Tag Archives: Pray

“I Know that My Redeemer Liveth” (Job 19)

Scripture reading – Job 19

The sad drama between Job and his three friends continued in Job 19, as he responded to the callous, unloving reproofs of Bildad the Shuhite (Job 18). Though Job might have anticipated his friends’ arrival would have brought him some comfort and pity, he had soon realized they had come with one opinion: that Job’s afflictions were characteristic of the troubles that befall wicked men.

With that fabricated premise, Bildad had assailed Job for being long-winded in his protests (18:2), and too proud to receive counsel (18:3). He had opined that the wicked have a hard life that is characterized by calamity (18:5-18), and they go to their graves with none remembering them (18:16-20). Of course, the implication was that Job’s troubles were such as should be expected of the wicked (18:21).

Job 19:1-5 – Job’s Bitter Complaint Against His Friends

Job accused his friends of tormenting his soul, and breaking him “in pieces with words” (19:2). He protested that they had treated him reproachfully, and should be ashamed for how they had humiliated him while in the throes of sorrows (19:3). Frustrated with their meddling, Job rebuked them, and suggested if he was wrong, then let it be his fault alone (19:4). Contrary to their allegations, Job again declared he was innocent of wrongdoing (19:5).

Job 19:6-12 – Job’s Complaint Against God

A familiar complaint is once again raised by Job against the LORD. He felt he had been unfairly entangled with sorrows that exceeded his failures (19:6), and that when he cried out to God heaven was silent (19:7). Entrapped, humiliated, his world uprooted, Job felt everything had been brought against him (19:8-12).

Job 19:13-20 – A Crisis of Alienation and Loneliness

We can identify in Job’s afflictions the solitude of one who is suffering greatly. He acknowledged God’s hand in his trials, writing, “13He [God] hath put my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintance are verily estranged from” (19:13). Though God was the author of his troubles, the response of his family, friends, and others had left him deeply wounded.

Job felt alone. Forsaken by his family (19:14a), forgotten by his friends (19:14b), slighted by his servants (19:15-16), and abhorred by his wife (“my breath [life, spirit] is strange to my wife” (19:17). Even “young children,” the picture of innocence, “despised” him (19:18). Finally, the friends he thought dearest, had turned against him (19:19).

Job 19:21-27 – Job’s Plea for Pity and Vindication

Turning his thoughts from self-pity, Job begged for pity and understanding (19:21-22). He entreated that the defense of his innocence be recorded so that future generations might look upon his afflictions with wonder, and pity him (19:23-24). Though he was overwhelmed by sorrows, and did not know their cause, Job declared his faith saying, 25For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth” (19:25).

Looking through the lens of sorrows and trials that he believed were unjustified, Job’s faith had remained unshaken, and he was confident that God his Advocate and his Redeemer, would rescue and ransom him out of his trials. Though worms would destroy his body, Job was confident that his Redeemer would raise him from the dead, and he would one day see God (19:26-27).

Job concluded his rebuke of Bildad, admonishing him that the day of God’s judgment would come, and he would regret the injustices he had committed against him (19:28-29; 42:7-9).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Just When You Think Things Could Not Get Worse! (Job 1-2)

Scripture reading – Job 1-2

Introduction to The Book of Job

Our chronological study of The Book of Genesis is interrupted by a diversion to The Book of Job.

The Book of Job is commonly accepted among scholars as the oldest book of the Bible. Genesis 1-5 gave us a perspective on Creation and the fall of man, and Genesis 6-11 carried the historical narrative from the worldwide flood, to God calling out Abraham. The man named Job is believed to have been a contemporary of Abraham. There are several details that lead us to accept that conclusion, particularly the names of ancient cities whose names were derived from men who were contemporaries of Abraham.

Job 1:1-5 – Job, the Man

The Book of Job introduces us to the man whose name it bears, giving us no background of the man, or how he came to be so incredibly wealthy.

Job 1:1 – “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.”

The exact location of the “land of Uz” is one of speculation; however, because there are cities mentioned in the book that are located in the land of Edom, we might place Uz in that geographical area (southeast Israel, on the border of Jordan to the east and Egypt to the south).

It is not Job’s birthplace, but his character that identifies him as an important figure in the Bible. He was what God would have every man to be: “Perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil” (1:1). He was perfect, meaning blameless, guiltless, a man of integrity. He was an upright man, righteous, and honest before God and man. He was a God-fearing man; a man who revered his Creator, and eschewed, or shunned evil (1:1).

Job was blessed with a large family, “seven sons and three daughters” (1:2), and great wealth (1:3). His children were adults with their own households (1:4), and having shared in their father’s wealth, they were enjoying the bounty of their own riches and observing a week of feast days with their siblings, perhaps as a celebration of the harvest.

When the feast days were finished, Job, acting as the spiritual priest of his family, summoned his children to offer sacrifices to God, reasoning, “It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually” (1:5). Notice that last phrase: “Thus did Job continually.” Worship and sacrifices were a constant pattern in Job’s life, and one he did not take lightly as the spiritual head of his family.

Job 1:6-12 – A Heavenly Council

Job 1:6 carries us into the midst of a heavenly council where “the sons of God” (whom I believe are angels), are standing before God’s throne, and in their midst was Satan, the serpent, the wicked one, the adversary of God and man (1:6). The LORD inquired of Satan, “Whence comest thou?”, and he answered saying, “From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it” (1:7b).

God turned the focus of the heavenly council to a man in whom He found great joy, and asked Satan, “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” (1:8).

Evidencing his adversarial heart, Satan questioned God, and implicated Job asking, “Doth Job fear God for nought? 10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. 11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face” (1:9-11).

Job 1:12-19 – From Riches to Rags

Accepting Satan’s challenge, the LORD gave him liberty to accost Job in a series of devastating trials, but limiting the devil’s power and commanding him, “Behold, all that he [Job] hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand” (1:12a). Departing from the presence of God, Satan went out and initiated a series of disastrous events that destroyed all Job’s earthly possessions (1:13-17), ultimately taking from him that which was dearest, his sons and daughters (1:18-19).

Now, Satan had slandered Job, supposing he was only faithful to God because he had been abundantly blessed and protected by Him (1:9-11). How did Job respond to his losses? Did he curse God as Satan alleged, he would? (1:11)

Rather than reprove his Creator, Job responded with humility, and acknowledged God’s sovereignty over His creation. He worshipped the LORD, and prayed, “Yahweh gives, and Yahweh takes away; blessed be the name of Yahweh” (1:21b). Contrary to Satan’s accusation, Job “sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (1:22).

Job 2 – Job: His Body Afflicted, His Friends’ Inquisition

A thorough study of Job 2 will have to wait for another time, and another year; however, Job 2 records a second heavenly council (2:1-3), and introduces a trial that will afflict Job’s body and rob him of his health (2:4-7). You will meet Job’s wife who questions why he maintains his integrity in the midst of sorrows (2:9-10), and meet Job’s “three friends” who will assert his losses are a punishment for unconfessed sin (2:11-13).

A Closing Thought: Satan is a real person, and an adversary of believers; however, God limits his power and influence. When trials come, and they will, trust God knowing He is intensely interested in your soul and well-being.

Romans 8:2828 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Your Invitation to Hillsdale’s Worship Services, this Sunday Before Thanksgiving

Good morning!

You are invited to join me for today’s worship services, this Sunday before Thanksgiving!

Pastor Barber will be teaching the 9:15 AM online Adult Bible Fellowship class from our auditorium.

I am looking forward to coming to you with today’s message from God’s Word, Luke 11, and a sermon I have titled, “The Model Prayer” (Luke 11:1-4). This will be the first of a two-part message on prayer.

Today’s message will examine the twofold focus of prayer, the first being God and His Glory (Luke 11:1-2). Please note the student notes that are attached to this post.01 – The Model Prayer student blank

Finally, I wish you and your loved ones a blessed Thanksgiving. Though we live in a troubled world, I pray you will rest in the knowledge that God is Sovereign!

With the heart of a shepherd,

Travis D. Smith, Senior Pastor



Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Trials, Temptations, and the Tongue (James 1-5)

Scripture reading – James 1-5

Regarding the human author of today’s Scripture: The book of James is a letter, bearing the name of its author who introduces himself and his intended recipients in the opening verse:

James 1:1 – James, a servant [a slave or bondservant] of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes [Jewish believers of the Tribes of Israel] which are scattered abroad [dispersed], greeting [rejoice; be glad].

With humility, James introduces himself simply as “a servant,” a slave to “God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1). There are several men we might identify as James in the New Testament; however, this James did not feel the need to introduce himself, perhaps because he needed no introduction. By the time this epistle was penned, the apostle James, brother of John and the son of Zebedee, was martyred (Acts 12:2), thereby eliminating him as the writer.

Most scholars are in agreement, and identify the author as James, the half-brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19), being born of Joseph and Mary. James and his siblings were not followers of Jesus until after His crucifixion, death and resurrection (John 7:5). Acts 1:14, however, identifies “Mary the mother of Jesus” and “his brethren” among those who were assembled in “an upper room” after He ascended to heaven.

This same James is also identified as a leader of the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9). Also, when Paul and Barnabas were giving account to the believers in Jerusalem, it was James who addressed the assembly (Acts 15:13) that consisted of the apostles and elders. James is also mentioned by name again with the leaders of the church in Acts 21:18.

Regardless of who we might believe the author is, we know the epistle was addressed to the twelve tribes that had been scattered by persecution (1:1b), and is wonderfully practical, insightful, and convicting as it addressed a reality of life that all believers face: trials and temptations.

James 1:2–4My brethren, count [regard; judge] it all joy [i.e. a cause for rejoicing] when ye fall [stand in the midst of] into divers [various] temptations [trials]; Knowing this, that the trying [testing] of your faith [what you believe] worketh[performs; works out; produces] patience [steadfastness; endurance]. But let patience [steadfastness; endurance] have her perfect [maturing; complete] work, that ye may be perfect [mature] and entire [complete], wanting nothing [i.e. lacking not one thing].

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Be Strong in the LORD and Bold in Your Witness! (Acts 7-8)

Scripture reading – Acts 7-8

Recorded in Acts 7-8 are two of the great pivotal points in the maturing of the early church: The death of Stephen, the first martyr of the church (Acts 7); and the conversion of Saul the great persecutor of the church (Acts 8).

We first met Stephen in Acts 6 when he was named among the seven men chosen to assist the apostles in the rapidly growing body of believers.  Though there is some debate, I believe the seven were the first Deacons, one of only two Biblical offices in the New Testament church, the other being the Pastor\Elder.

The role of the seven was defined as serving tables (Acts 6:2), meaning the menial, but intimate care of the members of their assembly. Particularly noteworthy was the spiritual character that was demanded of those who would be Deacons. Those men were to be “men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom” (Acts 6:3).

Of the seven men chosen, Stephen, is specifically distinguished as a man, “full of faith and power, [who] did great wonders and miracles among the people” (6:8).   Stephen’s testimony and his boldness in faith, spiritual wisdom, and power in the spirit made him a formidable witness among those in the unorthodox synagogues (6:9-10).

As it was with Christ, so it was for Stephen; the enemies of the Gospel were determined to silence him.  After arresting Stephen, evil men were employed to bring false accusations against him (6:11-13). Hurling lies against his character, Stephen amazed those who sat in the council against him, for his countenance was “as it had been the face of an angel” (6:15).

Having heard the charges of his accusers, Stephen was asked by the high priest, “Are these things so?” (7:1).

Stephen’s defense reflected a breadth and depth of knowledge in the Old Testament Scriptures, and made his argument before the Sanhedrin powerful and convicting (7:2-53). Stephen systematically set forth a historical case for Christ beginning with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and Solomon (7:2-50).   Concluding his defense, he fearlessly rebuked the Sanhedrin, exposing their hypocrisy, and charging them and their fathers with the deaths of the prophets (7:51-53).

Rather than answer Stephen’s indictment, the lawless members of the Sanhedrin broke their laws, and without an answer or passing judgment, they stoned him to death (7:54-58).

The religious hypocrites were guilty. They were guilty of the blood of the prophets, and having already rejected Jesus Christ, they added to their condemnation the blood of Stephen.

There was, however, one exception in that crowd of mockers: “the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul” (7:58). Saul of Tarsus, the great persecutor of the church, would soon come face to face with the reality of a crucified, buried, and risen Savior, Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9).

I trust Stephen’s knowledge of the Scriptures, and his courageous example will stir your heart to study the Old and New Testament Scriptures, and embolden your faith to be a faithful witness for Jesus Christ.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Extravagant, Sacrificial Love (Mark 11; John 12)

Scripture Reading – Mark 11; John 12

Having departed Jericho (Luke 19:1-28), Jesus and His disciples made their final journey to Jerusalem, and arrived in Bethany “six days before the Passover” (John 12:1). Bethany, located on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives and some two miles east of Jerusalem, was the home of Martha, her sister Mary, and their brother Lazarus “whom [Jesus] raised from the dead” (12:1b).

The resurrection of Lazarus from the dead had been a catalyst for many to believe Jesus was the Messiah (John 11:45). Howbeit, there were others who rejected Jesus, and they “went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done” (John 11:46).

John 12:1-8 – Supper at the Home of Simon the Leper

We find Jesus and His disciples having supper (John 12:2) at the home of a man that Mark identified as “Simon the leper” (Mark 14:3). Knowing a leper would be an outcast in Jewish society, we must presume that Simon was no longer a leper, and had been the object of Jesus’ compassion and been healed. John makes mention that Martha was serving, and “Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with Him” (12:2b).

The meal was suddenly interrupted when Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, took “a pound of ointment of spikenard very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment” (12:3).

Mary’s actions were an example of extravagant, sacrificial love (12:3-4), and an expression of her gratitude to Jesus for raising her brother Lazarus from the dead.

Mary sacrificed her most precious possession (12:3a), for spikenard was a costly fragrance imported from India (and according to Judas, worth 300 pence, or 300 days wages, 12:5). Mary was also a picture of humility and loving devotion, for she used her hair to wipe our LORD’S feet (12:3b).

Unfortunately, the beautiful portrait of loving devotion on Mary’s part was interrupted by the protests of a swindler, a phony, and a fraud named Judas, one of the Twelve (12:4-6).

John 12:4-5  – Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should [would]betray him, 5  Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence [one year’s wages], and given to the poor?

Judas resented Mary’s homage to Jesus, and his hypocrisy influenced the other disciples who, in the words of Mark, “had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?” (Mark 14:4)

Matthew recalled the disciples expressing the same sentiment in his Gospel, and saying, “To what purpose is this waste? 9  For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor” (Matthew 26:8-9).

The first words of Judas recorded in the Gospels, reveal the covetousness of his heart. John would look back on this moment and later write of Judas, “This he said, not that he cared for the poor [poor people]; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein” (12:6 ).

Judas’ biting rebuke of Mary’s sacrificial love and actions, earned him the wrath of Jesus who rebuked him saying, “Let her alone: against the day of my burying [burial] hath she kept [made preparation] this. 8  For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always” (12:7-8).

I close, inviting you to consider how Mary offered the LORD not only her most precious possession, but that she seized the opportunity to identify with Christ’s sacrifice: She anointed Him for His burial (12:7).

While others were deaf to Jesus prophesying His hour, the hour of His sacrifice for the sins of the world, was come; Mary had faith that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the Lamb of God.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Friend of Sinners (Luke 19)

Daily reading assignment – Luke 19

Today’s devotional brings us to the last days before Jesus sets His face toward Jerusalem, His triumphant entry, and the Cross. Today’s Scripture reading takes us through Jericho, that most ancient of cities, located on an oasis in the desert, about ten miles northwest of the Dead Sea. It is in Jericho that Jesus had scheduled a providential encounter with a wealthy publican, a tax collector, named Zacchaeus.

Luke 19 is rich in details that characterized Jesus’ earthly ministry.

We observe His love for sinners, when He dined in the home of Zacchaeus, a despised tax collector of Jericho (19:1-10). We notice His concern that His disciples would be faithful after He was departed out of this world, expressed in the Parable of the Pounds (19:11-27).  When He beheld Jerusalem, Jesus’ love moved Him to tears; He understood the fickle nature of the people, and the wickedness of their leaders. He knew the throng who hailed Him as King, would soon cry for Him to be crucified (19:28-41).  He knew the inevitability of God’s judgment upon Jerusalem (19:42-44).

Luke 19:1-10 – An Unexpected Guest for Supper

Before we close today’s commentary, let’s step into the scene where Zacchaeus comes face-to-face with Jesus.

I have identified in earlier devotions the disdain the Jewish people held for tax collectors, known as publicans in the first century. Employed to collect taxes for Rome, publicans were not only considered traitors of Israel, but they were notorious for cheating the people and skimming monies from the taxes they collected. Publicans like Zacchaeus, enriched themselves at the expense of their own people, and were named among the worst of sinners.

Imagine the dismay of the people when Jesus chose to dine in Zacchaeus’ home (19:5).

We read, “Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house” (19:5).

Zacchaeus was, at least in the eyes of the people, the most unlikely of all the men in Jericho, who would desire to have Jesus in his home. Nevertheless, Jesus knew the heart of Zacchaeus like none other. When Zacchaeus realized even he, a hated publican, could receive Jesus into his home, he rejoiced and obeyed immediately (19:6).

The proud, self-righteous people began to murmur among themselves, appalled that Jesus would “be guest with a man that is a sinner” (19:7).

Zacchaeus, however, was humbled and moved to repentance by the LORD’S love and compassion. His sorrow over his sin, moved him to rise from the table, and proclaim, “Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold” (19:8).

Remember how the rich young ruler walked away from the LORD, because he was rich? Zacchaeus, genuinely repentant over his sin, desired to make restitution of all he had wrongfully taken (19:8).

Jesus, recognizing in Zacchaeus the fruit of sincere repentance, announced:

Luke 19:9a–10 – “This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of man [a Messianic title; Daniel 7:13] is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Though a notorious sinner in the eyes of man, Zacchaeus had been saved by faith in Jesus Christ. By his repentance, he was not only a “son of Abraham” by physical lineage; he had become a “son of Abraham” by saving faith (19:9-10).

Galatians 3:6–7, 9 – Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. 7Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham…9So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

Friend, have you, like Zacchaeus, come to realize you are a lost sinner in the judgment of God Who is holy (Romans 3:10-12, 23)?

Abraham and Zacchaeus were saved from the curse of sin, not by their good works, but because they believed God would place His righteousness to their account.

Romans 3:23–2423For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Power of Faith and Persevering Prayer (Luke 18)

Scripture reading – Luke 18

We are continuing our chronological reading of the Gospels, but I remind you that the chapter breaks in the midst of the four Gospels will not be as exacting as the historical timeline that leads Jesus to His appointment with the Cross. That explanation is not meant to confuse you; but to remind you that the numbering of verses and chapters in your Bible have been added by translators and editors to assist students of the Scriptures in private study and public worship.

For example, today’s Scripture reading is Luke 18 and chronicles Christ’s oft repeated prophecy of His arrest, suffering, death, and resurrection (18:31-34). A parallel record of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, and the prophecy of His betrayal, suffering, death, and resurrection is recorded in Matthew 20:17-19.

Luke 18Luke 18 opens with a principle on prayer, followed by a parable that illustrates both the privilege, and power of persevering prayer.

The Duty of Prayer: “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (18:1).

The word “ought” in this principle of prayer states, in essence, that perpetual, persistent prayer is an obligation, a necessity. Believers must always be in prayer, and “not to faint” (18:1b). The word “faint” implies discouragement, weariness, and fatigue.

In principle and practice, believers are to persevere in prayer, and never grow discouraged or lose heart, because God hears and answers prayer in His time!

The Parable: A Widow’s Appeal to a Heartless Judge (18:2-5)

Jesus followed His exhortation to always pray, and not lose heart, with an illustration of a widow who petitioned a heartless judge who is described as neither fearing God or revering man (18:2).

Widows in first century Israel relied on numerous sanctions for their care above those of other nations; yet, were often dependent on charity, or the benevolence of family who might neglect the command, “Honor thy father and mother” (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16).

The judge in Christ’s parable, because he did not fear God’s judgment (18:2), had little concern for his petitioners, and even less for fairness or justice. Though tasked with a charge to dole out justice, such a judge would often be calloused, and spurious in matters of the law.

While the identity of the widow’s “adversary” is not revealed (18:3), her perseverance in demanding of the judge her right to justice, was finally heeded when he succumbed to her unending appeals (18:4a). Though admitting he was unmoved by a fear of God or man (18:4b), he nevertheless succumbed to the widow’s demand, reasoning:

Luke 18:55Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.

The Application (18:6-8)

If a heartless, unjust, and wicked judge can be moved to justice and action by a poor widow’s appeal for relief from an adversary, imagine how much the heart of a loving God is moved by the persistent petitions of His people (18:7-8a).

We have this promise: God hears the prayers of His people (“His own elect” – 18:7a), and He will, in His season, exact revenge against their enemies.

Believer, trust the LORD, and cry out to Him day and night. In due season, if we do not “faint” and grow weary, the LORD will exact justice, and it will fall upon our adversaries “speedily,” and without warning (18:8a).

Will you accept by faith, that God is patient, longsuffering, and just? (18:8b)

There are times I cry out to the LORD for relief from trials, troubles, and yes, adversaries. I have faced men who desire to harm my testimony, and destroy my ministry. At such times, I am reminded that vengeance belongs to the LORD (Romans 12:19) and my role is to pray and trust God will exact justice in His time.

Friend, there are some matters that will not be set right, and some enemies who will not be silenced, until Jesus Christ sits as Judge at His Second Coming (18:8b).

Are we willing, like the widow, to persistently pray? If a godless judge will heed the continual cry of a poor widow, surely God will hear our prayers and exact justice in His time!

Challenge: Heed the Widow’s Example, Don’t Lose Faith!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God Uses the Common; the Ordinary for His Service (John 9-10)

Scripture reading – John 9-10

John 8 marked a dramatic shift in Jesus’ life and public ministry. He had enjoyed a great following among the Jews with great crowds receiving Him with joy as news of His teachings and miracles traveled throughout Israel and beyond. Many of the people wondered if Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah of Israel.

For the religious rulers of Israel, the situation had become intolerable and their anger was displayed openly when they picked up stones and would have killed Jesus. Jesus, however, “hid Himself, and went out of the Temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by” (John 8:59). As He parted the Temple mount, Jesus passed by a blind man who would become the central figure of a theological showdown between Jesus and His detractors (John 9).

John 9:1-7 – A Theological Problem: “Who Did Sin?”

There are fifty-four references to physical blindness in the Scriptures, among them are Matthew 9:27-31; 12:22; 15:30-31; 20:30-34; 21:14; and Mark 10:46-48. Blindness was a common malady in Jesus’ day for several reasons: Environmental (poor diet or brightness of the desert sun), physical injury (irritation of desert sands, accidents, or a victim of violence), disease (especially sexually transmitted disease, such as gonorrhea that was a result of promiscuous behavior, but also contributed to infant blindness), and genetic birth defects.

The blind in first century Israel were dependent on family and charity, and often reduced to begging. The presence of blind beggars in prominent places, such as near the Temple Mount, was a common sight. Because the Jews believed physical maladies were a consequence of personal or familial sin, the blind were often treated with disdain. Thus, seeing the blind man, the disciples asked Jesus: Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2).

Jesus’ answer must have stunned the disciples, for He stated, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (9:3). Jesus continued, explaining that the man was born blind so that his life might serve as the backdrop for God’s miraculous works through His Son (9:4), Who was “the light of the world” (9:5).

Jesus then made a poultice of His spittle and clay, anointed the blind man’s eyes, and then sent him to “wash in the pool of Siloam” (9:7a). We read, “he went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing” (9:7b). The man’s neighbors were astonished that he could see, knowing the man had been blind from birth (9:8a), and they questioned among themselves, “Is not this he that sat and begged?” (9:8b)

Our study of this passage could focus on many things: 1) The bewilderment of the man’s neighbors who knew he had been born blind, but that he could see (9:8-12). 2) The hypocritical Pharisees’ disdain for Christ that moved them to ignore the evidence of the blind man’s miraculous healing (9:13-29). 3) The testimony of the man who had been born blind, that if Christ “were not of God, he could do nothing” (9:30-33). 4) The Pharisees’ vindictive response to the once blind man’s testimony, “Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out [i.e. out of the synagogue]” (9:34).

I invite you to consider for our conclusion some simple, but practical observations.

The first, a contrast in viewpoints. The disciples saw a blind, beggarly soul; dependent upon charity, and the object of contempt (9:2). Jesus “saw a man” who had never seen the smile of his mother, or the beauty of a sunset (9:1). The Pharisees had made the blind man an object of disdain, but Jesus saw his affliction as an opportunity to glorify His Heavenly Father (9:3-4).

Consider also how Jesus used the common and ordinary (spittle and clay), to do an extraordinary work (9:6-7). Surely Jesus might have spoken, or merely touched the man’s eyes and he would have had sight. Instead, He used ordinary spittle, clay, and an act of faith and obedience by the blind man, who went immediately to the “pool of Siloam” and “washed, and came seeing” (9:7).

Believer, take comfort in this: God uses the common; the ordinary for His service.

1 Corinthians 1:26-2926  For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
27  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
28  And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
29  That no flesh should glory in his presence.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Childlike Humility: The Character of Saving Grace (Matthew 18)

Scripture reading – Matthew 18

Matthew 18 suggests four major themes: 1) The Spiritual Character of the Citizens of Heaven (18:1-4); 2) God’s Love and Care for His Children (18:5-14); 3) Steps to Resolving Conflicts and Offenses (18:15-20); 4) A Lesson in Forgiveness (18:21-35). Today’s devotional commentary will be limited to the first theme:

The Spiritual Character of Heavenly Citizenship (Matthew 18:1-4)

The opening phrase of Matthew 18, “At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus” (18:1a), demands that we put the passage in context. Peter, James, and John had witnessed a display of Jesus’ heavenly glory on the Mount of Transfiguration, but He had commanded them to tell no man; a vision they would keep to themselves until Christ was resurrected from the dead.

Descending from the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus had found His disciples the target of scoffing because they had failed to cast an evil spirit out of a father’s son. Jesus then taught His followers a lesson in prayer and dependence on God’s power, saying: “This kind [kind of faith] can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

Matthew 18 marks a dramatic shift in Christ’s ministry, from one to the multitudes, to a ministry focused primarily on His Twelve Disciples (Mark 9:30).

As they passed through Galilee in their journey to Capernaum on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus foretold His betrayal, death, and resurrection (Matthew 17:22-23).  Matthew would later write, “They were exceeding sorry” (17:23b). Mark wrote, “They [the disciples] understood not… and were afraid to ask Him” (Mark 9:32). Luke wrote in his Gospel, “they feared to ask him of that saying” (Luke 9:45).

Why were the disciples blind to what Jesus taught concerning His death, burial and resurrection? Why did they fear to ask Him?

Three possible explanations come to mind: The first, it served God’s purpose for the disciples to hear, but not understand until after Jesus was resurrected from the dead (Luke 9:45). A second, they might have feared to ask for explanation after Peter was rebuked by Jesus for opposing His prophesy of His suffering death, and resurrection (Mark 8:32-33; 9:32). Another explanation, and one I suggest is the malady of many believers; the disciples were blinded by selfish ambitions.

During their journey to Capernaum, the disciples entered into a dispute among themselves (Mark 9:33-37; note also Matthew 20:20-21; Luke 22:24). Though knowing the hearts and thoughts of His disciples (Luke 9:47a), Jesus asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?” (Mark 9:33) Mark would later reveal that the disciples “had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest” (Mark 9:34). That dispute brings us to Matthew 18:1 when the disciples came “unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

The disciples had expected Jesus would establish an earthly kingdom. Dismissing the prophecies of the Messiah’s suffering and death (Isaiah 53), they anticipated He would establish the Messianic kingdom prophesied by the prophets. Thus, the disciples debated among themselves, “Who is the greatest?” (18:1)

Seeming to ignore their question, Jesus called a “little child unto Him, and set him in the midst” (18:2) and began to teach His followers a spiritual lesson:

 A young child is a portrait of greatness, cloaked in humility (18:2).

The disciples were common men, and for the most part, fishermen. They were fickle-hearted, short-sighted, and self-centered. Though common, ordinary men, they nevertheless shared aspirations of fame, success, and power. Knowing the pride that resided in their hearts, Jesus set a child in their midst and said, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (18:3).

What spiritual truth should the disciples have taken from this object lesson?

Humility will define the character of all who are citizens of the “kingdom of heaven” (18:3). In other words, childlike humility is the sign of saving grace (18:4).

What was it about the small child that served Christ as a portrait of humility? I suggest four traits of humility found in the boy’s example. The first, he came to Jesus when He called (18:2a). Secondly, he yielded to Jesus’ will and embrace (Mark 9:36). The third, he stayed in the place where Christ called him (Luke 9:47). Finally, he served as nothing more than Christ’s example of humility (Matthew 18:3-4; Mark 9:37; Luke 9:48).

The character of the children of God, who are citizens of heaven is this:

Matthew 18:3–43And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted [repent; turn from sin to Christ], and become as little children [submissive, trusting, yielded to the will of God], ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4Whosoever therefore shall humble [lowly submission] himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Finally, Christ’s defined greatness and success, not by how many serve a man, but how many a man serves: “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all” (Mark 9:35b)

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith