Tag Archives: Separation

You Are Invited to Hillsdale’s Wednesday Evening Dinner and Bible Studies

You are invited to Hillsdale’s Wednesday Evening Family Ministries beginning with Family Dinner (5-6pm; $4\ea), Teen Bible Study and Activity at 6pm, and AWANA Clubs at 6:15pm.

Adult Classes begin with a time of Prayer at 6:15pm.

Following prayer, Bible Study Classes begin around 6:35pm.

Pastor Smith is continuing his Character Study Series in the Book of Proverbs with tonight’s study focusing on Proverbs 7. Pastor’s class will be broadcast live on Hillsdale’s Facebook Page and at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org. Tonight’s Student handout is available here: A Cancer Called Adultery – Proverbs 7 student blank without verses

“Ancient Paths,” a study of Bible Covenants, is a ladies’ class taught by Mrs. Sheilah Smith in the Friendship Hall.

Travis and Tanya Henry are teaching a Family\Parenting\Marriage Class that is practical in its focus on Scriptural principles

For more information, call the church office at 813-884-8250, ext. 0.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Passing the Test: Overcoming Temptation (Matthew 4; Luke 4-5)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 4; Luke 4-5

Matthew 4 – Overcoming Temptation

Having been baptized by John the Baptist, and confirmed by the voice of God the Father, Who said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (3:17), we read: “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness [desert] to be tempted of the devil” (Matthew 4:1)

Jesus was isolated in the wilderness for the next forty days where He was “tempted,” meaning tried and tested, by the devil (4:2-11).  Notice that Jesus faced three tests or temptations.

The first test was an attempt by the devil to tempt Jesus to question God’s providential care for His Son. The devil tempted Jesus to satisfy His hunger by performing a miracle and turning stones to bread, apart from God’s will (4:3-4). Jesus answered the temptation with Scriptures saying, “man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

The second temptation questioned the divinity of Jesus as the Son of God. Daring to provoke sinful pride in Jesus, the devil demanded, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down” (4:6). Notice that the devil quoted Scripture saying, “for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:11, 12). Like sinners who know enough Scripture to be a stumbling stone to others, the devil left out the phrase, “He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all Thy ways” (Ps. 91:11b).

Jesus once again answered the devil’s temptation, quoting Deuteronomy 6:16, “Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God.”

The devil came to Jesus a third and final time, and endeavored to entice Him, offering Him the “kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them” (4:8). Jesus answered the temptation, remembering the Law, “Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; him shalt thou serve” (Deuteronomy 10:20a).

I close with a couple of insights. The first, notice the devil tempted Jesus with things that were common: Hunger and physical desires (4:3-4), pride, by distorting the Scriptures (4:6), and lusts for possessions (4:8). When you face temptations, you may well find they rise from the mundane choices of every day life.

Finally, notice that a knowledge of Scripture and an ability to quote relevant verses is the way to overcome temptation. Jesus responded to each temptation with a Bible principle founded upon the Law and Commandments.

I close with an exhortation you and I would do well to heed:

Psalm 119:9–119Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word. 10With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. 11Thy word have I hid in mine heart, That I might not sin against thee.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God Restores Failures and Uses Imperfect People. (Matthew 3; Mark 1; Luke 3)

Daily reading assignment – Matthew 3; Mark 1; Luke 3

Today’s Bible reading assignment consists of three chapters in three of the four Gospels, and is also the first taken from the Gospel of Mark. Having introduced you to the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John, it is my joy to introduce you to the Gospel penned by John Mark.

Who was John Mark?

Unlike the authors of the other Gospels who were numbered among Christ’s Twelve apostles, John Mark was not a disciple.  The Book of Acts identifies him as a citizen of Jerusalem (Acts 12:12).  Some believe he was the man whom Mark identified as “a certain young man” (Mark 14:51), who fled into the night without his robe when Jesus was arrested in the Garden (Mark 14:50-52).

Mark became a traveling companion of Barnabas and Saul (i.e. Paul) when that dynamic missionary duo set out on their first missionary journey (Acts 12:25; 13:1-5). Fortunately for us, but unfortunately for John Mark, his journey with Paul and Barnabas became a spiritual crisis and ended abruptly when we read that, “John [i.e. Mark] departing [going away; deserting] from them [Paul and Barnabas] returned [turning his back]to Jerusalem” (Acts 13:13).

The cause for John Mark’s sudden departure is not revealed. It could have been the hardships of travel; however, I believe it was the ever-present threat of persecution. John Mark reappears in Acts 15 and became a point of conflict and division between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-39). That dynamic missionary duo was preparing to depart on their second missions’ trip when we read, “Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark” (Acts 15:37).

Paul, however, “thought it not good [desirable] to take [John Mark], who departed from [quit; deserted]them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work” (15:38).  The dispute over John Mark’s company became so contentious that we read, “they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; 40And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. 41And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches” (15:39-41).

What became of John Mark?

We do not know what transpired in John Mark’s life after he departed with Barnabas and set sail to Cyprus. We do know that he went on to distinguish himself as one of God’s faithful servants, and is the author of the Gospel of Mark!

How did John Mark go from a man with whom the apostle Paul was unwilling to travel, to becoming the author of the second Gospel in our New Testament?

Paul regarded John Mark as a disappointment, however, Barnabas had looked on the young man through the eyes of a mentor, and lovingly restored Mark to ministry.  Perhaps it was this real-life lesson that moved Paul’s heart when he wrote:

Galatians 6:1-2 – “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

I close with a spiritual lesson that we should take from the life of John Mark:

God restores failures and uses imperfect people to do His work.

Remember, God has not called you to be perfect, but He has called you to be faithful!

1 Corinthians 4:22Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Forgotten by Man, But Not by God (Nehemiah 10-13)

Daily reading assignment – Nehemiah 10-13

Today’s Scripture reading concludes our study of the Book of Nehemiah and his account of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. Today’s devotional commentary will focus on Nehemiah 10.

Nehemiah 10 – Your Service is Important to God

Admittedly, Nehemiah 10 would be an easy chapter to pass over, especially with a host of names that are not only difficult to pronounce, but seem to serve no real purpose. Other than a historical record, what value or lessons can 21st century believers derive from this list of names?

Nehemiah 10:1-28 is a list of eighty-four men who, though inconsequential in our day, were nevertheless important to the LORD who directed Nehemiah to not only record their names, but also preserve them for us for over two and one-half millenniums.

More important than their labor on the wall of Jerusalem, was the commitment they made for themselves and their families when they renewed Israel’s covenant with God and sealed it with their signatures (10:1 – “Now those that sealed…”).

Nehemiah was the first to sign the covenant (10:1), and his signature was followed by the Priests (10:2-8), Levites (10:9-13), and the leaders or “chief of the people” (10:14-26).

Following the example of their spiritual leaders and heads of households, we read,

Nehemiah 10:28-29 – “28 And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinims, and all they that had separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, every one having knowledge, and having understanding; 29They clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord, and his judgments and his statutes.”

Someone has observed that there are no “spiritual grandchildren” when it comes to passing on one’s faith to another generation. While the leadership of Israel had followed Nehemiah in confirming their covenant with the LORD (10:1-27), it was crucial that the people individually affirm their faith and understanding of what God required of His people.

The people did not enter into the covenant foolishly or unadvisedly. We read, “the rest of the people” (10:28a), and those included wives, sons, and daughters, understood the covenant and accepted their responsibility to “walk in God’s law” (10:29). They affirmed they understood both the reward (blessings) and consequences (curses) that comes to those who are a covenant people (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28). They also promised their sons and daughters would not become unequally yoked with unbelievers (“the people of the land,” 10:30; 2 Corinthians 6:14).

Various other ordinances were acknowledged including observing the Sabbath (10:31), paying a required Temple tax of one-third shekels (10:32; Exodus 30:11-16 required one-half shekel, but the lesser amount here might have been due to the poverty of the people).

Various offerings were renewed including the requirement to give a “wood offering,” that was used for sacrifices and to keep a perpetual fire burning on the altar (10:34; Leviticus 6:12-13). The “firstfruits offering” was re-established, serving as a reminder that God requires tithes of our first and best (10:35, 36-37; Proverbs 3:9). Also, a firstborn son was to be dedicated to God and redeemed with by offering a lamb (10:36; Exodus 34:19-20).

The people were taught that their tithes and offerings were to be used to support the Levites (10:37-39; Leviticus 27:30-34). In turn, The Levites were to tithe of the tithes that were given to support them and their households (10:37b-38; Leviticus 27:30-34).

Having been instructed in the demands of the Law, and understanding both its blessings and curses, the people affirmed their covenant with the LORD saying, “we will not forsake the house of our God” (10:39b).

Friend I close this devotional by proposing to you a question:

Can you honestly say, “I have not forsaken the house of our God?”

Hebrews 10:2525Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Overcoming Your Critics! (Ezra 4-6; Psalm 137)

Scripture reading – Ezra 4-6; Psalm 137

Seventy years after Nebuchadnezzar had taken the first Jews captive to Babylon, God had moved on the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia, to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and restore the people to their land (Ezra 1:1-2).

Mount Moriah, the place where the Temple was being rebuilt, had been strewn with the rubble of Solomon’s Temple for nearly fifty years. That glorious place, once called the “house of the LORD” (Psalm 122:1) and served as a physical reminder of God’s presence among His chosen people; had become a testimony of God’s judgment against Israel for breaking covenant by disobeying God’s Laws and Commandments.

As we come to today’s Scripture reading (Ezra 4-6), we find the first remnant of Jews who had returned to Jerusalem, encountering both disappointment and discouragement. “The ancient men, that had seen the first [Temple],” perhaps remembering the glory of the previous Temple, “wept with a loud voice” (3:12). There were also enemies without who were determined to stop the effort to rebuild the Temple (4:1).

Reminding us only two of the Twelve Tribes of Israel had accepted King Cyrus’ proclamation that they were free to return to their homeland, we read, “the adversaries [enemies; foes] of Judah and Benjamin heard [took notice] that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel” (4:1).

Under the pretense of friendship, non-Israelite enemies who had been resettled in Israel by Assyria, came to Zerubbabel (perhaps identified in Ezra 1:8 by his Babylonian name, “Shesbazzar, the prince of Judah”) and said, “Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither” (4:2).

Evidencing godly wisdom and discernment, Zerubbabel and other leaders of Israel, answered, “Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us” (4:3).

Undeterred in their opposition, those same enemies continued their antagonism for sixteen long years (Ezra 4:7-23; Haggai 1:1) and “weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building” (4:4).

Ezra 4 reminds us that when God’s people are doing God’s work they will face opposition.  Israel’s enemies employed four methods of discouraging and hindering God’s work.

The first, they suggested Assimilation, an unholy alliance, a partnership that God would not have blessed (4:2-3). Zerubbabel recognized his enemies for who they were, “the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” (4:1)! In his letter to believers in Corinth, the apostle Paul stated the principle Zerubbabel employed: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)

Aggravation was a second means Israel’s enemies employed in opposing the work on the Temple. Ezra and the leaders of Israel were strong and confident when they first confronted their adversaries (4:3); however, as time passed, “the people of the land weakened [made them weak and feeble] the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled[terrified; paralyze with fear] them in building, 5And hired counsellors [advisers; consultants; conspirators] against them, to frustrate [to cause to cease; bring to an end] their purpose” (4:4-5).

The enemy discouraged Israel with Adjudication, challenging the legality and legitimacy of the work on the Temple (4:6-10).

Fourthly, Israel’s adversaries prepared Accusations: Deception, suggesting the Jews were “building the rebellious and bad city” (4:12); Distortion, attacking the character and integrity of God’s people (4:13); and Deceit, questioning their motives (4:15).

Dear friend, there will always be critics. Some people have a negative, critical outlook on life. They can become a constant source of discouragement and if you allow them, they will hinder your service and God’s work. There are many who are spectators, not participators; they are watchers, and not workers.

Take a moment and reread Ezra 3:12-13 and notice the ones who were weeping as they remembered the past, and those who were shouting for joy and living in the triumph of the moment.

It was the “ancient men” (3:12), the “priests and Levites and chief of the fathers,” who were looking back and weeping. Old friend, memories can be cherished and pleasing; however, they can also turn you into nothing more than an old critic.

I challenge you who are faithfully serving the LORD, Be Not Discouraged!

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Daniel: A Model of Godly Character, Integrity and Courage” (Daniel 1-3)

Scripture reading – Daniel 1-3

The Book of Daniel is a prophetic panorama of human history, beginning with the days of Nebuchadnezzar and ancient Babylon and encompassing a prophetic vision of world empires that would follow…Medo-Persians, Greece and Rome.  Daniel’s writing includes prophecies that are for the 21st century reader a footnote in history past and a foretelling of future events that conclude with the Second Coming of Christ. Today’s devotional commentary will be taken from Daniel 1.

Daniel 1

Daniel 1 opens with a straightforward, historical account and one we are familiar with from our earlier study of 2 Kings 24:12-16. The children of Judah are in Babylonian bondage, and the beloved city of Jerusalem, and the Temple will soon be laid waste (2 Kings 25).  The prophet Jeremiah warned Judah’s kings if the people did not repent of their sin and turn to the LORD, His wrath would rise “against His people, till there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:16).   Jeremiah prophesied the captivity in Babylon would last 70 years (Jeremiah 25:12) and when those years were “accomplished at Babylon [God] will visit you… causing you to return to this place [the promise land]” (Jeremiah 29:10).

Daniel was probably no more than 13-14 years old when he was taken from his home and transported to Babylon with its strange language and idolatrous culture. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, instituted a plan and chose the best and brightest of Israel’s impressionable youth that they might serve him in the administration of his empire (Daniel 1:8).  Daniel was numbered among those youth who were without blemish, handsome, discerning, cunning, and “understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans” (1:4).

Daniel soon proved he was not only a gifted young man, but also a child of faith. Three other youth of Judah shared Daniel’s passion for the LORD: “Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 7  Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego” (1:6-7). Leading by example and conviction, we read,

Daniel 1:8 – “But Daniel purposed [pledged; determined; made a decree] in his heart that he would not defile [pollute; soil; stain] himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine [lit. intoxicating wine] which he drank: therefore he requested [desired; sought; enquired] of the prince [captain; governor] of the eunuchs [most likely a castrated servant] that he might not defile [pollute; soil; stain] himself.”

Daniel purposed: He pledged his heart, and resolved in his character, “he would not defile himself” (Daniel 1:8).

What courage!  What conviction!  What passion!  God was at work and He blessed Daniel and providentially “brought [him] into favour [mercy; kindness; grace] and tender love [to have compassion; pity; i.e. brotherly love] with the prince[chief] of the eunuchs [who were the servants of the king] (1:9).

Faithful to their convictions and respectful of their authorities, God blessed the faith of Daniel and his three companions, and when they were proved (i.e. tested and examined), they appeared healthier than those “children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat” (1:15).

We will see in our study, that the testing of Daniel’s faith in his youth prepared his heart for the opportunities, challenges, and trials he would face in his service to the kings of both Babylon and Persia (1:21).

I close inviting you to consider four qualities that defined Daniel’s submissive and sensitive heart to authority: He was subordinate in his spirit (1:12); he was sincere in his appeal (1:12); he was Scriptural in his purpose (1:12-13); and he was sensitive in his request (1:13-14).

We would do well to weigh our spirit, manner, and relationship with the authorities in our lives, using Daniel as perfect example of a young man of faith and convictions.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Missing Veil (Ezekiel 40-42)

Scripture reading – Ezekiel 40-42

Ezekiel 40-42 gives us a prophetic time not yet fulfilled when Israel, safely restored in her land will set her heart to build a new temple (the last was destroyed in 70 A.D.) and worship the LORD. The Temple described in today’s Scripture reading is the Temple of the Millennial Kingdom. Ezekiel 40-42 gives us the plans, dimensions, physical attributes and future construction of the Millennial Temple.

Ezekiel 40 – A Vision of a New Jerusalem and the Temple

Israel’s captivity in Babylon was 70 years and the time of the vision recorded in Ezekiel 40 is in the “five and twentieth year” of the Jewish captivity (40:1).  Ezekiel has been in captivity for 25 years, and 14 years had passed since Jerusalem was destroyed (40:1).

The LORD sent an angelic messenger whom Ezekiel described as “a man, whose appearance was like the appearance of brass” (40:3). The messenger held in his hand a “line of flax” (a tape measure) and a “measuring reed of six cubits long” (40:3, 5). While there is some debate regarding the exact length of a cubit, we will accept the traditional definition of one cubit being 18 inches in length.

The measurement of the outer court of the Temple is given (40:5-26), along with the measurement of the inner court (40:27-47). Ezekiel noticed there were rooms used to prepare sacrifices (40:32-38), and butcher tables that were used to prepare meats (40:39-43).

Ezekiel 40:48-41:26 – The Outer and Inner Sanctuaries of the Temple

The Temple in Ezekiel’s vision had a large portico (porch) measuring thirty-five feet long and its width twenty-one feet (41:2). The Outer Sanctuary of the Temple measured seventy feet by thirty-five feet (41:1-2). The Inner Sanctuary, known as the Holy of Holies, was a perfect square measuring thirty-five feet by thirty-five feet and its walls were ten and one-half feet thick (41:3-5).

The side chambers of the Temple were three stories tall with a winding staircase leading to the upward floors. Thirty rooms were on each floor of the chambers (41:6-11).

Ezekiel 41:16-26 records the Temple decorations, furnishings, and the design of the doorframes. Remembering this is the Temple of the Millennial Kingdom, I invite you to consider there is one item missing in this Temple that was essential in Moses’ Tabernacle, and in Solomon, Zerubbabel, and Herod’s Temples.

Notice there is no mention of the Veil that separated the Outer Sanctuary of the Tabernacle and the Temple from the Inner Sanctuary known as the Holy of Holies.

The veil in the Temple separated the outer court from the Holy of Holies where was found the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat symbolizing the throne and presence of God. The veil represented man’s separation from God. Only the High Priest could enter into the Holy Place, and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement (Exodus 26:33).

We read in Matthew’s account of Christ’s death on the Cross: “When he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. 51  And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent” (Matthew 27:51).

Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection removed the veil that separated sinful man from God. We, by faith in Christ, have access into the presence of God through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 3:18 – “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.”

Hebrews 10:19-20 – “19  Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20  By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Fame, Infamy, and Finale of King Solomon (1 Kings 10-11; 2 Chronicles 9)

Scripture assignment – 1 Kings 10-11; 2 Chronicles 9

With the Temple built and his palace complete, Solomon’s fame became an international sensation (1 Kings 10). The king’s wisdom, wealth, the grandeur of his kingdom, and God’s blessings on his reign became known far and wide.

We read, “When the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions (i.e. riddles)” (10:1).

There are many fables and legends that surround the visit of the Queen of Sheba; however, we will consider the only reputable source that we have, the Word of God (1 Kings 10:1; 2 Chronicles 9:1; Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31).

The kingdom of Sheba is believed to have been in the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula in the area we know today as Yemen. The Queen of Sheba, having received news of Solomon’s remarkable wisdom and the wonders of his kingdom, set out on a journey from her kingdom in the south to Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel.  Rather than travel via ship on the Red Sea, the Scriptures indicate she came with a “very great train (caravan), with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones” (10:2a).

The purpose of the queen’s visit is summed up in, “she communed with him of all that was in her heart” (10:2b; 2 Chronicles 9:2).

Solomon answered all the questions she proposed to him (10:3). We read, “There was no more spirit in her” (10:5) when she gazed on the vast riches of his palace, enjoyed feasts at his table, admired the rich robes of his servants, and viewed from a distance the King’s ascent to the Temple. Breathless at the sight of all she observed, the Queen exclaimed, “the half was not told” (10:7; 2 Chronicles 9:3-6).

Consider the lavish wealth detailed in Solomon’s palace: The tributes paid to him by other nations, the shields of gold, his throne overlaid with ivory and gold (10:18-20; 2 Chronicles 9:17-19), vessels of gold (2 Chronicles 9:20), exotic animals, chariots and champion horses were all part of the king’s legacy (10:21-29; 2 Chronicles 9:21-28).

1 Kings 11 – Solomon’s Spiritual and Moral Failures

The magnificence of Solomon’s kingdom is overshadowed in 1 Kings 11 when we read, “Solomon loved many strange women” (11:1).  Having disregarded the LORD’s admonition concerning the danger of marrying foreign, idol worshiping women, Solomon’s “wives turned away his heart” (11:3).

The king’s sins provoked God’s wrath (11:9) until his family and the nation suffered for his apostasy (11:10-13). When God removed His blessings, the peace and prosperity of Israel failed as the nation faced enemies without (i.e. Pharaoh and Egypt – 11:14-25), and enemies within (i.e. Jeroboam, a “mighty man of valour” who Solomon recognized too late as a threat to his kingdom – 11:26-40).  Jeroboam fled to Egypt where he stayed until he received news that Solomon was dead and “Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead” (11:40-43; 2 Chronicles 9:29-31).

I close inviting you to consider the great and tragic end of Solomon’s reign.  Though the wisest man who ever lived, yet in his old age he disobeyed the LORD and “his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God” (11:4).  He “did evil in the sight of the LORD” (11:6).

Notice the statement, “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old” (1 Kings 11:4).

How old is “old?” Knowing he reigned forty years (11:42), I deduce Solomon was in his mid-fifties. In other words, he was old enough to know better! Old enough to understand the consequences of sin. Old enough to know his wicked choices would invariably affect his family and kingdom.

Solomon’s failure to have a “perfect heart with the LORD” (11:4) led him, his household, and the nation down a path that ended in God’s judgment. Oh that the king would have heeded his own proverbs:

Proverbs 3:5-75  Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. 7  Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Living Life in A Rearview Mirror (Ecclesiastes 7-12)

Scripture Reading – Ecclesiastes 7-12

Today’s Scripture reading covers the latter half of the book of Ecclesiastes; however, my devotional commentary will focus on the closing chapters, Ecclesiastes 11-12.

While the book of Proverbs chronicles Solomon’s wise instructions for a son that would one day be king, the book of Ecclesiastes reflects the pondering of that same man facing the inevitable close of his earthly life–the frailty of old age and death.

Solomon’s reflections on his earthly sojourn began with the observation, “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). He concludes with the same, “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 12:8).

Empty, vain, unsatisfactory, meaningless, hopeless, and worthless… What a tragic commentary on life from a man born into privilege, power, and wealth!  What might we learn from such a man?  What words of wisdom can we glean from one deemed so wise, with so much to say?

For the sake of brevity, I invite you to consider three exhortations from King Solomon: Rejoice (11:9-10); Remember (12:1); and Revere (12:13-14).

Rejoice in your youth, but know God will be your Judge (11:9-10).

 Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 – Rejoice [Be Glad; Joyful], O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. 10  Therefore remove [depart] sorrow [anger; wrath] from thy heart, and put away [do away; remove] evil [sin; wickedness] from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.

Remember your Creator while you are young (12:1).

Ecclesiastes 12:1 – Remember now [Think of; have respect of] thy Creator in the days [years] of thy youth, while the evil days [adversity; troubles; distresses] come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure [delight; desire] in them;

Revere God, Keep His Commandments and Be Ready for His Judgment (12:13-14).

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 – Let us hear [Listen; obey; publish] the conclusion [end] of the whole matter [account; speaking]Fear [Revere] God, and keep [observe] His commandments [Laws; Precepts]: for this is the whole duty [purpose] of man.
14  For God shall bring every work [act; deed] into judgment, with every secret thing [hidden; concealed], whether it be good [right], or whether it be evil [sin; wickedness].

Vanity of vanities; what a tragic summary of a man’s life if his life is empty and meaningless!

To his credit, Solomon was not silent regarding the sorrows and joys of this life. He warned and exhorted the generations that would follow… Rejoice in your youth…Remember your Creator and His Commandments…and Revere the LORD knowing He will “bring every work into judgment” (12:14).

A closing exhortation to youthful readers: Adopt spiritual principles that will guide you to paths of righteousness, and avoid the ways of the foolish who squander their lives in sinful dissipations that leave them with sorrows and regrets.

Enjoy your youth, but remember your Creator for “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Biblical Perspective on Class Envy and Friendships (Proverbs 13-15)

Scripture reading – Proverbs 13-15

Our study of King Solomon and the wisdom he expressed in his proverbs continues with today’s Scripture reading, Proverbs 13-15. Our devotional commentary will consider two proverbs from Proverbs 13 that are taken from my devotions posted at www.HeartofAShepherd.com. As a reminder, brackets are used by this author to amplify meanings and definitions.

 “A Biblical Perspective on the Cause of Class Envy” (Proverbs 13:4)

Proverbs 13:4  “The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.”

Honest hard labor has fallen out of favor in our nation.  Rather than encouraging employees to give employers an equal measure of labor for wages paid, politicians and socialists provoke class envy asserting the “working class” is oppressed. Proverbs 13:4 reminds us that nothing has changed about the heart of an indolent man when it comes to fruit for his labor. His lot is to always be in want.

Proverbs 13:4 – “The soul [mind; heart; appetite] of the sluggard desireth [craves], and hath nothing [lazy, foolish men are never satisfied]: but the soul [mind; heart; appetite] of the diligent [one who acts decisively] shall be made fat [be satisfied].”

Notice the sluggard (lazy) desires and craves what others afford only through labor.  He wants the same things, but he is too indolent to work and save to satisfy his passions. He “hath nothing” and becomes a burden to his family and society.

The contrast to the sluggard is the diligent man.  The diligent man is by definition, decisive and quick to act.  He is industrious, using his time, talents and resources wisely. While the sluggard is left wanting, the hardworking are made fat, satisfied and content with the fruits of their labor.

If your parents imparted to you the discipline of hard work in your youth—thank them!  They have given you a gift that has shaped your life and character in a way you will only appreciate when you are older.

“A Friend’s Character Will Either be a Blessing or a Curse” (Proverbs 13:20)

The theme of Proverbs 13:20 is Influence [the sway or effect one has on another]. Notice the truth Solomon imparts regarding the influence of friendships:

Proverbs 13:20 – “He that walketh with [befriends; is a companion of] wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”

Every good parent will be concerned and vigilant about the friends and influences in their son or daughter’s life. Why? The power and responsibility to influence others is a fact we all share!  People influence us Verbally by what they say or communicate [examples–letters, emails, social media].  In addition, a friend’s Actions and Attitudes have an influence on us.

Too few parents are willing to accept the responsibility of examining honestly their child’s friendships and understanding that friends have a powerful influence on a child’s character and ultimate destiny.

Solomon’s proverb is direct: A wise man will seek the company of likeminded men–those who evidence wisdom and discernment; however, a “companion of fools shall be destroyed” [the picture drawn by the word “companion” is of cattle that graze together. Ever notice how a herd of cattle grazing in a large pasture stand together, often feeding in the same direction?].

The apostle Paul warned believers in Corinth: “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners (1 Corinthians 15:33).

The word “communications” can also be translated “companions”; the word “manners” can be translated “morals”. Literally, don’t be misled: wicked, sinful friends will defile one’s moral judgment [i.e. spiritual discernment; the ability to discern right and wrong].

Lesson – The character of one’s friendships is a mirror of one’s own character. 

Friendships have the power to edify or destroy. If you run with fools, you are a fool! If you choose the company of those who have godly wisdom and discernment, they will influence you to be the same.

Reflect on the people who bear influence upon your life, thoughts and values. Are your friends spiritually minded men and women? Is their influence edifying? Do your friends strengthen you spiritually?  Are you under sound Biblical exposition and influenced by godly relationships?

Psalms 1:1 – “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”

Copyright – Travis D. Smith