Tag Archives: Pray

God Hears and Answers Prayer (Psalm 86; Psalm 122)

Scripture reading – Psalm 86; Psalm 122

Our Scripture reading consists of two chapters from the Book of Psalms, Psalm 86 and Psalm 122. David is the author of both, with Psalm 86 titled simply, “A Prayer of David,” and Psalm 122 titled, “A Song of Degrees” (the “degrees” most likely a reference to the ascending steps of the priests into the Temple). Our devotional is taken from Psalm 86.

Psalm 86 – A Petition for the LORD to Hear and Answer Prayer

The circumstances that inspired Psalm 86 are not given, but the content indicates it was at a time of trouble, and affliction for the king. The prophet Nathan forewarned David that trouble would shadow his household after his adultery with Bathsheba, and the murder of Uriah, her husband. We might be justified in assigning this psalm to the years of sorrow that followed his sin.

David’s Troubled State (86:1-7)

The afflictions David faced were constant reminders of his helpless dependency (86:1). He was the king of Israel, but he confessed he was “poor and needy,” and realized only the LORD could save and comfort him in his distress (86:2-3). His prayer rehearsed what he knew was true concerning the nature of God: “5For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; And plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee” (86:5). David resolved, “7In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: For thou wilt answer me” (86:7).

Take a moment and ponder that statement (86:7). There may come a time when you find yourself in a difficult situation with no where you can turn; or perhaps you have reached out to someone in confidence, only to be shunned, or betrayed. David found comfort knowing he could call upon God, appreciating He would not only hear, but would also answer his prayer.

The Sovereignty of God (86:8-14)

Some men call upon their “gods,” but those idols can neither see, hear, nor answer prayer (Psalm 135:15-17). Indeed, there is no God, save the God of heaven who is powerful, all-knowing, and worthy of our worship and praise (86:8-9). He is “God alone” (86:10).

Praying for the LORD to guide and direct him, David promised, “11Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: Unite my heart to fear thy name. 12I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: And I will glorify thy name for evermore” (86:11-12). David longed to know the way of the LORD (John 14:6), and promised he would be faithful, fear and revere the Lord, and glorify Him (86:11-12).

David’s Plight (86:14-15)

David did not identify his enemies by name (and there were many, including his own son Absalom), but he did describe them: “Proud…violent” and godless (86:14). They were proud, ambitious, plotting his destruction, and wicked.

Facing relentless enemies, David encouraged himself by remembering the character of God: “15But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, Longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth” (86:15).

A Final Plea (86:16-17)

David concluded the prayer, and called upon the LORD to be merciful, and strengthen him in his weakness (86:16). The king prayed, “17Shew me a token [sign] for good; That they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed: Because thou, Lord, hast holpen me, and comforted me” (86:17).

David’s prayer for God to bless him was an inward cry for peace, as well as an outward sign of vindication. He prayed for the LORD to bestow on him a “token,” a sign of his blessing, and one that would silence his enemies, and put them to shame.

Closing thoughts – The next time you find yourself in a troubled place, and an enemy is waiting to gloat in your sorrows; remember, the LORD is merciful, kind, and omniscient. He is jealous of His name before the heathen, and is able and ready to come to the aid of those who call upon Him (86:17b).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Thou art the man!” (Psalm 51)

Scripture reading – Psalm 51

Psalm 51 is a prayer of brokenness.

Biblical brokenness is contrition of heart, and always involves confession, seeks forgiveness, and offers a plea for restoration.

Psalm 51 introduces us to a man brought low by sin.  David’s adultery with Bathsheba, her conception of his son, and his failed attempt to conceal his sin had led to the death of Uriah the Hittite.  David’s sins were secret no more, and the prophet Nathan’s bold condemnation exposed his depravity before all in his court.

Lord Acton, the late 19th century British historian, made the observation, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Such is true of monarchs, politicians, leaders, teachers, and yes, pastors. The same, however, is also true of men and women who, in their own little fiefdoms, find themselves in roles that go unchecked. David found himself at the pinnacle of success and power, and accountable to no one. Though the words of the prophet, “Thou art the man!”  (2 Samuel 12:7) had humiliated him, they were the words that awakened in the king a godly sorrow to repentance.

Be forewarned: If given the right provocation, the potential of egregious wickedness lies within us all.

When David wrote, “I was shapen in inquity: and in sin did my mother conceive me” (51:5), he acknowledged the nature of sin that is present within us all. A millennium later, the apostle Paul wrote the same, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).

David had maintained his cover of sin for nearly a year, and though in the throes of guilt, he proudly maintained a regal façade, passing judgment on other men’s sins.

One wonders how long David might have continued his charade if God had not commanded his prophet to confront the king.  Remembering oriental monarchs held absolute authority, and the power of life and death rested with them, we appreciate the tenuous position in which Nathan found himself.

The words, “Thou art the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7), echoed in the king’s hall, and resonated in David’s heart.  He cried to the Lord, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness… 2  Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:1-2). David acknowledged that only God can remove the guilt and stains of sin. He confessed his sins, praying, “3  For I acknowledge my transgressions…4  Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight…” (51:3-4a). He was haunted by his guilt, and his sins against Bathsheba and Uriah paled in comparison to his sins against God.

A Petition for Forgiveness and Renewal (51:10-12)

David prayed, “10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me… 12  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (51:10, 12a). He longed for that which God alone could give—not only to be forgiven, but to have his happiness and joy restored.

A Passion for Serving the LORD (51:13-17)

With his sins forgiven, David’s thoughts turned to teaching others the ways of a loving, merciful, just, and holy God (51:13). He prayed for that which only grace might impart: Deliverance from guilt (51:14a), a desire to praise God’s righteousness in song (51:14b), and for the LORD to bless the words of his mouth (51:15). He acknowledged, the LORD does not desire a multitude of sacrifices, but a “broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart” (51:16-17).

Closing thoughts – As king, David found himself insulated from accountability. He had neglected his duties (2 Samuel 11:1), and his moral failure occurred when was alone. He had been too proud to acknowledge, confess his sins, and accept the consequences of his moral failures (2 Samuel 11:6-22). God, however, loved the king, and sent his prophet to confront him, that David might be restored.

Truth – If you are concealing sin, be forewarned: You are living on borrowed time before the consequences of sins catch up with you, and affect your loved ones (Galatians 6:8; Psalm 32:3-4). Won’t you humble yourself before God, confess your sins, knowing He has promised, “whoso confesseth and forsaketh [his sins] shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Blessed Joy of Forgiveness (1 Chronicles 20; Psalm 32)

Scripture reading – 1 Chronicles 20; Psalm 32

Today’s Scripture reading in 1 Chronicles 20 is a brief summary of our preceding study in 2 Samuel 11-12. The historian did not chronicle David’s sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:2-5), nor the king’s foolish attempt to conceal his sin (2 Samuel 11:6-13), eventually staining his hands with the blood of Uriah (2 Samuel 11:14-24; 12:7-12). The chronicler did record the king’s failure to accompany his servants to war and the siege of Rabbah, the Ammonite city (1 Chronicles 20:1).

Today’s devotional will consider Psalm 32. The setting of the psalm is not given; however, it is believed to be about the time of the king’s tragic sin with Bathsheba. Psalm 32 echoes the joy of every believer who has found redemption when he turned from sin, confessed, and found forgiveness.

Two Beatitudes (32:1-2)

Psalm 32:1 – “Blessed [happy; favored] is he whose transgression [sin; trespass] is forgiven [removed; lift; carried away], whose sin is covered [hide; conceal].”

Beatitudes typically begin with the word, “Blessed” (Psalm 1:1; Matthew 5:3-11). Those who are “blessed” are confident in, and the object of God’s grace and mercies. The “blessed” are joyful, and their happiness is independent of favorable circumstances. The truly “blessed” are believers who know the relief, and joy of having their sins forgiven. They have acknowledged their sin (Romans 3:23), but know their transgressions have been covered by the blood of Christ (32:2; Romans 6:23). They can sing with the saints, “Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It!”

Psalm 32:2 – “Blessed [happy; favored] is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth [count; reckon; devise]not iniquity [sin; fault], and in whose spirit [breath; temper; mind] there is no guile [deceit; treachery].

The sins of the “blessed” have been reckoned, and accounted by God as a debt to Him that has been paid in full. The “blessed” are honest, and transparent before the LORD, and the weight of their guilt, and chastening has been removed.

The Agony of Unconfessed Sin (32:3-4)

Psalm 32:3-4 – “When I kept silence [peace; speechless], my bones [body; life] waxed old [spent; wear out; consumed] through my roaring [rumbling; moaning; cries] all the day long. 4  For day and night thy hand [arm; rule] was heavy [made heavy; grievous; burden-some] upon me: my moisture [vitality] is turned [overthrown; changed] into the drought [heat] of summer [harvest]. Selah. [pause; i.e. suspend music]

Psalm 32:3-4 is David’s vain attempt to conceal his sins (32:3-4). He endured the guilt and shame of his sins for a year, until the LORD sent the prophet Nathan to confront him.  He was guilty; guilty of adultery with Bathsheba; guilty of engineering the murder of her husband Uriah, and guilty of deceit in a futile effort to conceal his sins.

He had been silent, and unwilling to confess his sin. His life was consumed with guilt, and his conscience roared against him day and night (32:3).  The heaviness of God’s hand, and the inescapable reality of His justice pressed on the king day and night.  Failing to confess his sin and repent, David felt his strength and vitality drying up like water consumed in the heat of a summer drought (32:4).

Repentance (32:5)

Psalm 32:5 – “I acknowledged [know; perceive; understand] my sin [offence; guilt; punishment] unto thee, and mine iniquity [sin; fault] have I not hid [cover; conceal]. I said [answered; promised], I will confess [make confession] my transgressions [trespass; sin] unto the LORD; and thou forgavest [take away; remove] the iniquity [sin; fault] of my sin [offence; guilt; punishment]. Selah.”

There is a way for the burden and guilt of sin to be lifted; however, it will cost you your pride, but its reward is like fresh water to a thirsty soul (32:5).

There is one solution to sin: honest confession and sincere repentance.  No more excuses; no more blame shifting; David said, I am guilty. He knew his offence. and would no longer conceal it (32:5a). The king confessed his sins… adultery, murder, and deceit! Oh, the joy of God’s response to his confession: “Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” (32:5b).

The Penitent Prayer and the Delight of Forgiveness (32:6-7)

Psalm 32:6-7 – For this shall every one that is godly [saint; pious] pray [i.e. intercede] unto thee in a time [season] when thou mayest be found [found out; present]: surely in the floods [deluge; overflowing] of great [many] waters they shall not come nigh [touch; reach] unto him.
7
Thou art my hiding place [protection; secret; cover]; thou shalt preserve [keep; guard; watch] me from trouble [distress; tribulation]; thou shalt compass [surround; encircle] me about with songs [shout; ringing cry] of deliverance [escape]. Selah. [pause; musical term for suspension]

“Forgiven,” what a wonderful truth!  More than the absolution of guilt; it is the response to one who has acknowledged the guilt of their sin, and a Redeemer that lifts that burden, taking away the sin and the guilt.

An illustration of forgiveness is the “scapegoat” that was sent out of the camp of Israel on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:15-22). The priest would sacrifice a goat, and acknowledge the sins of the nation (Leviticus 16:15-19). After sprinkling the blood of the sacrifice on the altar, the high priest would symbolically place his blood-stained hands on the living goat, and confess the sins of Israel (Leviticus 16:20-22). Sending the “scapegoat” out of the camp was an illustration, a living symbol of God’s promise to forgive the sins of the nation.

David’s Advice (32:9)

Psalm 32:9 – Be ye not as the horse [i.e. which is swift], or as the mule [i.e. a beast of burden], which have no understanding [regard; prudent; discernment]: whose mouth must be held [muzzled; i.e. held in check; lit. to hold in] in with bit and bridle [halter; i.e. device for restraining], lest they come near [approach; draw near; ]unto thee.

David had learned concealing sin carries grave consequences for the sinner, and those he loves. The king urged God’s people to be humble, and obedient before God! Don’t be a “mule-headed,” hard-hearted, irrational believer (32:9).

David’s Admonition: Choose the Path of the Righteous (32:10-11)

Psalm 32:10 – Many [abundant; great many] sorrows [pain; grief; affliction; sufferings] shall be to the wicked [ungodly; guilty; i.e. immoral]: but he that trusteth [confident; secure]  in the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God], mercy [loving-kindness; goodness; steadfast love] shall compass [surround; encircle] him about.

Psalm 32:11 – Be glad [rejoice; be merry] in the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God], and rejoice [be joyful], ye righteous [just; lawful; blameless; innocent]: and shout [cry out; sing; i.e. be overcome]for joy, all ye that are upright [right; just] in heart [mind; understanding].”

Closing thoughts – David described the egregious effects of failing to confess and repent of sins. Are you bearing the weight and consequences of secret sins? I urge you to confess your sins, and God will forgive you, and restore unto you the life of the “blessed.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Song of Thanksgiving (Psalm 67; Psalm 69)

Scripture reading – Psalm 67; Psalm 69

Our study of the Psalms continues with two songs of worship. According to its title, Psalm 67 was addressed to, “The Chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm or Song” (it is believed that “Neginoth” was a stringed instrument). Psalm 69 is titled, “To the chief Musician upon Shoshannim,” and describes it as, “A Psalm of David.) The focus of today’s devotional is Psalm 67.

A Prayer for God’s Grace and Mercy (67:1)

Like other psalms of thanksgiving we have considered, this brief, but beautiful song as a petition to the God of Israel to be “merciful” and gracious to His people. The psalm continues, “bless us; and cause his [God’s] face to shine upon us” (67:1). Literally, shine your favor upon us, O Lord!

We might ask, “Why should the LORD bless His people?” The answer: “That thy way may be known upon earth, Thy saving health among all nations. 3Let the people praise thee, O God; Let all the people praise thee” (67:2-3).

The motivation for asking for the LORD’s blessings was not a selfish desire for success or material possessions, but as a testimony of God’s favor upon His people before all the nations of the earth (67:2-3).

A Petition for Universal Praise and Thanksgiving (67:4-5)

4O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: For thou shalt judge the people righteously, And govern the nations upon earth. Selah.”

The psalmist longed for that which should be the desired of all believers: that the nations of the world would turn to the LORD and “be glad and sing for joy” (67:4a).

What part might believers have in seeing the nations of the world turn to God? Jesus Christ answered that question with His Great Commission: “19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19–20).

Unlike the scales of man’s justice, God’s judgment is perfectly righteous, and altogether just (67:4b). He is a just, and holy God; He is kind, and compassionate. What a great cause for rejoicing! “5Let the people praise thee, O God; Let all the people praise thee” (67:5).

God’s Response to Praise and Thanksgiving (67:6-7)

The psalmist observed, when a nation praises the LORD, He in turn blesses the earth. The psalmist writes, “6Then shall the earth yield her increase” (67:6a). Unless you grew up on a farm, or have had a family garden, you might not grasp the beauty of that promise. A man who praises the LORD in his labor, enjoys the blessings of God, and the fruit of his labor.

Twice we read, “And God, even our own God, shall bless us. 7God shall bless us” (67:6b-7a). What an inspiring thought! When our hearts and thoughts are upon the LORD, and we offer Him our prayers of thanksgiving, He blesses us twofold!

Psalm 67 concludes with the assurance, “all the ends of the earth shall fear him” (67:7b, 22:27). All people, everywhere, will have cause to fear, revere, and worship the LORD.

Closing thought: Take a few moments and count your blessings. Offer to the LORD a prayer of thanksgiving for the multitude of His blessings.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Saying Grace” – A Prayer of Thanksgiving (Psalm 65-66)

Scripture reading – Psalm 65; Psalm 66

Today’s Scripture reading consists of two psalms, Psalm 65 and Psalm 66. This devotional is focused on Psalm 65.

Psalm 65 – A Psalm of Thanksgiving

Psalm 65 is a beautiful psalm of praise and thanksgiving to the LORD. I am not sure why this particular psalm is titled “A Psalm and Song of David” (because all the psalms are songs of worship); however, the king of Israel was the author and it was dispatched to “the chief musician” of the tabernacle (for the Temple would not be built until the time of Solomon, the son of David). I suggest you consider Psalm 65 in three applications.

Praise is Due the LORD (65:1-4)

David’s introduction to the psalm acknowledged the LORD is worthy of praise. The vow is in reference to the covenant of promise God made to Israel. His people were to remember the stipulation of the covenant and perform them (65:1). David confessed the weight of sin upon man, and realized all flesh would one day come before God. Yet, David rejoiced in the LORD’S forgiveness, and deliverance (65:3). Such a man is blessed, for he can approach the presence of the LORD, dwell in the courts of His sanctuary, and experience His goodness and blessings (65:3b-4).

Those who worship God should remember the vows they have made to Him, and fulfill them The LORD not only hears the prayers of His people, He answers them (65:2)!

Praise the LORD for His Power (65:5-8)

Reflecting on God’s sovereignty (65:5-8), David praised Him not only for answering prayers, but for His salvation. The king observed that the presence of the LORD reaches “all the ends of the earth,” even to them who are “afar off upon the sea” (65:5). Psalm 65:6-8 reminds us of God’s power and sovereignty, for He is the Almighty One, the Sovereign of creation. He is the Creator, and fixed the mountains in their places (65:6), quiets the raging storms of the seas (65:7), and can silence the fury of the sea of humanity (65:7b).

David writes of men, “8They also that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid at thy tokens” (65:8a). What are the tokens of the LORD that cause the bravest of men to tremble? Think of the menacing power of a thunder storm with its blinding flashes of light, or the roar and tempest of a hurricane. Think also of the destructive path of a tornado, or perhaps the rumble and upheaval of an earthquake. All are tokens of the Creator.

Praise God for His Blessings (65:9-13)

Perhaps recalling his years as a shepherd, David remembered with welcome the relief of rains that produced much needed streams in that dry land.  As a shepherd he would have known firsthand how important water was to the earth. He acknowledged to God, “9Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: Thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water: Thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it. 10Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows thereof: Thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof” (65:9-10).

We should be thankful for the rains God sends our way, and the streams of water that quench the thirst of nature, and provide green pastures and grains so that all nature rejoices (65:9-13). I live in Florida and am surrounded by water. However, in centuries past when family farms were indispensable for the famer and his neighbors, rain was not an inconvenience, it was essential and celebrated. I fear we fail to pray, and thank the LORD for replenishing the earth with rain.

Closing thoughts“Who would like to say grace?” I have not heard that phrase in years, but I remember the old folks of my youth asking, “Who would like to say the blessing?”  To “Say Grace” or offer a “blessing,” was a prayer of thanksgiving for the bounty of God’s blessings, and in particular, the meal we were about to consume.

If “saying grace” is not a practice in your home, it should be. Every meal should begin with you bowing your head, and thanking God for His “GRACE.” When we pray at mealtimes, we acknowledge the LORD is the provider and source of all blessings.

Remember, the sun, wind, and rain all come from Him!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

 

Be A Prayer Warrior For Your Nation (Psalm 20)

Scripture reading – Psalm 20

Psalm 20 has been described by some as a “National Anthem” for Israel, but surely it should be the prayer of all who call upon the LORD. It is an intercessory prayer, an exhortation to pray and call to the LORD “in the day of trouble” (20:1). I suggest it is also an exhortation for believers to intercede with God for their nation and leaders. * As in the past, the amplifications of words in our text are those of the author.

Psalm 20:1-2 – “The LORD [Eternal God; Jehovah] hear thee in the day [time] of trouble [adversity]; the name [fame; renown] of the God [Elohim; the Mighty God] of Jacob defend [strengthen] thee; 2  Send thee help [aid]from the sanctuary [holy place], and strengthen [support;; sustain] thee out of Zion [site of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount];

The setting and events that inspired this psalm are not stated, but because its author was David, I believe it was the king appealing to his people to call unto the LORD (20:1). Israel was facing an enemy, and the king dare not go to war without the confidence that the LORD would go before him (20:2).

Psalm 20:3-4 – “Remember [think of] all thy offerings [sacrifices], and accept thy burnt sacrifice [offering]; Selah [lit. pause; or pause to think]. 4  Grant [Deliver] thee according to thine own heart [mind], and fulfil [accomplish] all thy counsel [advice; purpose].”

Confident the battle was the LORD’s, the people worshipped Him, and prayed He would accept their sacrifices, hear, and answer their prayers (20:3-4).

Psalm 20:5 “We will rejoice [sing; shout] in thy salvation [deliverance], and in the name [fame; renown; reputation] of our God [Elohim; the Mighty God] we will set up our banners [flags; standard]: the LORD [Eternal God; Jehovah] fulfil [accomplish] all thy petitions [request; desires].”

Even before the battle was fought, the people believed the LORD would give their king victory. They promised to shout to the LORD for joy, and that He alone would be the object of their praise (20:5a). They were ready to unfurl their banners. (The flags carried into battle identified national pride). They believed the LORD would hear their prayers, and answer their petitions (20:5b).

Psalm 20:6 – Now know I that the Lord saveth his anointed [the king was God’s anointed]; He will hear him from his holy heaven [for God reigns over His creation from heaven’s throne] with the saving strength of his right hand.

David’s faith inspired him to face the enemy, confident the LORD had heard the prayers of His people, and would save him, “His anointed” (20:6). God was mighty, and with “his right hand” (from a human perspective, the hand that is the strongest), He would save him in the battle.

Psalm 20:77Some trust in chariots, and some in horses [horsemen; the calvary]: But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.

Men and nations go into battle with little thought to the power of prayer or the providence of God. Their faith is in their weapons of war (chariots and horses). David, however, urged the people to “remember the name of the LORD our God” (20:7). We have observed in earlier devotions that the “name” of the LORD embodied all of His divine attributes. The LORD is holy, just, powerful, omniscient, compassionate, and sovereign. He will do as it pleases Him.

Psalm 20:8-98They [the enemies of God’s people] are brought down [defeated] and fallen [vanquished]: But we [Israel] are risen, and stand upright [confident of victory]. 9Save, Lord [Jehovah, save]: Let the king [the LORD; the Sovereign of heaven] hear us when we call [shout His name].

Closing thoughts – I invite you to consider three spiritual lessons from Psalm 20:

The LORD hears and answers prayer. Israel prayed the LORD would hear the prayer of the king, and His people, and go before them into battle (20:1-2). Oh, that the leaders of this world would call upon the LORD, and not put their faith in weapons of war. Remember, the God of heaven hears and answers prayers.

We should pray and assure our leaders of our prayers (20:3-4). Israel assured the king they would pray for the LORD to grant him wisdom, and bless his strategy for the battle. Blessed is the nation whose leaders call on the LORD, and whose people uphold them in prayer.

God’s people should put their faith in the grace and blessings of God.  Even before the battle was waged, the people planned to celebrate the victory, They were confident God heard, and would answer their prayers.

I close with a story conveyed by a farmer during the American Revolution.  The farmer was walking through the woods toward the encampment at Valley Forge, when he heard a voice. Drawing near, he found General George Washington on his knees, his cheeks wet with tears, praying to God. That farmer was said to have returned home, and assured his wife that the United States would win her independence from England. When the farmer’s wife asked how he could be so sure, he answered, “Because I heard Washington’s prayer.”

1 Timothy 2:1-21 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;  2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Pity the Nation (Psalm 75)

Scripture reading – Psalm 75

Continuing our Scripture readings in the Psalms, our focus is again on one of the twelve psalms attributed to Asaph, a chief musician during David’s reign. Psalm 75 challenges us to a Biblical perspective on the sovereignty of God and His rule over the nations and people of the earth.

Psalm 75:1 summons the congregation to acknowledge God is the Supreme Ruler of His creation, and is due our thanksgiving. Twice the words of the first verse declare a spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude: “1Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: For that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare” (75:1).

God is a Righteous Judge (75:2-3)

Psalm 75:2-3 speaks of judgment, and some might suppose it is the rule and judgment of man that is the focus. I believe, however, that the judgment of God is the subject. Who but the LORD has the authority to receive the congregation of the saints, judge them uprightly, and weigh them in the scales of His law (75:2)?

The law and judgment of men is perpetually shaky and uncertain, but “the earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved,” will be the judgment of God’s righteous verdict. If our hope for justice was found only in the discretion of men, we would have cause for anxiety. God, however, has assured His people, “I bear up the pillars of [the earth] (75:3). Nations rise, and nations fall, but be assured the LORD is holding up the pillars, the foundations of the world.

God Admonishes Foolish Leaders (75:4-8)

We find a warning to every leader who bears rule over the lives of men with a heavy, proud hand. The LORD admonished, “4I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly: And to the wicked, Lift not up the horn [a symbol of power and strength]: 5Lift not up your horn on high [i.e. don’t abuse your office]: Speak not with a stiff [proud, stubborn] neck” (75:4-5).

How soon those in authority forget they are nothing without God! Civil government has been ordained by the LORD (Romans 13:1), and those who rule and judge have divine mandates for which they will give account. From the King or President, to the local magistrate, all in authority are commanded to be the servants of God for good, and avengers of His wrath “upon him that doeth evil” (Romans 13:4).

What of leaders who defy God’s authority, scorn His Law, and abuse their appointments?

God warned, “6For promotion cometh neither from the east, Nor from the west, nor from the south. 7But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another” (75:6-7). God is sovereign, and He is the final Judge. He promotes and demotes, and oversees the rise and fall of nations. Like a cup of red wine that is poured out like blood, God will pour out His wrath upon wicked leaders, and “all the wicked of the earth” will drink to the full the wrath of God (75:8).

When the Foundations Shake, May the Saints Sing God’s Praises (75:9-10)

The psalmist has painted a dark picture of God’s wrath upon rulers that fail to rule righteously and lawfully. Nevertheless, the believer’s faith rests in the LORD and we should declare our faith in His holy character, and “sing praises to the God of Jacob” (75:9).

Closing thoughts – Though the foundations of a nation may be shaken, and the wicked boast and abuse their authority, be assured: 10All the horns [power and strength of their office] of the wicked also will [the LORD]cut off; But the horns of the righteous shall be exalted” (75:10).

God is just, and the wicked will face His wrath and be destroyed; however, He has promised to bless the righteous. Fools sing their own praises, and stiffen their necks against the LORD (75:5), but a wise man remembers every promotion that comes his way is an act of God’s grace (75:6).

The wise remember, “God is the judge [governor; the final dispenser of justice]: He putteth down [humbles; abases; humiliates] one, and setteth up [exalts; raises up] another” (75:7).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

A Primer in Congregational Worship (Psalm 33; Psalm 36)

Scripture reading – Psalm 33; Psalm 36

Worship in the 21st century Church is far from the reverential worship you would have known and experienced had you worshiped the LORD in the courtyard of the Tabernacle or at the Temple in Solomon’s day. Like all of the psalms, Psalm 33 has the LORD as its central focus, and its theme is a contemplation of God’s majesty as Creator, Almighty, Jehovah, Eternal God. * Today’s devotional will be taken from Psalm 33. As in earlier devotions, I have taken liberty to amplify word meanings in brackets.

A Study in Congregational Worship (33:1-5)

Psalm 33:1 – “Rejoice [sing; shout for joy] in the LORD, O ye righteous [just; lawful; innocent; blameless]: for praise is comely [beautiful; suitable; fitting] for the upright [righteous; right].

Psalm 33:1 emphasizes the DUTY of believers (the righteous and the upright) to worship the LORD. Old Testament saints understood to be righteous in the sight of the LORD, required obedience to His laws and commandments in both spirit and practice. The righteous have both cause and duty to “Rejoice in the LORD” and praise Him (33:1).

Psalm 33:2-3Praise [give thanks] the LORD with harp [lyre]: sing [sing praise] unto him with the psaltery [lute] and an instrument of ten strings [ten string instrument]3 Sing unto him a new song; play [make music]skillfully [well; good; pleasing; beautiful] with a loud noise [shout; i.e. like the sound of a trumpet].

The Father also desires His people to worship Him out of a heart of DEVOTION. With both instrument and voice, the righteous are able to express their love and devotion in congregational music and song (33:2). The psalmist called upon the congregation to sing a “new song” (33:3a), and “play skillfully with a loud noise” (33:3b).

While “a loud noise” might be an apt description of some 21st century “praise music,” it falls short of the message portrayed by the psalmist. As an explanation: Often overlooked in the phrase is the word “skillfully,” meaning beautiful and well-pleasing; and something that cannot be achieved apart from years of disciplined practice. The “loud noise” implies the sound of wind instruments, such as a trumpet.

DECLARATION is another word that describes congregational worship. Believers are to declare in their music and song the majesty of the LORD who is worthy of praise and worship (33:4-5).

Psalm 33:4-54 For the word [spoken word; discourse] of the LORD is right [righteous; just]; and all his works [acts; deeds] are done in truth [faith; faithfulness]. 5 He [the LORD] loveth righteousness [justice] and judgment [right]: the earth [land] is full [filled; overflow] of the goodness [mercy; kindness] of the LORD.

God’s glory is also revealed in His Word and works. His Word is right, and His works are honest and true (33:4). He is holy, just, loving, faithful and good (33:4-5), and if we look, we can see the LORD’S loving and faithful hand in the world around us, and hopefully reflected in us.

An Affirmation of the Character of the LORD (33:5-19)

Remembering Psalm 33 is a song, notice the focus of the verses is upon the divine character and attributes of the LORD (33:5-19). The LORD is righteous (33:5a), good (33:5b), omnipotent (33:6-9), omniscient (33:10), and His counsel (Word) is eternal and immutable (33:11).

The LORD is vigilant, and He “looketh from heaven; He beholdeth all the sons of men” (33:13). He knows what lies within the hearts of men, and “He fashioneth their hearts alike; He considereth all their works” (33:15). The LORD is sovereign over all nations (33:16-17), and He is the protector and provider for them who fear and revere Him (33:18-19).

Three Benefits That Come to Those Who Worship the LORD (33:20-22)

Psalm 33 concludes with a doxology, that boasts of the LORD’s care for His children, and the benefits that come to them when they worship the LORD. When worship, and song focuses on the character of the LORD, believers who worship Him in Truth acquire three virtues: They learn patience, for they “waiteth for the LORD” (33:20). Their faith is increased, for they “have trusted in His holy name” (33:21). Finally, because they know the LORD is merciful, they are never without hope, for they “hope in [the LORD]” (33:22).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Make a Joyful Noise Unto the LORD! (Psalm 100)

Scripture reading – Psalm 100

Psalm 100 is one of the most beloved of the psalms, and has inspired many great anthems, hymns and choruses of praise.  Knowing this a brief Scripture reading, I am taking liberty to use a bold font for the Scripture text, and adding my amplification of word meanings in italics within brackets.

Psalm 100 – An Invitation to Worship the LORD

Imagine entering the outer court of the Tabernacle, or approaching Solomon’s Temple on the Sabbath or Feast day. We would have found ourselves in the midst of a throng of people joyfully singing some of the psalms of degrees as they ascended the Temple mount. Nearing the top of the Mount, we would have heard the sound of instruments, and the voices of singers calling on the congregation to worship the LORD.

A Call for Thanksgiving (100:1-2)

Psalm 100:1-2 1Make a joyful noise [shout] unto the LORD [Jehovah; Yahweh; Eternal God], all ye lands [earth; country; world]. 2 Serve [labor; become servants] the LORD with gladness [joy; rejoicing]: come [enter; come in] before his presence [face] with singing [joyful voice; shouts of joy].

Not only Israel, but all nations were summoned to offer thanksgiving to the LORD. As the people gathered at the Tabernacle or Temple, they were encouraged to give thanks to the LORD in three ways: Shout for joy (100:1a); Serve the LORD with rejoicing; and Sing before Him in His presence (100:2).

A Cause for Thanksgiving (100:3)

Psalm 100:3 3 Know [perceive; understand] ye that the LORD he is God [Elohim; mighty God]: it is he thathath made us [wrought; squeeze or mold], and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Why should the people of the earth worship and praise the LORD? We are to praise the LORD for His Person: He is Jehovah, Elohim, Almighty God. While some men boast they are “self-made men,” the psalmist reminds us that God is our Creator, and “it is He that hath made us” (100:3b).

Your skills, talents, gifts, intellect, and opportunities are all tokens of God’s grace. Believers should give thanks, and find comfort in the knowledge that the LORD is our Shepherd, and we are “the sheep of His pasture” (100:3; Psalm 23).

A Command in the Mode of Thanksgiving (100:4)

Psalm 100:4 4 Enter [come] into his gates with thanksgiving [praise; offerings; i.e., hymns of thanksgiving], and into his courts [towns; villages] with praise: be thankful [give thanks] unto him, and bless [praise] his name [i.e., Person; God’s character; attributes].

I identify four aspects of sincere worship in Psalm 100:4. We are to worship the LORD in our substantive acts of “thanksgiving,” and in our offerings, when we enter His sanctuary (100:4a). We worship Him when we sing praises to Him (100:4b). We honor Him when we express our prayers and testimonies from thankful hearts (100:4c). Another aspect of worship is when we rehearse in our hearts His divine attributes, and praise His name (100:4d).

Imagine the zeal of a congregation that unashamedly praises the LORD in offerings, spirit, songs, and praise!

A Consideration of the LORD’S Moral Character (100:5)

Psalm 100:5 5 For the LORD is good [better; best; pleasing]; his mercy [lovingkindness; favor; love and grace] is everlasting [perpetual; always; eternal]; and his truth [faithfulness] endureth to all generations [age].

Our brief psalm of praise and thanksgiving closes reminding us that the LORD has given us cause for thanksgiving (100:5). He is “good,” benevolent, and pleasing. He is both just, and “merciful” (for if He were only just, we would have cause for fear; however, He is merciful, and forgiving). He is the very essence of “truth,” for He is honest, faithful, and sincere “to all generations” (100:5).

Closing thoughts: Take a few minutes and ponder as an individual or family all the things for which you should be thankful. Isn’t it humbling and comforting to know the God of heaven, is not only your Creator, but He loves and cares for you like a shepherd tends his sheep?

The next time you worship the LORD in the congregation of His people, remember Psalm 100, and sing. Sing unto the LORD, serve Him with gladness, and praise His name!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Creator, and King of Glory, Is He Your Lord? (Psalm 24)

Scripture reading – Psalm 24

Psalm 24 was written by David. Consisting of only ten verses, it has inspired many great hymns and anthems. [The brackets within the verses contain amplifications by this author.]

God is the Sovereign of His Creation (24:1-2)

Stated emphatically, and with no ambiguity in the opening verses of Psalm 24, is the truth that God is Creator, possessor, sovereign, and sustainer of His creation.

Psalm 24:1-2 – “The earth is the LORD’S [Jehovah; Eternal God], and the fulness [all it contains] thereof; the world [inhabitants], and they that dwell [inhabit; abide] therein. 2  For he [the LORD] hath founded [laid the foundation] it upon the seas, and established [prepared; erected] it upon the floods [waters; streams].”

The LORD is Eternal God, and the Creator of all things, and “without Him was not anything, made that was made” (John 1:3). As Creator, He is owner of the earth’s resources, and all that inhabits it. He has set the boundaries of the sea and the dry land (24:2). He is the Sustainer. Because the LORD is Sovereign, David asked:

What Manner of Man Might Draw Nigh unto the God of Heaven? (24:3)

Psalm 24:3 – “Who shall ascend [come up; scale] into the hill [mountain] of the LORD? or who shall stand [arise; rise] in his holy [hallowed; sacred] place?”

Can anyone merit the favor of God, or be worthy to enter into His presence? Might a rich man earn good standing with God by donating to charity, and giving his riches to help the poor? Does fasting, praying, worshipping, or showing kindness to another give one entrance into the presence of the LORD?

David listed four characteristics of the man who may enter the presence of the LORD.  (24:4)

Psalm 24:4 – “He that hath clean [innocent; guiltless; blameless] hands, and a pure [clear; innocent] heart [mind]; who hath not lifted up [removed] his soul [life; person] unto vanity [lying; deceit], nor sworn [taken an oath] deceitfully [fraud; i.e. lacking integrity].”

A man must have “clean hands” to enter into the LORD’S presence (24:4a). How might a man acquire “clean hands,” before a holy God? A comparable question was asked and answered in Psalm 119:9, where we read: “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word.” 1 John 1:9reminds us the way to be cleansed is to “confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” For a man to have “clean hands,” he must heed God’s Word, and confess his sins.

No man enters into the LORD’S holy place unless he has a “pure heart(pure in heart, thoughts, and motives, 24:4b). The man who enters the “holy place” cannot be like the Pharisees, who thought by portraying outward piety, their prayers would be heard, and answered (Matthew 23:25-28). The LORD, knowing the hearts of men, condemned the Pharisees saying, “Ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:28).

The man who enters God’s presence must also guard his soul from the “vanity” of the world (24:4c). What is the “vanity” of the world? It is the pleasures, sins, and philosophy of the world that promises much, but never satisfies the heart. The rich man boasted to himself that bigger barns and more goods would satisfy his soul (Luke 12:16-18). Beguiled by riches, he had failed to plan for God’s judgment, and “God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12:20).

A man who enters the presence of the LORD must also have integrity, and he will not swear deceitfully (24:4d). The saints of God are honest and truthful. They are conscious of the Lord’s presence, and they will not cheat, lie, or swear falsely. They are not bound by a contract, but by a consciousness of God’s holiness.

David promised a twofold reward to them who seek the LORD. (24:5-6)

Psalm 24:5 – “He shall receive [accept] the blessing [prosperity] from the LORD, and righteousness [rightness; justice] from the God [i.e. Almighty God] of his salvation.”

When a man seeks the LORD with “clean hands,” a “pure heart,” guards his heart from vanity, and walks with integrity, he is promised “the blessing from the LORD” (24:5a), and declared righteous and just in His sight. David declared on behalf of all Israel, “This is the generation [age; people] of them that seek [follow; worship] him[the LORD], that seek [seek out; require; desire] thy face [the LORD’S countenance and face]  O Jacob [Tribes of Israel]. Selah [pause]” (24:6).

Hail to the King of Glory! (24:7-10)

The coming Messiah, the “King of glory,” is the subject of Psalm 24:7-10. Five times the LORD is identified as the “King of glory.” Who is this “King of glory?” He is the LORD, the “LORD of hosts” (24:8, 10).

In ancient times, the city gates were where private and governmental business was transacted.  The elders, and the king’s ambassadors, sat in judgment at the gates. Beginning with the elders, and chief leaders of the city, David commanded the people to hail the coming of the “King of glory” (24:7).

Psalm 24:7 – “Lift up [hold up] your heads, O ye gates [gates of the city of Jerusalem]; and be ye lift up [men who sat in the gates], ye everlasting [perpetual; ancient] doors; and the King of glory shall come in.”

Who was this “King of glory?” He was “the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal God] strong [mighty; powerful]and mighty [heroic; warrior], the LORD mighty in battle [war; combat; warfare]” (24:8). A thousand years after Psalm 24 was composed, Jerusalem celebrated Jesus’ entrance into the city, and identified Him as the “the Son of David,” and therefore heir to the throne. Within that same week, those same voices cried against Jesus, “Let Him be crucified” (Matthew 27:22-23; 1 Corinthians 2:8).

Closing thoughts – Perhaps that is the reason David announced, not once, but twice for the “gates” (24:7, 9) to lift up their heads and hail the coming of the “King of glory” (24:9-10). The world rejected Jesus when He came the first time; however, all nations will be forced to hail His Second Coming.

Psalm 24:9–109Lift up your heads, O ye gates; Even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; And the King of glory shall come in. 10Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.

Hail to the King, the LORD of heaven’s armies, for He is the King of glory!

Revelation 1:77Behold, he [Christ] cometh with [in the] clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him [on the Cross]: and all kindreds [people and nations] of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

Are you ready for His coming?

With the heart of a shepherd,

HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith