Tag Archives: Sanctification

What is Man? (Job 40; Job 41)

Click on this link for translations of today’s devotion.
(Additional languages available upon request by emailing HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.)

Scripture reading – Job 40-41

A note from the shepherd: Today’s devotional is the second to the last in our study of the Book of Job. I congratulate you for completing a difficult journey. Indeed, one of the great disciplines of a chronological reading schedule is it disciplines us to consider subjects that are not appealing. Certainly, a study of troubles, trials, sickness, sorrows, and death is unattractive, but necessary. I trust a study of Job’s life has challenged each of us to accept life in this sin-cursed world will be characterized by times of sorrow, as well as fleeting times of joy.

Job 40

Today’s Scripture reading (Job 40-41) is a continuance of the Lord’s discourse with Job. Perhaps God’s question to Job is one He has brought to you and me.  Ultimately, it is the question of authority. The Lord asked Job: Shall he that contendeth [strives with] with the Almighty [Shaddai] instruct him? He that reproveth God, let him answer it (40:2).

Frightened by the reality of God’s majesty, power, and sovereignty, Job saw himself for what he was as a man, and replied: Behold, I am vile [cursed]; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth [have nothing to say]. 5  Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further” (Job 40:4-5).

Humbled by the presence of God, Job yielded to the LORD. He no longer attempted to justify himself, and had nothing more to say.

Then, the LORD questioned, “8Wilt thou also disannul [dispute] my judgment? Wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be [i.e., appear to be] righteous?” (40:8) Will you dare to question the ways of the LORD (40:6-14)? Will you challenge My majesty? (40:10)

To demonstrate His power, and sovereignty over nature, God proved His dominion over creation with two great beasts that roamed the earth in Job’s day: The behemoth (40:15-24), and the leviathan (41:1-34).

The Behemoth, and God’s Sovereignty Over Nature (Job 40:15-24)

The identity of the “behemoth” (40:15) is uncertain; however, the prevailing opinion among scholars is he was either a hippopotamus, elephant, or water buffalo. I am, however, of the opinion the behemoth may be an extinct beast. Perhaps a great dinosaur that roamed the earth following the flood.

Physical characteristics of the behemoth (40:15-24)

The behemoth was a vegetarian, for we read, “he eateth grass as an ox” (40:15b). He was a powerful beast, with great “strength…in his loins [hips, and] …his belly” (40:16). The movement of his tail, described “like a cedar” (40:17a), was like the movement and swaying of a cedar tree.

The description of the behemoth continued in Job 40:18-24. His bones were like brass and iron (40:18). He had a voracious appetite for mountain pastures (40:20), and when he quenched his thirst it was as though he “drinketh up a river” (40:23). The behemoth was described as “the chief [greatest] of the ways [works; creatures] of God,” and yet the Creator had power over him and could “make his sword to approach unto him” (40:19).

Before we consider the question, “What did all this mean to Job, and why should it matter to us?”, let us ponder another great beast…the Leviathan.

Job 41 – The Leviathan, and God’s Sovereignty Over Nature

The LORD invited Job to consider a second great beast, the “leviathan” (41:1). Once again, the identity of this great beast is uncertain; however, scholars suggest it might have been a giant saltwater crocodile, one that is probably extinct today. Whatever its identity, the analogy between the “behemoth” (Job 40) and leviathan was meant to draw Job to conclude he was foolish to question his Creator. After all, man paled in size and strength to the majestic leviathan God created (41:1-9).

Job was asked to ponder if a man could tame a leviathan? Of course, the implication was absolutely not; therefore, what right did Job have to question or stand before God (41:10-33).  We read how the leviathan “beholdeth all high things [for no man is his master]: He is a king over all the children of pride [and retreats from none](41:34).

Closing thoughts – Having considered the beauty and majesty of God’s creation, and the great creatures over whom He reigns supreme, we must ask, “What is man?” 

Job 7:17What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?”

Job 15:14What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?”

Psalm 8:4 – “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?”

Psalm 144:3 – “LORD, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him!”

Hebrews 2:6aWhat is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?”

Man is an eternal soul, and was created in the likeness and image of God (Genesis 1:27; 2:7, 18-20). Because of sin, we are physically feeble, sinners by nature (Romans 3:10, 23), and bearing the weight and curse of sin (Romans 6:23). Yet, in spite of our sins and failures, God loved us and demonstrated His love “in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

God is our Creator. He is majestic in His glory, and sovereign of His creation. The LORD is omnipotent, holy, just, and forgiving. Yet, He is willing to save all who come to Him by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), and accept His offer of salvation through Jesus Christ (John 3:16; 1 John 5:13).

Hebrews 2:9 – “9But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

Is He your Savior? If so, have you given Him authority over your life?

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

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The God of the Scriptures is Just, Merciful, Gracious, and Good (Job 35; Job 36)

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Scripture reading – Job 35; Job 36

Elihu, the fourth and youngest of Job’s friends, began lecturing him in chapter 32, and his denunciation continued to chapter 37. Our devotional continues with today’s Scripture reading, Job 35 and 36.

Job 35 – Elihu’s charged Job with three libelous accusations.

The first, that Job misrepresented spiritual piety as unprofitable (35:1-8). In fact, Elihu suggested he had implied his “righteousness [was] more than God’s” (35:2). Of course, Job had not expressed such an outrageous claim. Elihu’s judgment was flawed, for he supposed Job’s statement of innocence was a declaration of sinlessness (35:3-8).

A second inflammatory, judgmental statement was Elihu’s suggestion Job was motivated to pray, not out of a desire to draw nigh to God, but because he sought relief from his sorrows and afflictions (35:9-13).

Now, Job had complained he did not understand the cause of his plight, and had confessed he despaired of ever again enjoying God’s favor (35:14). Elihu, however, condemned Job, saying he was guilty of opening “his mouth in vain…[and multiplying his] words without knowledge” (35:15-16). Stated simply, in Elihu’s opinion, Job said a lot, but failed to humble himself before God.

Job 36 – Elihu’s Proposal to “Speak on God’s Behalf”

Continuing to evidence youthful zeal without wisdom, Elihu proposed to “speak on God’s behalf” (36:2), and impart uncommon “knowledge” (36:3). He confessed God “is perfect in knowledge,” and promised his words would be true (36:4a). He assured his small audience, he would say only what the LORD would have him speak (36:4b).

Elihu then returned to a rationale that was espoused by Job’s friends. He declared God was just, and always rewards men according to their works (36:5-15). He testified, “God is mighty… in strength and wisdom” (36:5), and declared He “preserveth [prolongs] not the life of the wicked: But giveth right [justice] to the poor” (36:6). In that statement, Elihu failed to make allowance for God’s grace and mercies.

He did not acknowledge the LORD is “longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). In fact, the LORD not only prolongs the life of the wicked, He graciously provides them opportunity to repent of their sins. (Another misrepresentation of Elihu was a suggestion the poor always receive the justice they are due in this earthly life (Job 36:6b).

Elihu proposed “hypocrites in heart heap up wrath…They die in their youth” (36:13-14a). In a perfect, sinless world, less God’s grace, that statement would stand as just, for there are many instances when wicked men die young. Nevertheless, it is also true the LORD is patient, and His grace is freely-offered to the worst of sinners.

Elihu also suggested Job’s sorrows had come upon him owing to his pride. He implored Job to humble himself and repent, assuring God would give him a “table…full of fatness [rich foods]” (36:16). Should Job refuse to repent, Elihu warned, the “judgment of the wicked” had befallen him (36:17), and no amount of riches would deliver him (36:18-19).

Job 36 concluded with Elihu attempting to inspire Job to concede the sovereignty and omnipotence of God (36:22-33); and that the LORD is supreme, and “exalteth” (sets up) whom He pleases (36:22a). He is omniscient, and no man can teach Him (36:22b). He is perfect, and none dare accuse Him of “iniquity” or wrong doing (36:23b). Then, Elihu invited Job to consider the greatness of the LORD displayed in creation (36:24-25; Psalm 19:1).

Closing thoughts – God is eternal, and “the number of His years [cannot] be searched out” (36:26b). His power and wisdom sustain His creation, and He even determines where the clouds drop their moisture (36:27-28). The clouds that a canopy, and shelter man from the sun (36:29-30), bring judgment on the earth in the flood, and bear life-giving water which “giveth meat [food] in abundance” (36:31). Contrary to Elihu’s assertions, God is not only just, He is gracious, merciful, and kind, for He “sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).

In light of Elihu’s youthful, hypocritical zeal, I close with a quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, the 26thpresident of the United States:

“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care!”

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

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Remember the Good Old Days? (Job 29)

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Scripture reading – Job 29

Job’s answer to Bildad’s accusations (Job 25) is continued in today’s Scripture reading. Unable to find reprieve from his sorrows, and bearing the disappointment of friends who assailed him, Job reflected on what we might label, “the good old days.” He remembered better days, and happier times.

Job 29

Job’s Complaint (29:1-6)

Having lost everything, the sting of feeling abandoned by God pierced Job’s soul day and night. He was grieved by friends who alleged he must be guilty of some wickedness. He felt God was turned against him, and bemoaned that his dreadful state had given cause for others to ridicule and scorn him.

Job then remembered the security and communion he once enjoyed with his Creator (29:2-6). He said, Oh that I were as in months past, As in the days when God preserved me [watched over him] (29:2). He had lived what some call in our day, “the charmed life.” As a young man, he enjoyed the light of God’s favor (29:3). Comforted by the “secret of God” (His friendship and fellowship, 29:4), and the presence of his children (29:5), Job’s life had overflowed with plenty (29:6).

Job’s Prominence in Former Days (29:7-17)

There had been a day when he was esteemed in all quarters of his realm (29:7-17). He was numbered above the elders and judges of the city (29:7). When he passed in the streets, young men shied from him, and aged men rose in his presence out of respect (29:8). When he spoke, men listened and none questioned his wisdom (29:9-11). Contrary to the charges of his friends, Job had been beloved for his charity and compassion for the less fortunate (29:12-13).

Job’s Reputation (29:14-17)

He was hailed for his character and good deeds, and distinguished as a righteous judge (29:14). His charity for the less fortunate was known among his neighbors, for he served as eyes for the blind, and feet for those unable to walk (29:15). To the needy, he had been a father (29:16), and a foe of the wicked when men sought justice (29:17).

Job’s Delusion (29:18-23)

Like some in our day, Job had believed his prosperity would last forever. He supposed God would favor him for his righteous deeds, for he reasoned the days of the righteous are multiplied (29:18-19). He relished the approval of his peers, and they valued his counsel (29:20-21). When he spoke, lesser men were silent. To those who sought his counsel, his words were like dry soil that opens its “mouth wide” for spring showers (29:22-23).

Closing thoughts (29:24-25) 

For Job, times had changed, and he was left with only memories of better days. He remembered when he was much-loved, and all men sought his company (29:24-25). He had not been proud, or haughty as he was accused (29:24). Though he had been chief and sovereign in his realm, he was a comfort to those overcome with sorrows.

Friend, the day may come when you will be embroiled in trials and troubles. When sorrows come, remember God’s grace and favor is the only solace in your darkest hour. I close with a promise that has sustained believers down through the centuries:

2 Corinthians 1:3–4 – “3Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone). You may also email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com

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Troubles are Inevitable, in a World Cursed by Sin. (Job 14; Job 15)

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Scripture reading – Job 14; Job 15

Job 14 brings us to the third chapter that served as Job’s reply to Zophar (Job 11). Unlike Eliphaz, Zophar made no pretense of comforting his suffering friend (11:1-3). Instead, he charged Job with concealing sin, and declared he believed the man was suffering God’s judgment (11:4-6).

Job’s reply to Zophar began in chapter 12, and continued through chapter 14. Though wearied by the sorrows of his afflictions, Job nevertheless derided his friends’ assertions that they had greater wisdom into the ways of God than he (12:1-4). Reserving the right to test and examine the “counsel” of his three friends (12:11), Job contended they had spoken much, and said nothing (13:1-2). In fact, he condemned them as “forgers of lies” (13:4), and stated his unshaken faith in God’s providence. Job declared, “though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (13:15).

Job 14 – An Elegy to Death

Continuing his response to Zophar, Job stated the tragic universal experience of man: 1Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble” (14:1). There are many joyful days in a man’s earthly sojourn; however, there is no escaping the common experience of man—trouble.

Job disputed his friends’ contentions that troubles were the afflictions of the wicked. He asserted the universality of troubles, trials, sorrows, and death, and declared they were inevitable for sinner and saint alike. Job went on to observe, man’s life is like a flower that is soon cut down and perishes. Man days are like a shadow, soon gone when light is extinguished (14:2). Man’s “days are determined” by God (14:5a), and no man will live beyond the “bounds” He has numbered (14:5b). In other words, God orders both the day of your birth, and the day of your death.

No wonder anxiety is epidemic in our day!  Our world is dominated by amusements, yet, everywhere we turn there are reminders life is temporal and death is coming. The sound of a siren racing, the solitary marker of a roadside cross, or the gathering of solemn mourners standing quietly at a grave, all remind us our days are numbered (Psalm 90:12) and our lives are like a vapor (James 4:14).

Wise men are conscious, “man dieth, and wasteth away: Yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? …12So man lieth down, and riseth not” (14:10-12a). Desiring to escape his afflictions and sorrows, Job pled with God, “hide me in the grave…keep me secret, until thy wrath be past…set a time, and remember me” (14:13).

He was a man of ancient times, and did not have the privilege of God’s written Word; however, Job was confident physical death was not annihilation. Asking and answering the question of death, Job proposed, “If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, Till my change come” (14:14). On what was Job waiting? The Resurrection! He affirmed to the LORD, “15Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee” (14:15a).

Job 15 – The Second of Three Speeches by Eliphaz (Job 4-5; Job 22)

Although they purported to comfort him, Job’s friends served as prosecutors, judges, and jury. They condemned the wretched man, already stricken by losses and overcome by sorrows. Eliphaz the Temanite once again took up his dispute with Job, and accused him of pride (Job 15:5-6) and hypocrisy (15:34-35). He warned, all Job suffered was a consequence of sin (15:17-35).

Eliphaz, whom I suggested was the elder of Job’s three friends (for he was the first to speak, Job 4-5), avowed that man’s troubles were indicative of the suffering of the wicked. Rejecting Job’s pleas of innocence (15:1-3), he charged him with folly, and accused him of turning from God (15:4-6). Eliphaz began with a false premise, and stated, 20The wicked man travaileth with pain all his days” (15:20a).

Rather than prove his assertion, Eliphaz continued his lie, and claimed the prosperity of the wicked eventually comes to destruction (15:21). He charged, the wicked will be overcome by trouble (15:24), and “shall not be rich, neither shall his substance continue” (15:29).

Closing thoughts – Eliphaz’s conclusions were untrue. In fact, the wicked often prosper, and many die surrounded by wealth, and the praise of their peers. Like many of this world who profess wisdom, he lacked understanding and godly discernment. Eliphaz only added to Job’s sorrows.

Lesson – Don’t assume your sorrows are a consequence of some wrongdoing; after all, troubles are inevitable in a world that bears the curse of sin.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization.

Mailing Address:
Heart of A Shepherd Inc
7853 Gunn Hwy
#131
Tampa, FL 33626-1611

You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Tower of Babel and One Big Unhappy Family (Genesis 10; Genesis 11)

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Scripture reading – Genesis 10; Genesis 11

Having established His covenant with Noah, his three sons and their wives, God commanded them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (9:1). So, the common ancestry of mankind can be traced to Noah’s three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Genesis 8:16, 18; 9:1).

Genesis 10 recorded the origin of the races and nations of the world and listed the descendants of Noah’s three sons. The genealogy of Japheth, Ham and Shem were given in Genesis 10, and the genealogy of Shem was repeated in Genesis 11, and continued to Terah, the father of Abraham (11:27-32).

Genesis 10

In Genesis 10, God began to deal with the Hebrew people through Shem’s lineage.
Although the Old Testament focused mainly on God’s dealings with the Hebrews, we are nevertheless reminded the LORD never forsook mankind. Genesis 10 gives us the names of sixteen sons who were born to Noah’s three sons (and perhaps as many daughters). While time and space do not allow a detailed study of each name, a close examination of Genesis 10 will reveal a historical registry of 70 nations that emerged from Noah’s sons: 14 nations associated with Japheth (10:2-5), 30 linked to Ham (10:25-27), and 26 from Shem (10:21-31).

Lineage of Japheth (10:2-5)

Japheth, Noah’s eldest son, was father of many Gentile nations (9:27; 10:2-5). From his progeny came some of the greatest empires of human history. Persia, Greece, and Rome can be traced back to Japheth’s bloodline. Modern European nations, namely, Germans, Russians, Italians, French, Spanish, and the English trace their origin to Japheth.

Lineage of Ham (10:25-27)

In Genesis 9:25, Noah cursed Ham, his youngest son, and called him “Canaan” (Ham’s grandson). Ham’s descendants founded some of the great empires of the ancient world. From his lineage came the Egyptians, Hittites, Sumerians, Canaanites, Phoenicians, and tribes of Africa (10:6-20). (There is some debate regarding the ancestral origins of people of Eastern Asian, and the American Indians; some assert they are descendants of Ham, others of Japheth).

Although Ham was cursed to be a “servant of servants” (9:25-27), the accomplishments of his posterity was so vast it appears they set their minds to cast off the curse of being a “servant of servants.” Nimrod, the grandson of Ham, and the son of Cush, became the first ruler after the flood (10:8-10). He was described as a “mighty hunter” (10:9), a powerful warrior, and a great leader. He founded “Babel…in the land of Shinar” (10:10), the plain from which the great city of Babylon would spring.

Lineage of Shem (10:21-31)

Shem, Noah’s second born son, was “the father of all the children of Eber” (10:21-31). Scholars believe the name “Eber,” was an ancient word from which the word “Hebrew” was derived (10:21). “Eber” was the father of the Hebrews (Abraham was later described as “the Hebrew” (Genesis 14:13), and the nomadic tribes and nations of Arabia. Shem’s lineage was the ancestral line through which God fulfilled His promise of a Savior Redeemer. Notice Genesis 10 concluded, leaving no room for doubt, that all nations and people in the world are descended from Noah’s three sons:

Genesis 10:32 – “32 These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.”

Genesis 11 – The Tower of Babel

The history of man is one of sin and rebellion, and Genesis 11 demonstrated man’s resistance to God’s command to “replenish the earth” (9:1). Rather than disperse and repopulate the earth (9:1), the descendants of Noah’s sons and their families were determined to continue as “one language, and of one speech” (11:1). They congregated in a land that would become Babylon, “a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there” (11:2).

Exerting their desire to continue as they were (11:1), mankind resolved to build “a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven” (11:4). The sinful pride and self-sufficiency of man was summed up in an act of rebellion, for men said, Let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (11:4).

Closing thoughts (11:6-8) – We are again made privy to a triune counsel of the Godhead. We read, “the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” (11:6). In an act of mercy, the LORD knowing the wickedness and rebellion of man, determined to intervene lest man be carried so far there would be no hope of salvation (11:6).

Confounding their one language into multiple languages, the LORD caused the work on the tower and the city to cease, and forced humanity to scatter abroad “upon the face of all the earth” (11:7-8). Genesis 11 concluded with a record of Shem’s lineage, and brings our Bible study to a great crossroads in human history: God calling Abraham to separate from his country, kindred, and family, and by faith go “unto a land that [the LORD]” would show him.  (11:31-12:1)

Never forget, the story of history is “His-Story” — a testimony of God’s sovereignty, providential leading, and His “Amazing Grace.”

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization.

Mailing Address:
Heart of A Shepherd Inc
7853 Gunn Hwy
#131
Tampa, FL 33626-1611

You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Heaven: The End is Only the Beginning! (Revelation 21; Revelation 22)

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Scripture reading – Revelation 21; Revelation 22

Review (Revelation 20)

The Devil was bound a thousand years in “the bottomless pit: (20:2-3), and those who survived the Great Tribulation enjoyed a season of peace, for Christ reigned upon the earth (Millennial Kingdom, 20:4-6). When the 1,000 years had ended, Satan “was loosed out of his prison” and went forth to deceive the nations of the earth (20:7-8). He gathered their armies to war against the saints of God, and “the beloved city” (Jerusalem) where Christ reigned (20:8-9). Suddenly, “fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them” (reminiscent of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, 20:9b; Genesis 19).

The Devil, the Antichrist (beast) and the false prophet were “cast into the lake of fire and brimstone….and [continue to be] tormented day and night for ever and ever” (20:10). Tragically, the judgment of the Great White Throne followed, and all whose names were not in “the book of life… were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works” (20:12-13).

Revelation 21

A New Heaven and A New Earth (21:1-3)

The judgment of unbelievers having ended, John beheld an incredible sight–“a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea” (21:1). The “new heaven” and the “new earth” were and are literal places the Lord prepared for His people (John 14:1-3), as the old world, scarred by sin, was no more. Interestingly, while our earth is three-fourths water, the new earth will have no sea (21:1b).

John described what he saw, writing, “I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (21:2). The new Jerusalem was untainted by the sin and wickedness of man. She was a “holy city,” like the bride for whom the groom comes, without flaw or blemish.

Then, John “heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” (21:3). The identity of the one who heralded the news was not given, but God’s presence in the midst of His people was a wonderful sight. Because of His grace, and the fulfillment of His plan of redemption through the sacrifice of Christ, God was no longer a great way off, but was in the midst of His people.

All Will Be Perfect (21:4)

Revelation 21:4 records a promise suffering saints have cleaved to for two millennium. We read, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (21:4). Continue reading

The Majesty of God and the Worthiness of Christ (Revelation 4; Revelation 5)

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Scripture reading – Revelation 4; Revelation 5

In order to rightly interpret today’s Scripture reading, we must review Revelation 4 to get the context and setting.

A Visit to Heaven and the Throne of God (Revelation 4:1-4)

Upon sending the final letter to the seven churches named in Revelation 2 and 3, John looked up and beheld “a door [that] was opened in heaven” (4:1a). Seeing the door, he heard a voice like the blast of a trumpet, that said, “Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter” (4:1b).

John was immediately taken up to heaven by the power of the Holy Spirit, and there he beheld the throne of heaven (4:2). He that sat upon the throne was the Sovereign of creation, and His majesty and glory were displayed in brilliant colors and precious stones (4:3). John described 24 elders sitting near the throne wearing “white raiment” and adorned with crowns, perhaps indicating some role or authority. (4:4).

A Display of the Majesty of God (4:5-6)

John observed “lightnings and thunderings and voices” proceeding from the throne. There were seven lamps or torches of fire burning nearby, revealed to be “seven Sprits of God” (4:5). Understanding the number “seven” indicates fulness or completeness in the Scriptures, the “seven Spirits” can be interpreted as the fullness of the Holy Spirit (Revelation 1:4). The ground beneath the throne was as “a sea of glass like unto crystal” (4:5).

Four Beasts About the Throne (4:7b-9)

As John gazed upon the throne, he noticed around it were “four beasts full of eyes before and behind” (4:6). (You may recall an Old Testament scene similar to John’s description in Zechariah 1:4-25). Who were the four beasts? I believe they were angels, known as cherubim, and were identified as such in Ezekiel 10:15. With “eyes before and behind” (4:6), their responsibility was to be ever watchful about the throne of God.

John described the “four beasts,” giving each a physical depiction. One was “like a lion…[another] like a calf (or oxen)…[another having] a face as a man…and [the fourth] “like a flying eagle” (4:7). (I will address the interpretation of the four beasts on another day). The four beasts were said to praise God night and day, saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come” (4:8). Then, the 24 elders fell down before God and worshipped Him, saying, “11Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (4:11).

Worthy is the Lamb! (Revelation 5)

Chapter 5 continued with John gazing upon the Lord sitting upon His throne. He held in his right hand “a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals” (5:1). The word translated book, was in fact a “scroll,” upon which there was writing on the front and back, and “sealed with seven seals” (5:1).

John listened as a “strong angel” proclaimed “with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” (5:2). A search was made in heaven, earth, and hell, but there was no one worthy and “able to open the book, neither to look thereon” (5:3). No one who could unseal the scroll, that the Word of God recorded therein could be fulfilled. We read, John “wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon” (5:4). (By the way, this is the only mention of tears in heaven in the Bible.)

The Worthiness of Christ (5:5-8)

As John wept, “one of the elders saith unto [him], Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof” (5:5). What an incredible moment! The words of the elder was followed by a vision, for there “stood a Lamb as it had been slain” (5:6). Though bearing the scars of a Lamb sacrificed, Jesus Christ was alive, and standing at the throne of God, “the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David” (5:5). He alone was worthy to “loose the seven seals” (5:5).

John watched as Christ “took the book out of the right hand of him [God the Father] that sat upon the throne” (5:7). When Christ had taken the scroll, the four beasts and 24 elders fell down before Him, “the Lamb,” and worshipped Him (5:8a).

The Coronation Song for Christ the King (5:9-13)

A “new song” was then sung in heaven, and the four beasts and 24 elders worshipped and praised Christ, saying, “Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; 10And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (5:9-10).

The voices of “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” of angels joined the beasts and the elders, and said, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” (5:13).

Closing thoughts – Suddenly, “every creature” that ever lived, the inhabitants of heaven, earth, and hell, lifted up their voices and said, “Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever” (5:13).

Today’s study concludes when “the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever” (5:14). The scene in heaven will continue in our next devotion, and Christ will open the first seal of the seven seals on the scroll, and troubles and trials like the world has never seen will be unleashed on the earth (Revelation 6).

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Saints and Scoundrels in the Church (2 John; 3 John)

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Scripture reading – 2 John; 3 John

The Second Epistle of John and The Third Epistle of John were written near the end of John’s life, and prior to the book known as “The Revelation.” Today’s study will serve as a brief introduction to 2 John and 3 John.

The Second Epistle of John

Though not by name, the introductory verse of 2 John identified the letter’s recipient: “The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth” (1:1).

While the writer of The Second Epistle of John did not identify himself by name, scholars are generally agreed the author was John. The style of the letter, its tone and theme reflect the 1st Epistle of John. Preferring the title “elder,” as opposed to apostle, John wrote to a fellow believer and her family whom he addressed as “the elect lady and her children” (1:1). That phrase has given cause for debate over the centuries. Some propose “the elect lady” had a broad implication, and the churches in general were the recipient.

Others believe, as I do, that John was writing to an individual believer (“the elect lady”) and the “children” of her household. She was obviously a believer whose testimony was respected and beloved by John and other believers (1:1b). The closing verses of this small epistle also give cause to believe the letter was penned to a specific believer and her household. As he concluded the epistle, John expressed not only his desire to soon visit the household of “the elect lady,” but also sent a greeting to her on behalf of “the elect children of thy elect sister” (no doubt her nieces and nephews, 1:12-13).

The Third Epistle of John

In his third letter, John once again introduced himself as “the elder” (1:1). The word “elder” served as a description of both an office among the churches (“elder\pastor”), and an indication of maturity (being an older pastor).

The epistle was addressed to a believer named Gaius, whom John described as “the well-beloved,” and expressed a brotherly affection writing,  “whom I love in the truth” (3 John 1:1). John’s affection and admiration of Gaius was both a friend and brother in Christ. Remembering the apostle’s challenge to love the brethren “in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18), and to “love one another” (1 John 3:7, 11), John’s epistle to Gaius effused with sincere, agape’ (self-sacrificing) love (3 John 1:1-8).

Of course, not all in the churches were loving, and John identified one enemy in particular… Diotrephes. Diotrephes was the antithesis of brotherly love, and the apostle spared no words in condemning him (3 John 1:9-11).  John identified Diotrephes’ hypocrisy, exposed his shameless self-promotion (1:9) and spiritual insubordination (1:10a). He documented his criticisms, accusations, and opposition to John’s leadership as an apostle and elder (1:10). John left no doubt regarding the fate of Diotrephes, and identified him as one who “doeth evil [and] hath not seen God” (1:11).

John closed his third epistle with a note of affirmation for a believer named Demetrius.  He wrote of that believer: “Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true” (1:12).

Closing thoughts – An old adage goes, “Times have changed, but people have not!”

Like the 1st century church, the church of the 21st century has its “well-beloved Gaius” (1:1) and faithful Demetrius (1:12). Their testimonies are tried, faithful and true. Nevertheless, the timidity of pastors and the shallowness of church leaders in the 21st century has allowed a proliferation of men and women of the stripe of Diotrephes. Even the most faithful churches will have their share of “Diotrephes” who in their desire to have the preeminence, will attack even the most faithful pastors with “malicious words” (3 John 1:9-10). Of such a one, the church must recognize them by their works and words, and cast them out (3 John 1:10).

Are you a “wellbeloved Gaius,” a “Demetirus” known for your testimony and love for the truth, or a “Diotrephes” functioning like a spiritual cancer in the midst of the congregation?

When there is a Diotrephes in the midst, church leaders are obligated to identify and confront him; if he will not repent, cast him out! (3 John 1:10; Matthew 18:17).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Character of Spiritual Overcomers (1 John 5, 2 John)

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Scripture reading – 1 John 5, 2 John

A Note from the Author: Our chronological study of the Scriptures is in the homestretch! Our 2-year reading schedule is coming to an end, and it is my prayer you are making plans to re-enlist. Heart of a Shepherd will return to Genesis on January 1, 2023, and begin a new journey in God’s Word.

I am looking forward to unveiling a new website for Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals. The new website will combine daily devotionals that follow our chronological reading plan, host daily video devotionals, and provide links to audio and video recordings of sermons from our ministry at Hillsdale Baptist Church, Tampa, FL. Other resources on the Heart of a Shepherd website will provide additional enrichment. If you have not already, please subscribe to ensure Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals will continue to be sent to your email.

Today’s Scripture reading concludes our study of The First Epistle of John, and introduces The Second Epistle of John. Though only 13 verses long, I believe the second epistle was a personal letter to an individual, whom John addressed as “the elect lady and her children” (2 John 1:1). However, I will wait to a later date to consider John’s second epistle. I invite you to consider with me the 5th and final chapter of The First Epistle of John.

Review of 1 John 1-4

Although brief (only 21 verses in length), 1 John 5 was a powerful finale to John’s letter to believers. We noticed in earlier chapters how John did not mince words in warning believers there were enemies of Christ and the Gospel in the midst of the churches. In 1 John 1, I identified the philosophy of the Gnostics, their carnality, and open rejection of Christ’s person, life, death, and resurrection. In chapter 2, John issued a powerful call to believers, and admonished them, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” (2 :15a). Lest anyone minimize his warning, the apostle declared, “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (2:15b).

1 John 3 contrasted the lifestyle of sincere believers (3:1-3) with those whom John likened to the children of the devil (3:4, 8, 10). While the “sons of God” reflected the righteousness of Christ in their daily walk (3:2-3), the children of the devil continued in their unrighteousness (3:8, 10). Lastly, in 1 John 4, the apostle warned the “spiritof antichrist” was in the world (4:3). He called on believers to love one another (4:7-8), even as God manifested His love “toward us… [and] sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (4:9).

1 John 5

Spiritual Distinctives of Sincere Believers (5:1-3)

The character of the believer was defined as one that “believeth that Jesus is the Christ” (5:1a). The evidence of genuine salvation was that a believer would love God, and be assured of His love (5:1b). Two other proofs of the sincerity of one’s salvation was a believer will “love the children of God…and keep His commandments’ (5:2). Tragically, some reading today’s devotion may find themselves in a church that reviles God’s law and commandments as legalism. How can this be?

Employing a popular adage in today’s English language, John “doubled down” on the importance of one’s attitude toward the commandments, and wrote: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (5:3). What is the implication of that verse? A believer who loves God not only obeys His commandments, he does not find them heavy or burdensome.

This is a good time to pause, and ponder: What is your attitude toward the commandments, precepts, and principles of God’s Word? If you love the Lord, you will love and keep His commandments. If you despise His commandments and resent those who teach them, you do not love the Lord, and are not a child of God.

Becoming an Overcomer (5:4-5)

Believers are addressed by many names in the Scriptures. We are identified as the “Children of Light” (John 12:36; Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5), the “Children of the Day” (1 Thessalonians 5:5), and the “Children of God” (Romans 8:16; Galatians 3:26; 1 John 5:2). Another name for believers is revealed in 1 John 5:4: Nikao” or “Nike (yes, the name from which the athletic shoemaker “Nike” derives its name).

1 John 5:4-5 reads: “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh [Nikeo] the world: and this is the victory that overcometh [Nikeo] the world, even our faith. 5Who is he that overcometh [Nikeo] the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?”

Everyone “born of God” is “Nikao” (an overcomer, 5:4a). Essentially, “Nikao” means victory or one victorious. The implication of 1 John 5:4-5 is that believers are spiritual overcomers. We are victorious and overcome the world with its enslaving lusts and pride (1 John 2:16), when we have faith (5:4), and believe Jesus is the Son of God” (5:5). By faith, believers have the potential to be victorious, and overcome the world (5:5).

Closing thoughts – The Scriptures are filled with saints who by faith became “Nikao,” spiritual overcomers in their day. Noah was “warned of God,” and “prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (Hebrews 11:7). Abraham left his family and country, and “went out, not knowing whither he went…10For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:8, 10). Moses, by faith, rejected the privileges of a prince of Egypt, and “forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing Him [God] who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27).

Spiritual overcomers believe Jesus is the Son of God, love and keep God’s commandments, love one another, and live by faith.

Are you a spiritual overcomer?

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Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Gnosticism and Four Proofs of Genuine Faith and Salvation (1 John 1; 1 John 2)

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Scripture reading – 1 John 1; 1 John 2

Today’s Scripture reading is 1 John 2, but I am taking liberty to review 1 John 1 and give some background to this wonderful letter to believers of the latter years of the 1st century. Lord willing, we will consider 1 John 2 in the future.

Introduction

Scholars suppose The First Epistle of John was written near the close of the first century between A.D. 85-90. The apostle John was an elderly man, and in the last years of his remarkable life. While he failed to identify himself by name, the beauty and style of the writing is similar to the Gospel of John. John’s name also does not appear in his Gospel either; however, he references himself on several occasions as the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 20:2; 21:7, 20). The same pattern holds true in the  Epistles of 2 John and 3 John. In addition, the historical details presented in the introductory verses were written by a disciple who had intimate knowledge of our Lord.

An Eyewitness Account of the Person and Earthly Life of Christ (1:1-4)

Consider the following eyewitness account regarding the historical evidences of Christ’s incarnation: “That which was from the beginning [Eternal God], which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life” (1:1; John 1:1-3, 14)

Many reading John’s letter were the children and grandchildren of believers who had been contemporaries of the apostles. With assertive, apostolic authority, John was writing to second and third generation believers. Imagine being part of that generation, and receiving a letter from John giving his eyewitness account of Christ’s sufferings, crucifixion, death, and resurrection! (1:1-4)

The Existence and Nature of Sin (1:5-6)

By the time of this letter, persecution was an ever-present threat, and several apostles were martyred. Adding to the danger was the presence of false teachers in the congregations. The doctrine of Gnosticism (a blend of paganism, Greek philosophy, Judaism, and “Christianity”), had created doubt among some. Heretics were spreading that doctrine, boasting spiritual enlightenment, and proposing a progressive, amoral view of what some call today, “Christian liberty.”

Purveyors of Gnosticism suggested sin was no longer an issue, and taught believers were free of any concern for God’s Law and Commandments. Adding to their heresies was a rejection of Christ as the pre-incarnate Son of God made flesh, and His virgin birth, bodily crucifixion, and resurrection from the dead.

If you are reading today’s devotion and doubt your salvation, or wonder, “Is it possible for a man to know he is saved?” The answer is yes, and John stated four conditions that authenticate the sincerity of a man’s salvation and profession of Christ as Savior.

Four Conditions Test the Authenticity of One’s Salvation (1:7-9)

The first condition of authentic salvation is a sincere believer will not continue in sin. Of the Gnostics, John warned, “God is light [altogether righteous], and in him is no darkness at all. 6If we say that we have fellowship with him [Christ], and walk in darkness [continue in sin], we lie, and do not the truth” (1:5-6). In other words, a person is a liar, if he claims to be a believer and follower of Christ, and continues in sin.

Another test involves fellowship with other believers. We understand that sin inhibits our fellowship with other believers. John wrote, “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another” (1:7a). Fellowship with God and fellowship with others are dependent on our commitment to “walk in the light” of God’s truth.

A third test of one’s sincerity is an understanding that, sin deceives, and if tolerated, will snatch away the truth. Again, John wrote, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1:8).

Lastly, true believers accept only by confessing sins are we forgiven, cleansed, and “walk in the light” (1:9). So, we read, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9)

Closing thoughts (1:10) – Though under a different name, and perhaps more sophisticated than it was in the 1stcentury, Gnosticism has been revived. Today’s Gnostics are more subtle in their denials, but what they do not say with their lips, they demonstrate with their lies and lives. The Gnostics of the 21st century preach and follow a grace and liberty that denies the holiness of God. Regardless of what some profess, be forewarned: “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1:10).

Warning – Unconfessed sin will blind you spiritually, and leave you in darkness.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please enter your email address in the box to the right (if using a computer) or at the bottom (if using a cell phone).

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.