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The Plight of the Human Race (Psalm 53; Psalm 60)

Scripture reading – Psalm 53; Psalm 60

Our Scripture reading is from two psalms of David, Psalm 53 and Psalm 60. Our devotional is taken from Psalm 53.

Psalm 53 – An Observation of the Human Condition

Notice that Psalm 53 is nearly a restatement of truths observed by David in Psalm 14. The title of Psalm 53provides us the title of the person to whom it was addressed, “the Chief Musician.” It also provides the instrument used to accompany the singer, Mahalath (probably a stringed instrument), as well as the name of the melody, Maschil, that accompanied the psalm. As already noted, David is identified as the author in the title.

I invite you to identify three major truths found in Psalm 53: The fact of universal wickedness (53:1-3); the wicked’s denial of the providence of God (53:4-5); and David’s prayer that the LORD would save Israel, and rejoicing and gladness would be restored.

The Fool and His Plight (53:1-3)

David’s observations concerning the condition of man is not only well known, but should be self-evident to an honest observer. The folly of the fool is that he is an atheist, in word and deed! We read, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” Notice the phrase, “there is,” is in italics, indicating it was added by editors hoping to give clarity to the passage. I suggest, however, that the addition was unnecessary, for the folly of the fool is that he has not only denied God in his heart, but also in his deeds. David observed that the atheism of the fool carries him down a path of corruption, and destruction. Indeed, “there is none that doeth good” (53:1b).

The doctrine of God’s omniscience is stated in the next verse, where we read, “2God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God” (53:2). Having denied God, the fool may be convinced his sins go unnoticed and unpunished. Yet, God’s gaze is perpetually upon man, and he sees and tries the hearts to see if any seek Him (53:2).

Consider also that the plight of man is universal, and without exception: “Every one of them [every man, woman, boy, and girl] is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; There is none that doeth good, no, not one” (53:3). Universal rebellion; universal immorality; universal sin… “There is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (53:3).

Ponder that truth for a moment. There are no exceptions to the infection of sin. We are all infected by its curse, and the mass of humanity past, present, and future is born under the curse of sin (of course, the one exception was Jesus Christ who, though born of a woman, was not born of the seed of man, but of the Holy Spirit, Luke 1:35).

The apostle Paul observed the universality of sin, writing: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and the universal consequences of sin: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).

The Wicked’s Denial of the Providence of God (53:4-5)

The fool has not only rejected God, but he has also denied the visible evidences of God’s essence and providences as seen in His creation every day (53:4a). David warned, God is jealous of His people, and the wicked will not go unpunished for their ill treatment of them (53:4b).

There is a sad irony in this psalm. On the one hand, men boast, “There is no God,” but there is coming a day a judgment when fear will take hold of the hearts of men, and those who set themselves against Him will be destroyed (53:5a). Indeed, the wicked will be put to shame, for the LORD will hold them in contempt (53:5b).

David’s Prayer and Intercession for Israel (53:6)

Psalm 53 concludes with David looking forward to the day when Israel will be saved. In that day, “Jacob shall rejoice” (the lineage of the Twelve Tribes), and “Israel shall be glad” (53:6). Whom would God send to answer David’s prayer for a Savior? His name would be Jesus, “for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

Closing thoughts – Without exception; Every man or woman who rejects God, and refuses His offer of salvation through the sacrifice of His Son…is foolish. We might boast of our good works, but the prophet Isaiah declared, “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). A sinner cannot be saved “by works of righteousness which [he has] done, but according to [God’s] mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5).

Is He your Savior?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Praise, Prayers, Promises, and Peace (Psalm 29)

Scripture reading – Psalm 29

What can you give someone who has everything?  What can you and I, mere mortals with failings and shortcomings, give to God Who is the Creator and Sovereign of the universe? *As in earlier devotions, I have taken liberty to amplify word meanings in brackets.

Give That Which God Requires (Psalm 29:1-2)

Psalm 29:1-2 1Give [bring; ascribe] unto the LORD [Jehovah; Self-Existent, Eternal God], O ye mighty [strong; mighty ones], give [bring; ascribe] unto the LORD glory [honor] and strength [acknowledge His power; might].
2Give [bring; ascribe] unto the LORD the glory [honor] due unto his name [character; reputation]; worship [bow; do reverence; prostrate] the LORD in the beauty [honor; glory; splendor] of holiness [hallowed; consecrated; sacredness].”

To “give” is to bring, ascribe, or assign to the LORD that which is rightfully due Him.  The “mighty,” perhaps the mightiest among mankind, or the angels of heaven (i.e., the sons of God, Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7), owe their being to the LORD. The angels, like man, were created to glorify and serve the LORD. God is due our praise!

Worship and adoration are “due unto His name,” for His names define His divine character and attributes (29:2).  When we worship the LORD, we acknowledge He is Creator, Jehovah, Eternal, and Self-Existent God.

The Power and Presence of the LORD in the Storm (29:3-9)

The presence and majesty of the LORD in His creation is explained in Psalm 29:3-9. Rather than a prolonged commentary, I will permit my word amplifications to reflect the beauty and the revelation of God in the midst of a powerful sweeping storm over the mountains of Canaan. Imagine the loudest, most powerful storm you have ever experienced, and how the thunder was loud enough it shook the house, and the lighting so bright it was blinding.

Psalm 29:3-9 – The voice [sound; noise; thunder] of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory [honor]thundereth [roars]: the LORD is upon many [great] waters.
4  The voice
[sound; noise; thunder] of the LORD is powerful [mighty; strength]; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty [glory; honor].
5  The voice
[sound; noise; thunder] of the LORD breaketh [destroys; crushes; abolishes] the cedars; yea, the LORD breaketh [destroy; crush; abolish] the cedars of Lebanon [known for their beauty and strength] .
6  He
[the LORD] maketh them also to skip like a calf [leap or frolic like a young calf]; Lebanon and Sirion [a mountain peak in Lebanon] like a young unicorn [perhaps a one-horned antelope].
7  The voice
[sound; noise; thunder] of the LORD divideth [cut in pieces; engraved] the flames of fire.
8  The voice
[sound; noise; thunder] of the LORD shaketh [be pained; tremble] the wilderness [desert place]; the LORD shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh [southern Palestine].
9  The voice
[sound; noise; thunder] of the LORD maketh the hinds [doe or female deer] to calve [give birth], and discovereth [make bare; uncover] the forests: and in his temple [palace; sanctuary] doth every one speak [command] of his glory [honor; great reputation].

The LORD is Sovereign of Creation (29:10-11)

Psalm 29:10-1110 The LORD sitteth [dwells; abides] upon the flood; yea, the LORD sitteth [dwells; abides]King for ever [everlasting].
11 The LORD will give
[grant; put; deliver] strength [power; might] unto his people [nation]; the LORD will bless his people with peace [shalom; health; prosperity].”

The psalm concludes with an assurance that when storms are raging, we can take comfort remembering the LORD is sovereign over Creation.  To Him, the floodwaters, though powerful and frightening, are His footstool, and He is the everlasting King (29:10). The LORD is the source of strength and peace for His people!

Closing thought – Storms come in various forms. Some are natural occurrences like the thunderstorm described in Psalm 29. Other storms are deeply personal and bring emotional upheavals, physical sufferings, and paralyzing fears. Those storms can come in waves, rushing in upon our lives and reminding us even the strongest are vulnerable. Yet, storms can also remind us to look to the God of heaven, for “the LORD sitteth King for ever…[and]will bless His people with peace” (29:11).

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

God is just: He rewards faithfulness! (1 Chronicles 14-15)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 14-15

* For those following my two-year “Read through the Bible” schedule, you may notice the reading for today was limited to 1 Chronicles 14. Given the brevity of 1 Chronicles 14, and the fact it is also a parallel of an earlier study of the same events (2 Samuel 5) I am taking liberty to include 1 Chronicles 15 in today’s devotional commentary (which happens to be a parallel of 2 Samuel 6).

1 Chronicles 14 – The LORD Blessed David’s Reign

Having conquered and claimed Jerusalem as his capital city, it follows that David should build a palace in that historic city that would reflect his reign as king (14:1-2). The names of the sons of David that were born in Jerusalem are given, as is the mention that the king also had daughters, though they are not named in this passage (14:3-7).

As we noticed in 2 Samuel 5, the Philistines were the first to test David as the king of a united Israel, and they were soundly defeated (14:8-16). However, just as important as the battles, was David’s preparation for them.

We read, “David inquired of God, saying, Shall I go up against the Philistines? and wilt thou deliver them into mine hand? And the Lord said unto him, Go up; for I will deliver them into thine hand” (14:10). For the second battle, David inquired again of God” (14:14). Interestingly, the LORD’S strategy for the second battle was unlike the first (14:14b-15); however, because David sought the LORD’s will, God gave Israel the victory (14:16). More than the victories, was the fact that David had become an international figure in the ancient world. “The fame of David went out into all lands; and the Lord brought the fear of him upon all nations” (14:17).

1 Chronicles 15 – The Ark is Brought to Jerusalem

David’s first attempt to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem had ended in tragedy. Failing to consult the method or means of transporting the Ark, had cost Uzza his life (1 Chronicles 13:9-10). Displeased, angry, and frustrated, David had complained to the LORD, How shall I bring the ark of God home to me?” (13:12)

David’s second attempt to bring the Ark to Jerusalem was a success. He had not only learned from his failure, but he had sought the mind and the will of God, therefore, he commanded the Levites to bring the Ark to his capital. The king confessed, “13For because ye [the Levites] did it not at the first, the Lord our God made a breach [sudden judgment] upon us, for that we sought him [the LORD] not after the due order [failed to seek the way of the LORD]” (15:13). Rather than a cart, David commanded the Levites bear the Ark upon their shoulders, using gold-gilded staves (poles) to carry it, “as Moses commanded according to the word of the LORD” (15:14-15).

We have an important register of Levite families recorded in 1 Chronicles 15 (15:4-11). I especially invite you to consider the important role of singers, and musicians in worship (15:16-24). We have various classes of musicians named, including the principal composers, “Heman the son of Joel; and of his brethren, Asaph the son of Berechiah; and of the sons of Merari their brethren, Ethan the son of Kushaiah” (15:17).

The musicians were all from the tribe of Levi. The LORD had set apart the Levites to serve Him, and there were some who were not only skilled in singing, but also in various instruments that were employed in worship. Cymbals of brass, psalteries (lute), harps, and trumpets accompanied the choirs that lifted their voices in singing the psalms (15:19-24). In the midst were “doorkeepers” who acted as guards and gatekeepers (15:23-24).

Our study of 1 Chronicles 15 concludes with the national celebration that greeted the arrival of the Ark in Jerusalem (15:25-29). “A robe of linen” was the dress for the Levites, and the king draped himself in the same. Setting aside his royal apparel, David wore a simple “ephod of linen” (15:27). The arrival of the Ark in the capital city of Jerusalem was a cause for celebration, and David was ecstatic with joy (15:28-29).

Tragically, 1 Chronicles 15 concluded with a foreboding of sorrow. David’s first wife, “Michal the daughter of Saul looking out at a window saw king David dancing and playing: and she despised [had contempt] him in her heart” (15:29; 2 Samuel 6:15-19).

Closing thoughts – 2 Samuel 6:15-19 amplifies Michal’s spirit toward her husband, the king.

Consider the moment: at the end of a day of celebration, David walked into the palace, still wearing his fine linen robe (15:27), and his heart filled with joy. Rather than delight in her husband’s triumph, Michal, the daughter of Saul, despised and condemned David (2 Samuel 6:20). David answered her contempt, and unashamedly identified himself as the man whom God had chosen to rule His people (2 Samuel 6:21).

As I look back over decades of ministry, I cannot remember a time that a moment of rejoicing was not threatened by an adversary. There will always be someone who is ready to dampen your enthusiasm to serve the LORD, and steal your joy. When those times occur, and they will, remember that God is just, and He rewards faithfulness, and punishes sin.

By the way, what became of Michal after she despised her husband? She went to her grave childless, for she “had no child unto the day of her death” (2 Samuel 6:23).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The LORD, My Creator and my God (Psalm 104) – Part 2

Scripture reading – Psalm 103; Psalm 104

The author of Psalm 104 though unknown, he continues the spirit of worship and praise, focusing upon God as the Creator, provider, and sustainer of creation.

This devotional is the second of two devotionals for today. The first focused on Psalm 103. This devotional will consider Psalm 104.

Psalm 104 – Creation is God’s Glory on Display

Psalm 104 needs little explanation or commentary. Its simplicity, and beauty can inspire saint and sinner to contemplate the earth, sun, stars, and planets, and understand that all creation is a testimony of God’s person and existence. The pen of the author sings the praises of the LORD, saying, “1Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, thou art very great; Thou art clothed with honour and majesty” (104:1).

Psalm 104 unfolds much like the timeline of the first five days of creation (Genesis 1).

The first day of creation, God’s light, His shekinah glory stretched across the heavens (104:2), and He made the heavens His abode (104:3; Genesis 1:1-5). (Take time to look up into the sky, and ponder the majesty of God). In the words of the psalmist, “[He] maketh the clouds his chariot: Who walketh upon the wings of the wind” (104:3).

The second day of creation is described as the day the LORD “laid the foundations of the earth” (104:5; Genesis 1:6-8; Job 38:4). How did this ancient psalmist know “the waters stood above the mountains” in the beginning? God revealed to him that He had spoken in the beginning, and the waters were separated from the dry land (104:6-9). In case you have ever wondered how the vast waters of the ocean are held in place by the sands on the seashore, the Creator “hast set a bound that they [waters] may not pass over; That they turn not again to cover the earth” (104:9).

On the third day of creation, God sent fresh waters throughout the earth, where the thirst of beasts might be quenched (104:10-11), and to water the grasses, vegetables, and trees of the earth (104:10-18). Then, on the fourth day of creation, God set the stars, the sun, and moon in place, and by them the days, and season were set (104:19-23).

Pondering the creation of the fifth day, the psalmist exclaimed, “24O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all: The earth is full of thy riches” (104:24). God created the teeming creatures of the seas on the fifth day (Genesis 1:20-23), and made provision for their food (104:24-30). The psalmist observed, it is the LORD who gives, and takes life (104:29), and He has made provision to renew the earth (104:30).

The subject of creation concludes in Psalm 104 with the fifth day.

The psalmist did not detail the events of the sixth day when God created life on dry land (Genesis 1:24-25), and made man in His image (Genesis 1:26-27); nor did he consider the seventh day when God rested (Genesis 2:1-3).

Rather than consider man, the height of God’s creation, the focus of the psalm turned to contemplating the glory of God displayed in His creation: “31The glory of the Lord shall endure for ever: The Lord shall rejoice in his works” (104:31).

Closing thoughts: Having considered all God had created, the psalmist burst out with song: “33I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. 34My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord” (104:33-34).

Take a few moments, and ponder the glory of creation, and remember, it is a display of your Creator’s glory. Let us join with the psalmist, and lift up our voices and say,

“I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being” (103:34).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

Scripture reading – Psalm 102

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

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

“Make a Joyful Noise Unto God” (Psalm 81)

Scripture reading – Psalm 81

The title of Psalm 81 indicates that it was written by Asaph, and assigned to “The chief Musician upon Gittith,” which was perhaps an instrument or a musical notation. Psalm 81 assigns the observance of the psalm to “our solemn feast day,” most likely indicating either the Feast of the Passover or the Feast of the Trumpets (81:3).

A Call to Worship (81:1-3)

Asaph, one of three prominent musicians in his day (the others being Heman and Ethan, 1 Chronicles 6:33, 44) began Psalm 81 with a call to worship: “Sing aloud [i.e., with rejoicing] unto God [Elohim, mighty God] our strength: make a joyful noise [in harmony], unto the God of Jacob” (81:1). Notice that the music and the words of the psalm were focused on praising God, and the sound of the music was to be harmonious to the ear, and not the loud dissonance that too often characterizes music in our day.

Psalm 81:2-3 defined both the instruments, and the occasion of the psalm: “the timbrel [perhaps the tambourine], The pleasant harp with the psaltery [a lute or string instrument]. 3Blow up the trumpet [a shofar made from the horn of a ram, probably with a silver mouthpiece] in the new moon, In the time appointed, on our solemn feast day.” The shofar signaled the beginning of the feast, and it is indicated it was “in the new moon” (81:3; Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 10:10).

The Subject of Worship (81:4-7)

The LORD commanded Israel to observe the feast days (81:4), and Psalm 81:5 is a strong indication that Asaph had in mind the Feast of the Passover which was established in Egypt on the night the firstborn in Egypt was slain (Exodus 11:1-10; 12:29-36). God spared the firstborn of Israel because the Hebrews in obedience had placed the blood of sacrificial lambs on the posts of the door (Exodus 12:1-28, 37-51). Israel was a stranger in Egypt (represented in Psalm 81:5 as “ordained in Joseph,” and Israel would have been known as Joseph’s family), and there the LORD “heard a language that [He] understood not” (not that God did not understand the language, but it was not the tongue of His people which was Hebrew).

Psalm 81:6 describes the LORD delivering Israel from the burdens and toil of slavery (Exodus 1:11-14; 5:4-17); and when Israel called upon the LORD, He delivered the people out of trouble (Exodus 2:23; 3:9; 14:10). When they were thirsty in the wilderness, He gave them water to drink (81:7; Exodus 17:5-7).

Israel’s Covenant with the LORD (81:8-10)

Asaph reminded Israel that the LORD was a jealous God, and they were to have no other gods whom they worshipped (81:9). He had been the Savior and Deliverer of Israel, and they owed their allegiance to Him (81:10a). Like a mother bird provides warmth and food when her brood opens wide their mouths (81:10b), the LORD wanted to fill His people so that they would want for nothing (81:10).

Israel Disobeyed God (81:11-12)

Tragically, the people had disobeyed the LORD’s laws and commandments, and they would not heed his warnings (81:11). They had rejected Him, and God gave them over, and they became slaves to sin (81:12).

The LORD’S Love and Longsuffering (81:13-16)

Like a parent who feels the pain of a son or daughter’s rejection, Israel had rejected the LORD (81:13), though He longed to bless and protect them from their enemies (81:14). Those who hated, the LORD would have prospered had they turned from their sins to Him (81:15). The people would have wanted for nothing, for the LORD would have “fed them…with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock [He would] have satisfied” His people (81:16).

Closing thoughts: What can we take from Psalm 81, and incorporate into our hearts and lives?

The LORD wants His children to worship Him, and our music and songs should reflect His holy character. He wants us to remember all the good He has done in the past. He promises, if we obey Him we will never go wanting. If you are away from the LORD, He is longsuffering, and yearns for you to humble your heart, trust Him, and He will give you His best (81:16).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Ever Feel Like Quitting? (Psalm 73; Psalm 77)

Scripture reading – Psalm 73, Psalm 77

Today’s devotional study is taken from two psalms. Psalm 73 is simply titled, “A Psalm of Asaph,” who was a priest and musician in King David’s court (1 Chronicles 6:39; 15:19; 16:7). Asaph was also the author of Psalm 50 and Psalms 73-83. The recipient of Psalm 77 is addressed in the title, “To the chief Musician, to Jeduthun, A Psalm of Asaph.” Jeduthun is believed to have been the choir master of the singers in the Tabernacle. Both Asaph and Jeduthun were of the tribe of Levi.

The length of today’s psalms prevents an exhaustive study of each, and so the devotional will focus solely on Psalm 73.

Psalm 73 – A Psalm of Praise

Psalm 73 evidences the struggle saints of God have when they believe “God is good,” but find themselves suffering afflictions, while the wicked seem to prosper. Asaph opens the psalm with an affirmation of God’s goodness, writing, Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart” (73:1). He confessed that God was wholly, absolutely good towards Israel, and to all who are of “a clean heart” (73:1).

Not Fair! (73:2-16)

Remembering the goodness of the LORD, Asaph struggled with envy when he observed the “prosperity of the wicked” (73:2-3). From his distorted view, he felt the wicked seemed to have no troubles (73:5), and suggested “they have more than heart could wish” (73:7). Not fair, indeed!

Asaph asserted that the wicked blaspheme, extort, are lifted up in pride, and they dare to speak against the God of heaven! (73:8-9) While they grow more powerful, it seemed those who loved the LORD found themselves “plagued, and chastened” everyday (73:13-14). He knew he was in a bad place, and had not shared his struggles with others, lest he draw them astray (73:15).  Asaph confessed, his doubts had become “too painful,” too troublesome for him to bear (73:16).

Where Did Asaph Go to Turn Around His “Stinking Thinking?” (73:17-22)

Asaph writes, “17Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then understood I their end” (73:17). Asaph found his heart and thoughts were changed when he went to the “sanctuary of God,” the place of public worship and ministry (73:17). He recognized his proximity, his nearness, to God had challenged and changed his view of the ways of the wicked.

Rather than prosperity, he realized the rewards of the wicked were like “slippery places,” and their end was “destruction [and] desolation” (73:18-19). He was convicted in his heart, and confessed he had been foolish (73:21-22a). He reasoned he had become no better than a brute beast, thinking only of himself and his desires (73:22b).

Asaph’s Confidence Restored (73:23-28).

Asaph understood the LORD’S care of him was like that of a parent who tenderly takes hold of a child’s hand (73:23). He determined to trust the LORD to be his guide (73:24; Psalm 23:1), and set his affection on Him (73:25-26). He came to understand the prosperity of the wicked was temporal (73:27), and his happiness was measured by his intimacy with the LORD. Asaph wrote, “28But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, That I may declare all thy works” (73:28).

Closing thoughts: I fear many believers neglect public worship, and they find themselves where Asaph was: Alone, miserable, and backslidden. His focus had been on the world, and he struggled how the wicked seemed to prosper. In his depressed state, there is little doubt that his spirit would have resisted the duties of the sanctuary. However, when he “went into the sanctuary of God” (73:17), and there his thinking, and heart were changed!

Principle – The closer you are to God, the less affected you are by the world! (73:28)

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Praying Like Jabez (1 Chronicles 3-4)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 3-4

The title of this book is Chronicles, and 1 Chronicles 3-4 gives us a genealogical record of the royal lineages of kings, and the tribes of Israel. There are some notable names in our Scripture reading; however, the majority carry little meaning to us. Nevertheless, we can take joy in this: All were important enough to the LORD that He insured their names would be remembered forever!

1 Chronicles 3 – The Lineage of King David

The names of the sons of David are recorded in 1 Chronicles 3:1-9. Six sons were born to him in Hebron, and their names are listed in 1 Chronicles 3:1-4. David’s firstborn son, Amnon, is most prominent, and likely a name you recognize (3:1),Absalom, the third son of David also carries his place in Old Testament history (3:3). These two men will have major roles in our study of David’s life and reign (3:1-4).

1 Chronicles 3:5-9 gives us the names of thirteen additional sons born to David (3:8), and a daughter named Tamar, who was the sister of Absalom (3:9). The most well-known of David’s genealogical record was Solomon, son of Bathsheba, and David’s heir to the throne of Israel (3:5).

1 Chronicles 3:10-16 is the record of the kingly lineage of David’s heirs, who ruled Judah from Rehoboam, son of Solomon, to Jeconiah who was taken from the throne to Babylon. 1 Chronicles 3:17-24 gives us the royal lineage born during the Babylonian captivity (3:17-24).

1 Chronicles 4 – The Sons of the Tribe of Judah and Simeon

1 Chronicles 4:1-23 gives us the genealogical record of Judah, the fourth born son of Jacob, who was the father of the royal tribe. David, his son Solomon, and Jesus Christ were all of the tribe of Judah (the virgin Mary, and her husband Joseph were also of Judah’s lineage).

1 Chronicles 4:1 reads, “the sons of Judah,” and then proceeds to record the names of five men. Only Pharez (2:4) was a son of Judah, but Hezron was Judah’s grandson (4:1), and therefore named with the others as sons in a direct line of descent (4:2). Other notable mentions of Judah’s lineage were skilled craftsmen (4:11-23) that lived in the “valley of Charashim (4:14). There were also weavers, who were said to have “wrought fine linen” (4:21). Potters and gardeners are also named among the men of Judah (4:22-23).

The lineage of Simeon, the second son of Jacob, is recorded, and the list includes the cities and villages assigned to the tribe (4:24-43).

Closing thought: Consider with me the testimony of a man named Jabez of whom we read, “Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow” (4:9). We are not told why his mother named him, “Jabez,” a “man of sorrow,” but it is not who he was, or the cloud of sorrow under which he was born that is essential.

Jabez was a man of prayer (4:10a), and he “called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me.”

What a powerful, heartfelt prayer! (4:10) He prayed for God to bless him, and He did! He prayed for God to prosper him, and the LORD answered his prayer. He prayed the hand of God would rest upon him, and keep him from evil, “and God granted him that which he requested” (4:10). Jabez prayed for four things, and the LORD answered his prayer!

In his letter to believers, James wrote: “Ye have not, because ye ask not” (James 4:2). Believer, for what are you praying?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith