord, shalt endure for ever; And thy remembrance unto all generations” (102:12). With his hope renewed, he confessed his confidence that the LORD had appointed a time when He would “have mercy upon Zion” (Zion was a reference to the mountain range upon which Jerusalem and the Temple had been built, 102:13). Knowing the LORD would not forsake Israel forever, the author believed He had set the time He would renew His favor, and Jerusalem would be rebuilt (102:14-16).

Looking beyond sorrows, the psalmist was confident, though God was enthroned in heaven, His eye was always upon His people, and He heard their groanings (102:19-20). Stirring hope anew, our author looked forward to the time the LORD’S name would be declared in His city, and the people would worship, and serve Him (102:21-22).

The Majesty of God Overshadows Human Frailty (Psalm 102:23-28)

Have you ever been through dark times? Do you recall how you felt as though you were riding a rollercoaster, and experiencing the physical, emotional, and spiritual ups and downs of life?

Our psalmist began Psalm 102 with a prayer and cry for sympathy, but then his faith carried him to spiritual heights, and he believed the LORD had heard, and would answer his prayers. Yet, from a pinnacle of rejoicing, the present realities of his sorrows suddenly plunged him into a sensation that his strength would fail him (102:23a), his life would be shortened (102:23b), and he would not live to see Israel restored to her homeland (102:24).

Then, the psalmist remembered. He remembered God had revealed Himself as the Creator (Genesis 1), and He had “laid the foundation of the earth: And the heavens [were] the work of [God’s] hands” (102:25). He foresaw the temporal nature of the earth, the stars, and the planets, and that they would all “perish…[and] wax old like a garment” (10:26; Luke 21:33). He believed the LORD would change the earth and the heavens like you and I change our clothes (102:26; 2 Peter 3:13).

I believe our author was familiar with Isaiah’s prophecies, for the LORD had revealed to that prophet, “17For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: And the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind” (Isaiah 65:17). He surely knew the LORD had promised Israel, “22For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, Shall remain before me, saith the Lord, So shall your seed [Israel] and your name remain” (Isaiah 66:22).

Closing thoughts – The earth and the heavens are temporal, and the days of a man’s life pass “like a shadow” (102:11); however, the LORD is immutable and eternal, for His “years shall have no end” (102:27).

Be confident! Every promise of God is backed up by His divine character, and He is immutable, and eternal!(102:28)

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Way of the Wicked (2 Samuel 4; Psalm 6)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 4; Psalm 6

The events in 2 Samuel 4 are another reminder that humanity has not changed. Evil men struggle for power, riches, and influence, and the treachery and deceit found in our Scripture readings are as present in our day as they were in ancient times.

2 Samuel 4

The Plot to Kill, Ishbosheth, King of Israel (4:1-4)

When the news of Abner’s death (3:26-27) reached Saul’s son, Ishbosheth was so overcome with fear that “his hands were feeble [i.e., became limp], and all the Israelites were troubled” (4:1). With the captain of his army dead, Ishbosheth realized his days as king were numbered.

Two brothers, Baanah and Rechab (4:2-3), supposed the death of Abner provided them an opportunity to exact revenge against the house of Saul (for that king had slain many Gibeonites who lived in Beeroth, 2 Samuel 21:1-2). Besides Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, there was one other male of Saul’s household, Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan; however, he was lame and unfit to be king (4:4). With Ishbosheth dead, Baanah and Rechab reasoned the last obstacle to David becoming king of Israel would be removed, and they would be rewarded.

The Assassination of Ishbosheth (4:5-8)

Under the pretense of gathering grain, possibly as compensation to their band of soldiers, Rechab and Baanah entered the palace. Finding Ishbosheth sleeping, they killed him upon his bed, and beheaded him (4:5-7). Carrying the head of the king as proof he had been slain, Rechab and Baanah traveled through the night, and “brought the head of Ishbosheth unto David to Hebron” (4:8). Imagining they would be rewarded, they said to David, “Behold the head of Ishbosheth the son of Saul thine enemy, which sought thy life; and the Lord hath avenged my lord the king this day of Saul, and of his seed” (4:8).

David Condemned the Murderous Actions of Rechab and Baanah (4:9-12)

Reflecting on the LORD’S faithfulness during his wilderness years, David certainly did not need Rechab and Baanah to slay Ishbosheth (4:9). Drawing upon how he had ordered the death of the Amalekite soldier that had claimed to slay King Saul (2 Samuel 1), David condemned the two brothers for slaying Ishbosheth, “a righteous person in his own house upon his bed” (4:11).

David then “commanded his young men, and they slew [Rechab and Baanah], and cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged them up over the pool in Hebron” (4:12). Because the pool in Hebron was a public gathering place, hanging the limbs of the slain served as a testimony and a warning to Israel. A testimony that David had no part in the assassination of Ishbosheth. It was also a warning to any who might be tempted to betray David in the future. David, however, made certain “the head of Ishbosheth” was given an honorable burial “in the sepulchre of Abner in Hebron” (4:12).

Closing thought: We should not be surprised that when there is no law, evil men commit heinous acts of treachery, and murder. The wicked actions of Rechab and Baanah, and their expectation to be rewarded for murdering Ishbosheth, is the way of the world. David, however, proved to be a righteous man, and his judgment to put Rechab and Baanah to death was according to the Law (Genesis 9:6, Exodus 21:12; Leviticus 24:17,21).

Psalm 6Suffering, Sorrows and Setbacks

The setting and historical context of Psalm 6 is not known; however, David is identified as its author. Time and space do not allow me to do an in-depth study of Psalm 6; however, I trust my brief overview might be a blessing.

Psalm 6:2 2  Have mercy [Be gracious; show favor] upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal [cure; make whole] me; for my bones [i.e. body; substance] are vexed [troubled; tremble; alarmed; disturbed]

Psalm 6:5-7 5  For in death there is no remembrance [memory; memorial] of thee: in the grave [hell; the pit; Sheol] who shall give thee thanks [praise; revere]?

6 I am weary [faint; exhausted; grown weary] with my groaning [sighing; mourning]; all the night make I my bed to swim [inundate; i,e, swimming with tears]; I water [melt; dissolve] my couch [i.e., bed with a canopy] with my tears [weeping]

7  Mine eye [sight; appearance] is consumed [dimmed; waste away] because of grief [sorrow; anger]; it waxeth old  [grows old; fails] because of all mine enemies [distress; pains].”

Believer, if you find yourself in the midst of trials, and your soul is burdened and weary of life…take heart; the saints of God are strengthened in their faith when they, in the midst of the extremity of their weakness, turn to the Lord.

Many are the saints that have experienced the sorrows of trials, and can readily identify with David’s sleepless nights.  How many have cried themselves to sleep, because of the sinful choices of one they loved?  How many parents have grown weary, bearing the sorrows and trials heaped upon them by children who have chosen a path of sin? Take heart…God hears your cries.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“A Fool, A Beauty, and Matchless Grace” (1 Samuel 25)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 25

Samuel died” (25:1), and with that brief epitaph, one of the great prophets of the Old Testament, and a transitional figure in Israel from the era of the Judges, and that of the Kings was gone. Samuel was the last of the judges in Israel, and though he had felt the rejection of the nation, the LORD had assured him, “they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them… they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee” (1 Samuel 8:7-8).

A time of national mourning followed Samuel’s death, for “all the Israelites were gathered together, and lamented him, and buried him in his house at Ramah” (25:1b). The news of the prophet’s death moved David to go “down to the wilderness of Paran” (25:1c). Though accompanied by six hundred men of war, Samuel’s death may have left David feeling abandoned, struggling with loneliness, and possibly inspired Psalm 142. [I invite you to consider today’s bonus devotional from Psalm 142.]

Consider with me three major characters in our study of 1 Samuel 25. The first, Nabal, a man of great wealth whose wicked character is summed up in the meaning of his name – “Fool” (25:2-3). Abigail, the wife of Nabal, a woman of wisdom and beauty (25:3), and David, the principle character of our study who was God’s anointed to be king.

David’s Encounter with a Fool Named Nabal (1 Samuel 25:2-11)

So focused on his desire to kill David, King Saul had neglected to secure the borders of Israel, and the enemies of the nation were a constant threat to the people, and their possessions. David had offered to protect the people, and among them was a wealthy man named Nabal. (25:2). Having received news that Nabal was “shearing his sheep in Carmel” (25:2), David sent his men to collect their due for protecting him and his possessions; however, that “churlish and evil” man (25:3) lived up to his name and insulted David saying, “Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master. 11Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be?” (25:10-11) When David’s men communicated Nabal’s insults, he set out to his exact revenge upon him and his household (25:12-13).

When Abigail, Nabal’s wife, learned her husband had railed on David’s men, she realized the imminent danger to her household, and hastily gathered supplies to appease him (25:14-18). Knowing the evil character of her husband, Abigail did not tell him she was intervening (25:19), and she set out to meet David (25:20).

There are several qualities seen in Abigail that are worth noting when we face the challenge of encountering an angry man. The first, she took the initiative, and prepared an “offering” to appease David (25:18-19).  With humility, she interceded for her household, and “fell before David on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, 24And fell at his feet, and said, Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be: and let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak in thine audience, and hear the words of thine handmaid” (25:23-24). She became the mediator for her husband’s sins, even as Christ is the repentant sinner’s Mediator before God (25:28-31; 1 Timothy 2:5).

Abigail’s plea had the desired effect on David, and his heart was softened, and his wrath was appeased (25:32-35). He acknowledged the wise counsel of her words, and thanked her for sparing him from an act that would have blotted his reputation in Israel (25:33-34).

Abigail returned to her home, and the next day she told Nabal those things that had transpired with David, and “his heart died within him, and he became as a stone” (25:37). Whether stricken by a stroke, or a heart attack, “it came to pass about ten days after, that the Lord smote Nabal, that he died” (25:38). When David received news that Nabal was dead, he sent a messenger, who communicated his desire to take her as his wife (25:39-42).

I close, observing that Nabal serves as a picture of a foolish, unrepentant sinner. He was oblivious to the destruction his sin had invited upon himself, and his household (25:36-38). Though of a noble lineage, for “he was of the house of Caleb,” Nabal was nevertheless a fool! (Caleb being one of two men who had spied out the land, and believed the LORD would give Israel the land as He had promised, Numbers 13:30; 14:24, 30; Judges 14:10-13),

In contrast, Abigail is a portrait of the object of God’s grace, and mercy that is extended to sinners who turn from their sin to the redemption found only in Christ (Romans 3:24; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

To Obey, Is Better Than Sacrifice (1 Samuel 15-16)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 15-16

We come to 1 Samuel 15, and another spiritual crisis in King Saul’s life. Inspired by Israel’s victory over the Philistines, Saul’s army had increased, and the nation experienced battlefield victories over the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites and Amalekites (14:47-52).

1 Samuel 15 – “To Obey is Better Than Sacrifice”

Saul’s Disobedience (15:1-11)

We find Samuel going to Saul with the LORD’s command that Israel would go to war with the Amalekites, and not spare a life. All were to be killed, “man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (15:3).   Saul’s army, now two hundred and ten thousand strong (15:4), experienced a glorious victory over the Amalekites (15:7-8); however, he disobeyed the LORD’S command (15:9).

Samuel’s Response (15:10-12)

The LORD came to Samuel, and said, “It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king” (15:11a). Samuel’s response was one we would expect of a man of God, for he grieved [lit. he was hot with anger], and “cried unto the Lord all night” (15:11b). The prophet wrestled through the night with anger, frustration, and compassion, even as he prayed for Saul. Rising early the next morning, Samuel made his way to Saul’s encampment (15:12).

Saul’s Deception (15:12-15)

As Samuel came to Saul, the king professed a piety that belied his sin, saying, “I have performed the commandment of the Lord” (15:13b). Undeterred by the king’s lies, Samuel said, “What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” (15:14). Here was an opportunity for Saul to confess his sin, but instead he excused his actions, and suggested the people had “spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed” (15:15).

Samuel’s Rebuke, and the LORD’S Rejection (15:16-23)

Samuel revealed it was Saul’s pride that had brought him to the spiritual crossroads at which he was standing (15:16-17). He had failed the LORD and Israel. Foolishly, Saul protested that he had “obeyed the voice of the Lord…21But the people took of the spoil…to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal” (15:20-21). In one of the great spiritual lessons of the Old Testament Scriptures, Samuel asked Saul, “Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,and to hearken than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is asiniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from beingking” (1 Samuel 15:22-23).

Saul Discarded (15:24-35)

1 Samuel 15 closed with a portrait of the disastrous consequences of rebellion and disobedience.  Saul had disobeyed, and the LORD had rejected him from being king, and turned His heart to another who would be king. In an act of righteous indignation, Samuel took up a sword, and “hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal,” and completed wherein Saul had failed (15:33). Saul returned to his home in Ramah, and “Samuel mourned for Saul: and the Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel” (15:35).

1 Samuel 16 – A King After God’s Own Heart

The LORD came to Samuel, and asked, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel?” (16:1) Waiting no longer, the LORD commanded Samuel, “fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Beth-lehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons” (16:1).

Samuel’s response is insightful, for he feared the king would kill him (16:2). The LORD commanded Samuel to go, and under the cover of offering sacrifices, he was to invite Jesse, the father of David to come (16:2b-3). Though there is little explanation, the news of Samuel’s coming to Bethlehem caused the leaders of that city to tremble, perhaps fearing he was bringing a word of the LORD’S judgment (16:4).

As instructed, Jesse invited all of his sons, with the exception of the youngest, to stand before the prophet (16:5-6); however, the LORD’S standard would not be that of the people when Saul was chosen to be king. Samuel looked on Jesse’s three eldest sons, and the LORD instructed His prophet, “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (16:7).

Samuel then asked Jesse, “Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither” (16:11). David, the young man whom the LORD had chosen to be king, left his sheep, and stood before Samuel. The prophet “took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward” (16:13a).

Tragically, the “Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him” (16:14). To calm his troubled spirit, the king’s servants suggested a musician be sought who was “a cunning player on an harp…one who could play when the king was taken in an “evil spirit” (16:15). In the providence of God’s sovereignty, the man chosen was David. We read, when Saul looked upon him, he “loved him greatly; and he became his armourbearer” (16:21-23). God had orchestrated that David would be the king’s musician, and thus setting the stage for a shepherd boy to be schooled in the role of the king and government (16:14-23).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Hannah: A Testimony of Faith, Love, and Sacrifice (1 Samuel 1)

Scripture reading – 1 Samuel 1

Our chronological devotional schedule brings us to 1 Samuel; one of my favorite books of the Old Testament.  In this volume we will find a rich history that marks the beginning of a monarchy in Israel.

1 Samuel 1 concludes an era when judges ruled Israel, and introduces an age when kings reign. Let us recall, it was God’s desire to rule His people through His Law and Commandments. The role of the judges had been to instruct the people, by communicating the Word of the LORD, through the Law that was given in the Covenant at Sinai (Exodus 20). It will be the failure of the priesthood, that will provoke the people to demand a king. Tragically, Eli, the high priest, and his wicked sons, Hophni and Phinehas (1:3; 2:12-17; 4:10-18), will disgrace the priest’s office. Their sins would stir up the people to demand “a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5-6).

Several notable names come to the forefront in today’s study: Elkanah (1:1), who was of the tribe of Levi, descended from Kohath, the son of Levi. He was a godly man, and observed the law, going up “yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the Lord of hosts in Shiloh” (1:3), where the Tabernacle was located.

Elkanah had two wives, “the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah” (1:2). “Peninnah had children,” and had borne to her husband sons and daughters (1:2, 4). “Hannah had no children” (1:2), and though her husband loved her (1:5), she carried the shame, and sorrow of a barren woman, and was treated spitefully by Elkanah’s other wife (1:5-7).

Year after year, Hannah went up to Shiloh with her family, and wept and fasted before the LORD, praying He would open her womb (1:5), and give her a son (1:7). She vowed, if the LORD would give her a son, she would dedicate him to serve at the Tabernacle, and promised he would be a Nazarite, and “there shall no razor come upon his head” (1:10-11).

Hannah prayed to the LORD, speaking to Him from her heart; “only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken” (1:13). Eli, the high priest, rebuked her, judging she had too much wine, and commanded her to “put away thy wine from thee” (1:14). Hannah, replying to the high priest, said, “No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord. 16Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial [worthless, immoral, wicked]: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto” (1:15-16).

Judging the sincerity of Hannah’s confession, Eli assured her the LORD had heard, and would answer her prayer (1:17). Hannah went from the Tabernacle, no longer despondent, but believing the LORD would show her grace, and grant her a son (1:18). Elkanah and his family returned to their house in Ramah, and the LORD remembered Hannah’s prayer. In God’s perfect time, she conceived a son “and called his name Samuel [lit. “heard of God], saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord” (1:19-20).

The next year, Elkanah prepared to go up to Shiloh on his annual pilgrimage (1:21); however, Hannah requested she be allowed to remain at her home, and not go up to the Tabernacle, until her son was no longer nursing, for she knew the day would come when she would leave Samuel to minister at Shiloh with Eli, the high priest (1:22-23).

A woman of faith, and one who honored her vow to the LORD, Hannah “weaned” her son (probably around three years old). The day came when she took her son and went up with Elkanah to present offerings and sacrifices, at the Tabernacle. Hannah “brought [Samuel] unto the house of the Lord in Shiloh: and the child was young” (1:24). After sacrificing a bullock, Elkanah and Hannah brought their son to Eli, and she reminded the high priest, “I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the Lord. 27For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him” (1:26-27).

In an act of faith, and sacrificial love, Hannah confessed, “I have lent [given; claimed] him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord” (1:28a). Elkanah and Hannah’s example of faith, prayer, and sacrifice has inspired the saints of the LORD down through the centuries. Before Samuel was conceived, Hannah offered him to the LORD, and the LORD heard, and answered her prayer.

Perhaps only mothers can imagine the pull of the heart strings when Hannah left her son at Shiloh (especially knowing the wickedness of Eli’s sons). Hannah fulfilled her vow to the LORD, and He honored her faith and sacrifice, blessing her with three sons, and two daughters, in addition to Samuel (2:21).

I invite parents and grandparents to take a moment, pray and dedicate your children, and grandchildren to the LORD.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Here Comes the Bride! (Ruth 3-4)

Scripture reading – Ruth 3-4

Naomi had left Bethlehem during a time of famine (1:1), and ten years later returned from Moab as a widow, and childless. She buried her husband, and two sons in Moab, and her sojourn had proven bitter. In her words, “I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty” (1:21). Only a Moabitess named Ruth was with her, and she was Naomi’s daughter-in-law, and a widow herself.

From an earthly perspective, life had dealt some significant, harsh blows against Naomi, and Ruth. There are many details I could cite to justify that observation, but suffice it to say, that both these women faced deep sorrows, a feeling of destitution, and a loss that left them without a provider. Entering the Land, Ruth was a young widow, a stranger in Israel, far from her family, and country. She was the daughter-in-law of a widow, who was bitter (1:20-21). She was an outsider, and dependent upon the charity of those who were not her countrymen.

She was far from home; however, never far from the providence of the LORD, whom she confessed to be her God (1:16-17). In a testimony of the LORD’S sovereignty, Ruth found herself gleaning grain in the fields of Boaz, a mighty, and wealthy man, who was the kinsman of her mother-in-law (2:21-23).

Ruth 3 – Naomi, the Matchmaker

Sensing the providence of God at work in her, and Ruth’s life, Naomi declared she would not rest until she knew it would be well with her widowed daughter-in-law (3:1). Naomi revealed to Ruth that Boaz was their kindred. She knew he would not go home while the grain was being winnowed (culled out of its outer shell), and would sleep on the threshing floor to secure his harvest (3:2). Naomi instructed Ruth to bathe, put on a fresh robe, and make her way to the threshingfloor, where she was to lie down at the feet of Boaz unnoticed (3:3-4). Ruth agreed to Naomi’s instructions, and did as she was told (3:5-7).

Boaz aroused from his sleep at midnight, and discovered Ruth sleeping at his feet (3:8). When she declared he was her “near kinsman,” she had, in essence, made her plea to be his wife (3:9). Boaz praised Ruth’s godly character (3:10), and pledged he would honor his role as her kinsman, but only after one closer than himself disavowed his right to be her redeemer (3:11-12).

Ruth 4 – From Bitterness to Joy

Boaz set out early the next morning, and sat in the gate of the city, where he met the man who was the “nearer kinsman” of Ruth (4:1). With ten elders of the city as witnesses, Boaz offered to the “nearer kinsman” the right to purchase the land, but with a reminder that the responsibility would mean taking Ruth as his wife (4:1-5). Confessing it would complicate his “own inheritance” (meaning his will), the “nearer kinsman” deferred his right to redeem the land, saying, “redeem thou my right to thyself; for I cannot redeem it” (4:6).

With ten witnesses watching, the “nearer kinsman,” surrendered his right of ownership by taking off his sandal (as was the custom to transfer ownership of land), and gave it to Boaz as a sign of transfer. Boaz acknowledged his obligation to redeem the land from Naomi, and thereby redeeming Ruth to be his wife (4:10). All who witnessed the transaction, and Boaz’s pledge, blessed his union with Ruth, and prayed that she would bear sons to him, as had Rachel and Leah, the wives and mothers of Jacob’s sons (4:11).

Boaz took Ruth, “and she [became] his wife: and when he went in unto her…she bare a son” (4:13). Naomi’s shroud of bitterness was lifted, and the people rejoiced with her (4:14). They praised Ruth, the Moabitess, and outsider, and said she had been better to Naomi than had she given birth to seven sons (4:15).

A closing thought: The son born to Ruth and Boaz was named Obed, and he would be the father of Jesse, and the grandfather of David (4:17-22). David, would become the king of Israel, of whose lineage Jesus Christ would come. Ruth, the Mobaitess, became the great-grandmother of David, Israel’s beloved king (4:22). The romance of Ruth and Boaz will culminate in the birth of Jesus Christ!

What an amazing story of romance, grace, and redemption!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith