Tag Archives: Morality

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

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

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

Job 10:1-6 – Job’s Petition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you accept Him as your Savior?

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Tale of Two Lineages (Genesis 5-6)

Scripture reading – Genesis 5-6

Genesis 4 concluded with Cain being driven from the presence of Adam’s household (4:12-16),and him taking a wife, and establishing an ungodly lineage (4:17) that would be the curse of righteous men (4:18-24).

Several sons and daughters were born of Adam and Eve’s union (5:4); however, it was a son whom Eve named Seth that God chose as His godly lineage (4:25). Seth had a son whom he named Enos, and then we read, “then began men to call upon the name of the LORD” (4:26).

Genesis 5 – A Tale of Two Lineages

Before we identify the two lineages that proceeded from Adam and Eve, consider for a moment the incredibly long life spans of the men of these first generations. For instance, Adam lived 930 years (5:4); his son Seth lived 912 years (5:8); and Enos lived 905 years (5:11). How might we explain the longevity of early human life?

Various scholars have tackled that question, and many have scoffed at the possibility of men living nine hundred years or more. Although not original with me (and I do not know whom to cite as my source), there are generally two explanations: That earth’s atmosphere was an expanse of water “above the firmament” (1:7) and therefore shielded man and the world from harmful environmental factors that hasten aging (an example would be the cosmic rays of the sun). A second explanation for longevity, and one I believe is most important, is that the human race was more genetically pure, and there was less disease and sickness. By the way, the longevity of man in those early centuries would have contributed to a boom in population growth that some have estimated might have reached billions of souls before the Flood!

The ungodly lineage of Cain was recorded in Genesis 4:16-24, but remember only a few of his descendants are named, and only because of their important role in the Biblical narrative. I hope to address Cain’s lineage at a later time.

The godly lineage of Adam, through his son Seth is given in Genesis 5 and takes us through to the birth of Noah, and his three sons, “Shem, Ham, and Japheth” (5:32).

Genesis 6 – Judgment and Destruction: The Worldwide Flood

Like our day, the world of Noah’s day before the Flood evidenced not only a population explosion, but also a wickedness that motivated God to intervene, allowing the Flood to cleanse the earth, in preparation for His promise of a Redeemer to be fulfilled. Once again, we are made privy to the thoughts and heart of God.  Seeing the proliferation of sin in the world, the LORD avowed, “My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years” (6:3).

The heart of man had become so consumed with wickedness, that even the godly lineage (“the sons of God”), intermingled with the “daughters of men” (6:4, I believe a reference to the line of Cain). God determined, “every imagination of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil continually” (6:5). Grieved by the wickedness of man, the LORD declared, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them” (6:7).

I close inviting you to consider an incredible phrase, and a wonderful doctrine:

But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (6:8). The statement concerning Noah’s spiritual relationship continues: “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God” (6:9).

Genesis 6:8 is the first mention of God’s “grace” in the Scriptures (although amazing grace was evident when the LORD sacrificed to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness with skins).

How did Noah respond to God’s gracious commandment to build an ark to the saving of his house, and thereby establishing His covenant (6:18)? He responded in the same way that all sinners must to be saved…Faith. Noah believed God!

Hebrews 11:7 – “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things [and events] not seen as yet, moved with fear [took heed of God’s warning and used due diligence], prepared an ark to the saving [deliverance] of his house; by the which [FAITH] he condemned the world [of unbelief], and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”

Noah’s faith in God was expressed in his obedience: “Thus did Noah; according to all that God had commanded him, so did he” (6:22).

What of your faith? What do your works say about your faith, and trust in God? After all, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“In the Beginning God Created” (Genesis 1)

Scripture reading – Genesis 1

January 1, 2021 marks the start of a new journey, a new opportunity, and a new challenge as you are presented with an opportunity to subscribe to a two-year Scripture reading schedule that will take you through a chronological study of God’s Word, from Genesis to Revelation. Let the journey begin!

An Introduction to The First Book of Moses Called Genesis

The Bible is the most influential book in history, and Genesis is its foundation. Genesis explains the origin of all things, and is the basis of our understanding of the universe, the earth, its atmosphere, and life itself. For instance, Genesis 1:27 presents us with the complexity and uniqueness of man, who was created in the “image of God.”  The societal foundation of marriage and family are established in Genesis 2:24-25. Genesis 3 reveals the origin of sin and its consequences. The basis of language, culture, and the existence of the nations are all declared in Genesis. Genesis also unveils the commencement of God’s answer to man’s wickedness; a Son who would be born of Abraham’s lineage, through whom all nations and people would be blessed (Genesis 12), fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Warning: If you reject the Genesis account of creation you must reject the Bible!

The New Testament quotes from, or alludes to one hundred sixty-five passages in Genesis. In fact, there are more than one hundred direct quotes or references from Genesis 1-11 that are found the New Testament.

Genesis 1 – “In the Beginning God Created”

Creation declares the person and existence of the God of Creation (Romans 1:20-27), and what you believe concerning the existence, and the origin of life shapes your philosophy of life and worldview. Accepting or rejecting the Genesis account of Creation will influence the value you place on human life. If you believe, “God created man in His own image,” meaning His spiritual likeness (1:26-27), you must conclude that human life is sacred. Reject creation and you will come to the conclusion that the life of the unborn has little value.

Believe God is Creator, and the Genesis account of creation is true (Genesis 1), and you must accept that God has the sovereign authority to establish right and wrong, and define morality from immorality (1:29-31).

As you read the Genesis account of creation, you must come to a conclusion about the origin of life, and ask yourself, “Who can be trusted in the matter of the origin of life? Is evolution an unproven theory, or a scientific fact? Can you trust the Bible when it states simply, “In the beginning God created” (1:1)? Can the Bible and evolution co-exist?

The Biblical account of Creation offers no compromise with evolution, and evolution offers no compromise with the Biblical account of creation.

A literal interpretation of Genesis 1 must accept that God created the heaven and the earth in a literal six-day period (a day being 24 hours), and He rested on the seventh day (1:31-2:2). As Creator, God is Sovereign, and He is providentially involved in His creation, preserving and sustaining all the universe. “He looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven” (Job 28:24). “His eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings” (Job 34:21). “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3).

Because God is our Creator, He has authority to oversee every facet of our lives, and to reward, or punish as He deems just in His providential will. The psalmist declared, “Our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased” (Psalm 115:3).

Reject God as Creator, and inevitably, ungodliness will command the soul of not only an individual, but a nation (Romans 1:28-32).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

P.S. You are invited to join me on January 1, 2021, and begin a Two-Year Chronological Bible Reading Schedule that will take you from Genesis to Revelation. 2_year_chronological_Bible_schedule_2021

I plan to continue writing, and publishing daily, devotional commentaries at www.HeartofAShepherd.com. It is a long journey, but it is well worth the effort, on both our parts.

Who Made You Judge, Jury, and Executioner? (Romans 14-16)

Scripture reading – Romans 14-16

Today’s reading assignment concludes our reading in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Unlike any other book in our chronological schedule, Romans has presented us with a succession of great doctrines that are fundamental to our faith in Christ. I am limiting today’s devotional to Romans 14, and what is a practical challenge to all believers: Accepting one another’s differences, without being harsh in our judgment.

Christian Liberty

“Christian Liberty” has become a hot topic over the past two decades, and I fear its excesses have blighted the testimony of the church in the world. Unfortunately, the insistence by some believers who, either out of ignorance or sinful pride, demand their liberty in what others define as “questionable things,” has resulted in little discernable difference between the world and its lusts, and believers and their fellowships. Every generation of believers face the question of “Christian Liberty;” however, I fear this generation has lost its perspective of the ultimate standard: What pleases the Lord, and brings Him glory.

The Strong, the Weak, and the Judge (Romans 14:1-12)

Paul identified a debate that was raging between believers he identified as “weak in the faith” (14:1), and limited their diet to “herbs” (vegetables), and others who believed that they might “eat all things (14:2). The debate had become so contentious that believers were admonished for despising (having disdain for), and judging (condemning) one another (14:3). Rather than parsing out the historical debate (eating meat vs. eating herbs; legalistic rules devised by men regarding acceptable and unacceptable activities on holy days, 14:5-6), I will suggest principles to guide our decisions on Christian liberty in our day.

The first principle: We should accept that differences in practice will arise (14:1-2); however, the matter of judgment and condemnation is God’s role, not mine or yours (14:3-4, 10).

Another principle, realizing God is the final judge, we should have our consciences exercised by His Word, being mindful that He will call each of us to account for himself in the day of judgment (14:11-12).

Consider Paul’s admonition regarding our individual Christian liberty choices:

Romans 14:13 – “13 Let us not therefore judge [decide; determine; pass judgment] one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock [trigger of a trap; set a trap; give cause for falling] or an occasion to fall [stumble] in his brother’s way.”

I fear some believers are watching and waiting for other believers to stumble, and fall into sin. Rather than judging themselves, they pounce upon other believers with criticisms (audibly or by slights), that dispirit the soul, and sometimes turn one “weak in the faith” away from the Lord, and the church. Sadly, it is often those who perceive themselves as “strong,” and mature in the faith, who are the greatest violators and offenders, having made themselves the judge, jury, and executioners.

Before you pass judgment, might I suggest you look in the mirror and ask: Who art thou that judges another? (14:4a)

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Judgment of God (Romans 1-3)

Scripture reading – Romans 1-3

Our chronological Scripture reading schedule brings us today to Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.  You will notice the apostle’s salutation declares from the outset that he is writing to believers in Rome, and identifying himself as a “a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1).

Lest some have a misunderstanding regarding the believers in Rome, allow me to state unequivocally that these were not members of an early version of the Roman Catholic Church. Roman Catholicism is a blend of various elements of ancient paganism, and manmade traditions that are a gross departure from the Word of God. Paul’s letter was received by men and women whose confidence in their salvation was not predicated upon rituals and traditions, but upon the sincere, unadulterated Scriptures, of which, that gospel was declared first by the “prophets in the Holy Scriptures” (1:2), and fulfilled in Jesus Christ (1:3).

You will read in Romans 1 a familiar, pastoral affection that Paul has expressed in earlier epistles, and repeats in his letter to believers in Rome (1:7-12). Evoking an affirmation of God’s love for the believers (“beloved of God, and called to be saints”, 1:7), the apostle states his longing to visit them, whose “faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (1:8, 11).

A Portrait of Man’s Rebellion and Sinful Depravity (Romans 1:20-32)

The depth and breadth of the truths contained in Romans 1 could fill volumes of commentaries; however, I will take only the liberty to amplify the meanings of the word found in the Scriptures, and allow them to speak the Truth themselves.

Romans 1:20-22 For the invisible things [things which cannot be perceived with the physical senses] of Him [God] from [by means of] the creation of the world are clearly seen [General or Natural revelation], being understood [God’s person and power understood by the evidences of His creation] by the things that are made [Creation is a display of God’s power and person], even His eternal power and Godhead [deity; divine nature]; so that they are without excuse [no excuse for idolatry – Isaiah 44:8-20]:

21 Because that, when they knew [had a knowledge of the Person, Power and Presence of God] God, they glorified him not as God [refused to honor and reverence Him], neither were thankful [ingratitude; hard hearted]; but became vain [full of pride; conceited] in their imaginations [thoughts; reasonings; unwillingness to acknowledge God], and their foolish heart [mind; lacking understanding] was darkened [incapable of comprehending Truth]22 Professing [asserting; declaring] themselves to be wise [“philosophers” – lovers of wisdom; wise in their own estimation], they became fools [void of understanding; lacking any moral sense; incapable of discerning between good and evil],

Romans 1:26-27 – For this cause God gave them up [commended; delivered] unto vile [disgraceful; degrading] affections [passions; lust; i.e. evil desires]: for even [also] their women did change [exchange; transform] the natural [instinctive; physical; inborn] use [i.e. sexual intercourse] into that which is against [opposed to; contrary] nature [mankind; the nature of things as God created]:
27
And likewise [similarly; moreover] also the men, leaving [forsake; abandoned] the natural [instinctive; physical; according to nature] use [i.e. sexual intercourse] of the woman, burned [inflamed; to set on fire; i.e. raging lust] in their lust [desire; longing; craving]  one toward another [continually]; men with men working [doing; performing; committing] that which is unseemly [shameful; indecent; obscene], and receiving [what is due; retribution] in [quickly; shortly; afterwards] themselves [in their own bodies and/or souls] that recompence [penalty; compensation] of their error [straying; delusion; deceit] which was meet [necessary; required; inevitable; i.e. must needs be as an exacting of God’s justice].

Romans 1:28 -32 – And even as [insomuch as; that] they did not like [refused; i.e. were not able] to retain [possess; have; hold] God in their knowledge [memory; recognition], God gave them over [commended; delivered] to a reprobate [worthless; rejected; unworthy; abandoned] mind [thought; feeling; will], to do those things which are not convenient [becoming; proper; fit; right]; 29  Being filled with [satisfied; saturated with] all unrighteousness [wrong; iniquity], fornication [all manner of sexual immorality, including adultery and incest], wickedness [depravity; malice; evil desires], covetousness [greed; extortion; desire to have more], maliciousness [evil; desire to injure]; full of envy [jealousy; wishing ill on another], murder, debate [quarreling; contentiousness; strife], deceit [guile; craftiness; lie], malignity [bad character; dishonorable; attributing to others evil intent]; whisperers [gossips; slanderer; ], 30  Backbiters [slanderers; speaking against another], haters of God, despiteful [insulter; violent aggressor; treating others shamefully], proud [haughty; arrogant; treating others with disdain , boasters [braggart; i.e. swaggerer], inventors of evil things [harmful; depraved; morally wrong], disobedient [hard; not pliable; unteachable] to parents, 31  Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32  Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Time for a Spiritual Self-Portrait (Galatians 4-6)

Scripture reading – Galatians 4-6

Today’s Scripture reading completes our study of Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Our devotional commentary will focus on Galatians 5:19-25.

Paul challenged believers in Galatia to “Stand Fast…in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (5:1).

There were many things that might have shaken the faith of first century believers living in the Roman province of Galatia. There was the ever-present threat of persecution, the rejection of family and friends, and the ever-present pressures and influence of living in the midst of a sinful, pagan culture. Understanding the cultural temptations that surrounded them, Paul’s letter urged believers to “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (5:16). What is the “lust of the flesh” that the Spirit will enable a believer to overcome?

The “lust of the flesh” is manifested in what Paul defined as “the works of the flesh” (5:19-21).

1) Galatians 5:19bSexual immorality (“adultery, fornication”) and moral debauchery (“uncleanness, lasciviousness”)

2) Galatians 5:20aReligious sins (“idolatry, witchcraft”)

3) Galatians 5:20b-21aRelationship sins (“hatred [hostility], variance [contentious], emulations [envy; jealousy], wrath, strife, seditions [divisions], heresies [departure from the Truth], 21 Envyings”)

4) Galatians 5:21Moral corruption (“murders, drunkenness, revellings [drunkenness; sinful indulgence]”)

Did you notice the sins of first century Galatia are the sins of our 21st century world?

The heart of man has not changed, and the nature of sin is passed from generation to generation, from father and mother, to the son and daughter. Though “the works of the flesh” are characteristic of our fallen world and society, they have no place in a believer’s life. Paul warned, “of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (5:21b).

After admonishing believers concerning the “works of the flesh,” Paul turned his focus to a brief exposition of the spiritual graces that the Holy Spirit should manifest in the life of a believer when he is fully-yielded to the work and leading of the Spirit of God.

The Spirit-Filled Life (Galatians 5:22-23)

Notice that the Holy Spirit will produce a spiritual transformation in a believer’s life (5:22-23).

Galatians 5:22-23But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy [gladness of heart], peace [tranquility], longsuffering[patient; restrains from vengeance], gentleness [kindness, without harshness], goodness [good deeds toward others], faith[conviction], 23Meekness [not soon angry; humility], temperance [self-control]: against such there is no law.

When a man is genuinely saved, and the Holy Spirit is present, there will be “fruit of the Spirit.” The degree of fruit produced, and evidenced in a believer’s life, will be dependent on their walk with the LORD, and obedience to His Word.

Realizing that the “works of the flesh” have no place in a believer’s life, there should be a transformation that is noticeably evident:

Where there was hatred, there is love. Where there was wrath, there is joy. Where there were divisions, there is peace. Where there was wrath, there is patience. Where there was contentiousness, there is gentleness. Where there was envy, there is goodness. Where there was heresy, there is faith. Where there was murder and hate, there is meekness. Where there was drunkenness and self-indulgence, there is self-control.

How can this be? How might a believer get victory over the “works of the flesh,” and his life and spirit evidence the “fruit of the Spirit?” Paul’s answer:

Galatians 5:24–2524 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Friend, I encourage you to take a few minutes and do an honest, self-evaluation of your life and spirit. Is the “fruit of the Spirit” apparent in your life?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The Dilemma of Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage” (Matthew 19; Mark 10)

Scripture reading – Matthew 19; Mark 10

Today’s Scripture reading, Matthew 19 and Mark 10, begin with a question that has troubled many down through the ages, and continues to be misunderstood in our day: “Is it lawful for a man to put away [divorce] his wife for every cause?” (Matthew 19:3; Mark 10:2)

The issue of divorce was a matter of debate in Jesus’ day, and the Pharisees had approached Jesus, hoping to pull Him into the dispute (Matthew 19:1-12). They came, “tempting Him” (19:3), wanting to discredit Christ in the eyes of the public, and desiring to diminish His following. In an effort to place Jesus at odds with the Law, and their own liberal interpretation of the Law concerning divorce, the Pharisees asked, “Is it lawful for a man to put away [divorce] his wife for every [any] cause?”

There were two schools of thought (Hillel and Shammai) on the matter of Divorce in Jesus’ day.

The School of Hillel held a liberal interpretation of divorce, and it was adhered to by the Pharisees and a majority of 1st century Jews. Hillel taught that a man could divorce his wife for any reason; however, a woman was not permitted to divorce her husband. The School of Shammai represented the conservative, unpopular view on divorce. Followers of Shammai argued that divorce was unlawful, except in the case of adultery.

Divorce had become a widespread practice among some Jewish people, and many Pharisees were guilty of multiple divorces, often for the most absurd reasons. Of course, such oligarchy would never permit a wife to divorce her husband for any cause! Jesus answered the Pharisees question on divorce, directing them to the authority of the Scriptures (19:4-6).

Divorce was, and is, a violation of several Biblical principles.

Divorce violates the Creator’s plan and design for man and woman. Citing the writings of Moses, Jesus asked the Pharisees, “Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female?” (19:4; Genesis 1:27; 2:24)

Divorce is also a violation of God’s design for marriage which is “one flesh” (19:5). A man is commanded to leave his father and mother and “cleave to his wife” (19:5-6a). A man’s bond with his wife is to overshadow all human relationships, although two individuals, husband and wife are to be one, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Divorce violates the sanctity of marriage (19:6b). It was God’s plan, and His command, that what He had “joined (or yoked) together,” no man, court, or judge had the power or authority to “put asunder” (meaning to separate).

Disregarding Jesus’ appeal to consider the Scriptures as their authority in the question of divorce, the Pharisees asked: “Why did Moses then command [charge; order] to give a writing [certificate; bill; paper] of divorcement, and to put her away [dismiss; divorce]?” (19:7)

Those hypocritical religious leaders were not interested in God’s standard, design, or plan for marriage. They were looking to justify their sin, and disallow the sanctity of marriage. They suggested Moses as a defense of their distorted interpretation of divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).

Jesus answered their question, rebuking, and exposing their wickedness as a violation of God’s will and design for marriage (19:8). Leaving no ambiguity, Jesus spoke plainly:

Matthew 19:99And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

Divorce was never God’s plan, and the only grounds for divorce is “fornication,” meaning sexual conduct with anyone who is not one’s spouse (19:9a).

Jesus’ conclusion may come as a shock to some as it did to His disciples (19:10); but remember God’s purpose and design for marriage was companionship, for “it is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). God made one woman for one man, and Adam the first man was complete (Genesis 2:22). They were “one flesh,” and their union was designed to be inseparable (Genesis 2:24).

Warning: Divorce is a rejection of God’s plan and design for mankind, and He is witness of the covenant vows of marriage (Malachi 2:14b).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The Fearless, Fearful and Foolish” (Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9)

Scripture reading – Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9

History gives abundant testimony of the tension, conflict, and hostility the world holds toward God, His Word, and His people. In today’s Scripture reading (Matthew 14, Mark 6, and Luke 9), the animosity of human authority toward God and His prophet takes center stage.

The ministry of John the Baptist had been powerful, and the prophet had not minced words when confronting the sins of his day. Not even the most prominent politician in Israel had been spared the prophet’s condemnation (Matthew 14:4).

Herod Antipas, the son of King Herod the Great, was “the tetrarch” of Galilee, a tetrarch being a ruler of one-fourth of a Roman province (Matthew 14:1). Herod had divorced his wife and married Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife (Matthew 14:3-4; Mark 6:17). Their incestuous marriage had not only been an affront to God (Leviticus 18:16), but also to the Jewish people.

John the Baptist had tenaciously condemned such wickedness in Israel and said to Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have her” (Matthew 14:4). Herod became so exasperated with John’s public rebukes that he had the prophet bound and imprisoned (14:3). Though he wished to put him to death, Herod “feared the multitude, because they counted him [John] as a prophet” (14:5). Herodias, on the other hand, had no political qualms and she “would have killed him; but she could not” (Mark 6:19), “for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy” (Mark 6:20).

Now a great banquet was held for Herod’s birthday, and the daughter of Herodias, after being instructed by her mother to dance before Herod and his guests, had instructed her to ask for the head of John the Baptist when the king offered to reward her (Matthew 14:6-7). Following her mother’s instructions, the daughter of Herodias, demanded, “Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger” (Matthew 14:8). Too proud to confess his error, Herod complied with the daughter’s wicked request, and “sent, and beheaded John in the prison” (Matthew 14:10).

The news of Christ’s ministry and His miracles had reached the ears of the king (Mark 6:14) and Herod “said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him…he said, It is John [the Baptist], whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead (Mark 6:14–16).

Herod’s alarm, that Jesus was John the Baptist, struck fear in the heart of the wicked king. He was haunted by guilt knowing he had murdered an innocent man, and a prophet of God. Rather than confessing his sin; however, Herod wrestled with guilt, and was troubled by fear (Proverbs 29:25). He feared John when he was alive (Mark 6:20), and he was terrified when he heard of the miracles of Jesus, believing John the Baptist was raised from the dead. The king had silenced John’s tongue, but he could not quiet his own guilty conscience.

Later on, when Jesus was arrested, He would have one meeting with Herod (Luke 23:6-11); however, at that time the LORD “answered him nothing” (Luke 23:9). The blood of John the Baptist was on his hands, and the soul of the king was damned by his wickedness.

Let us take a spiritual lesson from Herod: We might find temporal solace in the diagnosis of a psychologist or psychiatrist, and even salve our conscience with prescription drugs or other enhancers; however, if the root problem is sin, there is only one answer:

“Submit [subdue; yield] …to God. Resist the [temptations] devil”…acknowledge your sins, and let the tears of mourning pave the way to God’s forgiveness and joy (James 4:7-10).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“For Whom the LORD Loveth He Chasteneth” (Ezekiel 23-24)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 23-24

Our Scripture reading brings us to the final crisis that Ezekiel has long warned would come: The final siege and destruction of Jerusalem, the beloved capital city of Judah and all Israel. Today’s devotional commentary will focus on Ezekiel 23.

Ezekiel 23 – A Tale of Two Sisters, Aholah and Aholibah

The account of the final days before the fall of Jerusalem and the eradication of both Israel and Judah as nations, is vivid and graphic (23:1-2). In Ezekiel 23 we have the description of Israel and Judah symbolically represented as two sisters who had committed spiritual “whoredoms in Egypt…in their youth” (23:3).

Aholah, identified as the elder sister, was a symbolical name for the nation of Israel (identified in this passage as Samaria, the capital city of the ten northern tribes). Aholibah was the younger of the sisters and was a symbolical name for Judah, the southern kingdom whose capital was Jerusalem (23:4).

Aholah (Israel) and Aholibah (Judah) are portrayed as sisters who had rebelled, broken covenant with the LORD, and turned to other lovers (i.e. alliances with other nations). Aholah (Israel), awed by the strength and power of Assyria had made an alliance with that nation and turned from the LORD (23:5-10; 2 Kings 15:19-20; 17:1-4). Aholibah (Judah), Aholah’s sister, had sought alliance with Assyria  and also courted the favor of Chaldea (Babylon). King Hezekiah had foolishly displayed to Nebuchadnezzar’s ambassadors the wealth and treasuries of his palace and the Temple (23:11-21; Isaiah 39:1-8).

When Aholibah (Judah) realized the evil intent of Chaldea (Babylon), she appealed to Egypt for aid, but to no avail (23:21; 2 Kings 23:26-30, 31-24:2). Thus, the “lovers,” Assyria and Chaldea, had ravaged both Israel and Judah with their “chariots, wagons, and wheels, and with an assembly of people,” and stripped those nations bare of their wealth and people (23:22-29). God’s judgment against His people and the devastation of Israel and Judah would be an astonishment to the nations who would scorn and disparage them (23:32).

What sins had Aholah (Israel) and Aholibah (Judah) committed against the LORD that would justify so great a judgment? (23:37-49)

The judgment of Israel and Judah was just because those nations had broken their covenant with God and committed spiritual adultery (23:37). The people had defiled the Temple with idols, forsaken their Sabbaths (23:38), and committed the ultimate act of wickedness and depravity: They had sacrificed their children to Moloch, and on the same day entered the Temple to worship (23:39; note Ezekiel 16:21).

The destruction of Israel and Judah was set and the horror of the people’s sufferings had been determined (23:47). The final siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar’s army had begun and the days were numbered.

Ezekiel 24:2 – Son of man, write thee the name of the day, even of this same day: the king of Babylon set himself against Jerusalem this same day.

Why did God chasten and punish His people? Not only because He loved them, but so they would know He is “the LORD GOD” (23:49).

Hebrews 12:6 – For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Individual Responsibility: A Parable of “Sour Grapes” (Ezekiel 18-20)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 18-20

Today’s Scripture reading is a lengthy one, consisting of 95 verses, housed in three chapters (Ezekiel 18-20). I will limit the focus of this devotional commentary to Ezekiel 18.

Ezekiel 18 – Who Are You Going to Blame?

There was no dispute over Israel and Judah’s provocation of God’s justice and the judgment of His people. The people had broken their covenant with God, disobeyed His Law and Commandments, and provoked the LORD to wrath. The LORD commanded Ezekiel to go to the people and confront their insinuation that the troubles that had befallen them were an injustice to them for the sins of their forefathers (18:1-2a).

There was a parable in Babylon among the people of the captivity that said, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?”  (18:2). In other words, the younger generation was blaming their fore-fathers for the troubles and miseries they were suffering. The implication was that God was not just, and was punishing children for the sins of their parents.

Sadly, that same spirit is pervading our own society. Blame shifting has become epidemic in our culture. The evils committed 150 years ago by the forefathers of this generation has fostered a spirit of entitlement that some suggest excuses wrath, violence, bitterness, rioting, and even murder.

Ezekiel 18 addresses the matter of individual responsibility and personal accountability to God.

God commanded Ezekiel to declare the universality of man’s wickedness and the inevitable consequences of sin: “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (18:4).

Though all have sinned, nevertheless, the LORD is just and His judgments are right and true. God promised to bless the man that chooses righteousness and obeys His statues and judgments (18:5-9).  However, every son and every generation will bear God’s judgment for its sins, and God will not hold a father accountable for the sins of his son (18:10-13).

Should a son see his father sin, but the son chooses the way of righteousness, he will not bear his father’s guilt (18:14-17), but the father will be punished for his own sins (18:18-20).

 So, who are you going to blame for your troubles and sorrows?

There is no denying a family suffers for the choices of its members; however, we each bear the burden of choosing how to respond to the troubles and sorrows that arise in our lives.

God is just and “the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son” (18:20). The LORD is merciful and compassionate (18:21). He is ready to forgive our sins when we repent and has promised, our sins “shall not be mentioned” or remembered against us (18:22).

Let’s stop wallowing in the mire of self-pity, blaming others for our sinful choices and the consequences that befall us!  God is just and He judges every man and woman “according to his ways” (18:30a). If we repent of our sins and turn from our sinful ways, the LORD promises, sin “shall not be your ruin” (18:30b)!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith