Tag Archives: Ministry

Don’t Worry; God is in Control! (Psalm 81, 88, 92-93)

Daily reading assignment – Psalm 81, 88, 92-93

Today’s scripture reading consists of four chapters in the book of Psalms. I will briefly outline and highlight each, but give greater commentary to the fourth, Psalm 93.

Psalm 81 – Psalm of the Feast of Trumpets

Psalm 81, like Psalm 73, is authored by Asaph a Temple musician. Like all the psalms, this was a psalm you would have heard in the Temple, performed by musicians dedicated to leading the congregation in worship. Psalm 73 coincides with a feast known as the Feast of Trumpets (Numbers 29:1).

Reminding us how important orchestras and congregation singing were to Israel, the psalm calls the people to “Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob”(Psalm 81:1). (The “joyful noise” indicates a melody and harmony).

The following verses acknowledge percussion instruments (timbrel), string instruments (harp, psaltery), and woodwind and brass instruments (most likely silver trumpets, of which one hundred twenty are mentioned in (2 Chronicles 5:12).  Imagine how the LORD loved the glorious sound voiced by hundreds of singers accompanied by a great orchestra of skilled musicians!

The balance of Psalm 81 is a reflection on the LORD’s covenant with Israel (81:5-10), the failure of the people to obey the Law and Commandments (81:11-12), and a reminder of the LORD’S longing to bless His people if they keep covenant with Him (81:13-16).

Psalm 88 – A Psalm of Lamentation

Psalm 92 – A Psalm of Praise for the Sabbath Day

Psalms 93 – A Psalm of Praise for God’s Sovereignty

Scholars believe Psalm 93 was written after the Babylonian captivity. In a matter of 70 years, Israel had witnessed the implosion of Babylon, arguably the first great world empire.  Nebuchadnezzar had conquered the known world in his day and among the many nations led away to serve him was Israel.  Unlike other ancient nations that were resettled and assimilated by the Chaldeans, the Jewish people maintained their identity as a chosen people, distinguished by God’s Law.

Israel’s return to their land and the rebuilding of the Temple and city of Jerusalem gave cause for the author of Psalm 93 to state three truths regarding God and His immutable character.

The first truth states, God is Sovereign and His Rule is Forever (93:1-2).

A study of world history yields the reality that even the greatest nations rise and fall.  With the passing of time, every nation that has ever taken its place on the world stage inevitably evidences corruption and the decay of character and morality. Nations rise and nations fall.  Kings rule and presidents preside, but the reign of the LORD is everlasting.

The second declaration proclaims, God is Greater than My Circumstances (93:3-4).

At first glance, we see mighty, destructive floodwaters that describe circumstances that are powerful, sweeping, and devastating (93:3).  We have witnessed the devastating power of floodwaters sweeping away everything in their path…homes, possessions, even lives are lost to the power of surging waters. The floodwaters are emblematic of the rise of nations and their rage against God’s Truth. His voice is mightier than the greatest nations of the earth.

With that picture in mind, the psalmist writes, The LORD on high is mightier” (93:4).   He is mightier than the thundering waters of a waterfall or the pounding waves of the sea.  He is mightier than the circumstances that seem ready to overwhelm you.  He is mightier than the sorrows and disappointments that have brought you low.

Our closing principle is, God is Faithful – His Word, Testimonies and Promises are Sure (93:5).

Israel’s return to her land following the Babylonian captivity fulfilled God’s promise He would not forget or forsake His people.  Surely there were times in Babylon when all seemed lost; the temple had been destroyed, the walls and city of Jerusalem had become nothing more than a pile of rubble, and the people had been removed from their land.  However, not a promise of the LORD had failed and the Jews were restored to their land.

Take heart, God is Sovereign; He is greater and mightier than your circumstances, faithful to His promises, and His reign is forever!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Levites: The Ministers and Musicians of the LORD (1 Chronicles 6)

Daily reading assignment – 1 Chronicles 6

1 Chronicles 6 – The Priestly Tribe of Levi and Their Cities

Our chronological reading of the Scriptures brings us today to 1 Chronicles 6.  A reminder: the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles is largely dedicated to the genealogical record of the sons of Jacob (i.e. Israel) and the Twelve Tribes of their lineage.

1 Chronicles 6 gives us the lineage of the priestly tribe of Levi that included Aaron, Moses, and Miriam (6:1-53).  The cities assigned to the Levites in the midst of the tribal lands belonging to the Twelve Tribes are also noted (6:54-81).

The Levite family of Aaron (and his sons) who would serve as high priest is listed (1 Chronicles 6:1-15).

To Levi, the third-born son of Jacob, were born three sons: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari (6:1). Of Kohath, the second-born son of Levi, are named three in his lineage: Aaron, Moses, and Miriam(6:3a). Aaron, of course, is the bloodline for all legitimate heirs to serve the LORD and Israel as high priest.

Aaron was father of four sons: Nadab and Abihu were slain when they offered “strange fire” before the LORD (Leviticus 10:1). Aaron had two other sons, Eleazar and Ithamar (6:3). When Aaron died, his eldest son Eleazar was chosen to become high priest, and the high-priestly line passed through his lineage (6:4-15; Exodus 6:25; Judges 20:28).

A Record of Names and Cities Registered to the Levites (1 Chronicles 6:16-81)

Unlike the other tribes that were assigned their inheritance of land in Canaan with detailed boundaries, the tribe of Levi’s inheritance was not land but their privilege of serving the LORD and the nation as His priests.  Every tribe was to allot cities to the tribe of Levi for the Levites to live in the midst of the nation.

Some might be interested in the genealogies of three Levite musicians: Heman (6:33), Asaph (6:39), the author of Psalm 50, 73-83), and Ethan (6:42-44). They and their sons were ministering in the Tabernacle during David’s era and in the Temple during Solomon’s reign.

1 Chronicles 6:31-3231 And these are they whom David set over the service of song in the house of the LORD, after that the ark had rest. 32  And they ministered before the dwelling place of the tabernacle of the congregation with singing, until Solomon had built the house of the LORD in Jerusalem: and then they waited on their office according to their order.”

I invite you to notice that dedicated musicians and choirs were an important part of worship from the time of the Tabernacle and through the Temple-age.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Ever Feel Like Complaining, “Life’s Not Fair”? (Psalms 73, 77-78)

Daily reading assignment – Psalms 73, 77-78

Today’s Scripture reading consists of three chapters in the Book of Psalms, however, our devotional commentary will focus on only Psalm 73.

Psalm 73 – “A Psalm of Asaph”

Asaph was a priest and musician in King David’s court (1 Chronicles 6:39; 15:19; 16:7) and the author of Psalm 50 and Psalms 73-83. Psalm 73 is a psalm of praise to the LORD and a testimony of Asaph’s journey of faith. Asaph opens the psalm with an affirmation of God’s goodness asserting:

Psalm 73:1 – “Truly [i.e. Only; Certainly] God is good [lit. only good] to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.”

Unlike sinful men of whom it is said, “there is none that doeth good” (Psalm 14:1; Romans 3:12), God is wholly, absolutely good, and there is no evil or sin present in Him.  The first verse of Asaph’s song declares an immutable truth: God is only good to Israel and to all who are of “a clean heart” (meaning pure, innocent and sincere heart).

Psalm 73:2 commences a series of candid observations and humble confessions on Asaph’s part. Describing his spiritual struggles, Asaph confessed he was on the brink of backsliding (73:2) when he observed how the wicked seem to prosper in their sin (73:3). While the righteous struggled, it seemed to Asaph that the wicked were not “plagued (troubled) like other men” (73:5).

In spite of God’s promises and goodness (73:1), Asaph wondered how the wicked could oppress others, speak against heaven, and “increase in riches” (73:8-12). In other words, while Asaph’s heart told him to “trust the LORD,” his feelings cried, “It’s not fair!” Asaph appeared to be on the crisp of quitting when he decried, “the ungodly…prosper…[and] I have cleansed my heart in vain” (73:12-13).

Have you ever felt life is not fair? Ever wish you could quit?  If not yet, you will certainly wrestle with that temptation one day.  Unfortunately, there are many who have done that very thing. They quit and walked away from marriage, family, friends, church, and ministry. For a season they may appear relieved and happy, until the ripple effect of their decision invariably catches up with them and their loved ones.

Asaph, wrestling with his conflicting thoughts and emotions, appeared ready to turn from the LORD, until he weighed the consequences of his decision and the offense it might be to the next generation (73:15-16). The pain and sorrow his abandonment would inflict on others motivated Asap to go to and enter the “the sanctuary of God” (at this time, the tabernacle).

It was in the LORD’s presence that his perspective on the wicked and their end changed (73:17-20). Asaph confessed, “my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins (i.e. pierced within his soul)” (73:21).

With his heart renewed and his eyes fixed on eternity, Asaph remembered the prosperity of the wicked was temporal (73:27). With his faith in the LORD restored and his desire to serve Him renewed (73:28), Asaph concluded his song with what should be the aspiration of every believer:

 

Psalm 73:28 – “But 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.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Lord Loveth the Righteous (Psalm 6, 8-10, 14, 16, 19, 21)

Daily reading assignment: Psalm 6, 8-10, 14, 16, 19, 21

Because we are following a chronological study of the Bible, there will be times when our study of a particular book of the Bible (for instance, we are currently reading 2 Samuel) will take us to other books that fit the timeline. You will notice our daily readings in 2 Samuel will include passages from the Book of Psalms and 1 Chronicles that fit the timeline and setting of our Bible reading.

Today’s devotional reading follows 2 Samuel 1-4 in which David, after he was crowned king of Israel by the tribe of Judah, was confronted by wicked men who were determined he not be king. Facing formidable, wicked adversaries, David’s hope and courage were restored when his heart considered the majesty, sovereignty, and justice of God. Psalms 6, 8-10, 14, 16, 19, and 21 reflect the meditations of David during that time. For the sake of brevity, I limit my commentary to Psalms 6, 9-10.

Psalm 6 – “Been there, Done that”

Psalm 6 carries a wealth of meaning for saints who are mature in years and experienced enough to say, “been there, done that.” Believers often focus on David’s failures and take comfort that even a man after God’s own heart was beset with sins and failures.  It is true: David was a man who loved the Lord, but he also carried the consequences of his sins to his grave.

Consider David’s prayer for God’s grace and mercy in the midst of chastening (Psalm 6:1-7).

Rather than respond in anger, we read David pled for God’s mercy (6:2).  Rather than bitterness, we see humility.  David reasoned, Lord, if I go down to my grave how can I praise you when my tongue has been silenced by death (6:4-5)? His was not the plea that protests injustice; instead, it was the confession of a sinner with a humbled, burdened soul (6:6-7).

Mature saints readily identify with David’s sleepless nights.  Many have cried themselves to sleep because of their sinful choices or those made by a loved one.  Are you weary? Take heart…God hears your cry in the night.

Perhaps you struggle to identify with David’s plea for mercy in the midst of God’s chastening. Have you felt the sorrow and shame of your sins? Do you fear God’s judgment?

The writer of Hebrews observed, “But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards (meaning, not a sincere believer and child of the LORD), and not sons” (Hebrews 12:8). I invite you, turn from your sin before it is too late and trust Jesus Christ as your Savior.

Romans 10:9 promises, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

Psalm 9 – A Call for Thanksgiving

Psalm 9 is a song of praise and thanksgiving for God’s executing judgment upon the wicked and delivering the righteous.

Psalm 10 – The Pride and Oppressive Ways of The Wicked

Though times have changed, the nature of man has not.  Contrary to their rhetoric, the nature of the wicked is, and has always been to oppress the poor and helpless (10:2-3, 7-11).

More than ever in my lifetime, the unveiled demagoguery of the wicked is on full display in the world. There is no shame in promoting every mode of moral depravity.

Consider the twisted rationality of the Coronavirus crisis (COVID-19). While left-leaning politicians demand isolation and “social distancing” under the pretext of saving lives, the same promote abortion as a virtue and an “essential” practice.

Such is the lunacy of the wicked: “Professing themselves to be wise, they [have become] fools” (Romans 1:22). Proud, angry, and vile, they are “without natural affection, implacable (unforgiving), [and] unmerciful” (Romans 1:31).

Of the wicked we read, “God is not in all his thoughts [and] his ways are always grievous” (Psalm 10:4-5). The righteous, however, know the LORD will hear the desire of the “humble” and their cry (Psalms 10:17).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Passing the Torch: Lessons in Leadership Succession (2 Samuel 1-4)

Daily reading assignment: 2 Samuel 1-4

As we open our Bibles to 2 Samuel, we find David and Israel entering a new era.  King Saul and his son Jonathan have been slain in battle against the Philistines (1 Samuel 31).

An Amalekite soldier fabricated a claim that he had slain Saul in an act of mercy to spare him the indignity of falling into the hands of the Philistines (2 Samuel 1:1-10).  The truth was, Saul had fallen upon his own sword (1 Samuel 31:4).

Rather than rejoicing in the death of Saul, David mourned his death and ordered the man who claimed to have slain him put to death (1:11-16). Three times David lamented the deaths of King Saul and his sons (1:19, 25, 27).

The closing verses of 2 Samuel 1 express in poetic tones the grievous loss of Jonathan, David’s confidant and friend (1:25-27). 

Some have tried to paint David’s lament for the death of his friend as a twisted validation of sodomy…it is not!  Not only is sodomy condemned in God’s Law (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Deuteronomy 23:17; Romans 1:26-27); it would never be rendered in a song for the people to sing.  David’s love for Jonathan was one of mutual trust; such a friend is rare indeed!

2 Samuel 2

David has waited more than a decade to be king.  With Saul dead, David turned to the LORD for wisdom, asking, “Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?”  (2:1).  With the LORD’s blessing, David went up to Hebron and was crowned king by the men of the tribe of Judah (2:2-4).

David immediately faced opposition from Abner, Saul’s nephew who moved to make Ishbosheth, a surviving son of Saul, king (2:9-10).  Abner’s opposition to David, coupled with Ishbosheth’s weak character, plunged the nation into a civil war (2:10-11) that would last over 7 years.

2 Samuel 3 – Three Principles for Leadership Succession

In spite of opposition, God blessed David and he “waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker” (3:1). Three principles are evident in David’s patience in the midst of conflict.

The first: Time is always on the side of the righteous.  The prophet Isaiah assured God’s people:

Isaiah 54:17 – “No weapon that is formed [fashioned; made] against thee shall prosper [succeed]; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn [show to be in the wrong]. This [triumph of righteousness] is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness [vindication; victory; success] is of me, saith the LORD.”

The second: Truth will triumph!  Men like Abner and Ishbosheth play the fool and are doomed when they oppose the will of the LORD.

The third: The lust for power, position, and influence is self-destructive in politics, business, and ministry. 

It seems to me that three manner of men rise to power and position in our world: the weak who, like Ishbosheth have connections; the strong who, like Abner are driven by greed and manipulate others to promote themselves; the third, God’s anointed who, like David are called, equipped, and dependent on God for promotion.

I have found churches, Bible colleges, and other religious institutions tend to fall prey to the same fallacies for a succession of leadership.

Some believe bloodlines (family) and relationships (friendships, peers, colleagues) will somehow assure success.

Churches, pulpit committees, and boards of institutions look for flashy, well-spoken, charismatic leaders and learn too late they chose the proverbial “flash in the pan” and failed to choose God’s anointed.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Today’s Devotional Commentary and an Appeal to Support the Fitzgeralds in the Jungles of Peru

You are invited to consider giving through PayPal to Buddy and Loren Fitzgerald, our missionaries in the jungle of Peru. https://www.facebook.com/buddynloren.fitzgerald The Coronavirus crisis has left their neighbors unemployed and the Fitzgeralds are feeding scores of families who line up at their door everyday. Buddy is faithfully declaring the Gospel and the the Fitzgerald family is loving and feeding their neighbors. Have a blessed and healthy day!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

When Friends Become Enemies (Psalms 17, 35, 54, 63)

Scripture Reading Assignment – Psalms 17, 35, 54, 63

While today’s Scripture reading covers four chapters (Psalms 17, 35, 54, 63), this devotional commentary will focus solely on Psalm 35. The parallel to Psalm 35 is most likely the events that are recorded in 1 Samuel 19:5; 20:1; 23:25; 24:9-15; 25:29; 26:18-19.

Psalm 35 – The Betrayal of Friends and Peers

Psalm 35 is a song chronicling a low time in David’s life when he had suffered the deep wounds of betrayal from King Saul, a man whom he had faithfully served on the battlefield and in the palace. David’s popularity in Israel had soared after he slew Goliath, provoking the king to jealousy who then set upon a plot to murder David. The king’s plot was to murder David as though he were a foe (1 Samuel 24).

Betrayed by his friends, David turned to the LORD and prayed for God to be his Advocate (35:1-3). We find David calling on the LORD in verse one. Falsely accused and fearing for his safety, David employed two metaphors in his petition that defined the work of an attorney: Plead, a call for the LORD to come to his aid and declare his innocence; and Fight, a request for the LORD to go to battle on his behalf.

David Prayed for the LORD to Be His Warrior. (35:2-3).

He called upon the LORD to come to his defense as a warrior with “shield,” a covering for the body, and “buckler,” a small shield for hand-to-hand combat (35:3). David prayed for the LORD to not only be his defense, but also to mount an offensive against his enemies (35:3) with the spear.

Psalm 35:4-10 – An Imprecatory Prayer

David prayed for God’s judgment upon his foes (35:4-6). He protested his innocence (35:7), declaring he had a clear conscience and the accusations of his enemy and their attempt to entrap him was “without cause” (for no reason). He pled for justice and that the traps and devices his enemies had planned for his destruction would be their own undoing (35:8-10).

Psalm 35:8 – “Let destruction [desolation; ruin] come upon him at unaware; and let his net that he hath hid [concealed] catch [take; capture; seize] himself: into that very destruction [desolation; ruin] let him fall [fail; cast down].”

A great illustration of such an event, an enemy of the LORD and His people falling victim to his own schemes, is the story of Haman being hung upon the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai, a righteous Hebrew man (Esther 7:9-10).

David was not seeking personal revenge for the wrongs committed against him. Rather than allow his soul to become controlled by a vengeful spirit, he had turned to the LORD to seek justice (Romans 12:14, 19-21).

David praised the LORD for His incomparable nature (35:10) and prosecuted his case against his enemies’ injustices (35:11, 16). He had been maligned by false accusations, slandered, and defamed (35:11). He had proven himself to be a fearless warrior; however, when facing the king and his soldiers (the equivalent of today’s federal government), David was helpless to defend himself.

He was a victim of malevolence, declaring: “They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul” (35:12-13). David had ministered to, prayed for, and grieved for King Saul when his soul was tormented, like a son grieves for a mother who is ill (35:14).

In his hour of need, those who had been his friends assailed David as an enemy (35:15-16). They had mocked, slandered, and publicly derided him. He had been the object of their rage and accusations (35:16).

Betrayal, broken trust, and treachery are wounds you must learn to bear in life.  They might be afflicted by an abusive parent, an unfaithful spouse, a disloyal friend, or an unfair employer. Be cautious whom you allow into your inner circle of confidants for invariably, there will be a Judas among them.

Lesson – Those you help the most are often the ones who turn and wound you deepest.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith