Tag Archives: Integrity

Troubles are Inevitable in a World That Bears the Curse of Sin. (Job 14-15)

Scripture reading – Job 14-15

Job 14 brings us to the third of three chapters outlining Job’s reply to Zophar (Job 11). Unlike Eliphaz, Zophar made no pretense of comforting his suffering friend (11:1-3), and instead charged him with concealing sin and deserving what he believed was God’s punishment (11:4-6).

Job’s reply to Zophar began in Job 12 when he mocked his friends’ delusion that they had wisdom into the ways of God that he did not (12:1-4). Reserving the right to test and examine their counsel (12:11), he contended they had spoken much, but said nothing (13:1-2), and condemned them as “forgers of lies” (13:4). Stating his unshaken faith in God’s providence, Job declared, “though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (13:15).

Job 14 – An Elegy to Death

Job’s response to Zophar continues in Job 14 with an observation that is as beautiful as it is tragic. We read, 1Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble” (14:1).

There may be many joyful days in our earthly sojourn; however, there is no escaping the reality that humanity has a shared universal experience—trouble. Contradicting his friends’ counsel that his troubles were the afflictions of the wicked, Job challenged that troubles, trials, sorrows, and death are inevitable for sinner and saint alike. Job goes on to observe that the life of a man is like a flower that is soon cut down and perishes, and like a shadow that is soon gone when light is extinguished (14:2).

Confessing God sees, and knows man intimately (14:3-4), Job declared that a man’s “days are determined” (14:5a), and the “bounds” of his life “he cannot pass” (14:5b). In other words, God orders your birth, and your death. Wise men are conscious that it is inevitable that “man dieth, and wasteth away: Yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? …12So man lieth down, and riseth not” (14:10-12a). Desiring to escape his afflictions and sorrows, Job pled with God, “hide me in the grave…keep me secret, until thy wrath be past…set a time, and remember me” (14:13).

Though he was a man of ancient times, and did not have the privilege of the written Word that we possess today, nevertheless, Job was confident that physical death was not annihilation. Asking and answering the question of death, Job proposed, 14If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, Till my change come” (14:14).

On what was Job waiting? The Resurrection! He affirmed to the LORD, “15Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee” (14:15a).

Job 15 – Eliphaz’s Second of Three Speeches (Job 4-5; Job 22)

Eliphaz again picks up his accusation that Job’s troubles were indicative of what wicked men suffer. Rejecting Job’s plea of innocence (15:1-3), he charged him with folly, and turning away from God (15:4-6).

Eliphaz then stated a foolish supposition regarding the way and fate of the wicked (15:17-35). Beginning with a false premise, he stated, 20The wicked man travaileth with pain all his days” (15:20a). Rather than prove his assertion, he continued in his lie claiming that the prosperity of the wicked eventually comes to destruction (15:21). He contended that the wicked will be overcome by trouble (15:24), and “he shall not be rich, neither shall his substance continue” (15:29).

I close reminding you that Eliphaz’s conclusions were false. Contrary to his assertion, the wicked often prosper, and many die surrounded by their wealth, and often praised by their peers. Like many who profess wisdom, Eliphaz lacked understanding and godly discernment. He began his dispute with a false premise, and added to poor Job’s sorrows.

Lesson – Don’t assume your sorrows are the consequence of some wrongdoing;  troubles are inevitable in a world that bears the curse of sin.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Wise Counsel, Foolish Heart (Job 11)

Scripture reading – Job 11

Job 11 introduces us to the third of Job’s friends, “Zophar the Naamathite” (11:1). Like his companions, Eliphaz and Bildad, Zophar’s counsel to Job was harsh, direct, and unsympathetic. Impatient with Job’s confession that he had committed no sin to warrant so great a trial, Zophar accosted the poor man with four rebukes.

He accused Job of being full of pious talk, saying, “2Should not the multitude of words be answered? And should a man full of talk be justified [righteous in God’s eyes]?” (11:2) He assaulted Job’s character, and faulted him for lies, and irreverence: “3Should thy lies make men hold their peace? And when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed?” (11:3) Finally, Zophar implicated Job, charging him with being a hypocrite, and observing, “4For thou hast said, My doctrine is pure, And I am clean in thine eyes” (11:4).

Like the other “friends,” Zophar lacked the humility and compassion of a godly counselor. Giving him no opportunity to respond, Zophar asserted that Job was guilty of sin (excessive speech, lies, irreverence, and hypocrisy), and deserved the punishment of all that had befallen him (11:5-6).

Job 11:7-12 – The Sovereignty and Wisdom of God

I fear Zophar was like a lot who profess to be believers: He had a knowledge of God, but lacked the heart of God when it came to ministering to his hurting friend.

Zophar rehearsed God’s incomparable revelation of Himself (11:7-9), and confessed that no man can know the LORD apart from His revelation (11:7a). He is El Shaddai, “the Almighty,” omnipotent, all-powerful God (11:7b).

Job 11:8–98[God’s revelation of Himself is] as high as heaven; what canst thou do? Deeper than hell; what canst thou know? 9The measure thereof is longer than the earth, And broader than the sea. [the circumference of the earth and the breadth of the sea was incomprehensible to the ancients]

Declaring that God knows what lies within the heart of man, Zophar challenged Job, the LORD “seeth wickedness also” (11:11b).

Job 11:13-20 – Three admonitions concluded Zophar’s criticisms of Job.

Repent: Assuming Job’s troubles were God’s punishment, Zophar urged him to repent, prepare his heart, and humble himself before the LORD (11:13). He counseled Job to put away his sin, and “let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles [lit. tent; house or household]” (11:14).

Be Restored: Zophar promised the LORD would restore Job if he repented (11:15), and that he would soon forget his miseries as swiftly as flood “waters that pass away” (11:16). Zophar assured Job that his “age” (life; days) would become as bright as the noonday sun (11:17), his hope would be restored (11:18a), and he would find rest and safety (11:18b-19).

Final Admonition: Be forewarned that those who fail to repent of their sins will look in vain for rest (“eyes of the wicked shall fail’), will find no refuge (“shall not escape”), and shall have no hope (11:20).

Zophar’s criticisms of Job were presumptuous, and unloving; however, his counsel to confess, and repent of sin (when there is sin of which to repent) is one we should all heed.

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.

Job’s response to his friends’ allegations of wrongdoing will cover the next chapters (Job 12-14).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Human Life is Sacred: Thou Shalt Not Kill! (Job 10)

Scripture reading – Job 10; (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17)

Note from the Author: This is a bonus devotional from today’s Scripture reading, Job 9-10. My earlier writing focused entirely on Job 9; however, I feel the central theme of Job 10 is too important for us not to take a moment to consider the sanctity (sacredness) of human life (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17).

Job 10:1-6 – Job’s Petition

Job’s reply to Bildad continued in Job 10, and he confessed to God what many have felt when besieged with trials and beset by troubles: “My soul is weary of my life” (10:1a).

Job’s statement was not a threat of suicide, but an honest, transparent complaint that the sorrows and losses he had experienced had taken their toll on him physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Distressed in his soul, Job prayed, “Do not condemn me,” do not abandon me; show me why you have allowed such hardship and difficulties to fall upon me (10:2). Notice that Job’s appeal to His Creator was deeply personal, and he identified himself to the LORD as “the work of thine hands” (10:3b). He was not under any delusion that he merited God’s favor. In fact, the opposite was true. He acknowledged his “iniquity” and “sin” (10:6); however, he protested, “7Thou knowest that I am not wicked; And there is none that can deliver out of thine hand” (10:7).

Job 10:7-17 – Job’s Appeal to His Creator

The sanctity of human life is the central truth we find in these verses (10:7-17). Here is an inspiring passage that leaves no doubt that human life is consecrated from the moment of conception, and that God is intimately interested in each of us. From the unborn, to the very ancient among us, every human life is sacred, and conceived in the heart of God.

Notice Job’s description of God’s personal affection, and His attentiveness to everything about us:

Job 10:8–98Thine hands have made [shaped; formed] me and fashioned [created] me Together round about; yet thou dost destroy me. 9Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made [fashioned] me as the clay [an allusion to God creating Adam, Genesis 1:27; 2:7]; And wilt thou bring me into dust again? [implying death and decay]

God is not only the giver, and preserver of life; He is the gatekeeper for every trial and blessing that graces our lives.

Job 10:1212Thou hast granted [make; wrought; create] me life and favour [grace; loving-kindness], And thy visitation [lit. oversight] hath preserved [keep watch over] my spirit. 13And these things hast thou hid [treasured] in thine heart: I know that this is with thee.

David penned similar truths regarding the sacredness of human life, and acknowledged God as His Creator in Psalm 139:13-16.

Psalm 139:13–1613 For thou hast possessed [get; acquire] my reins [lit. kidneys; figuratively the mind; feelings]: thou hast covered [protect; defend] me in my mother’s womb [belly; bosom; body].
14 “I will praise [give thanks; confess] thee; for I am fearfully [amazingly; stand in awe or reverence] andwonderfully made [distinguish; uniquely; set apart]: marvellous [wonderful; distinguish; extraordinary; surpassing] are thy works [labor; i.e. needlework; deed]; and that my soul [life; person; being] knoweth [perceives; observes] right well [exceedingly; greatly].
15 My substance [bones and being] was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought [woven as a tapestry] in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Thine eyes did see [perceive; look; behold] my substance [might; body; frame; bones], yet being unperfect[embryo; unformed mass]; and in thy book [letter; scroll] all my members were written [described; lit. – all the days of my life were ordained], which in continuance [day; time; continually] were fashioned [formed, as a potter; to mold], when as yet there was none [i.e. not the first] of them [before one day of my life was past].”

God is your Creator, and He knows you personally, and intimately. He has followed your life from the moment you were conceived, and has kept you by His sovereign, providential care. In fact, He loves you so much that He has extended His grace to you, offering salvation and forgiveness of sin through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Will you accept Him as your Savior?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Truth Has Fallen on Hard Times (Job 6)

Scripture reading – Job 6

Rather than pity and comfort, Eliphaz the Temanite (2:11) added to Job’s sorrows (Job 4-5; Job 6:1-13) offering his sly insinuations of some wrong doing, and mixing man’s reasonings with God’s wisdom.

Job acknowledged that his troubles had come upon him like the “arrows of the Almighty” (6:4a), wounding his flesh to the depths of his soul. Had Job known God’s purpose for the trials, he could have averted his cause to complain that the “terrors of God” seemed to be aligned against him (6:4).

Eliphaz had failed to empathize with Job’s sorrows, and his exhortation had been both insensitive and harsh. Unlike the contentment of a donkey that does not complain when it is grazing, or the ox that is satisfied with its fodder (6:5), Job complained that Eliphaz’s counsel was as unsavory as unseasoned food, and as tasteless as the “white of an egg” (6:6). Once again, Job expressed his despair of life (6:8-9), and argued that the grave would bring a welcome relief to his sorrows (6:10). Overwhelmed by disappointments, Job confessed his weakness, and sense of hopelessness (6:11-13).

Job contended, instead of the pity and compassion he needed, his friend had afflicted him with counsel (6:14) that he likened to the mirage of an oasis in a desert. Eliphaz’s words left his soul thirsty and yearning for relief (6:15-17). Like a desert caravan seeking water, the arrival of Job’s friends raised his longing for compassion, but they had brought neither understanding nor comfort (6:18-21).

Job admonished his friends, “Did I say, Bring unto me?” (6:22) Stated in a different way: Why did you bother to come? Did I invite you? Did I request any of your possessions to replace the loss of mine own? (6:22-23)

Job challenged Eliphaz, “Teach me [truth], and I will hold my tongue,” tell me “wherein I have erred”(6:24). Instead of “right words” that were true to the point, Eliphaz had wearied Job with his arguments and reproofs (6:25).

I close today’s devotional with an observation: “Truth,” I fear has fallen on hard times in our homes, churches, and society. Instead of truth, our schools, pulpits, and public lecterns have become platforms for humanism and man-centered ideas. Men do not want to hear the truth, and society is intolerant of anyone who dares to speak the immutable truths and doctrines of God’s Word.

Job challenged Eliphaz, tell me the truth, and I will listen (6:24a). Tell me where I am wrong, and I will return (6:24b). Resolute in his desire for Truth, Job invited Eliphaz to speak the Truth.

Do you have that same desire? A desire for those who love you to speak honestly, and lovingly the Truth?

“Putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour” (Ephesians 4:25).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Who Needs Enemies When You Have Job’s Friends? (Job 4-5)

Scripture reading – Job 4-5

The Book of Job is a study in Hebrew poetry, and as we have seen, a record of one man’s suffering and his righteous response to earthly trials and sorrows. It is the story of a heavenly drama pitting Satan’s assertion that Job would curse God, should trials befall him (1:7), against God’s confidence that his servant was “a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth [shunned] evil” (1:8). Job was unaware that his trials were initiated by Satan, but limited by His omnipresent, loving Creator.

With his sons and daughters deceased, his possessions lost, and his body afflicted with sores from head to foot, Job’s wife looked upon him with disdain, and asked, “Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die” (2:9).

The arrival of three friends (2:11-13), brought the hope of encouragement in the midst of sorrows, but we will see in today’s Scriptures that the opposite would be true. Shaken by his troubles, and overcome with sorrow, Job shared with his friends his longing for death as a deliverer from his suffering (Job 3).

Job 4 – The Counsel of Eliphaz the Temanite

Eliphaz was the first of Job’s three friends to respond to his longing to escape his suffering by death (that does not imply suicide, but the natural course of life that inevitably ends in death). The first of three speeches given by Eliphaz to his friend Job is recorded in Job 4-5, the second and third in Job 15 and Job 22.

Eliphaz’s manner began with a kind, comforting tone (4:3-5), but soon turned to an indictment of Job’s character (4:6), asserting his troubles were those faced by wicked men: “They that plow iniquity, And sow wickedness, reap the same” (4:8).

Claiming he had received a vision (4:12-16), and heard a voice, Eliphaz asked Job, “17Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his maker?” (4:17). The implication was that Job’s troubles had come upon him because he had failed to confess his sin (4:18-21).

Job 5 – Eliphaz Proclaims the Greatness of God

Continuing his contention that Job’s trials were a consequence of his sins, Eliphaz questioned, “To which of the saints wilt thou turn?” (5:1) In other words, “Job, to whom will you turn, if you don’t turn to the LORD for help?”

Eliphaz accused Job of failing to respond to God with humility, and warned, “2For wrath killeth the foolish man, And envy slayeth the silly one” (5:2). Adding a greater assault on Job’s character, he seemed to have implied that the deaths of his children were a result of his sin (5:4; 1:18-19). Continuing his discourse, Eliphaz encouraged Job to accept his troubles as a sign of God’s chastening, and urged him to “despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty” (5:17; 5:18, Hebrews 12:5; Proverbs 3:11-12)

Eliphaz challenged Job to accept that there are seven troubles (seven being the number of perfection and wholeness), from which the LORD is able to deliver His people: Famine unto death (5:20a); death in war (5:20b); a slanderous tongue (5:21a); natural calamities (5:21b); fear of famine (5:22a); fear of wild beasts (5:22b); and a fear of early death (5:26).

The implication of Eliphaz’s observation was, “If the LORD is able to deliver His people out of their troubles, why has he allowed Job to suffer so much?”

Lest some dear saint accepts Eliphaz’s counsel as truth, and applies his statements to themselves, remember that Job’s trials were not caused by sinful failures or unconfessed sins. The LORD allowed Job to suffer as a means of testing, that would ultimately bring blessing. We cannot grasp all that is in the mind of God; however, we must accept that He is Sovereign.

Remember, when trials and sorrows come, they are temporal; however, you can be confident in this: The way of the LORD is perfect (Psalm 18:30).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

When Trials Come, and Sorrows Overwhelm (Job 3)

Scripture reading – Job 3 

Continuing our study of Job, we have noted that this suffering saint, though having lost everything, had in the words of his wife, “retained [his] integrity,” (2:9a). Frustrated by his humility before God, Job’s wife urged him to “curse God, and die” (2:9).

Job, however, reproved his wife for speaking the way of “foolish women,” and reasoned, “What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” In spite of his trials, and overwhelming sorrows, Job never sinned by complaining against his God (2:10).

Job 2 concludes with the arrival of his “three friends” (2:11), who having heard of his trials, came purposing “to mourn with him and to comfort him” (2:11b). Arriving together, they were shocked when they beheld the physical toll of Job’s trials (2:12a). In an outward expression of their compassion and sorrow, “they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven” (2:12b). For “seven days and seven nights,” they sat on the ground with Job, never speaking a word, “for they saw that his grief was very great” (2:13).

Job 3 – The Silence is Broken

Seven days having passed, the silence was finally broken when Job began to speak. Contrary to Satan’s slander, that he would curse his Creator in the midst of his sorrows (1:11; 2:5), Job lamented that his suffering was so great it would be better had he never been born (3:1).

The balance of Job 3 records the anxiety of this man whose faith had not wavered, but whose mind and soul were weighted by an avalanche of trouble. Finding no solace, Job finally gave expression to his anguish, acknowledging his deepest, inmost doubts for his very existence (3:2-12). He bewailed the day he was conceived (3:2-12), and began to look upon death as a welcome release from his sufferings, and the great equalizer that all men must eventually face (3:12-19). Mourning his misery (3:20-23), Job questioned why God gives “light” (i.e. life) to a soul that longs to be free from sorrows (3:20-26).

But, lest we be too hard on Job, let us remember that his words serve as a reminder that even good men struggle deep within their soul. Though overwhelmed with misery, Job was no less the man in whom God had boasted, “there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil” (2:3).

Any who have suffered deeply can relate to the hopelessness that grasped Job’s heart. Pain, especially when it affects family and loved ones, can drive anyone to entertain dark or despairing thoughts.

Job did not know the calamities he had suffered were a matter in which heaven itself had an acute interest. Nor was God with him less in his sorrows, than He had been in his prosperity. I close reminding you of a spiritual principle that should lift your heart when you feel trials are overwhelming you:

1 Corinthians 10:1313 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God isfaithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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