Tag Archives: Integrity

They Would Have Destroyed Him (Matthew 12; Mark 3; Luke 6)

Scripture reading – Matthew 12; Mark 3; Luke 6

Today’s Scripture reading entails parallel readings of the same events. Each Gospel account gives us an individual record of the life and ministry of Christ from the perspective of its human author, but as a whole, they evidence the inspiration of the Holy Spirit presenting us with a harmonious view of what appears to be a three-dimensional portrait. Today’s devotional commentary is from Matthew 12:1-21.

Matthew 12

Though the public ministry of Jesus was still in its infancy, nevertheless, the enemies of the LORD were present from the beginning. Performing miracles as a sign that He was the long-awaited Messiah foretold by the prophets of Israel, Jesus was enjoying a great following of the people. There was, however, antagonists who viewed Him as a threat to their position and influence among the people.

The Pharisees were Christ’s principal adversaries, and they would plot to discredit and destroy Him throughout His earthly ministry, up to His divine appointment with the Cross. It was their antagonism and hatred for Jesus that was the catalyst of the confrontation we find in Matthew 12.

The LORD’s fourth commandment to Israel, “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8), was the issue the Pharisees raised against Jesus when they accused Him and His disciples of breaking the Law (12:1-2) according to their standards. Passing through a farmer’s field enroute to the synagogue on the Sabbath, Jesus’ disciples were hungry and “began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat” (12:1). Ever looking for an occasion to accuse Jesus of wrong doing, the Pharisees seized upon the opportunity to accuse His disciples of breaking the Sabbath Day commandment based on their oral tradition.

Rather than bow to his critics, Jesus reminded the Pharisees that the issue was not the fourth commandment, but their stringent interpretation of the Sabbath Day commandment.  The fourth commandment did not prohibit a man from providing for his physical hunger (after all, David had taken bread from the Temple and ate that which was dedicated to God, 12:3-4), and the priests ministered on sabbath days as their service to the LORD, (12:5-6) as outlined in the Levitical standards in the Torah.

Entering into the synagogue on the same day, Jesus encountered a man whose hand was paralyzed (12:9-10). Rather than show compassion for the man, the Pharisees demanded of Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? That they might accuse him” (12:10b).

Citing a common practice in that rural culture, Jesus demanded of His critics, would you not save a sheep that had fallen into a pit on the sabbath? Is a man not better than a sheep? (12:11-12) Jesus then declared, “it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days” (12:12b). He then spoke to the man with the withered hand, “Stretch forth thine hand,” and his hand was healed completely (12:13).

And how did the enemies of Jesus respond not only to His teaching, He being “LORD even of the Sabbath” (12:8), but also the healing of the man with the paralyzed hand? (12:13)

Matthew 12:1414Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him. (note – Mark 3:5-6; Luke 6:11)

Oh, the hypocrisy! On one hand they demanded their interpretation of the Sabbath Law should usurp the will of God; and in the other they plotted to destroy Jesus and violate the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13).

How did Jesus respond to the wicked, malicious intent of His enemies? He “withdrew himself” from them (12:15).

I have found the decision to withdraw oneself is a difficult one, especially when an enemy is unrelenting in his plot to “destroy” you. The manner of Christ is one we should emulate, after all, the Spirit of God is gentle, not brazen.

Romans 12:18–19 – “18If it be possible [knowing is not always possible], as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath [God’s anger]: for it is written, Vengeance is mine (Deuteronomy 32:35); I will repay, saith the Lord.”

Note from the author: For those following the chronological Scripture reading schedule, remember that some events in the Gospel accounts are not in chronological order. Also, chapter and verse numbers have been added by editors to assist us in studying the Scriptures, but sometimes those helpful numbers break up the flow of events. For instance, the Sermon on the Mount is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew 5-7; however, the Gospel of Luke records a portion of that same sermon in Luke 6:20-49. None of those facts take away from the inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures; however, I hope my explanation might give you some rationale for the reading schedule.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God Restores Failures and Uses Imperfect People. (Matthew 3; Mark 1; Luke 3)

Daily reading assignment – Matthew 3; Mark 1; Luke 3

Today’s Bible reading assignment consists of three chapters in three of the four Gospels, and is also the first taken from the Gospel of Mark. Having introduced you to the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John, it is my joy to introduce you to the Gospel penned by John Mark.

Who was John Mark?

Unlike the authors of the other Gospels who were numbered among Christ’s Twelve apostles, John Mark was not a disciple.  The Book of Acts identifies him as a citizen of Jerusalem (Acts 12:12).  Some believe he was the man whom Mark identified as “a certain young man” (Mark 14:51), who fled into the night without his robe when Jesus was arrested in the Garden (Mark 14:50-52).

Mark became a traveling companion of Barnabas and Saul (i.e. Paul) when that dynamic missionary duo set out on their first missionary journey (Acts 12:25; 13:1-5). Fortunately for us, but unfortunately for John Mark, his journey with Paul and Barnabas became a spiritual crisis and ended abruptly when we read that, “John [i.e. Mark] departing [going away; deserting] from them [Paul and Barnabas] returned [turning his back]to Jerusalem” (Acts 13:13).

The cause for John Mark’s sudden departure is not revealed. It could have been the hardships of travel; however, I believe it was the ever-present threat of persecution. John Mark reappears in Acts 15 and became a point of conflict and division between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-39). That dynamic missionary duo was preparing to depart on their second missions’ trip when we read, “Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark” (Acts 15:37).

Paul, however, “thought it not good [desirable] to take [John Mark], who departed from [quit; deserted]them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work” (15:38).  The dispute over John Mark’s company became so contentious that we read, “they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; 40And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. 41And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches” (15:39-41).

What became of John Mark?

We do not know what transpired in John Mark’s life after he departed with Barnabas and set sail to Cyprus. We do know that he went on to distinguish himself as one of God’s faithful servants, and is the author of the Gospel of Mark!

How did John Mark go from a man with whom the apostle Paul was unwilling to travel, to becoming the author of the second Gospel in our New Testament?

Paul regarded John Mark as a disappointment, however, Barnabas had looked on the young man through the eyes of a mentor, and lovingly restored Mark to ministry.  Perhaps it was this real-life lesson that moved Paul’s heart when he wrote:

Galatians 6:1-2 – “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

I close with a spiritual lesson that we should take from the life of John Mark:

God restores failures and uses imperfect people to do His work.

Remember, God has not called you to be perfect, but He has called you to be faithful!

1 Corinthians 4:22Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Don’t Be a Fool: Character Does Matter! (2 Kings 9-11)

Scripture reading – 2 Kings 9-11

My first memory of a public debate concerning the significance of a man’s character in public office dates to the presidential races of the late 20th century. In today’s world, the subject of character and integrity has become so unimportant that it is no longer a topic for discussion or debate!

What is character? Character is a moral compass, an internal standard that charts a man’s course in life and determines his conduct and destiny. A man’s character is defined by his moral values and can prove to be either a blessing or curse to others.

The opening verses of 2 Kings 11 are illustrative of the matter of character and indicative of the depths of depravity a soul will descend when driven by a covetous heart set upon power, position and possessions.

True to His promise that the lineage of the wicked King Ahab and his wife Jezebel would be cut off (9:8-9), the LORD moved on the heart of His prophet Elisha to send a young priest with oil and anoint Jehu to be king of Israel (9:1-7). Obeying the LORD’s command, Jehu then set out to kill every heir of Ahab’s seed and found not only Joram, king of Israel, but also Ahaziah, the king of Judah, and Jehu slew both kings (9:22-28).

Jehu’s next act was to order that Jezebel be cast down from the window of her palace (9:30-33). Fulfilling Elijah’s prophecy, Jezebel’s body was consumed by dogs (9:34-37).

When the news of Ahaziah’s death reached Jerusalem, the king’s mother (daughter of Ahab and Jezebel) moved immediately to secure the throne of Judah for herself.  Queen-mother Athaliah commanded that every son of King Ahaziah be slain (11:1). In spite of his grandmother’s murderous rampage, Joash, the infant son of king Ahaziah was spared when his aunt hid him and his nurse in her house. Joash was later moved to the Temple where he would be kept secretly for six years (11:2-3).

Josiah is Made King II KIngs 22:1

In the seventh year of queen Athaliah’s reign, Jehoiada, a priest in the Temple, called together the commanders of Judah’s armies and revealed that Joash, the son of the late king Ahaziah was alive (11:4-11).  Swearing allegiance to Joash, the military leaders crowned him king of Judah (11:12) and Jehoiada ordered that Athaliah be executed outside the Temple grounds (11:13-16; 2 Chronicles 23:12-15).

Following the death of Athaliah, the nation of Judah enjoyed a season of spiritual revival (2 Kings 11:17-21). Jehoiada renewed the nation’s covenant with the LORD “that they should be the LORD’S people” (11:17) and directed the destruction of the altars of Baal (11:18).

Although only seven years old (11:21),  Jehoash (i.e. Joash), was profoundly influenced by the high priest, and “all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was in quiet” (11:20).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Oh Lord, Hear Our Cry and Heal Our Land” (1 Kings 16; 2 Chronicles 17)

Scripture Reading – 1 Kings 16; 2 Chronicles 17

1 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 17 complement one another with historic details that indicate the presence and providence of God’s guiding hand in human history.

1 Kings 16 – A Succession of Wicked Kings in Israel

While Asa, the third king of Judah, reigned for forty-one years and that nation enjoyed a season of revival and peace (15:11-14), the northern ten tribes known as Israel, went through a succession of wicked kings who doomed that nation to all manner of sin, idolatry, and violent assassinations (1 Kings 16).

Knowing God uses the penchant of wicked men to work His design for man, the LORD sent the prophet Jehu to remind Baasha that he was king because God had ordained it (16:2a). That does not mean God ordained the assassination of the former king, but that he used Baasha’s intent to accomplish His divine purpose.

1 Kings 16 gives us a record of a rapid succession of wicked kings. King Baasha died and his son Elah became the fourth king of Israel (16:6-8). Elah reigned only one year before he was slain in an assassination plot by Zimri (16:10-20). Zimri became the fifth king of Israel, but took his own life by setting fire to the palace when Omri laid siege to the city (16:16-20). A brief division of Israel as a nation followed with half the nation following Tibni (16:21-22) and the other half following after Omri (16:21-23).

After Tibni’s death, Omri united Israel, made himself king (16:23-24), setting the stage for the rise of the most notorious king and queen in Israel’s history:

“Omri wrought evil in the eyes of the LORD, and did worse than all that were before him…Omri slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria: and Ahab his son reigned in his stead” (16:25, 28).

There are few men or women in history whose infamy is so appalling that the mere mention of their name paints in one’s mind a picture of gross, notorious wickedness. King Ahab and his wicked Queen Jezebel defined wickedness in the extreme (16:29-33). Of Ahab we read, he “did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him” (16:33).

2 Chronicles 17 – A Revival in Judah

Having learned from the failures of his father, Jehoshaphat, son of King Asa, became Judah’s fourth king and “walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim; 4  But sought to the LORD God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings [sins and wickedness]of Israel” (17:3-4).

While the people of Israel suffered oppression due to the wickedness of their kings, Judah returned to a time of spiritual revival. King Jehoshaphat turned his heart to the LORD and began to walk in the way of God’s Law and Commandments (17:4), God began to bless Judah. After tearing down the idol places, Jehoshaphat dispatched throughout Judah five leaders, two priests, and nine Levites who were charged with instructing the people in “the book of the law of the LORD” (17:7-9).

God blessed Jehoshaphat and the “fear of the LORD” fell upon Judah’s neighbors who began paying tribute to Judah (17:10-11).

Jehoshaphat’s love and dedication to the LORD and His Commandments, inspired “mighty men of valour” to rally around him in Jerusalem and Judah began to enjoy a season of peace and prosperity (17:13-19).

A concluding thought: I doubt many would debate that we are living in a time of sorrow and uncertainty. The plague of locusts in Africa threatens widespread famine, while the menace of a pandemic has afflicted hundreds of thousands, killed many, and crippled the world’s economy. Accompanying that terror is widespread lawlessness and violence in our nation that might well plunge our nation into a civil war.

What hope is there for these troubled times?

The answer is the same as it was in Judah’s day: We need leaders who, like Jehoshaphat, will lead our nation to repent of her sins, turn to the LORD, and walk in the ways of His Law and Commandments (2 Chronicles 17:3-5, 10, 12-13).

Only then will the LORD hear our cry and heal our land.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Biblical Perspective on Class Envy and Friendships (Proverbs 13-15)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 13-15

Our study of King Solomon and the wisdom he expressed in his proverbs continues with today’s Scripture reading, Proverbs 13-15. Our devotional commentary will consider two proverbs from Proverbs 13 that are taken from my devotions posted at www.HeartofAShepherd.com. As a reminder, brackets are used by this author to amplify meanings and definitions.

 “A Biblical Perspective on the Cause of Class Envy” (Proverbs 13:4)

Proverbs 13:4  “The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.”

Honest hard labor has fallen out of favor in our nation.  Rather than encouraging employees to give employers an equal measure of labor for wages paid, politicians and socialists provoke class envy asserting the “working class” is oppressed. Proverbs 13:4 reminds us that nothing has changed about the heart of an indolent man when it comes to fruit for his labor. His lot is to always be in want.

Proverbs 13:4 – “The soul [mind; heart; appetite] of the sluggard desireth [craves], and hath nothing [lazy, foolish men are never satisfied]: but the soul [mind; heart; appetite] of the diligent [one who acts decisively] shall be made fat [be satisfied].”

Notice the sluggard (lazy) desires and craves what others afford only through labor.  He wants the same things, but he is too indolent to work and save to satisfy his passions. He “hath nothing” and becomes a burden to his family and society.

The contrast to the sluggard is the diligent man.  The diligent man is by definition, decisive and quick to act.  He is industrious, using his time, talents and resources wisely. While the sluggard is left wanting, the hardworking are made fat, satisfied and content with the fruits of their labor.

If your parents imparted to you the discipline of hard work in your youth—thank them!  They have given you a gift that has shaped your life and character in a way you will only appreciate when you are older.

“A Friend’s Character Will Either be a Blessing or a Curse” (Proverbs 13:20)

The theme of Proverbs 13:20 is Influence [the sway or effect one has on another]. Notice the truth Solomon imparts regarding the influence of friendships:

Proverbs 13:20 – “He that walketh with [befriends; is a companion of] wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”

Every good parent will be concerned and vigilant about the friends and influences in their son or daughter’s life. Why? The power and responsibility to influence others is a fact we all share!  People influence us Verbally by what they say or communicate [examples–letters, emails, social media].  In addition, a friend’s Actions and Attitudes have an influence on us.

Too few parents are willing to accept the responsibility of examining honestly their child’s friendships and understanding that friends have a powerful influence on a child’s character and ultimate destiny.

Solomon’s proverb is direct: A wise man will seek the company of likeminded men–those who evidence wisdom and discernment; however, a “companion of fools shall be destroyed” [the picture drawn by the word “companion” is of cattle that graze together. Ever notice how a herd of cattle grazing in a large pasture stand together, often feeding in the same direction?].

The apostle Paul warned believers in Corinth: “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners (1 Corinthians 15:33).

The word “communications” can also be translated “companions”; the word “manners” can be translated “morals”. Literally, don’t be misled: wicked, sinful friends will defile one’s moral judgment [i.e. spiritual discernment; the ability to discern right and wrong].

Lesson – The character of one’s friendships is a mirror of one’s own character. 

Friendships have the power to edify or destroy. If you run with fools, you are a fool! If you choose the company of those who have godly wisdom and discernment, they will influence you to be the same.

Reflect on the people who bear influence upon your life, thoughts and values. Are your friends spiritually minded men and women? Is their influence edifying? Do your friends strengthen you spiritually?  Are you under sound Biblical exposition and influenced by godly relationships?

Psalms 1:1 – “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”

Copyright – Travis D. Smith

I’ve Got Happiness! How ‘bout You? (Psalms 111-118)

Scripture Reading – Psalms 111-118

Today’s Scripture reading entails eight glorious chapters in the Book of Psalms; however, I will limit this devotional commentary to Psalm 111 and Psalm 112.

Psalm 111 – Getting Wisdom

Three of today’s psalms begin with the same theme and call to worship: “Praise ye the LORD”(Psalms 111:1; 112:1; 113:1).

In essence, “Praise ye the LORD” is an expression of thanksgiving that boasts in the LORD Who is the Eternal, Self-existent God of creation. The psalmist asserts he will “Praise the LORD” with his “whole heart” – his mind, thoughts, and understanding undivided and focused on Him (111:1).

His praise and thanksgiving will be declared not only in the midst of those who are numbered among the “upright” (meaning those who obey the LORD’S Law and Commandments), but also in the midst of all the people (“the congregation” – 111:1).

In what will the psalmist praise the LORD? His meditations are on His works, the wonder and expanse of His creation (111:2) and “His righteousness”— for He is just, and “is gracious and full of compassion” (111:4b).

Believer, do you want to be numbered among the wise? Do you desire to be a man or woman of discernment and understanding? Remember this principle:

Psalm 111:10 – The fear [reverence; awe that begets righteous behavior] of the LORD is the beginning [is fundamental; foundational; most important thing] of wisdom: a good understanding [discretion; ] have all they that do [make; perform] his commandments: his praise [giving thanks] endureth [stands; is established] for ever [eternity].

Psalm 112 – Four Qualities of a “Blessed” Man

Psalm 112, like Psalm 111, begins with a word of praise to the LORD and an affirmation that the man who “feareth” [trembles; reveres] the LORD is “Blessed” [happy] because he “delighteth [desires; takes pleasure] greatly in His Commandments [Law; ordinances; precepts]” (112:1).

Notice there are four essential characteristics of a “Happy” man in Psalm 112: A “Happy” man is Blessed (112:1), Upright (112:4), Good (112:5-6a) and Righteous (112:7-9).

A man is happy and blessed because he recognizes he is the object of God’s grace (i.e. unmerited favor). 

Why is he the object of God’s grace?  Because he “feareth the LORD” (lit. reveres the name and rejoices in the character of the LORD) and “delighteth greatly in His commandments” (112:1c).  Such a man finds the Law and Commandments of the LORD a delight (Psalm 1:1-2), and the overflow of God’s grace in that righteous man’s life magnifies his influence (112:2) and blessed state (should his children follow his righteous path).

Secondly, a man is happy and “blessed” when he is “upright,” meaning just, righteous, a man who fears and reveres the LORD (112:4). 

God’s people are not spared from dark days, for they too suffer sickness, death of loved ones, disappointments, betrayals and broken promises. The righteous, however, have an assurance: “there ariseth light in the darkness” (112:4a).  David observed the same, writing, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

Believers are not spared dark days; however, they are assured the light of the LORD will pierce the darkness. What a precious promise! When we find we are “in the darkness,” the LORD promises He is “gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous” (112:4b).

Another quality of a “Happy” man is that he is a “good man” (112:5). 

We notice four traits evidenced in a “good” man’s character (112:5-6).

He is gracious in his demeanor (pleasant and pleasing – 112:5a). He is generous (he lendeth to those in need – 112:5b). He exercises “good sense,” guiding “his affairs with discretion” (112:5). He is well “grounded,” for a good man “shall not be moved for ever” (112:6a).

Lastly, a “Happy” man is “righteous” (112:7-9). 

We find three qualities of this righteous man in verses 7-9. He is fearless, “he shall not be afraid of evil tidings” (112:7a), for he has a settled confidence in the LORD.  His heart is firm, “fixed, trusting in the LORD” (112:7b), and “shall not be afraid” (112:8b). He is freehearted, generous and giving to the poor (112:9). A righteous man is not a hoarder of riches, but a steward of God’s blessings and a conduit for ministering to those in need.

I conclude today’s devotional inviting you to take note of the wicked man’s response to the Happy man who is Blessed, Upright, Good and Righteous:

Psalm 112:10 – The wicked [immoral; ungodly] shall see [look; behold; regard] it, and be grieved [troubled; provoked; angry]; he shall gnash [i.e. grate or grind] with his teeth, and melt away [faint; be discouraged]: the desire [longing; delight; greed] of the wicked [guilty; immoral; ungodly] shall perish [be destroyed].”

Envy! The joy and happiness of the righteous is a grief, a sorrow to the wicked who grind their teeth like rabid dogs and “melt away,” defeated and consumed by their envy (112:10c).

In the words of King David, “For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish” (Psalm 1:6).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The King is Dead (1 Chronicles 26-29, Psalm 127)

Scripture Reading – 1 Chronicles 26-29, Psalm 127

In the fortieth year of his reign as king, David was conscious of the frailty of old age and the increasing shadow of his own death. In today’s Scripture reading we have record of David’s final preparations before his inevitable departure from this earthly life.

1 Chronicles 26 – The Gatekeepers

Continuing the organization of those who will minister in the Temple, the focus of 1 Chronicles 26are those men and their families who will be charged with guarding the entrances to the Temple. Altogether there will be twenty-four guard stations attended by porters or gatekeepers described as “mighty men of valour” (26:6) and “able men for strength for the service” (26:8), meaning able-body men.

Men of the tribe of Levi were also assigned to guard the Temples treasuries (26:20-28) that consisted not only of what was given by the people, but also “out of the spoils won in battles” (26:27).

1 Chronicles 27 – Israel’s Army and its Divisions

Having completed the affairs of the Temple and its organization, David’s focus then turned to the organization of Israel’s armies by twelve divisions, each division consisting of twenty-four thousand men (27:1-15).

The rulers of the Twelve Tribes of Israel are named (27:16-22), as well as those men who were charged with managing the king’s possessions (27:23-31).

The record of David’s trusted counsellors is also stated (27:32-34).

1 Chronicles 28 – David’s Final Preparations

Calling together all the leaders of his kingdom (28:1), David made certain there would be no ambiguity as to his desires and God’s plan for Israel when he died.

Seeming to indicate he had been lying on his bed until now, we read that “the king stood up upon his feet” and began to share the longing in his heart to build a Temple for God, as well as, the reason why he was denied that privilege: “But God said unto me, Thou shalt not build an house for my name, because thou hast been a man of war, and hast shed blood” (28:3).

David shared how God had chosen Solomon to be king (28:5) and had promised him a perpetual kingdom if he would keep the LORD’s “commandments” and judgments (28:7-8). In the audience of the leaders, David exhorted Solomon to know God and serve the LORD “with a perfect heart and with a willing mind” (28:9-10). David charged Solomon to take up architectural plans he had devised for the Temple and to “build an house for the sanctuary: be strong, and do it” (28:9-10).

1 Chronicles 29 – David’s Final Acts as King

We come to the end of this first chronicle of Israel’s history having followed God’s providential hand in His creation from Adam, the first man (1 Chronicles 1:1), through Noah (1:4-17) and his son Shem (1:17). Of Shem’s lineage was born Abraham (1:27) with whom God established His redemptive covenant that was to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ, “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1).

David has reigned forty years as Israel’s king (29:27) and his final appeal to the leaders of the nation is recorded in 1 Chronicles 29. The king reminded all Israel that God had chosen Solomon to succeed him as king, but urged the people to remember he was “young and tender, and the work…great: for the palace is not for man, but for the LORD God” (29:1).

Modeling the manner of giving that honors the LORD, David gave liberally and enthusiastically for the building of the Temple (29:2-5). The leaders of the nation followed the king’s example and “offered willingly” (29:6-9). Witnessing the spirit of their king and leaders, the people also “offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the LORD: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy” (29:9).

A beautiful benediction of praise and worship is recorded when David rehearsed God’s blessings on Israel (29:10-13) and his inferiority in the light of God’s grace (29:14-15). Remembering his humble beginnings, David prayed with a sense of awe:

1 Chronicles 29:14-1514  But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort [remember, David was a son of a shepherd]? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee. 15  For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow [shade; temporal; passing], and there is none abiding [no hope in this life].

David’s prayer turned to one of intercession as he contemplated the task of being king which Solomon was about to undertake (29:19). Sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving followed and the ceremony concluded with Solomon being anointed as king a second time and then taking his place on the throne (29:20-24).

God did answered David’s prayer, for “the LORD magnified Solomon exceedingly in the sight of all Israel, and bestowed upon him such royal majesty as had not been on any king before him in Israel” (29:25).

The reign of David, Israel’s great king, comes to an end with a simple obituary:

“And he died in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honour: and Solomon his son reigned in his stead” (29:28).

Notice the memorial to David’s character in that last sentence: David “died in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honour [glory; splendor]” (29:28).

All men and women will die, but I dare say, few will die having lived a full life that has been blessed, bequeathing honor as their life’s crowning trait.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Thou art the man!” (Psalm 32, 51, 86, 122)

Scripture Reading – Psalms 32, 51, 86, 122

Our previous devotional, 2 Samuel 11-12 and 1 Chronicles 20, is the background for two penitent psalms in today’s Scripture reading (Psalm 32 and Psalm 51). Today’s devotional commentary is focused on Psalm 51.

Psalm 51 is a prayer of brokenness, confession, repentance and a plea for forgiveness and restoration. The prophet Nathan’s dramatic confrontation with David (2 Samuel 12:7-13)  had exposed his adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of David’s mighty men. Added to the disgrace was the king’s attempt to conceal his sin that ultimately ended in the king’s directing Uriah’s death.

It is frightening to consider the depths of sin into which a man or woman might descend. At the zenith of success and power, the words of the prophet Nathan had echoed in the palace and resonated in David’s soul: “Thou art the man!”  (2 Samuel 12:7)

Late 19th century British historian Lord Acton made the observation, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  That is true of monarchs, politicians, business leaders, professors and, yes, pastors.

One should ponder how a man like David was befallen by sin. Considering the disgraced king, we can scarce remember the innocent shepherd or the young king humbled by the adulation of his nation. He has dishonored his crown and the servants of his kingdom revile him in private whispering, “adulterer” and “murderer.”

David acknowledged the nature and curse of hereditary sin, confessing, “I was shapen in iniquity: and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). The disposition to sin is bound in the heart of all men and women, for “there is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).

While I am dismayed by the depths of sin to which David descended, it is the length of time he tolerated the burden of such sins while acting as judge in other men’s affairs that surprises me. How long might David have continued his charade if it were not for God’s deploying his prophet to confront the king on his throne?

“Thou art the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7) echoed in the judgment hall and resonated in David’s heart who cried out to God for mercy and forgiveness (Psalm 51:1).  David prayed, “Wash me throughly,” because his heart and hands were dirty with his transgressions (51:2-3). He had sinned against many, but was acutely aware his foremost sin was against the LORD. The king prayed, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight” (51:4).

David continued, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me…12  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit” (51:10, 12).

No more pretense. No more hypocrisy. No more vain worship. The king confessed, “For thou desirest not sacrifice…17  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart” (51:16a, 17a).

I close suggesting at least three factors contributed to David’s moral failure.

The first, he entertained lusts that inevitably led to a neglect of his duties and responsibilities as husband, father and king.

The second factor, his role as king had insulated him to accountability. His moral failure occurred when he was alone, far from the battlefield and separated from his wives and children.

Finally, though he was a man with a heart for God, he was nonetheless too proud to confess his sin (2 Samuel 11:6-22) and accept the consequences of his moral failures.

Lesson: If you are hiding sin, be forewarned: You are living on borrowed time. Be assured, the consequences of secret sins will inevitably catch up with you and your loved ones (Galatians 6:8; Psalm 32:3-4).

Invitation: The LORD is waiting to hear you pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God…Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (Psalm 51:10a, 12a).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Saying Grace” – A Prayer of Thanksgiving (Psalm 65-67; 69-70)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 65-67; 69-70

Psalm 65 – A Psalm of Thanksgiving for the Grace, Greatness, and Goodness of God

David introduces the psalm acknowledging that the LORD is worthy of praise because He hears and answers prayer (65:2). The King confessed that sin hinders prayer (for “iniquities prevail against me”), but the LORD purges sin, and blesses those who seek Him (65:3b-4).

Reflecting on God’s sovereignty over all creation (65:5-8), David praised the LORD for providing rain and running streams that quench the thirst of creation and provide green pastures and grains so that all nature rejoices (65:9-13).

Prayer and gratitude for rain and rushing streams is nearly foreign to the 21st century man. Most of us give little thought to the requirement of life-sustaining water. In an agrarian society, however, the need of rain and water was a relentless concern. Livestock depended on pastures for grazing and a good harvest of grain was not only the livelihood of most families, it was life itself!

“Who would like to say grace?”

I have not heard that phrase in years, but I remember the elderly from my childhood asking, “Who would like to say grace?” or “Who would like to say the blessing?”

To “Pray Grace” was to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the bounty of God’s blessings, and in particular, for the meal we were about to consume. To pray at mealtimes is to openly recognize the LORD as the provider and the source of all blessings.

Psalm 65 concludes with David acknowledging the LORD for His grace and blessings.  Might I encourage you to do the same?

If “saying grace” is not a practice in your home, it should be. Every meal should begin with you bowing your head, thanking God for His “GRACE.” Remember, the sun, wind, and rain all come from Him!

Psalm 66 – “Make a joyful noise unto God” (Psalm 66:1).

Psalm 66 opens with an invitation for all the nations of the earth to praise and worship the LORD (66:1-7).  The next section of the psalm is an invitation to Israel, God’s chosen people, to praise the LORD (66:8-12).  Beginning with Psalm 66:13, David’s focus is personal as he declares, “I will go into thy house [the Tabernacle] with burnt offerings: I will pay thee my vows, 14 Which my lips have uttered, and my mouth hath spoken, when I was in trouble” (66:13-14).

Have you made a promise to the LORD in a time of trouble? Did you vow to the LORD when you were under conviction? Do you remember responding to the LORD and praying you would give him your heart?

What? You forgot? Did you know the LORD is omniscient; He never forgets our vows, promises, and decisions.

Forgiveness: What a blessed promise!

Psalm 66:1818  If I regard [see; perceive; i.e. unwilling to confess] iniquity [sin; wickedness] in my heart, the Lord will not hear [hearken; listen] me:

David concludes Psalm 66 reflecting on the LORD’s mercies, grace, and willingness to hear his prayers and forgive his sin. The king had suffered the fate of men who “regard iniquity,” and experienced the silence of heaven.

Friend, please don’t risk a seared conscience and a hardened heart. The LORD is longsuffering, patient and willing to forgive our sins if we will confess and forsake them.

1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

When God Says, “NO” (2 Samuel 6-7; 1 Chronicles 17)

Daily reading assignment: 2 Samuel 6-7; 1 Chronicles 17

Our Scripture reading continues with David’s decision to move the Ark of God to Jerusalem. As noted in a parallel passage recorded in 1 Chronicles 13, the celebration was cut short when David, the priests, and Levites failed to consult the Torah on the means of transporting the Ark.

An earlier devotional addressed the tragedy surrounding David employing a “new cart” to transport the Ark to Jerusalem. Today’s devotional will look past that tragic event (2 Samuel 6:1-11).

2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 17 – Parallel Passages

2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 17 offer us two expositions of the same event. We are introduced to the prophet Nathan, Samuel’s successor, who will have a great influence in David’s life during his reign.

No doubt in a reflective mood in the comfort of his new palace, David’s thoughts turned to building a temple for Israel to come to Jerusalem and worship the LORD (1 Chronicles 17:1-9).  Nathan gave his blessing to David’s desire (2 Samuel 7:2; 1 Chronicles 17:2); however, that same night the LORD revealed to the prophet that the king would not be permitted to build a temple; however, his son and successor would build a temple (1 Chronicles 17:3-12).

We find two covenant promises expressed to David in 1 Chronicles 17 and 2 Samuel 7.  The first, that God would bless David, subduing his enemies and establishing his lineage on Israel’s throne forever (17:7-11).  The second, that his son and successor would not only build a house of worship to the LORD, but his throne would “be established for evermore” (17:14); a promise fulfilled in the Messiah Jesus Christ.  The balance of today’s Scripture is a record of David’s praise and thanksgiving for God’s covenant promises (2 Samuel 7:12-17; 1 Chronicles 17:16-27).

Permit me to close by proposing a question:

How do you respond when God’s answer to your longing and prayer is contrary to your desire? In other words, when God says, “no.”

David’s love for the LORD moved him to request that he might build a house, a temple for God. The King reasoned, how could he rest in a palace when the Ark of God resided in a tent of curtains (2 Samuel 7:2; 1 Chronicles 17:1).

God refused David’s request saying, “Shalt thou build me an house for me to dwell in?” (2 Samuel 7:5). The LORD gave two grounds for His refusal. The first, His earthly presence among Israel had always been as a sojourner, “in a tent and in a tabernacle” (2 Samuel 7:6). The second basis of God’s refusal was He had not commanded David to build Him a house (2 Samuel 7:7).

God did not need a house; however, Israel needed the king the LORD chose and anointed to rule His people (2 Samuel 7:8-11).

If David set His heart to love the LORD and serve His people, God promised He would bless him, and his lineage would reign forever (a promise that will be fulfilled in Jesus Christ – 2 Samuel 7:12-16).

Lesson – Trust God and accept He is sovereign. The LORD has authority to order both the stops and the starts in life, and His way is perfect (Romans 8:28).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith