Tag Archives: Morality

“A Prophetic Portrait of a Rebellious Nation” – part 2 – (Isaiah 1)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 1

As we begin our study of Isaiah, I invite you to picture in your mind a setting that is a heavenly courtroom, with God sitting on His throne, and with the nation of Judah the defendant.

The Case: The Ingratitude of Judah vs. The Love and Grace of God (1:1-2)

Two witnesses were commanded to hear the charge against Judah: the “heavens” and the “earth” (1:2). The LORD charged Judah, saying, “I have nourished and brought up children [people of Judah], and they have rebelled against me(1:2).

How had the LORD nourished and brought up His people? He had chosen Abraham and established His Covenant with his lineage (Genesis 12). He had entrusted Israel with His Law and Commandments (Exodus 20). He had sent prophets who taught the people, and chastened the nation when it strayed. Yet, we read, “They have rebelled against me” (1:2c), rejected His Law, and His offer of love and grace.

Three Charges Against Judah (1:1-9)

The First Charge – Rebellious Ingratitude (1:3-4)

While a dumb ox knows its owner, and a donkey appreciates its master’s stall, Israel was a people that “doth not consider” (1:3). Consider what? The sins of the people had blinded them, and they gave no thought to the LORD’s care, love, and provision. The prophet Jeremiah would observe: “For my people [are] foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish [foolish; silly] children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge” (Jeremiah 4:22).

They had become a sinful, wicked people, and were burdened with “iniquity” (the weight of their sin and guilt, 1:4). They had “forsaken the LORD” (1:4), despised His Law and Commandments, and had “provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger” (1:4).

The Interrogation and Infection (1:5-6)

The LORD questioned Judah, asking, “Why should ye be stricken [beaten; punished] any more? ye will revolt [rebel] more and more [again and again]: the whole head [whole body] is sick [diseased], and the whole heart faint [sick; feeble].” The stench of Judah’s sins had reached heaven, and the people were infected by wickedness (1:6).

The Consequences of Judah’s Sins (1:7-9)

The sins of nation had resulted in the land being destroyed (“your country is desolate”), “cities burned with fire,” and their riches plundered by foreigners (“strangers” – 1:7). So dreadful was the judgment, if the LORD had not shown the people mercy, Judah “should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah [utterly destroyed with no soul spared]” (1:9).

The Second Charge – Religious Insincerity (1:11-20)

God charged the people as being pious hypocrites (1:11-12), and He declared He was weary with their sacrifices and offerings (1:11). They trampled upon the courts of the Temple, and had given no thought to His presence and holiness in the Temple (1:12). The LORD declared:

“Bring no more vain [false; deceitful; empty] oblations [non-blood offerings – flour, fruit, oil]; incense [perfume; sweet incense] is an abomination [abhorrence; loathsome] unto me…it is iniquity [wicked; vanity], even the solemn meeting [sacred assembly for worship]” (1:13-14).

Even their prayers had become an abomination: “When ye spread forth [lay open; stretch forth; display] your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers [supplications], I will not hear [hearken; listen]: your hands are full [overflowing] of blood. [shedding of blood]” (1:15).

In spite of Judah’s wickedness, the LORD extended a pardon if the people would repent of their sins (1:16-18). He called upon the nation, “Come now, and let us reason together…though your sins [faults; offences] be as scarlet [color of blood], they shall be as white [purified; without blemish] as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool [i.e. white]” (1:18).

Offering a conditional pardon, the LORD appealed to the people, “If ye be willing [consent] and obedient [hearken; obey], ye shall eat [consume] the good [beauty; blessings] of the land” (1:19); but warned, “if ye refuse [unwilling] and rebel[disobey; provoke], ye shall be devoured [eat up; consumed] with the sword [knife; dagger]: for the mouth [commandment; Word] of the LORD hath spoken it. [pronounced; declared]” (1:20).

The Third Charge – Three Reprehensible Injustices (1:21-23)

Understanding the leaders of a nation are a reflection of the character of the people, I conclude today’s study inviting you to consider three nauseous traits of those who govern a dying nation.

The leaders of Judah were vile, having rejected God’s Law, and were “companions of thieves,” enriching themselves by illicit gain (1:23). The leaders lacked integrity, and were guilty of loving gifts (bribery), and shameless self-promotion (“followeth after rewards” – 1:23; Exodus 23:8; Micah 3:11-12). Finally, the leaders had abused and exploited the weak (“the fatherless…the widow” – 1:23d; Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 24:19-21).

Closing thoughts – Take a moment and reflect on your nation, its leaders, and government. Are the failed character traits of Judah’s leaders the same as you see in your society–vile, lacking integrity, and abusing the weak?

Warning – The sinful traits of a nation’s leaders reflect its citizens, and demand God’s judgment (1:24-31).

Galatians 6:7 – Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

God is Holy, Merciful and Forgiving (1 Kings 21) – Part 1 of 2 devotionals.

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 21; 1 Kings 22

Our study of the kings of Israel and Judah continues with today’s Scripture reading, 1 Kings 21 and 22. This is the first of two devotionals, and will focus on 1 Kings 21.

Lifted up with pride, and failing to consult the LORD, Ahab had spared the life of Benhadad king of Syria, and provoked God’s wrath (20:31-34). The LORD then sent one “of the sons of the prophets” (20:35), and he prophesied the death of the Ahab, saying, “Thus saith the Lord, Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people” (20:42). Heavy-hearted and dejected, Ahab returned to his palace in Samaria (20:43).

1 Kings 21

A Sulking Monarch (21:1-6)

Rather than repent of his failures, and seek the LORD, the king set his covetous heart upon a vineyard that was next door to his palace. Now, the vineyard belonged to a man of Jezreel named Naboth, but it was a vineyard which Ahab coveted, so he proposed that Naboth trade his land for “a better vineyard,” or sell it (21:1-2). While the proposition appeared fair, it was intolerable for Naboth for it had been his inheritance from his father, and no doubt, was passed down through his family for generations (21:3). Rejected, Ahab went to his palace sulking over Naboth’s refusal, and then laid upon his bed refusing to eat (21:4).

Jezebel, the wicked queen of Israel, observed the king’s spirit and asked, “Why is thy spirit so sad, that thou eatest no bread?” (21:5) Ahab then confided in his wife how Naboth had refused his offer, and would not sell him his vineyard (21:6).

A Scheming Queen (21:7-16)

With scorn, Jezebel rebuked the king, and asked, “Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel?” (21:7) Are you king? Dare you allow a man of your kingdom to refuse you? Assuring Ahab, she would take care of the matter of Naboth’s vineyard, Jezebel encouraged the king saying, “arise, and eat bread, and let thine heart be merry: I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite” (21:7).

Foolish Ahab did not question his wife, but allowed her to plot against Naboth. Plagiarizing the king’s name and seal on letters, she engaged “two men, sons of Belial,” wicked, worthless men, to bear false witness against Naboth, accusing him of blasphemy against God and the king (21:10). Proclaiming a fast, and placing Naboth in a position of privilege, the false witnesses arose against Naboth, and accused him of blasphemy. The men then “carried [Naboth] out of the city, and stoned him with stones, that he died” (21:13).

“When Jezebel heard that Naboth was stoned, and was dead, [she] said to Ahab, Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite…for Naboth is not alive, but dead” (21:15). Without a question, it seems Ahab did as his wife had said, and took possession of Naboth’s vineyard (21:16).

A Startling Prophecy (21:19-23)

Now, the murder of Naboth so stirred the wrath of the LORD, that He commanded Elijah to confront Ahab, and prophesy the king’s death, saying, “in the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine” (21:19).

Elijah arose to obey the LORD as he had been commanded, and Ahab scoffed at the prophet saying, “Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?” (21:20)

Bold in his faith, and courageous in his obedience, Elijah declared all the LORD had commanded him. The prophet foretold the king would die, and his lineage would be cut off from ever reigning in Israel (21:20-23). He then prophesied the king’s wife would be cast over the wall of Jezreel, and “the dogs shall eat Jezebel” (21:23).

Closing thoughts – Let us consider in closing not only Ahab’s failure as king, but also that of his wife Jezebel. The wickedness of Ahab had exceeded that of all the kings who had gone before him. Rather than a moral influence for good, Jezebel had “stirred up” the king to serve idols” (21:26).

Astonishingly, Ahab responded to the warning of God’s judgment with humility, and “rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly” (21:27). Even more astonishing was the LORD’S response to Ahab, for He restrained His judgment saying, “29Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son’s days will I bring the evil upon his house” (21:29).

* This concludes the first of today’s devotionals. Please remember to subscribe to Pastor Smith’s daily chronological devotionals, and have them sent to your email address.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Warning: You Write Your Own Obituary When You Leave Your Spiritual Base (2 Chronicles 11-12)

Scripture reading – 2 Chronicles 11; 2 Chronicles 12

I remind you that 2 Chronicles was penned after the Babylonian captivity, and was a historical record of the time of the kings in Israel, whose history was recorded prior to the Babylonian captivity in the Book of 1 Kings.

2 Chronicles 11

The events recorded in today’s Scripture reading were the subject of an earlier devotional in 1 Kings 12, and follows the northern ten Tribes’ succession from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin who were loyal to the king. Rehoboam had raised up an army to put down the insurrection, however, God had forbidden him to go to war against his brethren (2 Chronicles 11:1-4; 1 Kings 12:21-24). Rehoboam then set out to improve the defenses of the cities in Judah, and built walls to fortify his strong holds (11:5-12).

Remaining loyal to Rehoboam, and rejecting the idolatry of northern Israel, the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him out of all their coasts,” leaving their lands and houses (11:14a). Adding to his wickedness, Jeroboam not only established his golden calves as objects of worship in Israel, he also rejected the priests of the LORD, and “ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made” (11:15).

Jeroboam’s disobedience, and his rejection of God launched an exodus out of the northern tribes of those who had “set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel [and] came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the Lord God of their fathers” (11:16). The departure of those faithful to the LORD left Israel weakened, for “they strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and made Rehoboam the son of Solomon strong, three years: for three years they walked in the way of David and Solomon.”

A record is given in the closing verses of 2 Chronicles 11 regarding king Rehoboam’s personal life (his wives, concubines, and children). Most notably are the names found in 2 Chronicles 11:20: “20And after her he took Maachah the daughter of Absalom; which bare him Abijah, and Attai, and Ziza, and Shelomith.”

A point of explanation is necessary regarding Maachah (11:20). The Hebrew word for “daughter” described a female offspring, albeit daughter, granddaughter, or even a great granddaughter. Because we know Absalom [the rebel son of king David], had only one daughter and she was named Tamar (2 Samuel 14:27), we must conclude that Maachah was in fact an offspring of Absalom, but was most likely his granddaughter. So, we learn that Rehoboam’s favorite wife was Maachah, who was his second cousin, and the mother of Abijah who would suceed him as king (11:22; 12:16, 13:1).

2 Chronicles 12

2 Chronicles 12 is a review of the tragic events we have considered in an earlier study of 1 Kings 14. This final chapter in Rehoboam’s life serves as a reminder to all, and especially those who are leaders, of what becomes of a man, family, or organization when its leader(s) forsake the LORD, by forsaking His law and commandments. Strong, and confident in his early years as king, Rehoboam failed the most important step to success in spiritual leadership: “He did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD” (12:14).

Failing to follow in the spiritual footsteps of his father, “it came to pass, when Rehoboam had established the kingdom, and had strengthened himself, he forsook the law of the Lord, and all Israel with him” (12:1). The tragic consequences of his failure to humble himself before the LORD and obey His law, led Israel away from the LORD, and invited God’s judgment.

The tool of God’s judgment was Shishak, king of Egypt, who came against Jerusalem with a coalition of peoples: “Lubims (i.e., Libyans), the Sukkiims (possibly a tribe of Arabia), and the Ethiopians of Africa (12:2). With 1200 chariots, and 60,000 cavalrymen, Shishak “took the fenced cities which pertained to Judah, and came to Jerusalem” (12:4; 1 Kings 14:25-26).

Prophecy Against Rehoboam and Judah (12:5-12)

The LORD sent Shemaiah who prophesied to Rehoboam and the leaders of Judah that it was their sins that had given cause for the LORD to bring Shishak against Jerusalem (12:5). However, because Rehoboam and his leaders humbled themselves before Him, the LORD was merciful, and spared Jerusalem from destruction (12:6-7). Yet, He did not spare Rehoboam and Judah the humiliation of becoming servants to the king of Egypt (12:8).

“Shishak king of Egypt…took away the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house…[and] he carried away also the shields of gold [used in pageantry] which Solomon had made” (12:9; 1 Kings 14:26). Masking his humiliation, Rehoboam commanded “shields of brass” be fashioned to replace his father’s golden shields (12:10-11).

Closing thoughts – Rehoboam reigned 17 years in Jerusalem, nevertheless, his reign was scarred by his failure to prepare “his heart to seek the LORD” (12:14). The peace Israel had enjoyed during the reign of his father Solomon was lost, and “there were wars between Rehoboam and Jeroboam continually” (12:15). Rehoboam the son of Solomon died, and “Abijah his son reigned in his stead” (12:16) over a nation that was now divided, and no longer sheltered by the LORD’S blessing.

A leader, institution, and nation that rejects the LORD, His law and commandments will surely be judged.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Moral Depravity Demands the Judgment of God (1 Kings 14, 2 Chronicles 10)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 14, 2 Chronicles 10

You will notice 2 Chronicles 10 is a parallel record of the events that were recorded in 1 Kings 12. There, Rehoboam had been crowned king of Israel (1 Kings 12:1; 2 Chronicles 10:1). When the ten northern tribes petitioned Rehoboam to lighten the burdens imposed on them by Solomon, he refused the counsel of his elders, and followed the advice of his peers, provoking an insurrection in Israel (1 Kings 12:2-15; 2 Chronicles 10:2-15). The ten northern tribes became known as Israel, and made Jeroboam king (1 Kings 12:16-19; 2 Chronicles 10:16-19).

Ahijah the prophet had prophesied that Jeroboam would one day be king of the northern ten tribes of Israel (11:29-31). The prophet had spoken the word of the LORD to Jeroboam, and entreated him: “If thou wilt hearken unto all that I command thee, and wilt walk in my ways, and do that is right in my sight, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with thee, and build thee a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel unto thee” (11:38).

The LORD made Jeroboam king of Israel; however, he failed to obey the LORD’s commandments, and led the people into idolatry and great wickedness. The consequence of Jeroboam’s sin is revealed in 1 Kings 14.

1 Kings 14

Though warned by a prophet of Judah that his idolatry and wicked ways would not go unpunished (1 Kings 13:1-5), Jeroboam continued in his sin until his son, Abijah became deathly ill (1 Kings 14:1). Fearing his son might die, Jeroboam commanded his wife to disguise herself, and go to Shiloh in Judah, to ask Ahijah the prophet to reveal “what shall become of the child” (14:2-3). Jeroboam’s wife obeyed him, and coming to Shiloh, she entered the prophet Ahijah’s house (14:3-4).

Ahijah Condemned Jeroboam’s Sin, and Foretold His Son’s Death (14:5-20)

Ahijah was old and blind (14:5), but the LORD had revealed to him that the wife of King Jeroboam was coming and was disguised as another woman (14:5). When she arrived at the prophet’s house, he bid her enter, and questioned, “why feigned thou thyself to be another?” (14:6)

Ahijah condemned Jeroboam’s wickedness, and directed his wife to remind her husband that the LORD had made him king in Israel (14:7-8). God would have blessed him had he kept His commandments (14:8); however, the king had rejected the LORD, made himself idols, and provoked God’s wrath.

The looming consequence of Jeroboam’s wickedness was that his son would die and Israel would mourn his death (14:13). God would raise up another family dynasty to be king in Israel (14:14). The prophet also revealed how Israel would be conquered, and the people taken into captivity “because of the sins of Jeroboam, who did sin, and who made Israel to sin” (14:15-16).

Ahijah’s prophecy was fulfilled, for as Jeroboam’s wife entered the city and came to the threshold of the palace, “the child [the son of Jeroboam] died” (14:17). Israel mourned the death of the young prince, even as Ahijah had prophesied (14:18). Jeroboam, the first king of northern Israel died after reigning 22 years, and his son Nadab ruled briefly for two years before he was assassinated (1 Kings 15:25-31).

The Sin, Depravity, Humiliation, and Death of Rehoboam (14:21-31)

Our historical narrative in 1 Kings 14 concludes with the focus on life in Judah (the southern kingdom) during the reign of King Rehoboam, son of Solomon (14:21).

Rehoboam reigned 17 years, during a tumultuous, and tragic time in Israel. Fulfilling the prophecy that the kingdom would be divided after Solomon’s death, Rehoboam had failed to unite the people. When the northern ten tribes seceded under Jeroboam, the son of Solomon was left ruling two tribes, Judah and Benjamin.

While the northern tribes worshipped the golden calves made by Jeroboam, the tribes under Rehoboam were no better, for “Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins which they had committed, above all that their fathers had done” (14:22).

Although the Temple was in Jerusalem, and an outward form of worship continued there, the nation as a whole committed all manner of wickedness. Prostitution, under the guise of religion, was present everywhere in the land (14:23). The depth of depravity to which Judah sank is summed up in this:

“There were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord cast out before the children of Israel” (14:24).

Closing thoughts – Judah was guilty of the very sins for which the heathen nations before them had been condemned. Sodomy (i.e., homosexuality) is the pinnacle of gross wickedness, and Judah had embraced that sin to their own demise. No longer a powerful nation shielded by God’s blessings, Israel and Judah had rejected the LORD, disobeyed His laws and commandments, and became in servitude to “Shishak king of Egypt” (14:25). Shishak “took away the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house; he even took away all: and he took away all the shields of gold which Solomon had made” (14:26).

Defeated, and humiliated, Rehoboam disguised the poverty of the nation, having brass shields made to use in public ceremonies, and replacing the gold shields of Solomon (14:27-28).

Tragically, rather than peace, “there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all their days” (14:30) and Rehoboam died.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Five Strangers That Consume Happiness and Three Things that Never Satisfy (Ecclesiastes 6)

Scripture reading – Ecclesiastes 6

Our study in the Book of Ecclesiastes continues with King Solomon echoing a sentiment I suggest can be summed up in three words: Life is not fair! Writing from his observations of men’s lives, we read:

Ecclesiastes 6:1–21There is an evil [depravity; distress] which I have seen under the sun, and it is common [great] among men: 2A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour [abundance; glory], so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power [control] to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it [feeds upon; consumes]: this is vanity [empty], and it is an evil [bad; displeasing] disease [grief].

What had Solomon concluded was an injustice, and therefore not fair? It was that men labor, store up riches, wealth, and possessions, only to leave it all to others. The king concluded; it is a grief that is common, an universal experience. Men spend their lives becoming rich, acquiring possessions, obtaining honors, only to leave all to those who come after them.

I suggest five “strangers” that enter uninvited into a family’s life, and steal their happiness, and wealth.  (Ecclesiastes 6:1–2)

Disease: Sickness consumes not only a man’s strength and vitality, but may leave him physically wasted and financially ruined. Divorce is another stranger; it not only destroys a family, but legal proceedings plunder a family of its home, possessions, and savings. Disobedience: rebellious children rob parents not only of their joy, but can bring financial woes upon the parent that enable a child’s rebellion. A fourth stranger is represented in  Disasters, such as natural calamities (hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, earthquakes, drought), and human calamities (war, and the danger of living in a violent society) can destroy a family’s wealth. Of course, the greatest “stranger” that will inevitably come knocking is Death: The death of a spouse, child, or the reality of one’s own mortality.

Three Things That Do Not Satisfy (6:3-8)

Solomon proposed three things men pursue, but do not bring happiness and fulfillment. The first is found in multiples: The man who begets many children, and lives many years (6:3-6). Solomon had observed children more concerned with their rights of inheritance, than they were in honoring their parents. He concluded, it would be better to be stillborn, than live to a ripe old age, and your children neither love or honor you (6:3-6).

Secondly, some men believe if they work harder, and longer hours, they will achieve success and happiness (6:7). Yet, a man might climb the ladder of success, earn titles, and gain fame, but die a miserable soul.

Lastly, some men pursue knowledge, believing academic achievement is the path to happiness (6:8). Still, having one’s name engraved on a “Who’s Who” plaque, or earning the applause and admiration of men, will not satisfy the hunger of an eternal soul.

What, then, satisfies the soul of man? (6:9-12)

Having a right perspective, and outlook on life is the path to happiness (6:9). It is better to be satisfied with what you see, than it is to be driven about by lusts for temporal possessions and vain pleasures (6:10). You see, God is eternal, and His purposes are “named already” (6:11). Did you know that nothing surprises God? He is sovereign, and we dare not “contend with Him,” for He is not only mightier, but also wiser than we (6:10).

Closing thoughts – “Many things” might attract our affections for a season. We might also increase in goods and honors, but in the end all is vain (6:11). God is loving and benevolent (6:12), and only those who trust Him will be satisfied.

Isaiah 45:9 – “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!”

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Alcohol: “To Drink, or Not to Drink?” Is that the Question? (Proverbs 20)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 20

You will find that Proverbs 20 is a chapter rich in spiritual truths that seem to challenge nearly every aspect of life. From the admonition concerning wine and “strong drink” in verse 1, to the affirmation of biblical chastening described as “the blueness of a wound” in verse 30, spiritual principles abound. A daily devotional gives little opportunity to address the whole chapter, and so I have determined to tackle one that is being overlooked, if not rejected by some believers. Consider the first verse:

Proverbs 20:1 – “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: And whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”

Should you be willing to embrace this proverb as simply as it is stated, its truth and application are both simple and undeniable. Consider a restatement of that proverb with this author’s amplification of word meanings:

Proverbs 20:1 “Wine [fermented wine] is a mocker [scorner; holds in derision], strong drink [intoxicating drink] is raging [roar; troubled; clamorous]: and whosoever is deceived [stray; mislead] thereby is not wise [almost always condemned].”

There are many in the 21st century Church who argue for tolerance in the matter of alcohol, and have embraced the imbibing of “strong drink” as a matter of liberty. Such an argument is a grave departure from the historical stance of Bible believers. Sadly, the silence of the pulpit in the matter has only perpetuated the acceptance of wine and alcohol. So, we ask the question, “To drink, or not to drink?” What do the Scriptures teach?

Paul challenged pastors to be sober [lit. temperate], “not given to wine” (1 Timothy 3:3). In the Epistle of Titus, Paul called on pastors (i.e., “bishops”) to be “blameless…not given to wine” (Titus 1:7). He also cautioned older women to be “not given to much wine” (Titus 2:3).

Modern societies enjoy the blessing of fresh, pure water; however, that was not the case in ancient times. There was a risk of unsanitary, unpurified water in Solomon’s day, and that of the apostles. To kill germs and bacteria in drinking water, wine would be mixed with the water making it safe to drink (the mix was 8 parts water, and 1 part wine).

Lacking modern refrigeration we enjoy, juices would ferment in the heat, making it necessary to water down the wine to slow down the fermenting process and sterilize the water. Today’s strong wine and alcohol go through a distilling process that was unknown in Bible times, with the purpose of elevating alcohol content. Unlike the wine in the Bible that was watered down, today’s strong drink is imbibed for its intoxicating properties.

What spiritual applications might we take from Proverbs 20:1 – “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: And whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”

Concerning pastors: Because the Scriptures admonish pastors to be “not given to wine,” and understanding the wine of Bible times was not nearly as intoxicating as it is today, we can state unapologetically: A man who indulges in wine or alcohol is unfit for the pastorate. Old Testament priests were not to “drink wine nor strong drink” (Leviticus 10:9), and certainly God’s standard would be no less for his preachers.

Concerning believers: Solomon admonished his son to not drink wine or strong drink (20:1), nor keep company with drunkards. Solomon wrote, “20Be not among winebibbers; Among riotous eaters of flesh: 21For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: And drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags” (Proverbs 23:20–21). The virtuous wife and mother of Proverbs 31 (believed to have been Bathsheba), warned her son who was heir to the throne: “4It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; Nor for princes strong drink: 5Lest they drink, and forget the law, And pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted” (Proverbs 31:4–5).

Paul admonished believers to not risk causing another believer to stumble and fall, therefore, “It is good neither to eat flesh [i.e., meat offered to idols], nor to drink wine” (Romans 14:21).

Some might quote 1 Timothy 5:23 as grounds for taking liberty with wine and alcohol. We read, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23). Timothy had some stomach ailments, and proving the young preacher was not in the habit of drinking wine, Paul urged him to take some wine for medicinal purposes (in the absence of medicines at our disposal today).

Closing thoughts – There are many verses, principles, and illustrations that support an absolute intolerance of wine and alcohol in the life of a believer (Hosea 4:11; Daniel 1:8, 10; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). In addition, our society abounds with examples of damages caused by alcohol use: Physical (cancer of the esophagus, mouth, pharynx, and larynx), gross immorality caused by the effect of lowering inhibitions, and spiritual failures.

1 Corinthians 6:9–109Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

You matter, and there is hope to escape the ravages of alcohol! You can reach this author at HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Hatred Reveals What Love Forgives” (Proverbs 10)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 10

We are considering Proverbs 10 for today’s Scripture reading. Our devotional will consider Proverbs 10:12, and Proverbs 10:31-32.

“Hatred Exploits What Love Conceals” (Proverbs 10:12)

Proverbs 10:12 – “Hatred [an attitude that detests, despises] stirreth up [awakens] strifes [discords; contentions]: but love [genuine, sincere love of a friend] covereth [conceals; hides; passes over] all sins [transgression; rebellion; guilt].”

Have you ever wondered why there is so much strife and discord in the world? Solomon diagnosed the root cause of a pervasive, contentious spirit, and stated simply: “Hatred stirreth up strifes” (10:12a). To state the same judgment in a different way: Hatred, not love, disrupts, denigrates, damages, and devastates all whose life it touches. Hatred provokes strife in marriages, families, friendships, and congregations.

Paul identified pride as the root cause of envy and strife in his letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:4).  John wrote concerning Diotrephes, who was a cause of grief and a source of discord in the early church: Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence [ambitious, and striving to be first] among them, receiveth us not (3 John 1:9). Some will dress up strife in a garb of religious piety; however, the presence of unresolved conflict is indicative of an unforgiving spirit. Such a spirit, if unchecked, will become antagonistic, and destroy friendships, families and fellowships.

A second principle from Proverbs 10:12 is, “love covereth all sins” (10:12b).

Biblical love does not overlook sin, for that would contradict the ways of the LORD, (Proverbs 3:11-12), and the Scriptures. After all, believers are commanded to lovingly, and meekly address sin in each other’s life (Matthew 18:15-17; Galatians 6:1). What does it mean, “love covereth all sins?”

Sincere, genuine love longs to forgive, and will not unnecessarily expose the sins, failures, and shortcomings of one who is loved. Biblical, Christ-like love is longsuffering, kind, gracious, and forgiving (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).

Closing thought – In his letter to believers in the 1st century, Peter wrote: And above all things have fervent charity [self-sacrificing love] among yourselves: for charity shall cover [forgives; overlooks] the multitude of sins [personal offenses]” (1 Peter 4:8).

You and I should not be surprised that hatred stirs up strife; however, we should be concerned that some who profess to love others, readily entertain and expose their failures.

Hatred reveals, what love conceals; hatred exploits, what love forgives (Ephesians 4:31-32).

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Careful: Your Lips Will Reveal Your Heart (Proverbs 10:31-32)

Proverbs 10:31 The mouth [speech; utterance] of the just [righteous; lawful] bringeth forth [utters; bears the fruit of] wisdom [shrewdness; skillful use of knowledge]: but the froward [perverse; swearing] tongue [speech; evil speaker] shall be cut out [cut down; destroyed; punished]. 

The tongue was a frequent subject of Solomon’s proverbs, and the Scriptures abound with examples of its use, and misuse. James wrote, “the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things…6  And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity…8 the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:5-6, 8).

Controlling one’s tongue is a challenge; however, it is not the small member in our mouth that is the trouble. The problem is the heart.

The words and conversations of the God-fearing righteous will evidence grace, godly wisdom and discernment. By contrast, the tongue of the wicked is perverse, and will be known for lies, and speaking evil of others. Jesus taught His disciples, “those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart…For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:18-19).

Proverbs 10:3232The lips [language; speech] of the righteous [just; lawful] know [perceive; understand; acknowledge; observe] what is acceptable [desired; delightful; pleasing]: but the mouth [speech; utterance] of the wicked [ungodly; lawless] speaketh forwardness [perverse; is obstinate].”

Listen to a man’s conversation long enough, and you can discern his character. We would do well to understand that words matter, and they are a window into the soul. The substance and character of a man will be revealed in his words. A good, just man will encourage the soul with words that edify, and are pleasing. A righteous man understands the power of a well-spoken word (Psalm 37:30). The wicked, however, are proud and their words cut, and conversations are perverse.

Closing thoughts – What do your words and conversations reveal about your character?

Be careful how you answer that question. The true measure of your inner man is revealed in your words and conversations. Understanding the power of a spoken word, we would do well to embrace Paul’s challenge to believers of the church in Colosse:

Colossians 4:66 Let your speech [word; conversation] be alway [ever] with grace [acceptable; favor; kindness], seasoned [i.e. spiced; prepared] with salt [purifying; a natural preservative], that ye may know how ye ought [should] to answer [respond] every man.

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“A Cancer Called Adultery” (Proverbs 7)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 7

Proverbs 7 continues Solomon’s warnings concerning the devastating consequences of immorality (a theme you find throughout the book of Proverbs). I encourage you to read all of today’s assignment, but for the sake of brevity, my focus will be Proverbs 7:1-7. [Words and phrases in brackets are the amplifications and applications of the author.]

A Preamble (7:1-3)

Proverbs 7:1-3 – “My son, keep [preserve; observe] my words [sayings; speeches], and lay up [treasure] my commandments [i.e., do’s and don’ts] with thee.
Keep my commandments, and live; and my law [instructions; teaching] as the apple [pupil] of thine eye.
3 Bind [tie] them upon thy fingers [note – Deuteronomy 6], write [record; engrave] them upon the table of thine heart.”

Solomon was concerned that his son not be led astray by sexual lusts. He had witnessed the sorrow and tragedy caused by his mother and father’s adultery. Unfortunately, he walked the same kind of path, and it was one that neither his parents, nor his God would condone! The king fell into a practice often shared by 21st century fathers; he modeled the parenting philosophy: “Do as I say, Not as I do.” We read, “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father” (1 Kings 11:4).

Embracing the wisdom embodied in Proverbs 7:1-3, consider the following two-pronged application: 1) Parents must call their sons and daughters to moral purity, and address the moral character of their children by their words and example. 2) Wise sons and daughters are under obligation to cherish their parent’s instructions, and recall them to heart when temptations arise.

The Subtlety of Flattering Lips (7:4-5)

Proverbs 7:4-5 – “Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman [friend]:
5 That they [wisdom and understanding] may keep [preserve; be a hedge] thee from the strange [immoral] woman, from the stranger which flattereth [smooth; i.e., she leads him away] with her words.”

Concerned with the enticements of a “strange woman” [an immoral woman], Solomon urged his son to love wisdom as a sister, and understanding [discernment; insight] as an intimate friend (7:4). Tragically, it was not what Solomon taught, but what he practiced that became his son’s moral guide.

A Father’s Haunting Failure (Genesis 13:10-1319:1)

No parent can afford the luxury of failing to address the sexual perils of a deviant society. Yet, some fathers and mothers follow the reckless path of Lot (Genesis 13:10-1319:1), who moved his family from the company and influence of uncle Abraham (Genesis 13:11), into Sodom, an ancient city known for its perversity and unrestrained wickedness (Genesis 14:12; 19:1).

Lot failed to teach and admonish his children to fear the LORD, and when he learned God’s judgment was imminent, he made a futile attempt to cause them to flee the city. Tragically, his sons-in-law refused his warning, for he appeared to them as “one that mocked” (Genesis 19:14).

Closing thoughts – Solomon urged his son to hear, and remember his words, and to engrave his instructions upon his heart to serve as a moral compass (7:5). Instead, it was what he modeled, not what he taught that influenced his son’s life.

Are you vigilant regarding the dangers posed by an immoral culture? Are you modeling and guiding your children to take the high road in moral choices? Are you leading your family to seek the company and friendship of the godly?

Remember: Sexual immorality is a moral cancer to life, career, marriage, and family!

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“An Ever-After Love Story” (Song of Solomon 8; Proverbs 1)

Scripture reading – Song of Solomon 8; Proverbs 1

Today’s Scripture reading completes our study of The Song of Solomon, and introduces a new study series in the book titled, “Proverbs.” I penned a year-long series of devotionals in Proverbs several years ago (www.HeartofAShepherd.com), and I invite you to refer to those in your daily Scripture readings.

In today’s study, we find Solomon with his young bride arriving at her home in the villages of northern Israel. She had invited him to leave the stately walls of the palace in Jerusalem and “go forth into the field; [and]… lodge in the villages” (7:11). She longed for the vineyards of the countryside, laden with tender grapes, and buds of the pomegranates (7:12).

Song of Solomon 8

Like many a newlywed who made their journey home, it seemed our young bride did not find her household as receptive, or comfortable as she had hoped (8:1). In her mother’s house, she did not feel the liberty to express her affection for her husband as she would have in her own bedchamber. She judged, had Solomon been her brother, she might have kissed him and none would despise or condemn her (8:1). There, in her mother’s house, she introduced her husband, the king, and “[caused him] to drink of spiced wine of the juice of [her] pomegranate” (8:2). The wine was unfermented juice, and not the wine that would induce drunkenness, which Solomon often condemned in his writings (Proverbs 20:1; 23:20-21; 23:29-35; 31:4-5).

After warning the young maidens, the “daughters of Jerusalem,” to not stir or arouse desires before marriage (8:4), she appeared to go and visit an elder, perhaps a grandmother or aunt, who had taught and urged her to guard her purity when she was young (8:5). Of course, the reward of her virtue was she had become the prized bride of the king.

With a passion that seemed to betray her insecurity as the king’s bride, she pleaded, “6Set me as a seal upon thine heart, As a seal upon thine arm: For love is strong as death; Jealousy is cruel as the grave: The coals thereof are coals of fire, Which hath a most vehement flame” (8:6). Knowing the king might one day take unto him wives after the custom of kings (though contrary to God’s ordained order that man and woman would be “one flesh,”Genesis 2:18, 21-24), she longed for the assurance that his love for her would be sealed in his heart. With the words of a poet, Solomon assured her, though flood waters might quench a fire, his love for her would never be quenched (8:7).

The young bride’s brothers, received their sister and her husband, and seemed to have reminded her that they had been her protector when she was a young girl, and before she had been “spoken for” (8:8). They had protected her virtue, as though they had built a great wall around her (8:9). She responded to her brothers, and reminded them she had maintained the wall of her innocence, and she had found favor in the eyes of her beloved (8:10).

Verse 11 would seem to indicate the vineyard in which we first met this young Shulamite woman was one her family had leased from Solomon (8:11). We are also reminded that while she labored in a vineyard that belonged to another (1:6), she had her own vineyard (1:6; 8:12). Now married to the king, she settled upon a price to lease her vineyard, and joyfully returned to her husband and his palatial gardens (8:13).

This beautiful love story concludes with our young bride urging Solomon, “Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe [gazelle] or to a young hart [deer] upon the mountains of spices.”

Closing thoughts – Hollywood has painted a picture of love and marriage that is fed by lust, and is a far cry from what the Creator intended for man and woman. Our generation has sacrificed innocence and purity, and pursued instant gratification and pleasure. Sadly, it seems the 21st century church is hardly better.

The Scriptures exhort believers to reflect in their marriages, an earthly portrait of Christ’s love for His Church: Self-sacrificing, enduring, honorable, and passionate love.

Ephesians 5:25, 33 – “ 25  Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it… 33  Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“What Beautiful Feet, My Love!” (Song of Solomon 6; Song of Solomon 7)

Scripture reading – Song of Solomon 6-7

Continuing our love story, Solomon’s bride dreamed she had searched for her husband throughout the city. Not knowing she was the bride of the king, the watchmen of the city mistreated her (in her dreams), and the “daughters of Jerusalem” scoffed when she asked, “find my beloved…tell him, that I am sick of love [love sick]” (5:8). Of course, this was a dream, and none would dare mistreat the wife of the king.

Song of Solomon 6 – Who is this Wonderful, Beautiful Bride?

Through eyes of pure love (5:10-16), she described Solomon’s physical appearance to the maidens of Jerusalem who asked (in the bride’s dream), “1Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? Whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee” (6:1). Our young bride finds her husband in his royal gardens (6:2), and rejoices in his love saying, 3I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine” (6:3a).

Solomon’s Loving Assurances (6:4-10)

The king extolled her beauty, comparing his bride to two beautiful walled cities of Israel (6:4), with beautiful banners unfurled. Looking into her eyes, he found himself captivated (6:5), and her hair thick and flowing, like the goats in Gilead (6:5b). He gushed over her, and assured her she was preferred more than a harem of “threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number” (6:8). Why? For she, unlike any other, was “undefiled.” She was the object of her mother’s praise, and that of the daughters of Jerusalem, queens, and concubines (6:9).

Song of Solomon 7 – Solomon’s Admiration of His Bride’s Beauty

As we continue today’s Scripture reading, remember there are three methods of interpretation for the Song of Solomon. There is the Allegorical interpretation, suggesting The Song of Solomon described God’s relationship with His people, and is a parable.  The Typical interpretation suggests the bride of Solomon was a type or picture of the Church, and Solomon, the groom, was a type or picture of Jesus Christ. The third interpretation is a Literal one; in other words, that this was a true love story describing Solomon’s love for a young Shulamite girl who became his queen.

A Bridal Description (7:1-9)

With the blush of her innocence and virtue entrusted to her husband, Solomon is described as looking upon the physical beauty of his wife with pride, and satisfaction (7:1-5). Extolling his delight in his bride, Solomon boasted, writing, “6How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights!” (7:6) In his eyes, she was stately like a palm tree (7:7), and he tenderly assured her of his love (7:8-9).

A Bride Secure in Her Husband’s Love (7:10-13)

With loving trust, she abandoned herself to her husband (7:10). She invited Solomon to take her away, saying, “Let us lodge in the villages…get up early to the vineyards…There will I give thee my loves” (7:12).

Closing thoughts – The phrase, “Love is blind,” is often credited to William Shakespeare who employed it on several occasions in his plays. However, the phrase first appeared in Milton Chaucer’s Merchant Tale (1405) – “Love is blind all day, and may not see.” With a different, humorous perspective, author Pauline Thomason, writes:“Love is blind, marriage is the eye-opener.”

Permit me to close with an observation of my own. Solomon was certainly not blind, for not one detail of his young wife’s beauty escaped his eye (7:1-5); from her sandaled feet (7:1) to her long locks of hair, he prized her beauty (7:5). She had the tanned dark skin of a peasant, the callous hands of a laborer, but the beauty and virtuous character of a princess. Solomon was in love, and love does not count the blemishes of one’s beloved.

How about the love of your life?  Is your romance vibrant?  Is your courtship still alive?

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith