Tag Archives: Integrity

“Thou art the man!” (Psalm 51)

Scripture reading – Psalm 51

Psalm 51 is a prayer of brokenness.

Biblical brokenness is contrition of heart, and always involves confession, seeks forgiveness, and offers a plea for restoration.

Psalm 51 introduces us to a man brought low by sin.  David’s adultery with Bathsheba, her conception of his son, and his failed attempt to conceal his sin had led to the death of Uriah the Hittite.  David’s sins were secret no more, and the prophet Nathan’s bold condemnation exposed his depravity before all in his court.

Lord Acton, the late 19th century British historian, made the observation, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Such is true of monarchs, politicians, leaders, teachers, and yes, pastors. The same, however, is also true of men and women who, in their own little fiefdoms, find themselves in roles that go unchecked. David found himself at the pinnacle of success and power, and accountable to no one. Though the words of the prophet, “Thou art the man!”  (2 Samuel 12:7) had humiliated him, they were the words that awakened in the king a godly sorrow to repentance.

Be forewarned: If given the right provocation, the potential of egregious wickedness lies within us all.

When David wrote, “I was shapen in inquity: and in sin did my mother conceive me” (51:5), he acknowledged the nature of sin that is present within us all. A millennium later, the apostle Paul wrote the same, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).

David had maintained his cover of sin for nearly a year, and though in the throes of guilt, he proudly maintained a regal façade, passing judgment on other men’s sins.

One wonders how long David might have continued his charade if God had not commanded his prophet to confront the king.  Remembering oriental monarchs held absolute authority, and the power of life and death rested with them, we appreciate the tenuous position in which Nathan found himself.

The words, “Thou art the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7), echoed in the king’s hall, and resonated in David’s heart.  He cried to the Lord, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness… 2  Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:1-2). David acknowledged that only God can remove the guilt and stains of sin. He confessed his sins, praying, “3  For I acknowledge my transgressions…4  Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight…” (51:3-4a). He was haunted by his guilt, and his sins against Bathsheba and Uriah paled in comparison to his sins against God.

A Petition for Forgiveness and Renewal (51:10-12)

David prayed, “10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me… 12  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (51:10, 12a). He longed for that which God alone could give—not only to be forgiven, but to have his happiness and joy restored.

A Passion for Serving the LORD (51:13-17)

With his sins forgiven, David’s thoughts turned to teaching others the ways of a loving, merciful, just, and holy God (51:13). He prayed for that which only grace might impart: Deliverance from guilt (51:14a), a desire to praise God’s righteousness in song (51:14b), and for the LORD to bless the words of his mouth (51:15). He acknowledged, the LORD does not desire a multitude of sacrifices, but a “broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart” (51:16-17).

Closing thoughts – As king, David found himself insulated from accountability. He had neglected his duties (2 Samuel 11:1), and his moral failure occurred when was alone. He had been too proud to acknowledge, confess his sins, and accept the consequences of his moral failures (2 Samuel 11:6-22). God, however, loved the king, and sent his prophet to confront him, that David might be restored.

Truth – If you are concealing sin, be forewarned: You are living on borrowed time before the consequences of sins catch up with you, and affect your loved ones (Galatians 6:8; Psalm 32:3-4). Won’t you humble yourself before God, confess your sins, knowing He has promised, “whoso confesseth and forsaketh [his sins] shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Blessed Joy of Forgiveness (1 Chronicles 20; Psalm 32)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 20; Psalm 32

Today’s Scripture reading in 1 Chronicles 20 is a brief summary of our preceding study in 2 Samuel 11-12. The historian did not chronicle David’s sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:2-5), nor the king’s foolish attempt to conceal his sin (2 Samuel 11:6-13), eventually staining his hands with the blood of Uriah (2 Samuel 11:14-24; 12:7-12). The chronicler did record the king’s failure to accompany his servants to war and the siege of Rabbah, the Ammonite city (1 Chronicles 20:1).

Today’s devotional will consider Psalm 32. The setting of the psalm is not given; however, it is believed to be about the time of the king’s tragic sin with Bathsheba. Psalm 32 echoes the joy of every believer who has found redemption when he turned from sin, confessed, and found forgiveness.

Two Beatitudes (32:1-2)

Psalm 32:1 – “Blessed [happy; favored] is he whose transgression [sin; trespass] is forgiven [removed; lift; carried away], whose sin is covered [hide; conceal].”

Beatitudes typically begin with the word, “Blessed” (Psalm 1:1; Matthew 5:3-11). Those who are “blessed” are confident in, and the object of God’s grace and mercies. The “blessed” are joyful, and their happiness is independent of favorable circumstances. The truly “blessed” are believers who know the relief, and joy of having their sins forgiven. They have acknowledged their sin (Romans 3:23), but know their transgressions have been covered by the blood of Christ (32:2; Romans 6:23). They can sing with the saints, “Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It!”

Psalm 32:2 – “Blessed [happy; favored] is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth [count; reckon; devise]not iniquity [sin; fault], and in whose spirit [breath; temper; mind] there is no guile [deceit; treachery].

The sins of the “blessed” have been reckoned, and accounted by God as a debt to Him that has been paid in full. The “blessed” are honest, and transparent before the LORD, and the weight of their guilt, and chastening has been removed.

The Agony of Unconfessed Sin (32:3-4)

Psalm 32:3-4 – “When I kept silence [peace; speechless], my bones [body; life] waxed old [spent; wear out; consumed] through my roaring [rumbling; moaning; cries] all the day long. 4  For day and night thy hand [arm; rule] was heavy [made heavy; grievous; burden-some] upon me: my moisture [vitality] is turned [overthrown; changed] into the drought [heat] of summer [harvest]. Selah. [pause; i.e. suspend music]

Psalm 32:3-4 is David’s vain attempt to conceal his sins (32:3-4). He endured the guilt and shame of his sins for a year, until the LORD sent the prophet Nathan to confront him.  He was guilty; guilty of adultery with Bathsheba; guilty of engineering the murder of her husband Uriah, and guilty of deceit in a futile effort to conceal his sins.

He had been silent, and unwilling to confess his sin. His life was consumed with guilt, and his conscience roared against him day and night (32:3).  The heaviness of God’s hand, and the inescapable reality of His justice pressed on the king day and night.  Failing to confess his sin and repent, David felt his strength and vitality drying up like water consumed in the heat of a summer drought (32:4).

Repentance (32:5)

Psalm 32:5 – “I acknowledged [know; perceive; understand] my sin [offence; guilt; punishment] unto thee, and mine iniquity [sin; fault] have I not hid [cover; conceal]. I said [answered; promised], I will confess [make confession] my transgressions [trespass; sin] unto the LORD; and thou forgavest [take away; remove] the iniquity [sin; fault] of my sin [offence; guilt; punishment]. Selah.”

There is a way for the burden and guilt of sin to be lifted; however, it will cost you your pride, but its reward is like fresh water to a thirsty soul (32:5).

There is one solution to sin: honest confession and sincere repentance.  No more excuses; no more blame shifting; David said, I am guilty. He knew his offence. and would no longer conceal it (32:5a). The king confessed his sins… adultery, murder, and deceit! Oh, the joy of God’s response to his confession: “Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” (32:5b).

The Penitent Prayer and the Delight of Forgiveness (32:6-7)

Psalm 32:6-7 – For this shall every one that is godly [saint; pious] pray [i.e. intercede] unto thee in a time [season] when thou mayest be found [found out; present]: surely in the floods [deluge; overflowing] of great [many] waters they shall not come nigh [touch; reach] unto him.
7
Thou art my hiding place [protection; secret; cover]; thou shalt preserve [keep; guard; watch] me from trouble [distress; tribulation]; thou shalt compass [surround; encircle] me about with songs [shout; ringing cry] of deliverance [escape]. Selah. [pause; musical term for suspension]

“Forgiven,” what a wonderful truth!  More than the absolution of guilt; it is the response to one who has acknowledged the guilt of their sin, and a Redeemer that lifts that burden, taking away the sin and the guilt.

An illustration of forgiveness is the “scapegoat” that was sent out of the camp of Israel on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:15-22). The priest would sacrifice a goat, and acknowledge the sins of the nation (Leviticus 16:15-19). After sprinkling the blood of the sacrifice on the altar, the high priest would symbolically place his blood-stained hands on the living goat, and confess the sins of Israel (Leviticus 16:20-22). Sending the “scapegoat” out of the camp was an illustration, a living symbol of God’s promise to forgive the sins of the nation.

David’s Advice (32:9)

Psalm 32:9 – Be ye not as the horse [i.e. which is swift], or as the mule [i.e. a beast of burden], which have no understanding [regard; prudent; discernment]: whose mouth must be held [muzzled; i.e. held in check; lit. to hold in] in with bit and bridle [halter; i.e. device for restraining], lest they come near [approach; draw near; ]unto thee.

David had learned concealing sin carries grave consequences for the sinner, and those he loves. The king urged God’s people to be humble, and obedient before God! Don’t be a “mule-headed,” hard-hearted, irrational believer (32:9).

David’s Admonition: Choose the Path of the Righteous (32:10-11)

Psalm 32:10 – Many [abundant; great many] sorrows [pain; grief; affliction; sufferings] shall be to the wicked [ungodly; guilty; i.e. immoral]: but he that trusteth [confident; secure]  in the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God], mercy [loving-kindness; goodness; steadfast love] shall compass [surround; encircle] him about.

Psalm 32:11 – Be glad [rejoice; be merry] in the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God], and rejoice [be joyful], ye righteous [just; lawful; blameless; innocent]: and shout [cry out; sing; i.e. be overcome]for joy, all ye that are upright [right; just] in heart [mind; understanding].”

Closing thoughts – David described the egregious effects of failing to confess and repent of sins. Are you bearing the weight and consequences of secret sins? I urge you to confess your sins, and God will forgive you, and restore unto you the life of the “blessed.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Be A Prayer Warrior For Your Nation (Psalm 20)

Scripture reading – Psalm 20

Psalm 20 has been described by some as a “National Anthem” for Israel, but surely it should be the prayer of all who call upon the LORD. It is an intercessory prayer, an exhortation to pray and call to the LORD “in the day of trouble” (20:1). I suggest it is also an exhortation for believers to intercede with God for their nation and leaders. * As in the past, the amplifications of words in our text are those of the author.

Psalm 20:1-2 – “The LORD [Eternal God; Jehovah] hear thee in the day [time] of trouble [adversity]; the name [fame; renown] of the God [Elohim; the Mighty God] of Jacob defend [strengthen] thee; 2  Send thee help [aid]from the sanctuary [holy place], and strengthen [support;; sustain] thee out of Zion [site of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount];

The setting and events that inspired this psalm are not stated, but because its author was David, I believe it was the king appealing to his people to call unto the LORD (20:1). Israel was facing an enemy, and the king dare not go to war without the confidence that the LORD would go before him (20:2).

Psalm 20:3-4 – “Remember [think of] all thy offerings [sacrifices], and accept thy burnt sacrifice [offering]; Selah [lit. pause; or pause to think]. 4  Grant [Deliver] thee according to thine own heart [mind], and fulfil [accomplish] all thy counsel [advice; purpose].”

Confident the battle was the LORD’s, the people worshipped Him, and prayed He would accept their sacrifices, hear, and answer their prayers (20:3-4).

Psalm 20:5 “We will rejoice [sing; shout] in thy salvation [deliverance], and in the name [fame; renown; reputation] of our God [Elohim; the Mighty God] we will set up our banners [flags; standard]: the LORD [Eternal God; Jehovah] fulfil [accomplish] all thy petitions [request; desires].”

Even before the battle was fought, the people believed the LORD would give their king victory. They promised to shout to the LORD for joy, and that He alone would be the object of their praise (20:5a). They were ready to unfurl their banners. (The flags carried into battle identified national pride). They believed the LORD would hear their prayers, and answer their petitions (20:5b).

Psalm 20:6 – Now know I that the Lord saveth his anointed [the king was God’s anointed]; He will hear him from his holy heaven [for God reigns over His creation from heaven’s throne] with the saving strength of his right hand.

David’s faith inspired him to face the enemy, confident the LORD had heard the prayers of His people, and would save him, “His anointed” (20:6). God was mighty, and with “his right hand” (from a human perspective, the hand that is the strongest), He would save him in the battle.

Psalm 20:77Some trust in chariots, and some in horses [horsemen; the calvary]: But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.

Men and nations go into battle with little thought to the power of prayer or the providence of God. Their faith is in their weapons of war (chariots and horses). David, however, urged the people to “remember the name of the LORD our God” (20:7). We have observed in earlier devotions that the “name” of the LORD embodied all of His divine attributes. The LORD is holy, just, powerful, omniscient, compassionate, and sovereign. He will do as it pleases Him.

Psalm 20:8-98They [the enemies of God’s people] are brought down [defeated] and fallen [vanquished]: But we [Israel] are risen, and stand upright [confident of victory]. 9Save, Lord [Jehovah, save]: Let the king [the LORD; the Sovereign of heaven] hear us when we call [shout His name].

Closing thoughts – I invite you to consider three spiritual lessons from Psalm 20:

The LORD hears and answers prayer. Israel prayed the LORD would hear the prayer of the king, and His people, and go before them into battle (20:1-2). Oh, that the leaders of this world would call upon the LORD, and not put their faith in weapons of war. Remember, the God of heaven hears and answers prayers.

We should pray and assure our leaders of our prayers (20:3-4). Israel assured the king they would pray for the LORD to grant him wisdom, and bless his strategy for the battle. Blessed is the nation whose leaders call on the LORD, and whose people uphold them in prayer.

God’s people should put their faith in the grace and blessings of God.  Even before the battle was waged, the people planned to celebrate the victory, They were confident God heard, and would answer their prayers.

I close with a story conveyed by a farmer during the American Revolution.  The farmer was walking through the woods toward the encampment at Valley Forge, when he heard a voice. Drawing near, he found General George Washington on his knees, his cheeks wet with tears, praying to God. That farmer was said to have returned home, and assured his wife that the United States would win her independence from England. When the farmer’s wife asked how he could be so sure, he answered, “Because I heard Washington’s prayer.”

1 Timothy 2:1-21 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;  2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

False Accusations – the Hook of Humiliation (2 Samuel 10; 1 Chronicles 19)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 10; 1 Chronicles 19

Today’s Scripture reading consists of two passages of Scripture, but one event. 2 Samuel 10 and 1 Chronicles 19are focused on one historical event. I am choosing 2 Samuel 10 as the passage for today’s devotional.

The phrase, “and it came to pass” (10:1a) begs a brief recap of events that immediately precedes our study in 2 Samuel 10. You might remember how David had sought if any man of King Saul’s lineage was still alive. When David received the news that there was one lone survivor of Saul’s lineage, Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan (9:5), he summoned for him to appear before him.

Fulfilling his covenant to be a blessing to Jonathan’s lineage, David extended a gracious invitation to Mephibosheth, and invited him to “eat continually at the king’s table” (9:7, 10, 13) with his own sons. Mephibosheth, though lame, was privileged to once again live as a prince.

After that great picture of grace, “it came to pass….” (10:1)

An Act of Humiliation and Disgrace (2 Samuel 10:1-5)

What came to pass? David had received news that “Nahash the king of the children of Ammon died, and his son reigned in his stead” (1 Chronicles 19:1). The king remembered a past kindness shown to him by Nahash, and felt it behooved him to send ambassadors to extend sympathy and condolences to Hanun, Nahash’s son and heir (10:2).

Coming “into the land of the children of Ammon,” Ammonite counselors convinced Hanun that David had not sent ambassadors, but spies to discover the nation’s weaknesses (10:3). Trusting his counselors, and failing to examine the Israelite men himself, Hanun betrayed David’s trust and humiliated the Israelite men, shaving half their beards, and cutting off their robes (10:4).

A Provocation of War (10:5-14)

Understanding an ambassador is an agent of a ruler and his government, David took the ill treatment of his ambassadors as a personal offense (10:5). When the Ammonites learned that David was incensed by their ill treatment of his men, they hired Syrian mercenaries to prepare to war against Israel (10:6).

Learning the Ammonites had hired Syrian warriors, David commanded Joab to gather the “host of the mighty men” of Israel, and go to war against the Ammonites and their Syrian mercenaries (10:7-11). Confident the LORD was with Israel, Joab and Abishai his brother, went to war, against the Ammonites and the Syrians (10:9-14). When the Syrian mercenaries fled from before Joab, the Ammonites also fled into the safety of their walled city (10:13-14).

War with Syria (10:15-19)

Although defeated in their initial skirmish with Israel, the Syrians gathered a greater army against Israel (10:15-17). David himself led Israel to battle, and soundly defeated Syria, slaying seven hundred men who drove chariots, forty thousand horsemen, and Shobach, the captain of the Syrian army (10:18). Israel’s success against Syria moved the kings of other nations to make peace with Israel, and come under tribute to David (10:19).

Closing thoughts – What can we take from today’s study? Perhaps the most prominent lesson is the need to search out a matter, and seek the truth first, before charging someone with wrong motives, or wrongdoing. David’s desire had been to extend sympathy and comfort to the Ammonites upon the death of King Nahash (10:1-2).

Tragically, the Ammonite counselors accused David of sending men to spy out the land (10:3). That accusation, along with Hanun’s ill treatment of David’s men, led to war and the deaths of thousands of soldiers. How tragic! King Hanun believed a lie, and his nation and families grieved the deaths of their sons.

Lesson – Don’t believe everything you hear, especially about others. Take time to investigate, and get the truth. Make an effort to know the heart and intent of a man before believing the worst.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Pity the Nation (Psalm 75)

Scripture reading – Psalm 75

Continuing our Scripture readings in the Psalms, our focus is again on one of the twelve psalms attributed to Asaph, a chief musician during David’s reign. Psalm 75 challenges us to a Biblical perspective on the sovereignty of God and His rule over the nations and people of the earth.

Psalm 75:1 summons the congregation to acknowledge God is the Supreme Ruler of His creation, and is due our thanksgiving. Twice the words of the first verse declare a spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude: “1Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: For that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare” (75:1).

God is a Righteous Judge (75:2-3)

Psalm 75:2-3 speaks of judgment, and some might suppose it is the rule and judgment of man that is the focus. I believe, however, that the judgment of God is the subject. Who but the LORD has the authority to receive the congregation of the saints, judge them uprightly, and weigh them in the scales of His law (75:2)?

The law and judgment of men is perpetually shaky and uncertain, but “the earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved,” will be the judgment of God’s righteous verdict. If our hope for justice was found only in the discretion of men, we would have cause for anxiety. God, however, has assured His people, “I bear up the pillars of [the earth] (75:3). Nations rise, and nations fall, but be assured the LORD is holding up the pillars, the foundations of the world.

God Admonishes Foolish Leaders (75:4-8)

We find a warning to every leader who bears rule over the lives of men with a heavy, proud hand. The LORD admonished, “4I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly: And to the wicked, Lift not up the horn [a symbol of power and strength]: 5Lift not up your horn on high [i.e. don’t abuse your office]: Speak not with a stiff [proud, stubborn] neck” (75:4-5).

How soon those in authority forget they are nothing without God! Civil government has been ordained by the LORD (Romans 13:1), and those who rule and judge have divine mandates for which they will give account. From the King or President, to the local magistrate, all in authority are commanded to be the servants of God for good, and avengers of His wrath “upon him that doeth evil” (Romans 13:4).

What of leaders who defy God’s authority, scorn His Law, and abuse their appointments?

God warned, “6For promotion cometh neither from the east, Nor from the west, nor from the south. 7But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another” (75:6-7). God is sovereign, and He is the final Judge. He promotes and demotes, and oversees the rise and fall of nations. Like a cup of red wine that is poured out like blood, God will pour out His wrath upon wicked leaders, and “all the wicked of the earth” will drink to the full the wrath of God (75:8).

When the Foundations Shake, May the Saints Sing God’s Praises (75:9-10)

The psalmist has painted a dark picture of God’s wrath upon rulers that fail to rule righteously and lawfully. Nevertheless, the believer’s faith rests in the LORD and we should declare our faith in His holy character, and “sing praises to the God of Jacob” (75:9).

Closing thoughts – Though the foundations of a nation may be shaken, and the wicked boast and abuse their authority, be assured: 10All the horns [power and strength of their office] of the wicked also will [the LORD]cut off; But the horns of the righteous shall be exalted” (75:10).

God is just, and the wicked will face His wrath and be destroyed; however, He has promised to bless the righteous. Fools sing their own praises, and stiffen their necks against the LORD (75:5), but a wise man remembers every promotion that comes his way is an act of God’s grace (75:6).

The wise remember, “God is the judge [governor; the final dispenser of justice]: He putteth down [humbles; abases; humiliates] one, and setteth up [exalts; raises up] another” (75:7).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Keeping Promises: Integrity with Compassion (2 Samuel 9)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 9

Resting from his victories on the battlefield, and enjoying the blessings of the LORD on his household, David’s heart became reflective. We are not told what stirred the king to remember his friend (9:1), but a vow he had made to Jonathan, the late son of King Saul, moved him to ask: “Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (9:1)

If you have followed www.HeartofAShepherd.com, you may remember the occasion of David’s vow to his friend. Jonathan had found in David a kindred spirit, and the prince admired the young shepherd who had slain the Philistine giant, Goliath. However, as David’s popularity grew in Israel, his presence in the palace increasingly provoked Saul’s jealousy, and the king had sought to slay him. In spite of his father’s malice, Jonathan not only accepted David as his peer, but demonstrated his unselfish love for him, and acknowledged he would succeed to the throne of Israel.

1 Samuel 20 records David’s final meeting with Jonathan before his death. David was a fugitive from the palace, and after barely escaping with his life, had sought refuge in the wilderness. Knowing his father meant to slay David, Jonathan sought from him a covenant that when he would be king, David would “not cut off [his] kindness from [Jonathan’s] house for ever” (20:15, 42).

David’s Kindness (9:1-3)

When I read, “Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (9:1), I am reminded of the manner of man David was.  The house of Saul had been his enemy, but his friendship with Jonathan stirred in his heart a desire to show mercy and compassion to any that might be alive from Saul’s lineage.

Ziba, a servant of Saul, was summoned to appear before David, and he brought news that there was a son of Jonathan who still lived, but he was “lame on his feet” (9:3). (Mephibosheth had been dropped by his nurse when she fled the palace after receiving news that King Saul, and his sons had been slain in battle, 2 Samuel 4:4).

All oriental kings of ancient times would have slain their rivals to the throne, but not David. He desired to “shew the kindness of God unto him” (9:3). What manner of man was the king? He was one whom God had described as “after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14).

David’s Compassion for Mephibosheth (9:4-8)

Receiving the king’s summons to appear in his court must have frightened the man who had spent his life as a cripple. Limping his way into the presence of the king, Mephibosheth, most likely around twenty-one years old, “fell on his face, and did reverence. And David said, Mephibosheth. And he answered, Behold thy servant!” (9:6)

David sensed Mephibosheth’s fear, and spoke words of comfort to him, saying, “Fear not: for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father’s sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually” (9:7).

What an incredible gesture! Mephibosheth went from a man dependent on the charity of others, to an heir of his grandfather’s royal lands, and a place of prominence at the king’s table! In humiliation (9:8), Mephibosheth wondered aloud why David would treat a man that was no more worthy than a “dead dog” (9:8).

With his father and grandfather’s lands restored to him, Mephibosheth needed servants to care for his estate. David, therefore, commanded Ziba, his sons, and servants to look after Mephibosheth’s interest in the estate (9:9-11).

Closing thoughts – Unlike our day, when those with physical challenges often flourish in their pursuits, men like Mephibosheth were shunned in ancient times. The thought of a lame man sitting at the king’s table would have been preposterous in any other kingdom, but not that of David. The king remembered his covenant with Jonathon, and his integrity demanded he fulfill his vow, even to a crippled man.

Herein is grace, for Mephibosheth was honored “as one of the king’s sons,” and he did eat continually at the king’s table; and was lame on both his feet” (9:7, 11, 13).

What manner of man was David? He was loyal, compassionate, caring, faithful, and true!

Can the same be said of you?

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

The Creator, and King of Glory, Is He Your Lord? (Psalm 24)

Scripture reading – Psalm 24

Psalm 24 was written by David. Consisting of only ten verses, it has inspired many great hymns and anthems. [The brackets within the verses contain amplifications by this author.]

God is the Sovereign of His Creation (24:1-2)

Stated emphatically, and with no ambiguity in the opening verses of Psalm 24, is the truth that God is Creator, possessor, sovereign, and sustainer of His creation.

Psalm 24:1-2 – “The earth is the LORD’S [Jehovah; Eternal God], and the fulness [all it contains] thereof; the world [inhabitants], and they that dwell [inhabit; abide] therein. 2  For he [the LORD] hath founded [laid the foundation] it upon the seas, and established [prepared; erected] it upon the floods [waters; streams].”

The LORD is Eternal God, and the Creator of all things, and “without Him was not anything, made that was made” (John 1:3). As Creator, He is owner of the earth’s resources, and all that inhabits it. He has set the boundaries of the sea and the dry land (24:2). He is the Sustainer. Because the LORD is Sovereign, David asked:

What Manner of Man Might Draw Nigh unto the God of Heaven? (24:3)

Psalm 24:3 – “Who shall ascend [come up; scale] into the hill [mountain] of the LORD? or who shall stand [arise; rise] in his holy [hallowed; sacred] place?”

Can anyone merit the favor of God, or be worthy to enter into His presence? Might a rich man earn good standing with God by donating to charity, and giving his riches to help the poor? Does fasting, praying, worshipping, or showing kindness to another give one entrance into the presence of the LORD?

David listed four characteristics of the man who may enter the presence of the LORD.  (24:4)

Psalm 24:4 – “He that hath clean [innocent; guiltless; blameless] hands, and a pure [clear; innocent] heart [mind]; who hath not lifted up [removed] his soul [life; person] unto vanity [lying; deceit], nor sworn [taken an oath] deceitfully [fraud; i.e. lacking integrity].”

A man must have “clean hands” to enter into the LORD’S presence (24:4a). How might a man acquire “clean hands,” before a holy God? A comparable question was asked and answered in Psalm 119:9, where we read: “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word.” 1 John 1:9reminds us the way to be cleansed is to “confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” For a man to have “clean hands,” he must heed God’s Word, and confess his sins.

No man enters into the LORD’S holy place unless he has a “pure heart(pure in heart, thoughts, and motives, 24:4b). The man who enters the “holy place” cannot be like the Pharisees, who thought by portraying outward piety, their prayers would be heard, and answered (Matthew 23:25-28). The LORD, knowing the hearts of men, condemned the Pharisees saying, “Ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:28).

The man who enters God’s presence must also guard his soul from the “vanity” of the world (24:4c). What is the “vanity” of the world? It is the pleasures, sins, and philosophy of the world that promises much, but never satisfies the heart. The rich man boasted to himself that bigger barns and more goods would satisfy his soul (Luke 12:16-18). Beguiled by riches, he had failed to plan for God’s judgment, and “God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12:20).

A man who enters the presence of the LORD must also have integrity, and he will not swear deceitfully (24:4d). The saints of God are honest and truthful. They are conscious of the Lord’s presence, and they will not cheat, lie, or swear falsely. They are not bound by a contract, but by a consciousness of God’s holiness.

David promised a twofold reward to them who seek the LORD. (24:5-6)

Psalm 24:5 – “He shall receive [accept] the blessing [prosperity] from the LORD, and righteousness [rightness; justice] from the God [i.e. Almighty God] of his salvation.”

When a man seeks the LORD with “clean hands,” a “pure heart,” guards his heart from vanity, and walks with integrity, he is promised “the blessing from the LORD” (24:5a), and declared righteous and just in His sight. David declared on behalf of all Israel, “This is the generation [age; people] of them that seek [follow; worship] him[the LORD], that seek [seek out; require; desire] thy face [the LORD’S countenance and face]  O Jacob [Tribes of Israel]. Selah [pause]” (24:6).

Hail to the King of Glory! (24:7-10)

The coming Messiah, the “King of glory,” is the subject of Psalm 24:7-10. Five times the LORD is identified as the “King of glory.” Who is this “King of glory?” He is the LORD, the “LORD of hosts” (24:8, 10).

In ancient times, the city gates were where private and governmental business was transacted.  The elders, and the king’s ambassadors, sat in judgment at the gates. Beginning with the elders, and chief leaders of the city, David commanded the people to hail the coming of the “King of glory” (24:7).

Psalm 24:7 – “Lift up [hold up] your heads, O ye gates [gates of the city of Jerusalem]; and be ye lift up [men who sat in the gates], ye everlasting [perpetual; ancient] doors; and the King of glory shall come in.”

Who was this “King of glory?” He was “the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal God] strong [mighty; powerful]and mighty [heroic; warrior], the LORD mighty in battle [war; combat; warfare]” (24:8). A thousand years after Psalm 24 was composed, Jerusalem celebrated Jesus’ entrance into the city, and identified Him as the “the Son of David,” and therefore heir to the throne. Within that same week, those same voices cried against Jesus, “Let Him be crucified” (Matthew 27:22-23; 1 Corinthians 2:8).

Closing thoughts – Perhaps that is the reason David announced, not once, but twice for the “gates” (24:7, 9) to lift up their heads and hail the coming of the “King of glory” (24:9-10). The world rejected Jesus when He came the first time; however, all nations will be forced to hail His Second Coming.

Psalm 24:9–109Lift up your heads, O ye gates; Even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; And the King of glory shall come in. 10Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.

Hail to the King, the LORD of heaven’s armies, for He is the King of glory!

Revelation 1:77Behold, he [Christ] cometh with [in the] clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him [on the Cross]: and all kindreds [people and nations] of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

Are you ready for His coming?

With the heart of a shepherd,

HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Character Traits of the Righteous (Psalm 15)

Scripture reading: Psalm 15

Our preceding devotional considered five characteristics of the “blessed” man’s life (1:1-3). Today’s devotional will observe seven character traits that define the hearts of those whose citizenship is with God (15:1-5). The brackets within the following verses are by the author, and present a broader application of word definitions.

Remembering the psalms were worship songs, and not merely poems, David invites the congregation of Israel to ponder two questions in the opening stanza (15:1).

Psalm 15:11 LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah], who shall abide [dwell] in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell [remain; continue] in thy holy hill?

In essence, the psalmist asks: Lord, what manner of man or woman, desires to “abide in [dwell in] thy tabernacle [i.e. where the Ark of God was located]? David had prepared a new tent (1 Chronicles 16:1) to shelter the Ark as it arrived in Jerusalem, and it remained there throughout his reign. The king expressed in other psalms, his preference to worship the LORD in His sanctuary, over the opulence and comforts of his palace.

“Who shall dwell [abide; remain; continue] in thy holy hill? (15:1b) What manner of man seeks, and longs to abide on Mount Zion, where the Ark was located? (The Ark represented the throne of God, and His presence in the midst of His people.) David answered those questions, and stated seven characteristics of those who sincerely seek, worship, and enjoy the presence, and favor of the LORD.

1) The lives of the righteous are defined by integrity. They are trustworthy, sincere, and morally upright (15:2a).

Psalm 15:22  He that walketh uprightly [blameless; with integrity], and worketh righteousness [lawful; just], and speaketh [declare] the truth in his heart.

2) The righteous speak the truth, for it resides in their hearts and thoughts (15:2b; Ephesians 4:15).

3) Those who abide in the presence of the LORD are neither mean-spirited, or vengeful. Their words and deeds are loving (15:3).

Psalm 15:33  He that backbiteth [gossips; slanders] not with his tongue, nor doeth evil [sin] to his neighbour [friend; companion], nor taketh up [bear; carry] a reproach [contempt] against his neighbour [lit. near; nearest kinsman].

4) The sins of the wicked are loathsome to the righteous, and the godly have no desire for their company (15:4a;Psalm 1:1). The righteous give honor and respect to those who fear the LORD, and walk according to His Law and in the likeness of Christ (15:4b; Philippians 2:2-8).

Psalm 15:44  In whose eyes [sight of the righteous] a vile person [loathsome; reprobate] is contemned [despised; disdained]; but he honoureth [glorify] them that fear [revere] the LORD. He that sweareth [makes an oath] to his own hurt [affliction], and changeth not [.e., does not vacillate].

5) The righteous are promise keepers (15:4c). They keep their word, and honor their vows (and contracts), even at the sacrifice of themselves, and their own interests.

6) The righteous have compassion for the poor, and do not charge them excessive interest they can ill afford (15:5a; Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:35-37).

Psalm 15:55  He that putteth not out [gives] his money [silver] to usury [high interest; i.e. indebtedness], nor taketh [accepts] reward [bribe;a gift] against the innocent [guiltless]. He that doeth [make; perform; do] these things shall never be moved [waver; fall; slide; slip].

7) The righteous are above reproach. They cannot be bribed, nor swayed in their judgments (15:5b; Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19; Proverbs 17:23).

The summary answer to the questions that introduced Psalm 15, (“1Lord, Who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?”), are satisfied in the last phrase of Psalm 15:5.

“He that doeth these things shall never be moved” (15:5c). Those who dwell in the presence of the LORD have integrity, speak truth, hate the sins of the wicked, are not vengeful, keep their promises, have compassion for the less fortunate, and live above reproach. Are those traits true of you?

An Application – Do you have integrity in what you say and do? Do you speak the truth, and never lie? Do you hate the sins of wickedness, and find them loathsome? Are you forgiving? Do you keep your word? Do you make a vow, sign a contract, and commit yourself even at the sacrifice of your own interests? Do you show compassion for those less fortunate than yourself? Are you above the influence of a bribe?

An Invitation – If your answer to any of those questions raises a sense of guilt, and brings conviction: Confess your sins to the LORD, and vow to make right with others where you have failed.

1 John 1:9–109If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Timeless Lessons in History (1 Chronicles 9-10)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 9-10

1 Chronicles 9 – Post-Exilic Jerusalem

Our study of genealogies in 1 Chronicles began with Adam (1:1), the sons of Noah and their ancestries (1:5-26), to Abraham and Isaac (1:27-34), and the sons of Jacob, who were the fathers of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (2:1-8:40).

We read in 1 Chronicles 9:1, “1So all Israel were reckoned by genealogies; and, behold, they were written in the book of the kings of Israel and Judah, who were carried away to Babylon for their transgression.”

With those words, our study of the history of Israel has carried us forward in time beyond the reigns of kings in Israel, and Judah, to Israel’s return from Babylonian captivity. 1 Chronicles 9 is the genealogical record of the children of Israel who returned from Babylonian exile to resettle, and rebuild Jerusalem (9:4-34). Accepting the decree of Cyrus, king of Persia, we find the names of those families and heads of households who set their hearts to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-2).

Five tribes were represented in the families that repopulated Jerusalem: Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh (9:3). (The mention of Ephraim and Manasseh is notable, for they were among the ten tribes of northern Israel that had been taken captive by Assyria).

The Levites were among those who returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity, and 1 Chronicles 9:10-34 gives us the names of their families and heads of households. Briefly, among the Levites who returned to Jerusalem were the priests (9:10-13), musicians (9:14-16; Nehemiah 11:15-18; 12:28-29), and porters who are also identified as “keepers of the gates of the tabernacle” (9:17-23). The porters, or gatekeepers, were supervisors of the Temple chambers and treasuries (9:24-32). There were Levites who were trustees of Temple vessels, and the preparations of elements used in worship and offering sacrifices (9:28-32). Singers are specifically identified in 1 Chronicles 9:33.

Once again, the historian gives us a record of King Saul’s genealogy (9:35-44; 8:29-40).

1 Chronicles 10 – King Saul’s Death, and the Rise of David to the Throne

Rolling the calendar back from the repopulation of Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity, our study in 1 Chronicles returns to an event that will be familiar to those who have followed my devotionals in 1 Samuel. The writer of 1 Chronicles returned to the Philistines’ victory over Israel (10:1-2), and the deaths of King Saul and his sons (10:1-6). Perhaps to explain the end of the house and lineage of Saul, and the rise of the Davidic line, we are reminded that Saul fell upon his own sword, and died (10:5-6). Great humiliation followed when the bodies of Saul and his sons were found. The Philistines stripped Saul and his sons of their armor (10:9a), and after beheading Saul (10:9b), they placed his head and armor in the temple of Dagon, the fish god (10:10). Learning of the humiliation that had befallen their king, the men of Jabeshgilead “arose, all the valiant men, and took away the body of Saul, and the bodies of his sons, and brought them to Jabesh, and buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh, and fasted seven days” (10:12).

Closing thoughts: Consider with me three reasons for King Saul’s death, and the end of his dynasty (10:13-14).

We read, “Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord” (10:13a). Though his failures were many, most likely the transgression that is to be noted here was his failure to kill Agag, the king of the Amaelities, and his sparing the best of the spoils for himself, contrary to God’s command that all were to be killed (1 Samuel 15). We also remember how Saul had disobeyed the law of the LORD, and sought “counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to inquire of it (10:13b; 1 Samuel 28:5-10). Finally, Saul died because he “inquired not of the Lord: therefore he slew him” (10:14a).

Thus, the dynasty of Saul was ended, and the LORD “turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse” (10:14).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith